Practical Joomla Advice....
April 19, 2006 1:00 AM   Subscribe

Seeking practical advice on starting with Joomla in Dreamhost. After asking about Dreamhost and reviewing different CMS', I've decided on Dreamhost and Joomla for a webpage I'm creating.

I've worked a bit with Textpattern and designed some pages using HTML/CSS/Javascript, but I am still a bit of a beginner - especially with content management systems. I would appreciate any practical advice on how to get started or helpful links. I've read some of the stuff on the Joomla page but would appreciate more tips on getting started and intergrating google ads.

The page won't be very complex - it's just going to include reviews containg video and audio (probably youtube/odeo streaming) and some wayfaring maps. I just need something that's not a blog format.

If anyone really hates Joomla, I'd also like to hear that, although I don't like textpattern and am not too pleased with Drupal either.
posted by BigBrownBear to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
A recent askme question featured an inquiry about doing video and audio on a site, motivated by the poster being frustrated with Joomla. May be worth reading.
posted by anildash at 1:10 AM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, I saw that post. That's part of the reason why I was looking for more advice. I still think that Joomla looks like the highest quality option - everyone likes Drupal but the pages never seem to open right in IE (even their hompage) and I generally don't like the looks of the templates.

I'm tired of messing around with hosts and systems that don't work right and I was hoping to do this right this time - even if it costs me a little more money.
posted by BigBrownBear at 1:13 AM on April 19, 2006

View source on a number of Joomla pages and then compare them with a few Drupal pages. (Drupal is the only other CMS I've used extensively.)

The Joomla pages are typically entirely reliant on tables for all layout, from the structure of the whole page, to the organisation of the content area, to the individual menus. The default way for Joomla to make a horizontal menu bar is a table row.

Actually, it is possible to make it output unordered lists for your menus, but it still imposes frustrating and rigid rules on the names and structure of the styles which make a logical stylesheet hard to form.

And then there's the layout of the code, which is all over the shop. The neat indentation and commenting from a good Drupal template had me nearly weeping with joy after I switched. It's only a small concern until you have to dig into the tangled Joomla code to find out why various selectors are failing to do what you want them to do.

Once I noticed that I could make Joomla add an icon to each content item allowing users to output it as a pdf. Neat, I thought. Not particularly useful, but neat. And then I had another look at the source code and found that for each item, Joomla had inserted a huge Javascript function, more than doubling the length of the code. I don't know much Javascript, but how hard would it be to write 1 function and stick it in the head? I constantly get the impression that it's been coded by enthusiastic amateurs.

Images in your articles are handled *horribly* in Joomla. It mainly wants to use old-style html tags to govern borders and so on, and when you specify other styles for your images it keeps the html tags and then overrides them with CSS in a totally inconsistent and unreliable way. Maybe there's a module to handle images better, but I havent' found it.

And then (as I keep remembering things I hate about Joomla) there's the Section > Category > Content item system. Everything has to be in this ludicrously oversimplified structure. Nothing can be further nested or in more than one category. Compared to Drupal's taxonomy system it's somewhere in the stone age.

And nothing can be linked to unless it's a menu item. Over time you develop huge ghost menus which never appear on the site but have to exist so you can link to your content.

The Drupal community building modules are much, much better than Joomla's too.

Sorry for laying my new convert's zeal on you. It's just that when I think of the hours I spent dealing with this or that Joomla quirk, I steam up a bit.
posted by godawful at 1:37 AM on April 19, 2006

Just to be clear, when I refer to source code in the above, I'm typically referring to the html/javascript that the program outputs for the pages served to users. I think I was particularly unclear in my fourth paragraph.
posted by godawful at 1:40 AM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: NO, it's good to hear it. My first instinct was Drupal from hearing so many good tips on it but (1) I don't like the look of any page I've seen made in Drupal and (2) Most of the templates dont seems to work right in IE and the general three column format requires horizontal scrolling. I'm sure that these things can all be fixed, but I want to get something started quickly and easily that won't require too much fussing and changing. I would love for someone to prove me wrong, but I am not convinced about Drupal other than the fact that so many people like it.

I see what you mean about the Joomla coding, though.
posted by BigBrownBear at 1:42 AM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: that might be more of a problem that it seems as I go along. The thing is, I want something that I can get going quickly and it seems that Drupal has a steeper learning curve.
posted by BigBrownBear at 1:47 AM on April 19, 2006

I just did a fresh install of drupal 4.6 on a local webserver. All four templates that come with it display fine in IE.

They're all two column layouts out of the box and didn't require horizontal scrolling, although they all have provision for a right-hand column.

As it happens, They're all table layouts as well, but its a snap to edit their xtemplate.xtmpl files to turn them into css layouts. Once you've done this, you can edit the styles.css (or equivalent) and set all the horizontal dimensions in percentages, eliminating horizontal scrolling once and for all.
posted by godawful at 2:28 AM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: interesting. will have to consider that. i also read a bit that there are some drupal-dreamhost slowness issues, but i dont think i'm going to have large enough databases for that to be a problem.

would be interested in positive Joomla experiences too from anyone out there.
posted by BigBrownBear at 2:36 AM on April 19, 2006

I have a proof of concept site that uses Joomla on Dreamhost. It is very slow, and was not easy to get working properly. I had to make a few modifications to the theme, and heavy modifications to get Gallery and Google Maps integrated.

But it does run fine, if you aren't in a hurry.

Joomla is a lot more mature than some of the other PHP CMS packages, but that isn't saying much. Drupal didn't have what I needed when I designed this site, but I'll likely try it for the next site.

Is there a decent PHP CMS that allows easy Gallery integration and is fairly secure out of the box?
posted by bh at 3:50 AM on April 19, 2006

Drupal allows for easy Gallery integration (along with other image gallery modules), and everything else I've ever wanted a CMS to do. I've *never* had problems displaying its output on any browser, certainly not IE, and even with complex templates. Drupal's major advantage, once you are past the slightly steep early learning curve, is the huge community of developers and the plethora of modules the project has generated. But the underlying application is the most robust, functional, extensible, and secure CMS of all the major ones I've tried.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:23 AM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: fyi - i signed up with dreamhost and did the one-button joomla install. took a little bit to figure out the three-level section-content hierarchy, but I've been pretty happy so far. I am surprised that I haven't been able to find a good "getting started guide".
posted by BigBrownBear at 2:28 AM on April 21, 2006

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