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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What is Drupal?

Drupal is a free Open Source CMS that can be used for anything from a blog platforms to an enterprise application.  Drupal has been around for a while and at one point was a highly regarded resource.  Better solutions began hitting the net and Drupal did not maintain earlier standards which set them back.  Now with a resurge into the market Drupal is competing with top Open Source CMS offering a robust array of core features and an incredible add-on library for site customization.

Drupal has several standard content types. The default content types are Article and Basic Page but you can create additional content types for Blog Entry, Book Page, Comment, Forum and Poll.  By categorizing content types Drupal is able to organize data appropriately.  There are also modules that can be added on to customize a site for your needs.  Modules for shopping carts, embedding media, advanced navigation, and email integration can be loaded on to the core structure.  In addition modules can be added to integrate additional resources like AJAX, jQuery, and JavaScript.

Drupal themes can install seamlessly after you build a theme or download a template theme.   Whatever method you use make sure your theme is built for the version of Drupal you have installed on your hosting server. If you are downloading a template extract all the files so you can work with them.  FTP files to your hosting server placing them in a themes folder.  Once all has loaded you need to enable the theme.  Go to administrator, site building and then themes, check the ‘enabled’ box next to the theme you wish to apply.  Remember to click ‘Save Configuration’ button once you have enabled the theme. Viola!

If you think Drupal is the right fit for your business it is usually easy to install on to your server, with most hosts offering one click installation.  Then you can create a custom theme or save the frustration by downloading a template to use.  Check out http://www.website-templates-store.com/search.html?type=26 for great template themes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What is Joomla?

Joomla is a leading Open Source CMS.  Please check out my post defining Open Source and CMS if you don’t understand what that means be clicking here.

You can build a site in Joomla for practically any type of business nonprofit and for profit.  It is created using PHP (Open Source code) and MySQL (Open Source database).  I mention this detail for any nonprogrammers because you need to make sure your web site host is compatible with this structure.

Joomla can be used for simple sites as well as complex ecommerce sites, you could use also use Joomla for an internal corporate communication tool since the interface is user friendly to manage and allows varying admin rights for multiple contributors.  Core features as stated by joomla.org are managing users, files, media, languages, banners, and contacts.  In addition you can create polls, search features, three-tiered content management, and news feeds.  You would use site templates to ensure consistency but can override styles as specific pages require.  You can add menu items and structure as your site grows.  In addition to the core features there are tons of extensions that can be downloaded and added to your site to customize actual site functionality to your needs.  Add calendars, invoicing, appointment scheduling, and live chat to name a few things.

Administration is a simple; modules can be added with a few clicks.  The visual icons in the admin panel make it very easy to understand where to go for your task.  Content can be added with a Word like formatting panel.  Templates can be changed in the template manager.  Select the template and menu structure and apply it.

Developing templates consist of standard html code with Joomla specific codes added.  All can be formatted with CSS.  An example code addition to the html code might look like:

<jdoc:include  type=”component” /> 

The jdoc:include specifies a Joomla request is being made, then the type could vary with modules, components, menus or whatever feature you want added.  Every template requires an XML schema, any outside files like an external style sheet needs additional PHP code in the link.  So it might look like this:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="<?php echo $this->baseurl ?>/templates/system/css/system.css" type="text/css" />

Notice the <?php echo $this->baseurl ?> is added to the path leading to the actual css file that you are linking to.

Finally remember the html should be saved as a PHP file.  So the home page would look like index.php For exact requirements check out http://docs.joomla.org/Creating_a_basic_Joomla!_template for sample template code.

Joomla could be the right choice for your site but developing a template can feel a bit overwhelming.  Purchasing a pre-made template could save a lot of time and frustration and all templates can be customized with your own business info.  A great place to go is http://www.website-templates-store.com/search.html?type=24 search by program type and even business type to see completed templates that will fit your needs.  Select your favorite design, add it to the cart and pay, then just download customize and upload to your hosting server.  You can have your Joomla site up and running in a matter of hours.  So what are you waiting for, go get your template and get started with Joomla today!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Getting your business online!

So far I have been sharing info about design and print and I have tried to scale it down so anyone could understand it. I am going to move it all further in to address your website presence.  There is so much to talk about so I will probably stay on this topic for the rest of the year, unless I find something good I have to share.
I am going to do a series on CMS or Content Management Systems.  If you are not a programmer then you will want to pay attention since a CMS allows a nonprogrammer to manage their page content. I am going to touch on a few different types of CMS some I am more familiar with than others but will try to offer links to help you dive in deeper if you have an interest.

I want to go over some keywords that you will find in my upcoming posts.
CMS – Content Management System - A CMS is capable of managing all of your data whether it is sitting in a database or being posted for public consumption it has a structure in place to easily determine what data goes where.  To put it into perspective it is like installing an application on to your web server.  This application will hold all of your files, functionality, and even template designs.  A developer would install the CMS on to your hosting service and upload the theme.  There is a user friendly interface allowing designated content areas to be edited.  There are a lot of CMS out there just a few examples are Joomla, Drupal & Magento.

Open Source - In simple terms Open Source is a nonprofit development community.  Instead of a for profit company it is comprised of nonprofit developers from a vast arena of expertise that add to the development and improvements of their perspective software.  PHP is a form of Open Source code that is widely used.

Check back next week for info about Joomla, the first CMS we are going to dive into.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spec Work

Spec Work is an industry term that refers to a designer presenting a design to a potential client before they actually get the job.  Clients say it is a way to see if the designer can do what they want but since no pay is exchanged for this work it is basically working for free. 

Students are highly targeted for spec work since they are building portfolios, but a designer at any level deserves pay for their work. Think about it, they person needing the work done is going to profit from your efforts so you should profit for doing the work. 

When I get requests for a job I take down what they want, then I provide an official quote for the job along with a contract.  The contract just simply states they are hiring me to do this project and I expect payment for my work.  If by chance you have trouble collecting a signed contract will usually take precedence in court.

For anyone hiring a designer ask for credentials, and check out a portfolio to determine if they are right for the job.  Check out a previous post for more information on how to hire a designer.

Great info about spec at http://www.no-spec.com/articles/ten-reasons/ if you would like to learn more.