$$ - Practice Websites
Practices interested in establishing a website, or updating an existing one, have many options available to them. Some may opt to have the job completed by a commercial web design agency, whilst others may choose to purchase web design software and attempt the task in-house. Recent advances in web and database technology however, warrant the discussion of a third option.
This article provides an overview of the steps involved in setting up a modern database driven website using the popular Joomla Content Management System (CMS).
What Is Joomla?
Joomla is a free, open source solution designed to help users build and manage websites without the need for specialised web design software. Joomla uses sophisticated PHP code to interface with a database that stores the websites content, allowing for a great deal of customisation and flexibility.
Despite the underlying power and complexity of the system, Joomlas developers have done a good job of making the system intuitive and accessible to users of all technical abilities.
Once installed, the system is administered entirely through a simple web interface. To manage the website, the administrator simply logs in to the Joomla Website Administration Panel, a special portal attached to all Joomla websites. As the administration interface is contained within the web browser, Joomla websites can be managed from any computer with Internet access.
While Joomla includes a whole host of features out of the box, the system is extremely flexible, allowing for a huge array of additional functionality to be added via its plug-in architecture.
Dubbed Extensions, there are nearly 2,000 of these plug-ins. Among these are solutions that allow newsletters to be sent from the site, website statistics to be monitored, and photo galleries to be displayed. There are even extensions that allow the user to select the language they wish to view Joomla sites in, the translations being performed automatically.
How Do I Get Started?
There are several steps involved in creating a website using Joomla:
- Arrange website hosting.
- Register a domain name.
- Install Joomla.
- Source and install a website template.
- Setup the websites structure.
- Add the websites content.
- Create the navigation buttons.
These steps are discussed in more detail below:
1. Arrange Website Hosting
While it is certainly possible to host your website on your server or another computer within your practice, doing so has the potential to compromise the security of your practice network. A more secure and reliable option therefore, is to outsource the hosting of your website to a commercial hosting company.
Fully featured hosting packages from reputable Australian web hosting companies start at around $100 per year. Whilst there are international organisations that sell hosting for less, opting for an Australian based company will usually give you better access to timely support.
When sourcing a website host, the author strongly recommends that practices choose a company that offers Fantastico functionality. Fantastico is a service that makes the installation of Joomla and other web based technologies significantly easier than manual installation alternatives.
2. Register A Domain Name
As most would be aware, a domain name is the address that visitors need to enter into their web browser to access a website. While there are now several alternatives available (e.g. .com, .net, .net.au), the .com.au domain name is usually the most desired variant in Australia.
A .com.au domain name can be purchased for around $30, allowing you the use of the domain for 2 years. Prior to expiry, you will be given the option to renew your lease of the domain.
As most web hosting companies provide domain name services, it is a good idea to purchase your domain name when you setup your hosting package. Doing so can expedite the time taken to match your domain name with your website, and minimises the number of suppliers you have to deal with.
3. Install Joomla
As indicated earlier, web hosting services that provide Fantastico functionality can streamline the process of installing Joomla on your webserver to a few mouse clicks.
In the absence of Fantastico, the steps required to install Joomla will depend heavily on your web hosts server arrangements. Generally, the steps involved are:
- Manually setting up an SQL database to hold the websites content.
- Uploading the Joomla installation files to your web server.
- Configuring the Joomla installation to communicate with the SQL database.
Comprehensive instructions on how to install Joomla can be found at the official Joomla website. Before attempting a manual installation, practices may need to get in touch with their web hosting company to find out what hosting environment your website is hosted on.
4. Source And Install A Website Template
One of the best features of Joomla and other database driven websites is that the content on the site is separated from the sites design. This essentially means that you can radically change the design of your site, without having to re-enter all the information.
Joomla uses templates to make the process of switching between various website templates easy. Advanced users with web design experience may wish to create their own template, however as there are a plethora of free and cost effective templates available online, most Joomla users choose to simply download a pre-prepared design.
After sourcing a Joomla template with a pleasing appearance, the template files need to be uploaded and installed using the Joomla Website Administration Panel. Once installed, the administrator needs to simply select the new template as the default appearance for the website.
5. Setup The Websites Structure
Joomlas website layouts are built upon the concept of module positions. This simply means that users are free to choose where to display sections of their website within the template design.
For example, a typical Joomla website template will allow the primary navigation menu to be placed either at the top of the screen, or on the left or right sides. This can be achieved by simply specifying the Site Module Position as Top, Left or Right.
6. Add The Websites Content
With the sites appearance now established, the information that the practice wishes to display on their website needs to be added.
In most cases, pages will be created using the Static Content Manager via Joomlas Administration Panel. As with all Joomlas content generation screens, text can be entered using a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor.
Many of the formatting functions are identical to those found in a typical word processor, making content generation and modification easy, even for non-technical users. In addition to formatted text, images and links to other web pages can be included in Joomla content pages.
Each page created in the Static Content Manager will correspond to single page on the practices website.
7. Create The Navigation Buttons
With the design and content now in place, the website needs to have menus added to allow visitors to navigate between the various pages created in Step 6.
Navigation menus are created using the Menu Manager in Joomlas Administration Panel. While multiple menus can be created (e.g. one for the top of the site and another for the left side), most practice website should only require one.
Within the menu, menu items (buttons) need to be added, one for each page on the website. As part of the menu item creation process, the website administrator needs to link the button to its corresponding web page. The name assigned to each menu item will be the label that appears on the navigation button.
All Too Hard?
Even though specific technical detail has not been provided in this article, the author appreciates that the very notion of what has been outlined may appear daunting to some readers. Fortunately, once installed and configured, most practice staff will have few problems using Joomla to add or modify content on their website. To assist them to get to this position, practices may consider engaging an IT professional for a few hours to assist with the installation and configuration of Joomla.
This article has provided a brief overview of the steps required to setup a practice website using the Joomla CMS. For more information and specific installation instructions, readers are encouraged to consult the plethora of information available from both the official Joomla website, and many other websites devoted to the technology.
While there are certainly other options available to practices looking to establish or improve their web presence, practices with access to moderate levels of IT expertise will find Joomla to be a very cost effective, powerful and flexible solution.
Posted in Australian eHealth