Developing custom projects with Joomla
Joomla is an incredibly powerful and versatile Content Management System (CMS). Most of us think of Joomla when it comes to build complex websites, directories, and e-commerce stores. But these applications are more in the Content Management world. What happens when we need to develop a different type of web application? In those cases, it's common to use custom development and build our projects from scratch.
That's where developing custom projects with Joomla comes in. With Joomla, you have the freedom and flexibility to create custom components, modules, and plugins that are tailored to your project's unique specifications.
Why you should choose Joomla to build your custom projects?
When it comes to developing complex web applications, developers often choose Laravel or Symfony as their PHP Framework. They are attracted by their well-defined architecture, their customizability and of course by their performance and security. But all these apply also to Joomla Framework, so why not give Joomla a try for your next custom development project?
Besides all the characteristics above, Joomla provides lots of features and functionality out of the box. Just by installing Joomla you get: user management, content management, menu management, template management, search engine optimization (SEO), and more. This might cover a wide range of features of your web application.
Actually, when developing our custom projects we forget some of these common features, and we have to build them from scratch, reinventing the wheel and adding more time and costs to our projects.
Joomla is built to be accessible: It follows the WCAG and has a number of built-in features that make it easier for people with disabilities to use your site.
Finally, Joomla has a large community of developers who can help you if you get stuck. It also has a wide range of documentation and tutorials available online that can help you learn how to use it.
In fact, Forbes named Joomla the Best CMS for new developers in December 2022, so it's probably worth a try ;)
Planning a custom project with Joomla
The first step in developing a custom web application with Joomla is to define project requirements. What are the main functionalities of your project? Do you need to offer a functionality out of Joomla features?
In case Joomla itself cannot fulfill the whole project, it's always a good idea to explore the extensions available at the Joomla Extensions Directory.
When focusing on the main features, we cannot omit the secondary functionalities that should be present in the project. Things that are not relevant to the main functionality, but they are really important to convey with current regulations or to provide a better experience for our users. Some examples:
User management and security
Accessibility features for a better navigation of the site
Of course, content management for landing pages, legal info and those kinds of semi static pages
Most of these features either can be covered with Joomla out of the box, or we have top quality extensions that we can use to add them to our project.
But let's focus on the main functionality we need to develop. If we cannot find an extension that fills our needs completely, we still have some options to keep using Joomla.
Developing the main functionality with Joomla
Believe it or not, Joomla is the perfect fit for your project, even if you did not find an extension that answers all your requests. That's when Joomla flexibility comes into play.
When working with Joomla, we have several mechanisms that help us adapt the behavior of our page.
One common scenario is that you find a great extension that covers all your main features. It offers you all the functionality you need, and you know it's going to make your client very happy. But on the other hand, your eyes bleed when you see the interface on the screen. The design is ugly as hell!! You cannot sell this to your client. You rather stop working as a web developer than having to defend such an old-fashioned, misdesigned work to your customer.
Do not despair! You are in luck!! In Joomla, you can change literally every aspect of the interface using a technique called Template Overrides. This allows to replace the HTML, CSS or even JS of any extension with your own code.
What happen if the problem you face has to do with some other minor features like sending a message to your users any time they post an article on your blog. In this case, you are also in the wright side of life, as you may develop a small plugin that hooks on any of the Joomla events that are triggered along the Joomla load cycle.
Furthermore, you may change the whole behavior of a Joomla site just using plugin events.
Go big, develop your own component
If you cannot find an extension that provides all the features you need, it's probably a good idea to consider developing your own. Joomla relies on MVC pattern to structure the code of your components, and since Joomla 4, we enjoy a modern framework to develop our solutions. You have plenty of stuff you do not need to worry about like database connection, assets management, HTML forms management or even URL routing.
Besides, there are some solutions to get a component boilerplate to start playing with that can help you get started and show you how to work with Joomla code.
Developing a Joomla component it's not very different from developing the functionality with other frameworks like Laravel or Symfony and you still will keep the advantages of using the rest Joomla built-in features.
Joomla is a powerful and versatile CMS that can be used to develop custom web applications. It offers a wide range of features and functionality out of the box and it also provides the freedom and flexibility to modify the design with template overrides and create tailored components, and plugins that are customized to meet the unique specifications of a project.