The super newbie guide to Joomla

frustrated man with laptop
If your completely new to Joomla, I hope this will help you. Newbies need advice thats wasn't written by programmers, so from and ex Joomla noob to new Joomla noob, heres the stuff I found hard to work out because it wasn't explained that clearly.

Note: written for Joomla 1.5 (but may be helpful to noobs of older or newer versions).

Lets go over a few of the real basics just to make sure you get going quickly.

Joomla can be very confusing. Lets face it, its written by coders (people who write code). Those same people still offer help on the Internet by telling you to “edit a php file”, when it's often far easier (for the rest of us) to change a setting in one of Joomla's control panels. I'm going to try to explain some things in a way that non coders (people like me) can understand.

Joomla is a way of building an inter connected site which manages everything for you. It has built in support for content (articles), members, polls etc. All the cool things a modern web site needs. It's a very easy way to build websites.

I'm sure you know that, lets move on...


How modules work in Joomla.

The first thing you need to understand is how modules work. I've already written about it, so go and read that article if you need to and then come back: how to get started in joomla module positions


How Sections and Categories work.

Back already? Ok. Now I'm going to talk about how Sections and Categories work because its quite important you set this up nicely to start with. It's actually very simple. All your content (the things you add to your web site, eg articles) must be stored in a Category. The categories lives in the sections.

Here's and example. I have normally three Categories:

News (new articles of recent relevance)
FAQ (frequently asked questions)

Under 'Articles' I separate them into different things I am writing about, these are the categories. In one of my sites the articles are put in categories like:

Love and relationships
Self help

These are all categories in the section called 'Articles'. It's important to get these reasonably well organized if you want to do any search engine optimization of your content (trying to help it appear further forward in google searches etc). Also if you make things neat to start with, you're unlikely to need to change them. If you do have to change them later, you might end up with dead links (links pointing to articles that are now called something else and therefor the link address, or URL has changed).

So thats it. Easy. All articles go into categories which go into sections.


Learning How the menu system works:

Menus are setup with the menu manager.

For all menus in Joomla there is a corresponding module. If you make a new menu, a new (unpublished) module will appear. You can add items to any menu. These item can be viewable to all, or only those who have registered and logged in. The items in the menu are basically links. These link are pretty powerful because the can just take you to pages, or to internal Joomla processes (eg components). Thats how you can easily make a menu link to (for example) the member login page, by creating a new item “member login” and then pointing it to internal link>user>default login layout.

Menus in Joomla aren't exactly easy to understand. I recommend you try this:

  1. Make a new menu in menu manager (call it whatever you like)
  2. Go and look at the module (in extensions>module manager)
  3. Make sure the module is published (and take a note of where it is)
  4. Go back to menu manager and make some new items in the menu you just made (try a few of the different options to see how they work)
  5. Every time you make a change, visit your site again (refresh/reload it) to see what is different.
  6. Once you have familiarized yourself with menu's then you can just delete your practice one (or unpublish it if you think you might want it later)

The most important part is not to get too flustered with Joomla. Most people have problems understanding Joomla in the beginning. To be fair, it's not easy to make such a comprehensive website development tool with a small learning curve (easy for noobs). The Joomla people have done a great job, so just keep working at it and you will get there quite quickly.

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