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Teaching Joomla! to the Masses
A lot of people hear Joomla and say, "What?...what is Joomla?", but when people hear Wordpress they say, "Oh, the blogging software?". It is a common practice to use something like Wordpress when trying to build a website. Why not, there are tons of themes and plugins out there and Joomla seems hard, difficult, and too complex. Yet, when you sit down and actually use Joomla and learn all of its eloquent intricacies, there is no turning back.
I get a lot of questions about why would I want to learn web design. The first question I ask a person is, “What is your major?” or “What do you do at work?” All I have to say to the artist is, "Don’t you want the world to see all your paintings?" And to the cook, "Don't you wish you had the ability to sell your homemade pasta sauce online?" "How about making that community soccer website to organize the games online?" The next comment I make is that the ability to share your ideas is free and no programming is necessary. Instantly everyone is sold. The only problem is how to give someone the knowledge to use a platform that seems so complex at first.
I faced this very dilemma at 14. I was getting into web design and knew that CMS’s where the future. So I naturally gravitated toward the popular platform that everyone knew about, WordPress. I was enticed by WordPress’s easy-to-use interface and beginner-friendly attitude. But when I needed greater functionality and a more robust system I moved over to Joomla. Before deciding on Joomla I played around with Drupal and some other rare CMS’s. I eventually chose to settle on Joomla based on a few main principles. The first was the community: it is robust, growing, and friendly. Functionality came second, you can possess great functionality but without the community you become one of those niche CMS’s that slowly fade away. Lastly is its extreme customizability. I can decide to position a module within a template, choose a menu item to put it on, and a special way to style it; a main area where others fell short.
I said I worked with WordPress based on the fact of it was so easy to learn and use. Joomla on the other hand is a whole different animal. When you upload and install your first Joomla site it’s intimidating. You’re not exactly sure how the system works, and why modules are displaying in certain locations. Why an article is featured, and the reason some articles have a created date and others don’t. You get so caught up in questioning what process drives what, and you ultimately look back at WordPress and contemplate switching back. Then you take a look at the extension directory and realize I can make that community site, sell my homemade pasta sauce, and distribute my paintings. Yet I am still turned off by the unfamiliar nature.
The beauty of being young and still in college is that I’ve had immense amounts of time to throw at the platform. I’ve learned it forwards and back. I’ve also done tons of free lancing work for a plethora of clients. I am even teaching a class at James Madison University (JMU) on it. I learned once you break down Joomla and teach things in a logical progression, it becomes one of the simplest platforms to learn. Everything is so brilliantly laid out that using any other system seems off. I then looked at the possibility of bringing those same classes I teach to the online community. Looking through the community I found a component that could deliver those lessons. I found a component to build the community, and found a component to give support. Now it’s time to put that all together and give to the community what it has given me: a way to express my ideas to the world.
I’ve started developing a tutorial site that will be free to everyone. There are two main philosophies around the site. The first is the community, as Joomla enticed me by the vast community I knew it would have to be an important part of this site. I may not be able to answer every question nor claim to be a subject matter expert on everything regarding it but someone out there might be able to chime in on various topics. The other is the way I will be teaching on the site. It will be screen cast driven. I will walk you step by step, talking to you as you watch what happens on my screen. You may then go ahead and end the lesson (it will record what lesson you left off at) go try it then go to the next lesson. With something like Joomla you have to try it to get the hang of it, you can’t just watch or read how to use it. The site will also go over the basics of hosting, how to use CPanel or Plesk. It also goes into other CMS’s that might be interesting to people. When my site is up and running I'll be back with an update.