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Building a website using a CMS in 90 minutes

There are many free Content Management Systems (CMS) available. These 'websites in a box' allow complex site structures to be up and running in a matter of hours using nothing but a web browser, with a variety of additional modules that deliver a comprehensive and functional site that would take months to write in-house from scratch.

While there are literally hundreds of open source CMS systems available empowering literally millions of sites – PHP-Nuke, PostNuke, Type3, Tikiwiki and Xoops to name but a few - Mambo and Joomla! are both respected and stable systems. As we will see, these two systems are almost identical. We will concentrate primarily on Joomla!, although you can evaluate any of the CMS out there and see what suits your needs. Although the content in this book discusses the Joomla! system in detail the theory behind it will be virtually the same for any other system. All CMS are modular in their design, allow different templates to be applied and tweaked, and have a plethora of additional extensions available from third parties to add functionality. The concept of structuring content into sections and categories is also common across all CMS.

Why read this book?

Or, more to the point, why should you consider developing a CMS-powered site over one built from static HTML pages? There are many scenarios why you might install a CMS. In short, once configured a CMS will quickly deliver a slick, powerful site that is very easy to maintain – either by yourself or other people, and for little or no financial investment.

In 90 minutes readers will learn how to decide whether a CMS is suitable for their needs, identify the best CMS system for their needs, locate a suitable hosting company, upload the code and configure it match their design and functionality needs. 

A brief overview of the book and the topics it covers.

1. What is a CMS?
To those that just 'use' the Internet and don't know how websites are constructed, this chapter discusses the differences between a static HTML site and a CMS - flat pages versus dynamically generated ones. There is also a comprehensive list of some of the components you can install into a CMS to add further functionality into your site.

2. Evaluating a CMS system
How do you choose a CMS from the dozens of open source ones available? This chapter shows how you can test them all for free and examines the benefits and pitfalls to look out for. It discusses why Joomla! and Mambo were singled out, and the ultimate decision to concentrate this book on Joomla.

3. Installing your CMS
From this point on the book focuses on the Joomla! CMS, although the theory behind most practices from hereon in is very similar. This takes you through a standard Joomla! installation process and also discusses the type of web host you should be looking for to host your site.

4. Administration section overview
Now that your basic CMS is installed we take a tour of the Joomla! administration screens.

5. Structuring your content
The most important aspect of a CMS is structuring your content into an easy format for storage and navigation. Here you'll learn the importance of sections and categories, the difference between static and general content and follow a walkthrough of creating a solid structure for your site.

6. Adding content
Here we get to the good bits! Adding content to your site is what it's all about, and adding content to Joomla! is a breeze. We start by creating a page, adding graphics and talking about some of the problems you may encounter, such as cutting/pasting from MS Word and using the installed wysiwyg editor to insert images.

7. Security and Access Restrictions
During the content creating process we discussed allocating an access level – it is this hierarchy that we are discussing now, and how you can use it to allow or restrict access to users and site administrators.If everyone visiting your web site is to have access to everything without registration, and you are the only person that requires access to the back end administration section, then you will not use groups, however it is worthwhile spending the time to understand them.

8. The Media Manager
We discussed adding images to content in chapter 6, but there will also be a need for greater image management as your site grows. Maybe you want to create sub-folders for specific sections or categories and upload graphics to here, so that your main directory does not get too cluttered. Or perhaps you need to delete old or unused images. This chapter explains how Joomla's built in media manager is used.

9. Installing templates
A Joomla!-powered site can change it's overall look and feel within seconds simply selecting another template from the Template Manager. This chapter explains how templates work, how you can move elements of your site into different positions and how to find and install thousands of different templates.

10. Making your own Joomla! template
If you have reasonable HTML and CSS skills it is not too difficult to create your own template, separating your site from the millions of other CMS sites out there. This is especially useful if you need to migrate a static HTML site to Joomla! This chapter explains how to use a free tool available for Dreamweaver to quickly insert the code required for Joomla! to drop module and page content into your specified areas.

11. Optimising your site for search engines
Historically, CMS’s were notoriously difficult for search engines to categorise. Not any more! This chapter explains the problems previously faced by CMS users, how they have been overcome and what you need to do to your site to optimise it for search engines. Building on the author's experience from Getting more visitors to your website in 90 minutes it gives an in-depth walkthrough to all of the elements you should consider when optimising your site.

12. Installing additional functionality
There are literally hundreds of plug-in extensions for Joomla. This chapter explains how to find them and install them, and also has a summary of the top extensions.

13. Multi-lingual sites
Using the Joom!Fish extension it is possible to create a powerful multi-lingual site. This chapter explains how to install and configure the Joom!fish translation component

14. Backing up your site
This is an unfortunately often overlook aspect of web design, and is especially important for database-driven sites such as Joomla! But backing up a Joomla!-powered site can be straightforward, with the help of a few free tools! This chapter discusses several methods for backing up both your HTML and mySQL databases.


Appendix 1 – CSS Styles List
A comprehensive list of all CSS styles used within Joomla!

Appendix 2 – Quick Guide to installation and configuration
Want a quick refresher course to what you should be doing to get a Joomla! site up and running?  Read this step-by-step summary guide.

A full glossary of all terms used in the book.