In general, there are a great many books on the market about the ever-popular Joomla Web content management system (WCMS), but as yet very few of them tackle the subject of Joomla version 2.5. So, to have a book on the subject coming out of Packt Publishing, we should all be very excited!
In this review we will look at the new Packt Publishing title, “Joomla! 2.5 Beginner's Guide” – a book designed for those just beginning their adventures with this CMS engine. (Although we will not delve into the matter here, this does trigger a fundamental question of whether there may actually be too many books on the market directed at beginners? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this!)
Eric Tiggeler is the book's author and his portfolio includes a few “Beginner's Guides” books and articles related to Joomla, and also one on the Drupal WCMS product. We can safely assume that Mr. Tiggeler has a good grounding in the technologies upon which these systems are based and the implementation of production-grade Joomla websites.
This book is written in an easy to understand style which is a pleasure to read. Of interest to this reviewer was the author's use of a Polish website as an example of a real-world project. Specifically, the site of the non-public Primary School of Music in Warsaw, Poland is referenced alongside such other wonderful sites as that of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, USA. As effective as these examples may be, however, I believe that providing only a small number of websites as examples is insufficient for the reader. Many nicer templates for Joomla are presented in the first chapter of the book, and yet Web sites produced based upon these templates are not referenced as examples. One of the goals of a book about Joomla is to show why one can and should choose Joomla over another WCMS.
The second chapter attempts to introduce readers to the basics of Joomla. I fully expected to find instructions on how to perform a migration from a previous version (such as the still-popular version 1.5, or even the transitory 1.6 and 1.7 versions, to the current 2.5 Joomla base). Alas, migration was only briefly described. This is a pity as devoting just a few additional pages to this subject could, in my mind, have dramatically increased the value of the book.
It appears the author has overlooked the opportunity to describe common errors Joomla newbies may come across during installation. This would have been more interesting to find than simply a repetition of screen snapshots describing the process of installing Joomla. Also, I could not find information about how one goes about unpacking the zipped Joomla package onto a server, nor anything on how to use quickstart packages (such as those offered at joomfx.com and other template providers) designed to speed up and simplify the installation and configuration of functional Joomla websites.
Chapter 3's visual representation of the modular structure of Joomla templates leaves much to be desired. In my opinion, a clearer and more effective approach could have been used to explain the connection between the Joomla back-end (administration area) and the front-end.
The following chapter is titled, “Web Building Basics: Creating a Site in an Hour” and, although well-written, it skips some fundamental aspects to any serious website (or application) development project. Specifically, there is little to no coverage of project phases involving planning, design, and the general translation of business requirements into an implemented Web site based upon Joomla. In its current form, the reader has no point of reference. It needs to be clear that every real-world client has unique business requirements which may include: options for data / information capture, publishing, and manipulation; scheme for layout, colors and texture; use of images, graphics and video; the business and functional objectives of the website; and more.
I am surprised that Chapter 6, which describes the process of adding new content to a site, lacks instructions on how to make use of the JCE Editor. As many of my readers know, this tool can greatly facilitate the job of editing articles. Some information about this tool is, however, finally mentioned in Chapter 10.
Chapter 11 introduces the reader to the world of templates. It is chock full of useful information and tips. It does not, unfortunately, provide a reference list of all websites of companies currently offering commercial templates for Joomla 2.5. These are, however, easy enough to locate on the Web. With the exception of one example, the ready-made templates presented in this chapter are, in my opinion, quite poor. There is also no mention of available frameworks.
A subject of high importance to the Web development and hosting industries lately, is that of data and site security. As with any popular modular technology (remember Windows?), there are those technical folks out there who put a lot of time into trying to overcome technical barriers in an effort to disrupt systems, steal data, and even to profit directly from uninformed Web users. Books aimed at novices to the world of Web Content Management Systems, or to Web site development in general, should always allot some space to this subject. In this book, the topic of the login and password functions should have been covered in the chapter on installation, and not at the end of the book where many users may overlook this valuable subject.
Readers of this book will certainly learn step-by-step how to build a real website. Instead of just learning about Joomla's capabilities in general terms, you will face real-world site-building challenges. These positive outcomes are offset by the fact that the book does not offer up sufficient information relevant to users of previous versions of Joomla. The author could easily, for example, have provided valuable information to assist Joomla 1.5, 1.6 and 1.7 site owners and administrators in their migration efforts to the version covered by this title.
This book is indeed ideally suited to those who are totally new to the world of Joomla. If you have experience with previous versions of Joomla, this is not the book for you. Once completed, Joomla novices will also find themselves looking for a more advanced reference.