You may remember that two years ago I reviewed a great book about Joomla! 1.5 written by Eric Tiggeler. Fast forward two years. Joomla! has come up with a great new stable release, Joomla! 2.5. The need for disseminating the knowledge of the CMS to newcomers –or returning users of previous releases– is higher than ever, with Joomla! already powering almost 3% of all Internet sites out there. Eric has once more picked up the task and did a great job with his new book, “Joomla! 2.5: Beginner’s Guide” available by Packt Publishing.
Knowing Eric’s previous work, I was very happy to see that the very well-thought out structure and method of presentation is present in his new book as well. The book guides you through building a web site the way you’d do it in real life. It doesn’t just present you with new information, though. Every time you learn something new it will let you have a go at doing something similar, building your skills through practice. At the end of each chapter there’s a pop-quiz which will freshen your memory and allow you to become more confident in using the Joomla! CMS.
“Joomla! 2.5: Beginner’s Guide” is very well-balanced and can be read by complete newbies and casual users of past versions who want to update their skills alike. The first three chapters of the book are aimed at the complete newbie, presenting the overall idea behind using a CMS, why use Joomla!, how Joomla! works and even a step-by-step guide to installing Joomla!. The illustrated, step-by-step guide to installing Joomla! is the best I’ve seen to this date. Big thumbs up!
The fourth chapter has the provocative title “Web Building Basics: Creating a Site in an Hour”. Well, we all know than one hour is barely enough for a basic site, but the chapter frames very well the raison d’être of Joomla!: building a basic but expandable website, fast.
The next nine chapters guide you through the real deal of website development. I’m positively impressed by the very sound suggestion of planning your site, on paper, before you begin creating content. Joomla! co-founder Brian Teeman has been saying for years that and even blogged about it. The book takes this instruction further, giving you complete instructions and real life examples of how to plan your site’s structure depending on what kind of site you want to create. These are the 10 most important pages you’ll get to read as a web professional.
It goes without saying that the rest of the chapters take you slowly and steadily through the content management features of Joomla!, even covering the basic of the Access Control List (ACL) feature. Another big thumbs up here. ACL is an intrinsically difficult subject to grasp. Eric does a fine job of presenting you the core logic of ACL in very simple language, effectively teaching you that part about ACL you need to know.
Chapter 10 gets you acquainted with the concept of extensions, the very reason of why Joomla! is a successful CMS. Please do follow Eric’s advice on installing the JCE editor. Once you do you’ll wonder how the heck you were able to write content before.
Chapter 11 covers the aesthetics part: the templates. I hear some hardcore Joomla! users in the back arguing that templates are extensions, why do they get their own chapter. Well, Eric doesn’t just talk about installing a template. He goes deep into customising a template, from simple stuff to using Firebug in order to determine which CSS class to modify. Anyone who is or aspires to be a front-end developer must know that stuff. I can see many newbie front-end developers coming back to this chapter for reference again and again.
Chapter 12 was somewhat of a surprise to me. It’s the first Joomla! for beginners book I’ve seen which covers the topic of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Yes, this chapter is about SEO. Page titles, meta information, cross-links, beautiful human and search engine friendly URLs (SEF URLs as we usually call them in Joomla! lingo) and even redirecting visitors to updated URLs. Based on my experience, this is exactly the stuff you need to do before shelling out a gazillion dollars to a SEO company to essentially do that for you (or lie to you about Joomla!’s SEO abilities…).
And finally, we have the very important Appendix A of the book: Keeping the site secure. I agree 100% with Eric’s advice. It’s in line with everything I’ve written over the years. A note of interest. Eric urges you to take a look at Joomla!’s security documentaiton for a secure .htaccess file. That file is based on a very old version of my Master .htaccess file and it’s buggy. I’d recommend using the latest version of my Master .htaccess instead. What you see there has already been tested in thousands of real world sites, as my Admin Tools Professional security component‘s .htaccess Maker feature is based on the same file.
Overall, I find “Joomla! 2.5: Beginner’s Guide” to be a great book for beginners with Joomla! 2.5. Armed with this book and a computer on which to practice what you learn you’ll quickly become fluent enough with the Joomla! CMS to create and manage your own site.