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Building your site in Joomla 5 - Episode II: Focus: Helix Ultimate 2.x

2024---JCM-Template-helix-framework

When it comes to building your website in Joomla 5.x, you have a few options as mentioned in Episode I, you could use the built-in template of Cassiopeia, custom fields, tags etc and opt for the great built-in option: Joomla's Built-in Content Templates Page Builder, as presented in the article by Brian Teeman or like so many of us, you could opt for one of the Template Frameworks and possibly Visual Page Builders that exist… (for a reminder on those, check out May’s Episode I where I set the groundwork for this series).

When it comes to those Frameworks, 1 stands out in the Joomla Template ethos as being the most popular thanks to which template builders have based their templates: Helix Ultimate by JoomShaper. As of June 15th, of the 1406 templates made for or compatible with Joomla 5 with  12 different frameworks some 70% of them were made with the Helix Ultimate framework (or 995 templates). That’s truly an impressive lead over the others… 

So let's look into this further.

To compare the different frameworks in this and future episodes in the series, I have broken down the comparison into 7 categories and for each some of the questions that we will try to answer:


1: Features and Functionality (out of 10 points)

  1. What sort of baked-in or companion builder is included or available if any?
  2. How does the framework handle layouts (including grid systems, columns, and rows)?
  3. Can modules be easily added, removed, and configured within the framework?
  4. Since all modern frameworks support responsive design thankfully, how customizable and easy is it to manipulate or adjust?
  5. How closely or well does it work with the Joomla Core?
  6. What customization options are available, such as typography, color schemes, and animations?

2: Performance and Optimization (out of 10 points)

  1. How does the framework perform in terms of page load speed, and other KPIs and what optimization techniques are built-in if any?
  2. Does the framework provide built-in SEO optimization features or reminders, such as meta tags, structured data, canonical URLs and more?
  3. How well does the framework adapt to mobile devices, and are there any features to enhance mobile user experience?
  4. Which browsers are supported, and how well does the framework handle cross-browser compatibility issues?

3: Ease of Use and Learning Curve (out of 10 points)

  1. How intuitive and user-friendly is the framework's interface, and what kind of learning curve can users expect?
  2. What kind of documentation, tutorials, and support resources are available for the framework?
  3. How active and engaged is the community surrounding the framework?
  4. What support exists for the framework and how good is it?

4: Compatibility and Integration (out of 5 points)

  1. Which Joomla versions are supported by the framework or does it have native Joomla 5 support (i.e. without the need of B/C plugin)?
  2. How well does the framework integrate or play with popular Joomla extensions?
  3. How well does it handle Accessibility?

5: Security and Updates (out of 5 points)

  1. What security features do the frameworks offer, if any?
  2. How frequently are updates released, and what kind of support is provided for security patches and bug fixes?
  3. How do the framework developers handle vulnerability disclosure, and what kind of transparency can users expect?

6: Customizability and Flexibility (out of 5 points)

  1. How easily can the framework be customized to meet specific project requirements?
  2. What kind of flexibility does the framework offer in terms of layout, design, and functionality?
  3. Can the framework be extended or modified using custom code or third-party plugins?

7: Unique Selling Points and Differentiators (out of 5 points)

  1. What sets each framework apart from the others, and what unique features or benefits do they offer?
  2. How do the frameworks approach common problems or challenges in Joomla development, and what innovative solutions do they provide?

To try to compare each framework one from the other, I have given each number of points out of 5 or 10 depending on the importance/category


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HELIX ULTIMATE 2.x by JoomShaper
————————————————————

A quick overview video that quickly shows Helix Ultimate 2.x.

