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How I learned Joomla - Rachel Walraven

How I learned Joomla - Rachel Walraven

Before Rachel Walraven decided to build websites for a living, she explored several other career options, all very non-tech. When she made her first website, she knew next to nothing about web development.

She soon discovered it was something she enjoyed, and that was when it turned out to be her dream job. Twenty years later, she is still the proud owner of her own web development company.

Thanks for sharing your Joomla story with us, Rachel! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Rachel Walraven. I live in the Netherlands in a small town called Duiven (which is Dutch for Pigeons). My background isn’t techy at all, but I have always had a keen interest in gadgets and innovative stuff (as did my grandfather). After high school, I wanted to become a teacher. It turned out I didn’t like to be in front of a class of children. So I went on to study Animal management (almost the same). That also wasn’t me. While trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life I was embroidering a lot (also like my grandfather). I went online to find out about techniques and patterns and concluded that there was hardly any information in Dutch. So I decided to build a website. HTML and tables were the go-to solutions back then. I think the font I chose was Arial, but it could be Times New Roman, there weren’t really that many options. This was back in 1997.

When did you make your first Joomla website?

I soon realized that building websites was something I really liked. I could do this for a living. But it was such a hassle to make new pages, edit text or add images. So I decided to look for a solution for this. That is when I found Mambo. A great tool! I think this was in 2001… When Mambo forked into Joomla! I decided to join the Joomla side.

What made you choose Joomla?

The most important reason I chose Joomla (or Mambo) was the ease with which I could make my own template. There was no PHP knowledge required.

What did you do first, and after that?

I decided to turn my embroidery site into a Joomla site. But before I could do that I had to learn how. I read a lot online and installed the system on my server so I could test it out. I think I started by building a template, so I could mimic the look of my existing site. While programming this, I created sections, categories and articles. Then the menu. When everything was transferred I started adding extensions (I don’t really remember which ones though).

Can you describe the process of creating your first Joomla website?

It was a lot of trial and error. Searching online, trying it out, going back to search some more. Even though it was frustrating sometimes, especially when things didn’t work as expected or there wasn’t a ready-made solution at hand, I really liked learning new skills. I think that is one of the things that attracts me in web design still: you are never done learning.

What challenges did you face?

There were two main challenges. The first was to figure out how the backend worked. How menu items and content are related and how to set up a good structure.

The other one was the template. Although creating templates is much easier for Joomla than for WordPress for instance (tried it and failed) you do need to know how to place modules, call the components etc.

How did you solve them?

By trying things and going through documentation and forums to look for answers.

Where did you get help?

The Dutch fora were a lot of help, as was the Joomla documentation. Later on, I discovered the Joomla Community and attended the JoomlaDays in the Netherlands. Nowadays I’m also a frequent visitor and (less frequent) speaker at JUGs. It is great to see how you can shift from knowledge seeker to knowledge sharer, although I still seek knowledge as well.

What would your golden tip be for people just discovering Joomla?

Join the community. Online as well as offline. Visit a JUG, go to events and ask questions. Joomla is a very flexible and powerful tool. It takes some effort to really get to know it. But once you do it is really easy to use and build (almost) anything you can imagine.

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