How to Customize Your Joomla Website
Ready to customize your Joomla site? Good for you! Since you're running Joomla, you can take advantage of free extensions and templates, instead of having to code everything from scratch.
If you're not careful, though, you can get hopelessly confused and/or break your site. First, familiarize yourself with these basic concepts. Then you'll be well on your way to navigating the Joomla world with ease.
When you first visit the Joomla Extensions Directory, the sheer volume of free stuff can be overwhelming. Thousands of extensions! And they're all free! Look at all the cool stuff your site could do! You want it all!
Stop. Don't succumb to a download frenzy. Yes, the right extension can enrich your site for years. But the wrong extension can drag it to a crawl, open up security holes, or simply break it. Even if it works now, it might break on the next upgrade. If you want your site to work for more than a couple weeks, learn how to choose extensions wisely.
Joomla has a unique (confusing) release cycle. You need to understand this cycle if you're going to do any customizing. Short version: sometimes when a new version comes out, it won't affect you. Other times, it means that you'll have to upgrade both your site and all your extensions.
How often do you have to do these upgrades? It depends on which version you choose.
You really should figure this Joomla cycle out before you go hunting for extensions.
Here's an example of the Joomla release cycle in action. The Joomla team discovered a security vulnerability, fixed it, and released a security upgrade. To fix your site, you needed to apply the upgrade.
But there were two versions: Joomla 1.7.3 and Joomla 1.5.25. Which would you apply on your site? If you don't know, pleaseread about the Joomla release cycle.
All right, you've given some thought to choosing extensions wisely. You understand the Joomla release cycle. You've done your homework. And you've found an extension that's just right. You're ready to commit to this relationship.
Now what? Unfortunately, adding extensions in Joomla 1.5 isn't a simple click or two. (On the other hand, maybe the slight hassle helps prevent us from installing anything that moves.) Fortunately, these step-by-step instructions for installing an extension on Joomla 1.5 ought to simplify the process. (Screenshots? Of course.)
Your website's template is critical. Yes, Joomla comes with a default template, but you should almost never use the default template. Joomla's a powerful program, but going with the default "Joomla look" won't endear your site to very many readers.
Don't think that Joomla needs to have a particular look. A good CMS can look like anything.
And you don't have to build a whole new template from scratch. You can get a huge head start by working with the free and powerful Quasar template. Install this template, and you can do all kinds of customization without touching a line of code.
If you've read this far, it's likely you're planning some serious changes to your Joomla site. Have you considered Drupal? Drupal is designed to be customized -- and maintained. If you're planning a big site, and you're not absolutely wedded to Joomla, you owe it to yourself to consider Drupal.