If you come from a traditional website environment based on HTML pages, or tend to be a purely visual person, Content-Managed Sites like Joomla are somewhat opposite of what you are familiar with. Once past this barrier, though, Content-Managed Sites are much easier to extend and automate, freeing you from many mundane and time-consuming manual tasks.
Instead of HTML pages, Joomla stores everything in a true database. This has every advantage except for being able to visualize each page easily.
Thus, Content-Managed Sites require that you determine your site structure first (into which “file cabinets and drawers” you’ll put your content), and only much later determine how to style your pages with colors, backgrounds, layouts, etc. (which is then quite easy). This approach is the opposite of what a traditional web design does, where you develop pages willy-nilly, focusing on page details, while your site structure evolves slowly over time.
The front end is simply your site, e.g. www.yoursite.com, where the public goes to view you on the web. The back end is always www.yoursite.com/administrator, where you and your site managers go to manage the site. To enter the administrator area requires a username and password.
There is no need for a “webmaster” in Joomla, as there is no need in a Joomla site to modify HTML code or do anything explicitly “technical”.
The power of Joomla is not in its content-management automation alone, but more importantly, its ability to be easily extended without technical expertise to do almost anything (except make a cup of coffee).
Joomla has three main types of “Extensions”:
Think of Sections as a file cabinet and Categories as your file drawers. When you create an “Article” in Joomla (what we refer to as “content”), then you always need to put it into a Section and Category. That’s so it can be “found” later by the site (think of a Content-Management System as a personal secretary that files things and finds them for you anytime you need them).
Similarly, images and videos must also be placed in a special file cabinet (called the Media Manager), where they can be found by the system when needed. When you create an article in Joomla, a typical workflow takes place as follows (this process will constitute about 75% of what you do to create a typical site):
To help visualize a Joomla site, think of its Menu Items as “pages” in a traditional site. This is a good working concept, although the underlying differences are profound.
So when you create your top-level menu items and their sub-menu items (the Main Menu), you are actually creating the site itself. The “pages” will fill themselves in later as you start adding articles.
A menu item can be defined as many different things, but the most important are these:
Page layout at the global level is governed by the Template (section 7). It defines the relationship between articles and modules, the global fonts, etc. Within a given page, however, the layout is governed by Menu Item, which can override global settings, such as what module positions are assigned to that page. The menu item also defines the “newspaper-style” layout of articles within the content area (the format Joomla unfortunately refers to as “blog”), which the template has no control over.
In general, the layout of any given page is determined by four major elements:
Simply put, the template is what controls site-wide typography, backgrounds, menu appearance, module appearance, what positions are available for placement, etc.
In the Administrator Control Panel, you’ll find your templates in Extensions/Template Manager. On clicking there, you’ll note that among the several templates assigned to your site, one has a yellow star – that is the default template for the site. By simply re-assigning the default to another template, your site will now be presented with all the styles of the new template.
Templates can be assigned individually to pages.
The most important aspect of the template is the way it defines Module Positions. These are the places within a page where functional Modules can be placed in relation to Articles. These positions are named, such that by selecting the name of the position (such as “left” or “sidebar-a”), the module will automatically appear in that position on the page. You can “stack” modules in various positions, such that they appear next to each other or vertically aligned.
Module positions are “collapsible” in that if no module or article is assigned to a position, the template will automatically re-adjust the content and modules to align and display with no empty spaces.
Modules may be assigned styles on their own that over-ride the template backgrounds and colors. This style over-ride is called a Module Suffix.