As I've written in the recent past, one of the most challenging endeavours for anyone experienced in Joomla! is trying to disseminate his own knowledge of the CMS to a complete newbie. Being a developer – instead of a tutor – puts me in an impossible position, as my understanding of the system is registered within me in a way that's impossible to transfer to a non-developer. Well, unless he's in for a steep learning curve and awkward tech-talk. Thankfully, there's Packt Publishing's new book, “Joomla! 1.5 Beginner's Guide”, written by Eric Tiggeler. As promised, this is the full review of the book!

Don't miss the raffle at the end of the article!

Some of you might be aware that I have a background as a business consultant. Part of my job was writing manuals for the management systems I created. My boss insisted that any software manual is worthless if it doesn't have step-by-step screenshots accompanying the text. He insisted that this is probably the only way to engage the reader into visualizing what he's reading, therefore making it much easier for her to practise it on the actual system. Therefore, the first reason I found this book exceptional is that it's written in this manner. It doesn't bore you with dry theory. It actually shows you how it's done and then asks you to practise what you've learned in order to move forward. This is only comparable to having a tutor by your side the whole time.

The organization of the book's subject matter is simply impeccable. The first part of the book is a simple introduction to the notions of building websites and why choose Joomla! in particular. A note of warning to complete beginner's, though. Even though it's tempting to skip ahead the first three chapters, don't! They give you the foundation upon which you'll build your Joomla! Skills.

The second part of the book is where the hands-on experience begins. Amazingly, the fourth chapter promises you to create a brand new website in an hour. Ambitious as it may sound, it is absolutely true. Well, reading and practising will take you about 2-3 hours, but once you've done this a couple of times it would take you well under 45 minutes, trust me! In another 5 chapters the author unravels all the secrets of organizing and managing your site's content and structure (both what the visitors see and what the site owner sees), spice its presentation and empowering your users. Even though it sounds like a lot to learn, you'll learn it very pleasantly by following the book's step-by-step examples.

The third part of the book explores the true power of Joomla!. In a nutshell, the book will guide you to installing third-party extensions – the real stronghold of Joomla!'s flexibility – and optimizing your site. Do mind that the chapter which talks about templating does, by its nature, fall out of the book's “you don't need to know anything” theme, as it does require a basic understanding of HTML and CSS. In my humble opinion it's best read together with your designer friend, or you can just browse through it if you're going to end up using a pre-made Joomla! template, such as those sold or offered for free by major template clubs.

If you've gone that far reading the book, you are most probably ready to start building your own site. It seems very sensible that the author pops a hare out of his hat by introducing you to some basic search engine optimization and site security ideas in a little less than 30 pages.

Overall I found this book to be a great read for people who have no idea about web technologies, but want to get a site built on the cheap and very fast. It is very thorough and absolutely easy to read and follow in the expense of only scratching the surface of what Joomla! can do. So, if you want to get started building sites without any prior experience, or want to help a friend of yours accomplishing this goal, I positively recommend this book.

Since you've been patient enough to read my review up to the end, I have a special offer for you :) Packt Publishing, the publisher of the book, agreed for me to set up a raffle. One lucky reader will be drawn to win a free copy of the book. If you are in Europe or the US you'll get a physical (printed) book. If you're elsewhere in the world you'll get an e-Book (PDF format). Just tell us why you think you'd like to read this book. Be creative! The raffle will stay open until May 4th 2010, 00:00 EET.

Edit: The raffle will be extended until May 8th. Register while there's still some time :)

The raffle is already closed. Than you for participating!

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