19 common mistakes about Joomla extensions part 2
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself,” is a famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote. In this article series we list the most common mistakes users make when choosing and using extensions for their Joomla website(s), and how you can avoid them.
11. Not making backups before installing
Once you have found the perfect extension that really seems to suit your needs, you can install it immediately, right? Wrong. You don’t know the extension, it might impact other extensions on your website and even break your site. Make a backup first (using Akeeba Backup, and yes, that is the one extension you can safely install on most sites), so you have something to go back to if anything does go wrong.
12. Partying with Install from Web
You may have seen it under Extensions in your website: the Install from Web tab. It gives you access to thousands of extensions in the Joomla Extensions Directory. Awesome - or is it? Well, installing random extensions to see what they do falls in the same category as Mistake # 1 (see the first part of this miniseries). On a test site you can, of course, do whatever you like, but never ever do this on a live site. Installing multiple extensions, even if you don’t use them, can have a huge impact on your site’s performance.
13. Installing out of date extensions
In the Joomla Extensions Directory, there is a nice little box telling you all kinds of things about the extension. One of those is the date when it was last updated. Has the extension not been updated in over a year? Not an immediate reason for not choosing it; some extensions don’t need to be updated (it depends on what the extension is supposed to do). But this might just as well mean the developer doesn’t maintain it any longer. In that case, installing the extension could mean a security risk. When in doubt, ask the developer.
14. Thinking you buy an extension
Most Pro extensions are subscriptions for a limited period of time. So when you pay for the extension, you get support and updates for, say, a year. Paying again extends the subscription. If you forget to pay, your extension can’t get updated, which might in the long term result in a security risk.
15. Installing huge extensions when most of the features are not needed
Sometimes you might be inclined to install a large extension, such as a Content Construction Kit, when all you really need is, for instance, a catalog, directory, events listing or gallery view. In that case you have everything you need right in the Joomla core, with custom fields and template overrides. This does require a bit of understanding of the code, a little confidence and you need to know where to find help if necessary. But once you start playing around with overrides, you’ll soon discover their power. If overriding scares you off, see if you can find a smaller extension that does just what you need.
16. Make the developer super user
“Give me super user access and I’ll fix your issue for you,” the developer says. Amazing support, right? Actually, it is. It is really nice when developers take the time to solve your problems. So giving them super user access is not a mistake per se. Not disabling the account is though. After all, what business does the developer have in the backend once your problem is solved? And no: do not, as in never ever, keep it active ‘just in case’. Just disable it. You can create a new account if needs be.
17. Installing extensions that don’t follow the Joomla extension best practices
As an average user, you may not be able to judge the quality of the code used to program the extension. You can, however, look at other criteria that show if an extension is up to Joomla’s standards. Check if it uses the Joomla updater, supports template overrides, supports Joomla’s multilingual functionality (plus language overrides), uses Joomla’s core ACL, uses the same backend logic, layout and UX elements as default Joomla extensions (colours, structure, search tools with filter on most common fields, clickable column headers). If you have a little more technical knowledge, you could also check if the extension has internal events to which plugins can hook into to extend the functionality and has been code properly (code that uses the Joomla code style, have good internal documentation, have optimized database queries, etc.).
18. Not leaving a review in the JED
As you’ve probably seen above, reading reviews in the Joomla Extensions Directory is one of the key elements of decision making when choosing an extension. So if you installed an extension and used it for a while, take your time to write an honest and informative review.
19. Ask for support in the wrong places
We have seen it on multiple occasions: people asking for extension support on general forums or social media, and often complaining about it on the same platforms. Sometimes some helpful user may give you the golden tip. Or sometimes the developer may even see it and help you out. But actually, these are not really the best places to seek support.
If you don’t know how to use an extension, or have a question about it, contact the developer. They know their extensions from A to Z and they’ll be happy to help. Ask them and give them a chance to prove their worth.
Read more on choosing and using extensions
From our August 2020 issue: https://magazine.joomla.org/all-issues/august-2020/joomla-extensions-where-to-find-them
Jaz Parkyn wrote this really helpful article: https://magazine.joomla.org/all-issues/september-2017/choosing-the-right-extension
A little older, but still very useful is this series about finding and choosing extensions:
Steps you can take when selecting an extension: https://magazine.joomla.org/all-issues/june-2013/how-to-choose-extension
How to find out if the support fits your needs: https://magazine.joomla.org/all-issues/july-2013/how-to-choose-an-extension-part-2-support
What to look for in documentation: https://magazine.joomla.org/all-issues/august-2013/how-to-choose-an-extension-part-3-documentation
These awesome people took the time to tell us what they consider the most common mistakes about Joomla Extensions: Radek Suski, Chris Keen, Michiel Verhoef, Julie Steffers, Elisa Foltyn, Andy Connell, Morten Hansen, Chris Jones-Gill, Manu Beladevan, Laura Rosenbaum Gordon, Alison Meeks, Louis Jansen, Luca Marzo, Maurice Molenaar, Tom van der Laan, Troy Hall, Patrick Smits, Victor Drover, Norm Douglas, Crystal Dionysopoulou, Eoin Oliver, Rachel Walraven, Peter Martin, Gio Bulo, Rolf Dautrich, Mirek Dronkers, Dimitris Grammatik, Anibal Sánchez, Ruud van Lent
Thank you all :)
Hi, AdminTools (from Akeeba, should I specify it? ) has done a great tool for your point "16. Make the developer super user" : Super utilisateurs temporaires.
I use it each time I need to give Super User access to a developper (or anybody else). The name, username, email, password and rights are set automatically and I know this access is temporary and will be disabled in 7 days even if I forget it (you can manage this date). Great to know !