                SCORE:  39 out of 50 points                


1: Features and Functionality - 7 out of 10 )

  1. What sort of baked-in or companion builder is included or available if any?
    SP PageBuilder 5.x (recommended version over v3.8.10)

  2. How does the framework handle layouts (including grid systems, columns, and rows)?
    Through just the framework in the backend under Template Options area, there is a layout editor which supports 12 column layouts, rows, columns etc. Using SP PageBuilder, you gain Front-End WYSIWYG editing capabilities but note that SP PageBuilder may not support all templates as faithfully as others.

    The backend interface showing the layout screen

  3. Can modules be easily added, removed, and configured within the framework?
    There is definitely the capability to easy add either 1 component area or any number of modules right from the Layout options

  4. Since all modern frameworks support responsive design thankfully, how customizable and easy is it to manipulate or adjust?
    I feel that while Helix Ultimate 2.x supports the concepts of Phone, Larger Phone, Tablet, Smaller Desktop, Desktop and Extra Large Desktop and the ability to hide sections for each of those, it could be easier to address each as well as portrait vs landscape modes… There is no capability to add your own inside the framework.

  5. How closely or well does it work with the Joomla Core?
    While building or modifying your template with the framework is easy, Helix Ultimate 2.x keeps things quite separate from the Joomla Core. The same can be said for its companion Visual Page Builder SP Page Builder, there are advantages to this unlike some might think. One great advantage is being able to see on one 1 screen everything used for the page, sections, columns, modules used - which is not nearly as easy within Joomla itself where remembering which module is one which page can be a brain teaser on some sites.

  6. What customization options are available, such as typography, color schemes, and animations?
    As with most frameworks, there is native support for System Fonts (7 on Mac) and Google Fonts, ironically, if you have a local font, while it is possible to have that included via custom.css, the framework does not have an easy mechanism for inclusion from its own interface :(


2: Performance and Optimization - ( 8 out of 10 )

  1. How does the framework perform in terms of page load speed, and other KPIs and what optimization techniques are built-in if any?
    Helix Ultimate 2.x is definitely speedy out of the box - it is built-in for that and has some standard Compress CSS, Javascript options. When including on top SP PageBuilder, while you get a lot more ease of use and visual customizability, I would warn users to not add too many Elements, some of those while capable of much wow effect can affect performance.

  2. Does the framework provide built-in SEO optimization features or reminders, such as meta tags, structured data, canonical URLs and more?
    Helix Ultimate 2.x has what is needed from an SEO standpoint but mainly sits on top of and relies on the Joomla Core and has no customizable features in the Template Options area. Thankfully, Joomla is great with SEO if you fill things in.

  3. How well does the framework adapt to mobile devices, and are there any features to enhance mobile user experience?
    Helix Ultimate 2.x is responsive and adapts but as mentioned in 1d above, this could be made even easier and other than an Off-Canvas menu that is about the extent of features for mobile user experiences.

  4. Which browsers are supported, and how well does the framework handle cross-browser compatibility issues?
    All major modern browsers are supported. There is no obvious/specific feature to handle cross-browser issues not that I have ever encountered any.

3: Ease of Use and Learning Curve - 9 out of 10 )

  1. How intuitive and user-friendly is the framework's interface, and what kind of learning curve can users expect?
    Once users understand that this is a separate interface/visual world from Joomla itself, the layout and interface require only a short learning curve and while there are a bunch of options, the sections are clearly laid out with clickable (i) text explanations for many options. I should add that the interface is really intuitive and easy to get into unlike some other frameworks. Ease of use is one of Helix’s strengths making getting into it a small time investment.

  2. What kind of documentation, tutorials, and support resources are available for the framework?
    There is a dedicated page giving highlights to the framework as well as Forums, a FB group and Documentation.

  3. How active and engaged is the community surrounding the framework?
    As mentioned above, Helix Ultimate is the most popular of the Template creation frameworks used by many a provider and has a strong community, aside from the support that JoomShaper provides for it.

