The Joomla Transition

I would like to start by thanking everyone for the feedback on the new site! I have taken your comments, questions, and suggestions and made several modifications. One common problem appeared to be the use of the comment feature and as such I have switched to a different application and welcome any feedback on its functionality. I have been doing extensive testing on multiple browsers to ensure that everything is working properly and it this point I believe the only outstanding issues are the voting AJAX functionality on IE6 and the mobile browser layout of the site.

I decided it would be a good idea to start my blogging experience by talking about my website transition. Over the years, my site has changed from HTML+CSS to PHP then into a wiki and now a CMS. PmWiki was my favorite type of website to deploy, but I wanted to try something new. The main reasons for this include the ease of installation, the ability to edit pages through the web browser, the wide range of scripts (called cookbooks), and the functionality to write code in order to overcome limitations of the system. A couple drawbacks to PmWiki included the “hacks” needed to get some features to work (i.e. SSL for edit and login functions only), the need to learn or constantly look up the wiki syntax (problem of every wiki), and the non-Web 2.0 look and feel. With over five years of experience in PmWiki, I feel I have mastered it and while I will likely continue to use this product for side projects I wanted to try something new that is hopefully easier to use for advanced functions.

NOTE: I will be adding a section dedicated to website design and an article dedicated to PmWiki in the future.

I was first introduced to CMSs through my good friend Luca Holme. With his help, I demoed several flavors and eventually settled on Joomla. Joomla appeared to have a rich feature set, a lot of available scripts (called extensions), a true administrator portal, and a large community following. Installation was very straight forward and while it did require some initial configuration (unlike PmWiki) it worked great out of the box. However, being a system administrator, I prefer to test new software rather than read through hundreds of pages of documentation. This caused me a tremendous amount of difficulty when trying to learn Joomla (a problem I had not experienced with PmWiki).

My first, and still number one, complaint about Joomla was the use of the administrative console. When I initially opened one of the sample articles included in the installation, I realized I was unable to navigate away from the page (i.e. the top navigation buttons were grayed out and unavailable) until I saved or closed the article I currently had opened. While this makes sense from a content control perspective with the use of an autosave extension I find this step unnecessary and would love a way to disable it via some setting. My next confusion came from trying to figure out how components interacted in the system. For example, an article is part of a section and category so technically you need to create a section first, followed by a category, and then finally the article, a process that is not as intuitive as I would like.

Once I figured out how Joomla operated, it was easy to build out my new site. The extensions provided everything that the default Joomla installation was missing from the IE6 transparent png issue to AJAX voting and captcha protected comments. One of my initial goals was to have my main page be a blog. As such, this was the first item I tried to configure on Joomla and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to set up once I understood how Joomla worked. Next, I wanted to configure navigation. The different menu items available provided just the right amount of assistance and were a great time saver as opposed to creating them by hand (sometimes required in PmWiki). Overall, I am very pleased with the transition and I will continue to hone my CMS skills. I look forward to trying new features and expanding the functionality of my site.

NOTE: I will be adding an article dedicated to Joomla in the feature as well!

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