Last month I wrote an article (Dropping the Joomla! Torch). In it I described my failure to represent Joomla! to a potential user. Buried in my dramatic description was a list of “do rights”.
- Build Custom Content Types
- Configure News Publishing Modules and Menu Systems
- Label Everything – Use Notes and Descriptions
- Delete All Demo Materials
- Uninstall Unused Extensions
Now I want to put some focus on number one from this short list.
NOTE: For the purpose of this article, I'm going to stick to what I know: Seblod v3. It may be worth looking into alternative CCKs, but Seblod perfectly suits my needs. Because it uses the original article and category information structure without replacing anything, it is a true core enhancement CCK.
Why are custom content types important?
Fact: Joomla is powerful and easy to use. Any proficient web admin can jump right in and figure it out. For these admins the myriad of out-of-the-box options found in Joomla's core article form are undeniable assets. Furthermore, the appearance of standard publishing nomenclature is ideal for any news organization.
Unfortunately, more often than not my clients aren't proficient web admins and they aren't successful news agencies. Chances are I'm not alone in this regard. Whether your client is a dentist or diesel mechanic they should be served simplicity.
As an object lesson, let's pretend we're working with a land management company dealing in mineral rights. They may need a half dozen content types. For this example, let's assume they want their "landmen" to list their oil wells so potential investors can make informed decisions (by the way, I have no idea what goes on in the oil business, so I'm bound to make some errors – no need to correct them, this is only an example).
If the landman is using a standard J! 3.2 build with no custom content types he is confronted by some terribly intimidating options.
To the uninitiated this form's length and technical wording make it appear very complex. Why not instead limit the options to only those needed and speak your user's language?
With this custom form we've removed the unnecessary options and we've replaced demands like "Title" and "Image" with simple questions like "What is the name of this well?" and requests like "Please add an image of the well...".
And now instead of having to format text and images, it's done for them by the content’s unique template.
This fictional company won't need to train their land managers on how to use the site, format text, or publish the article correctly because we've completely automated the process. They simply log in, click the "add oil wells" text, answer the questions, hit the "publish" button and they're done.
But why stop there? Adding the appropriate wording directly to your content template allows land managers to speak in fully rendered, consistently formulated sentences with no additional effort.
Now instead of listing information about their assets for investors, they are speaking to their investors about the assets. Oil wells are only one example. If this fictional company wanted to list other resources, such as natural gas, water, and ore, you would simply build more content types. Each type can offer its own custom questions and its own final layout.
Can the client still publish regular articles?
Yes. Once you really dig in with Seblod v3 you'll see that you can build off articles, categories and users without altering the original forms. You can create a few simple tailored content types or you can completely convert the J! platform.
How do we do everything we've seen here?
As noted throughout, I use Seblod v3 exclusively. But you SHOULD look into alternatives to see if another extension better suits your needs. Because there are a few CCKs to choose from which may provide you with this level of customization, I'm leaving it up to the documentation of each to show "how".
I will say that James Morrell's YouTube page will cover all this AND MUCH MORE for Seblod v3 users.
At the end of the day, it's all about creating value, and clients value simplicity.
Disclaimer: the author is not associated with or employed by the Seblod project.