Joomla! is the popular open-source content management system that is (from what I've seen) the most powerful way to build, maintain, promote, and grow a professional website.  It is completely free to use, modify and expand and gives the user a great system for managing content.  It's easy to use, easy to expand, easy to style and easy to learn.

But how does it all work?  Well Joomla functions in just a few simple steps or you might call them pieces. Let's look at the technical side first.

  1. The HTML you see in the front end
  2. The PHP that sends info to and from the HTML to the database
  3. The database that stores your information
  4. The CSS that styles everything
  5. The misc. javascript/Ajax/flash that adds functionality

Really this is how all dynamic websites function, but you may not have known that.  Now let's translate that into what you see.

When you login to the backend of Joomla! ( you see a neato bit of software that allows you to edit and control your website that looks like this:

Jomla Back-end

The backend is where you'll enter in your blog content, your products, choose how your website will look, add additional functions, change settings, check statistics, and essentially control anything and everything that is your website.  The backend really is it's own website with its own settings but we'll leave that gem for another time.

At the top of the backend is a nav-menu with Site, Menu, Content, Components, Extensions, Tools, and Help.  Underneath are some pretty big icons that have various functions dependent on how you have Joomla setup.  The right hand side has (typically) four tabs showing Logged in Users, Popular, Recent added Articles and Menu Stats.   We're only going to look at the nav-menu today.

The nav-menu is the most important menu you'll ever use in your website.  It contains access to every important bit of information on your website aside from editing the files on your server directly.  So let's break it down quickly.

  • Site is where you'll configure your Joomla settings, such as the time, your site name, description and keywords, system, user and media settings and so on.  The great thing about Joomla is that most of it is written so that you'll understand all the settings.  There's no big bad button that says "Do not touch unless you really know what you're doing" .  So don't be intimidated. Quick tip - Don't worry about the "FTP Layer".  You'll never use it.
  • Menu guessed it. Your menus.  He're you'll be able to add new menus, edit the menus you have, delete them, and add new pieces to them.  For instance, I recommend every business website have at least three menus: A horizontal menu at the top with the most important piece of your website linked, a right/left menu that breaks down almost the entire website and finally a small menu around the footer that shows the privacy policy, site-map, careers, terms & conditions, etc...  So you'll need to build each of these menus in the Menu tab.  Simply click add new menu, choose each item, and save.  Quick tip - to show/hide the page title for a given menu link, click on the right side of a menu item Parameters (System) and then show or hide Page Title. 
  • Content is where you'll enter in your blog articles, add content to each of your pages and build anything that is content-related.  A common confusion is that this is where you'll build pages of your website.  In fact, it is just a piece to do that.  Joomla takes all the pieces (menus, articles, and extensions) to build each page.  That's how it's dynamic.  You can make a change it one section and it'll effect other sections as well.  So the content section consists of adding, editing and deleting articles but also controls the sections and categories that your articles are organized into.  Quick tip - To globally hide/show article titles, author, dates, section and categories, click Parameters in the Article Manager and change those settings on the right hand side.
  • Everything else - Components and Extensions are two very important pieces that we'll look at in a seperate article. Just know that components gives you control over the pieces that you add to Joomla and Extensions is how you add those pieces for now.  Tools allows you to check e-mail if you've set up internal email as well as send out mass-emails. And help is where you'll find great resources to expand your Joomla knowledge.

So Joomla! works by taking each individual piece that a website consists of (menus, graphics, layout, content, and functionality) and gives you control of those pieces individually...without editing each piece on each page.  Joomla! is the largest, most popular and most powerful all-around open-source CMS out there currently for this reason. 

Ready to get started with having your own Joomla!-based website?  Please contact Simple CMS Design using the form to your right and we'll build you an affordable CMS website that'll set your online presence into a new level.  And feel free to let us know your thoughts on this topic below.

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