How Joomla Organizes Your Information
The specific tools are discussed in the Joomla 1.5 Tutorials section. Before we tackle the specifics, let’s consider some basic design ideas so that you understand how Joomla addresses them.
What goes where?
Think of a home page you like. Imagine the person who created this staring at a blank screen and just beginning to create a website. What would be their first decisions in creating the website? In non-technical terms, they would decide:
- What words should go on the home page?
- What graphics should be part of the design?
- What should be the balance between graphics, text, & functionalit?
- Do I need to use searches or can I organize the information effectively without relying on searches?
- What navigation should the site have?
These are some of the questions that are key to what developers call user interface design. It involves thinking about how much to communicate in words (information architecture) and how much in graphics (graphic design). To do this well, you need to think as your website visitor thinks. What will communicate your message most effectively?
Why is User Interface Design important?
These questions are important regardless of whether you are using Joomla, of course, but for Joomla, it is important to have the user interface design completed so that you can define the other pieces of the site effectively.
Joomla allows you to dynamically change the menus and content but if you “create things on the fly” or make too many changes later, it will affect how your graphics and other style elements display in relation to the text and menus. In addition, by pre-planning you can determine what added extensions you might need to manage your content.
This doesn’t mean that you must have all the content done. One of the easy workarounds for pages is to create placeholders and populate them later (See chapter 4). However if you don’t have your user interface design documented, you can’t work efficiently or effectively.
Notice we didn’t say “thought about” or considered” these question. Effective developers put this down on paper so that they can work with it in an organized manner.
Planning for additional functionality
When you know your interface design, you will also know what pieces to add to the basic Joomla system. As an example, if you want to have a large number of frequently asked questions, you might choose to add Joomla components and modules that allows Joomla to manage this content efficiently. By establishing your user interface design early, you will work with the best tools from the start and not waste time building your site more than once to get the desired functionality.
Content is separate from style in Joomla
Another important benefit of Joomla, like any true CMS, is that it handles content separately from formatting. If you have used another web authoring tool or hand coded web pages, you may be familiar with cascading style sheets (CSS) as a way of standardizing format of text and graphics. Joomla uses CSS, but instead of storing this information in the content files, it is stored with the template files. On the other hand, the content (text, images, etc) is stored in the MySQL database that runs Joomla. For all practical purposes, this means:
- There are fewer opportunities for simple coding errors within each html file.
- The html files don’t need to be hand coded but can be edited through an WYSIWIG interface that has standard word processing icons. As an example, to bold text, highlight the text and click on the B icon. There are exceptions but very few.
- The css files are standard css files and can be edited by anyone who knows css. As a result, even if you don’t know css yourself, there are many people who do, which makes it likely that you can keep your development costs low.
- If you are building your own website, you can use templates made for Joomla and avoid editing the css files. However if you need something that a template does not have, you will need to hire someone to adapt the template to your needs. See page for more information on template structure and strategy.
- If you are used to building sites in Dreamweaver, Frontpage or any of the other popular web authoring programs, you will find a short learning curve with the Joomla interface. In addition, your code will be free of any extra code often added by these programs.