Dropping the Joomla! Torch
I've long believed in the virtues of Open Source. I'm not well known in the Joomla community, I haven't spoken at any Joomla events or worked on the core project, but I've always tried to do my part: proselytizing Joomla, providing free (anonymous) tech support to new users, and donating beer money to promising developers. But there was always a blind spot. I'd like to tell you about the time I failed Joomla and didn't even know it.
A couple years back I offered to build a website for a non-profit at no charge. I was happy to contribute my time because I believed in the cause. Trying to please the committee, however, began eating up an enormous amount that time. In a hurry to move on to a paying gig, I put all my focus on the design and none on the administration.
In the end the website looked nice and the organization was very pleased. While the outside was clean, the inside was especially not. The site had excess extensions, leftover demo content, poorly named modules, and much of the configuration used default settings – causing an overall lack of automation.
None of this concerned me. I knew the web admin was experienced and capable, and that they would manage with ease. The website I provided them with was still better than the one they had, and if they were willing to invest the time they could finish up themselves.
So off I went, chasing the almighty dollar.
Recently, I was contacted by the group's new administrator. They had taken over and had questions... about a million of them. I talked the new admin through some basics, and sent them some learning materials (keep in mind, I never made a dime on the job and at this point it's been nearly three years).
When I emailed last week to see how things were going I was expecting to hear: "just fine, I understand everything now, thanks for asking". Instead the admin replied with: "It's a mess, Joomla is a terrible platform. I'm looking at alternatives."
I wasn't sure how to respond, so I didn't. After dwelling on it for the day, thinking back on the project, realizing the many mistakes I made, I was struck by a harsh and undeniable truth... 'He was wrongfully blaming Joomla for my poor implementation.'
I felt awful. Mistakes like mine misrepresent Joomla. They contribute to a growing stereotype that Joomla is too complex for unexperienced web admins. Worst of all, in this case, my cluttered backend killed someone's interest in our CMS completely. I failed Joomla.
Designers and developers who use Joomla to build websites for third-parties are self-appointed diplomats. We carry the torch for Joomla, but we never stop to think of its importance. We need to make every first impression refreshing and impactful. It's up to us to deliver a complete experience, tailored to our clients. The out-of-the-box, one-size-fits-all approach doesn't just hurt your business and your reputation, it brings down the Joomla brand.
I've learned my lesson. I will never again cut corners. I will build custom content types – allowing an admin to publish material with ease and consistency. I will perfectly configure news publishing modules and menu systems - ensuring automated content displays. I will properly label everything, using notes and completed descriptions – giving them effective browse and search capabilities. I will not leave behind excess extensions and left over demo materials.
This isn't a vow to the client. This is a vow to Joomla. To the people who work on the core, who squash bugs, who build awesome extensions, who offer support and spend their time promoting open source philosophy. I owe this community more than I could ever repay. They make Joomla great, and they don't deserve to have their efforts devalued by poor implementations.
I ask that other sitebuilders join me in this vow and hold the Joomla torch high.