How I learned Joomla - Steven Trooster
Steven Trooster’s first Joomla website was a festival site. The main challenges: an event calendar, a registration form and a mailing list. And on top of it all, the site had to be multilingual. Steven was experienced in building sites using Dreamweaver and other tools, but he hardly used a content management system before (except for a short fling with Typo3). How did he learn? With the help of the community!
Thank you for sharing your Joomla story with us, Steven! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I live in Nijmegen, Netherlands. I work at Radboud University at the Teaching and Learning Center where I support teachers of the university with the use of ICT in their education, better known as e-learning.
Besides that, I have my own company, Ghost Art, where I develop websites, mainly in Joomla and some WordPress too, and Filemaker Pro databases.
And I’m the founder and webmaster of the largest cultural event website of Nijmegen, Ugenda.nl. A Joomla site, of course.
When did you make your first Joomla website?
2005, back in the days when Joomla’s predecessor Mambo was still around.
What made you choose Joomla?
I had created static sites using Dreamweaver and other tools in the years before. We were in need of a content management system for a festival site, so the marketing staff of the festival could easily change the text on the site themselves without having to mess around in HTML code. Up till then, I had to change every comma and typo myself manually.
What did you do first, and after that?
At first Mambo / Joomla seemed quite complex, because it had so many options. I also tried to grasp the idea of components versus modules versus plugins and how it would all fit together on a page through menus. I read the online manuals and got a lot of help from the Joomla forum and the community. Luckily I got to know someone in my neighbourhood, Peter Martin, who had a bit more experience.
Later I attended Joomla Days conferences and attended my local Joomla User Group meetings, where over the years when I had gotten more experienced, I gave talks myself to help others.
Can you describe the process of creating your first Joomla website?
I had worked on the previous festival website with a graphics designer and we added a web designer to our team. The web designer and I started exploring the possibilities of the cms and what additional components there were to suit our specific needs.
What challenges did you face?
We needed an event calendar for the festival program, a registration form for workshops and a mailing list. And the site needed to be in English and Dutch. At that time there was no JED yet, so we had no idea what would be the best extensions to use.
How did you solve them?
We had to rely on the community for advice and look at other sites to find out which extensions they used. We made a list of must-haves and nice to haves and tried some extensions. Where we couldn’t find an extension that did all we needed, I learned to code for Joomla and added features to an existing extension. And after some time, I created modules and (simple) extensions myself.
Where did you get help (if you needed it)?
As said: we relied mainly on the community and online documentation. In later projects, when it became apparent some of our clients needed something very specific, we hired a Joomla developer to create an extension for that specific need.
What would your golden tip be for people just discovering Joomla?
Don’t get overwhelmed by all the possibilities and settings Joomla has to offer. Try to grasp the main idea of how Joomla is constructed. Know that menu items play a key role in how modules are added to a page.
Don’t jump too fast into installing dozens of plugins and components. You can get a lot of things done using just the Joomla core, especially with the custom fields options.
If you do need extensions, don’t be a cheapskate. A good extension does cost some money, but it will guarantee you support and further development.
Are you new to Joomla, like Steven was all these years ago, and wondering what this JED is about?
The JED is the official Joomla Extensions Directory. It’s the place to go when you need an extension to add more functionality to your website. You’ll find it here: https://extensions.joomla.org/