  4. What support exists for the framework and how good is it?
    JoomShaper is a premier provider of solutions for Joomla and makes not just Helix Ultimate but quite an array of products (framework, templates, Visual Page Builder, eCommerce component and more), and while JoomShaper’s support is slow often, they do make a real attempt to get to all questions answered - count on 1 to 7 days to get your problem resolved.

4: Compatibility and Integration -  ( 5 out of 5 )

  1. Which Joomla versions are supported by the framework or does it have native Joomla 5 support (i.e. without the need of B/C plugin)?
    Joomla 5 obviously and without the need for the compatibility plugin :) (but it also supports Joomla 4).

  2. How well does the framework integrate or play with popular Joomla extensions?
    From my testing and building of over 40+ websites with it, Helix Ultimate 2.x seems to play quite well other extensions. Quite a few templates built with Helix Ultimate 2.x, come with stylings for specific components.

  3. How well does it handle Accessibility?
    From the framework standpoint specifically, when testing with tools like Wave, Helix Ultimate 2.x does a very good job in terms of accessibility - however, since most people use a template and add their own content, that is where you have to pay attention that you are doing things correctly.

5: Security and Updates -  4 out of 5 )

  1. What security features do the frameworks offer, if any?
    Helix Ultimate 2.x seems to provide CSRF (Cross-Site Forgery Protection) Protection even though I have never encountered that issue.

  2. How frequently are updates released, and what kind of support is provided for security patches and bug fixes?
    Over the last 4 years, Helix Ultimate seems to be updated regularly - about 6 releases per year. A Forum, FB group, and a github page are available for bug fixes.

  3. How do the framework developers handle vulnerability disclosure, and what kind of transparency can users expect?
    Helix Ultimate and JoomShaper have a specific email for handling vulnerabilities. I couldn’t find a Responsible Disclosure Policy for Helix or JoomShaper so other than limited information in a Changelog, there does not seem to be anything officially done in this area.

6: Customizability and Flexibility -  ( 3 out of 5 )

  1. How easily can the framework be customized to meet specific project requirements?
    Helix Ultimate 2.x is quite a capable and flexible framework with its built-in features, however, beyond that, you would be hard pressed to extend it as there does not seem to be a specific API and API documentation page on their website.

  2. What kind of flexibility does the framework offer in terms of layout, design, and functionality?
    The framework’s backend interface is broken down into 7 areas: Basic, Presets, Layout Builder, Navigation, Typography, Blog, Update Settings, Custom Code and Advanced.

  3. Can the framework be extended or modified using custom code or third-party plugins?
    As with almost all frameworks I have come across, in the Custom Code area of the framework’s back-end, you can add custom code Before </head>, Before </body>, Custom CSS and Custom Javascript.  Beyond that, while it is an open source project and you can fork it, I could not find any traces of third-party plugins.

7: Unique Selling Points and Differentiators -  ( 3 out of 5 )

  1. What sets this framework apart from the others, and what unique features or benefits does it offer?
    One of the few things that sets Helix Ultimate apart from the others, is its ultra popularity among template developers, it’s ease of use, and frequent updates and the fact that it is developed by JoomShaper, one of the premier providers for Joomla.

  2. How does the framework approach common problems or challenges in Joomla website construction, and what innovative solutions do they provide?
    Other than supporting both a back-end and front-end editing mode, that would be about the extent of Helix Ultimate’s innovative solutions in this area.


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In conclusion, Helix Ultimate is a great, versatile, very popular and easy to get into and use framework. I would also like to add that for maximum flexibility, and best results, I find that it is best to build a site in combination with JoomShaper's companion product: SP Page Builder 5.x which gives you pre-built elements for just about anything, the ability to import/export sections, pages, and much more…

I hope that you will give it/them a try.


SPECIAL MENTIONS

While doing research for this article, I came across 2 more worthwhile mentions:

Gridbox - a Joomla Page/Website Builder by Balbooa.
Themler - Visual Template Designer - on device Windows / Mac OS template creator.

and as a reader commented, I had not mentioned Template Creator CK (which fits somewhere between a Framework and Page Builder but feels more like a Page Builder).

