Relaunch Day

May 26th, 2010  |  Published in web design  |  1 Comment

Arena Digest

Kevin flipped the switch on DNS for Arena Digest today, completing the transition from the previous CMS to Joomla. I wrote some notes about managing the transition from the legacy CMS to Joomla with Ruby last month, but a few more things are worth calling out that made the job easier:

First, SC JQuery came in handy because I had some legacy JQuery that needed to come over, but it was colliding with the MooTools menus. SC JQuery provides Joomla with a working version of the latest JQuery and makes sure it’s running in “no conflict” mode.

Second, Advanced Module Manager fixed a headache that had to do with making sure that some ad zones appear where they’re supposed to. Joomla’s controls for where a module appears (currently) lack the ability to say “put this module on every menu but …” which means some special pages (like the search page) won’t display modules designated for anything besides “show on all menus.” Advanced Module Manager provides a way to designate “every menu but,” and that provided me with a way to create front page and inside page advertising zones that appeared everywhere they were supposed to.

Third, I’m going to be interested to see how the new Wibiya toolbar performs in terms of users taking advantage of it. Previous designs along the line of Arena Digest involve several widgets to handle all the social networking and bookmarking stuff that’s become de rigeur. Wibiya wraps all that up into one lump, and it lives down at the bottom of the page where you can a. see it, b. make it go away and c. use it to do what all the other widgets did. In testing, it didn’t cause any problems with load times (it waits for the rest of the page) and it defers some bottlenecks until the visitor wants to use specific functionality, so it’s not chasing people off if they land and everything doesn’t load quickly.

Finally, I’ve decided that when I put up a new Joomla site, TinyMCE is coming out and JCE is going in. JCE is much nicer, both to use and to configure, with some really helpful roles-based privileges you can assign to limit what certain users can do.

Warmed Up to Joomla

It has been almost three years since I first blogged about my issues with Joomla. Since then, Joomla 1.5 has come out and matured (1.6 is approaching), and most of what I hated has been dealt with. Remaining complaints (like the way it handles section/category organization) are being addressed in the next version. The templates override system, which allows you to have decent templates without hacking the core files at all, is in full effect, so CSS-based designs are a practical reality.

It’s also a lot more search engine friendly. Though I tend to use the sh404SEF plugin to get better control of the site structure, vanilla Joomla SEF URLs aren’t a bad joke anymore.

If you’re not bringing over legacy content, getting a decent Joomla site stood up takes very little time and you can get really good results quickly. Raiding the extensions directory usually yields any functionality you find missing. For better or worse, Joomla’s leadership booted out non-GPL’d extensions last year, which means it’s easier to get at the free stuff, and there’s less likelihood you’ll be stuck trying to get something protected by ionCube working on your hosting provider (which means you can tweak plugins that are almost but not quite right).

All that said, it’s still not for everybody. Joomla’s a real CMS and it looks and acts like one. In other words, it’s not the sort of software where you stand up the site then casually toss the keys to the new owner. It has a writer/editor/administrator privileges model you need to be ready to take advantage of. If your client isn’t already familiar with CMS software from previous use (Kevin is, which makes things easier for me), you should think about preparing a couple of accounts in the new installation: one for the client as content manager and one for the client as site administrator. It’s not like anybody’s face is going to melt if they look at the settings available to the admin, but not having administrative privileges narrows the number of options present at login, and that makes it easier on someone just learning day-to-day content management.


  1. Ballpark Digest Relaunched :: dot unplanned says:

    September 7th, 2010 at 10:26 am (#)

    […] job was pretty similar to the Arena Digest relaunch, and involved a lot of the same […]

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