Building a business website from scratch with Joomla.

Posted by: cnielsen

Joomla CMS for businessJoomla! CMS is the best platform for building your business online!

If you are building a web site for your business it is easy to get excited about all the things that Joomla! CMS can do with its 7000 plus extensions and long list of core features built in. Joomla! CMS is an open source code base offered as a FREE download and relatively easy to install on any web server. There is one of the largest collections of world-class design templates available to build from and quickly brand to your specifications. Since Joomla! CMS is easy to use and offers flexibility to expand over time it is no wonder for the growing popularity of this robust content management system. According to CMS crawler, Joomla! CMS is the top web publishing tool (CMS) in Europe and captures over 2.6 percent of all websites worldwide (http://cmscrawler.com/cmsinfo?cms=Joomla!). Joomla’s only other close contender is Wordpress which has nowhere near the options for practical business use cases.

Sounds incredible! So where do I get started?

“Know what you are building, who you are building it for, what you want out of it and how it will be sustained over time.” You must see the picture in your mind before you can build it and the better your plan the more efficiently you can realize you goals.

Why? You might ask.

Let me start with a brief analogy…

I am a retired musician. Back in the 80’s there was a revolution with digital recording equipment and within a few short years recording systems and sound modules for keyboards that would cost 100’s of thousands of dollars and were very complicated to operate were suddenly in the hands of every aspiring musician or “wanna be”. While this was all very exciting only the folks that really honed their craft were actually able to do anything productive or worth listening to with these new tools. I see this same kind of trend with all of the powerful new web tools and it is important to keep in mind that “just because you can do something does not always mean you should”.

Put together a good Checklist

I have to admit that when I first started working with Joomla I fell into the same trap of trying to use every tool just because I could. When building anything you need to start with a good plan and purpose and avoid distraction. Strategy and tactics are key and have to come before the design and all of this even before you begin to turn on any technology. The first step I recommend is put together a checklist of all that you want to get out of the intended site and identify who it is for, what are the proper calls to action and paths to information that you want users to follow. Then set some priorities since everything has a cost in time and money.

What makes your site unique?

You are going to find there are a lot of things common to any site that you will have on your list such as security, most likely SEO etc. but the unique characteristics and how this site interacts with the end user are the items you want to think most about since there are plenty of options for addressing the common challenges. It is often the elements that make your site unique that will cost you the most or someone else would have done it already and perhaps they have… but how are you going to do it better in that case?

Test and evaluate at the feature level of the components you plan to use.

Once you have a well-defined strategic plan you are going to want to map these features to the options available in the huge collection of features and extensions found with the Joomla! CMS. This is often a time consuming and laborious process but will save you a ton of time and treasure in the long run. For example, let’s say you want a document repository. Well there are several components and each has unique features. You want to make sure these features map to your short term and long term goals. You would not want to take the time to upload hundreds or perhaps thousands of documents and add all of the descriptions to find that you should have chosen the “Other one”. It is well worth the time to install the top contender extensions and test them to see if you have any questions that did not come to mind before.  Sometimes you may not find all of the features you need in an existing extension, so it may come down to which will be the easiest to customize and maintain over time.

Have a good training plan for your stakeholders and contributors

If you or your team are new to Joomla you will want to think about the training requirements for engaging your team effectively and it is important to realize that this will be an ongoing learning track and often a bit of “change management” since you are going to want to get everyone focused on consistent processes for integrating and managing content. If you do not have a “Joomla guru” on your team you should seek a professional service organization to assist you and support your initiatives over time. This can mean not only technical support and training but also traffic building, optimization and emarketing. If you are using your site to generate or manage your business online you will need to respond quickly to a variety of issues over time and always remain proactive about security and maintenance.

Graphic design is different than functional design

Keep in mind that UI and graphic design is a whole process in itself and this too requires a parallel strategy as part of your overall plan but the good news is that Joomla! CMS has one of the largest collections of brand ready template frameworks to either choose from or to use as a baseline for streamlining your design process. It is always helpful to have reference points when dealing with the subjectivity of creative design. One typical approach is to leverage an existing template while you are developing your own creative design. This can save time and if you use a flexible template framework such as those from http://demo.rockettheme.com, you may even be able to just modify graphic elements and save a tone of money. In addition to the actual template you will also have to consider that several extensions may require custom UI design work and you need to ask yourself what images or interactive elements need to be processed or developed. Having visual consistency and quality images with thoughtful colors and graphical treatments can have a significant impact on the appeal of your site. There are several techniques, approaches and processes useful for achieving successful graphic design to compel your users. Best to get good advice here before you spend a lot of time and money.

Have a Joomla Geek build the foundation

So now if you have a plan, perhaps a design concept, you have identified the purpose, the audience and all of the components, your team resources and training is evaluated so now you should be able to move forward with a certain level of efficiency. I typically recommend letting your “Joomla Guru” or service provider to build out the initial framework (often a collaboration between an insider and an service provider) and set the site up with all of the core components and add-ons. This is not done best by committee and there needs to be a single point of contact through this phase of the project.

“Speaking and thinking Joomla”

“Wiring up” any project with several levels of complexity requires a good roadmap and plan but you also have to realize that it is just as easy to get caught up in over planning. Most business plans are designed to guide you in the right direction but if you stick to them in the “letter of the law” with an ever changing environment you will get left behind your competition. Since Joomla allows you to adjust content and design in a real time you have the flexibility to respond quickly to the needs of your business and demands of your audience. To achieve maximum success You will want to find someone that can “think and speak Joomla” and get not only your initial framework build out by them but to have them there to support the process and mentor your team over time. In addition you will want to make sure you have access to a programming team that can help tweak bugs or conflicts since you may be working with code packages from a community of 3rd party developers.

Joomla! CMS integrations, technical support and consulting

This is all pretty straight forward and comes together easy if you make sure you have a good strategic plan, acquire the right talent resources and train your content contributors well. Our web portals offer a lot of training and other resources for developing and implementing successful Joomla! CMS web portals. http://www.cnpsupport.com, http://www.cnpintegrations.com, and http://www.joomladesignservices.com. Our experiences range from large State wide community portal systems to small businesses and organizations in a multitude of industries. We have implemented a wide range of CRB and LMS and Social Networking integrations and custom programming. Our growing collection of training resources covers most of the popular Joomla! CMS related topics and content management components. Let us know if we can be of service and hope these thoughts can help your success with Joomla! CMS.