See you next month for a deeper conversation on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th most popular of the Joomla 5 frameworks:  Sparky Framework, Astroid Framework, and T4 Framework.

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Comments 4

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Chris Wilcox on Sunday, 30 June 2024 18:59
WarpTheme addons

WarpTheme do a great set of free or (larger) paid addon packs for JoomShaper PageBuilder/Pro.

Also, you can add custom fonts for local storage within PageBuilder, though it would be better if you could set these easily in Helix Ultimate, I agree, the CSS route is a far for newcomers.

I use these two tools exclusively, they are excellent, great review!

1
WarpTheme do a great set of free or (larger) paid addon packs for JoomShaper PageBuilder/Pro. Also, you can add custom fonts for local storage within PageBuilder, though it would be better if you could set these easily in Helix Ultimate, I agree, the CSS route is a far for newcomers. I use these two tools exclusively, they are excellent, great review!
Emmanuel Lemor on Tuesday, 09 July 2024 23:15
Oh coool... a new resource.

Hi Chris,

Thanks for that, I had come across this a long while ago Warptheme Addons - https://warptheme.com/extra-addons-pagebuilder and had totally forgotten about it. :/

In their addons, I do feel some are a bit duplicate or so rarely used, BUT I really like there:

Light Gallery Add-on, Switcher add-on, Simple Gallery add-on, Particles add-on and Content Toggle add-on and a particular + on the fact that some of their adding like the Light and Simple Gallery support keyboard navigation!

Yes, you are right you can add custom fonts for local storage but definitely not as easy as it could be

0
Hi Chris, Thanks for that, I had come across this a long while ago Warptheme Addons - https://warptheme.com/extra-addons-pagebuilder and had totally forgotten about it. :/ In their addons, I do feel some are a bit duplicate or so rarely used, BUT I really like there: Light Gallery Add-on, Switcher add-on, Simple Gallery add-on, Particles add-on and Content Toggle add-on and a particular + on the fact that some of their adding like the Light and Simple Gallery support keyboard navigation! Yes, you are right you can add custom fonts for local storage but definitely not as easy as it could be :)
Neil Robertson on Monday, 01 July 2024 00:03
Helix Ultimate is Excellent

I have been using Helix Ultimate since it became clear my previous preferred template framework would not be updated for Joomla 4. This has turned out to be a great choice and websites on Helix Ultimate have been particularly easy to upgrade from Joomla 3 to Joomla 4 and Joomla 4 to Joomla 5. I am using the free version and rarely need any support but have paid for JoomShaper subscriptions to support the developer who I hope will still be supporting Joomla for years to come. I am interested to see the scores for the other frameworks in your subsequent articles.

0
I have been using Helix Ultimate since it became clear my previous preferred template framework would not be updated for Joomla 4. This has turned out to be a great choice and websites on Helix Ultimate have been particularly easy to upgrade from Joomla 3 to Joomla 4 and Joomla 4 to Joomla 5. I am using the free version and rarely need any support but have paid for JoomShaper subscriptions to support the developer who I hope will still be supporting Joomla for years to come. I am interested to see the scores for the other frameworks in your subsequent articles.
Emmanuel Lemor on Tuesday, 09 July 2024 23:10
Agreed, Helix Ultimate 2.x does do a lot of things well... but will it outscore the others?

Hi Neil,

Thank you for your comment. I agree that updating from J3! through to J5! when using Helix Ultimate has been very easy and I too hope (but think) JoomShaper will be around for many years to come.

As for who will score higher I guess you will have to read the next few issues

1
Hi Neil, Thank you for your comment. I agree that updating from J3! through to J5! when using Helix Ultimate has been very easy and I too hope (but think) JoomShaper will be around for many years to come. As for who will score higher ;) I guess you will have to read the next few issues ;)

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