21 Tips That Will Transform Your Joomla Website

21 Tips That Will Transform Your Joomla Website Into A Marketing Machine Powerhouse

Wordpress is a fantastic blogging tool, and it kicks sand in the face of Joomla for blogging ability. It is designed to get articles published quickly, and as a blogging platform, it can't be beaten.

But sometimes you need more than just a blog, or a tool to support your eCommerce website builder and Joomla is the tool for more advanced website solutions.

The Difference Between Joomla And Wordpress Is This:

Joomla is primarily multi-user software. If you want to build a thriving community portal or forum, then it has the power and flexibility to restrict access rights to many levels of a user over several layers of documents.

Complex content subscription systems, eCommerce sites and article repositories can be created. Organisations like major banks and the NHS use it to publish and share information. It is an enterprise level software.

That Kind Of Power Brings A High Price

Joomla has a steep learning curve, and its myriad of administrator options can be overwhelming for beginners. It can take several weeks to become proficient at administration.

The core files are regularly updated, sometimes several times in the space of a few days, for those that rely on extensions to add functionality this can result in a considerable maintenance overhead.

Users who want to build regular websites should use Wordpress because of its ease of use and the large community of users who can help tweak it for most business uses.

For those that want to build something more extensive here are my tips gained from eleven years experience building Joomla websites.


Tip One

Secure your administrator panel

Brute force attack on your administrator control panel is possible if you don't protect it. If you haven't done this already then go to your hosting cPanel and look under security options. Here you will see an option to password protect directories.

Choose the /administrator directory and give it a username and password. This should take you no more than two minutes to do and might save your site from those who have more time on their hands than is good for them.

This action puts up a password-protected barrier between the surfer and the administration panel, and it's the absolute minimum security level required.

Tip Two

Don't ignore software updates and leave your site vulnerable.

There are many different methods of hacking a website and Joomla (Wordpress also) is open to attack because the database and file structure are so commonly well known.

Ensure you prefix your database tables with the random generator (replacing JOS_ ) to prevent SQL injection attacks. Knowing database table names allows SQL queries inserted into the browser address bar to be executed. These will inject code directly into your database.

This is the most common exploit. Once discovered they are shared quickly by the hacking fraternity and not patching your site promptly leaves you vulnerable to attack.

Tip Three

Don't install extensions and plug-ins unless you are convinced they are well supported by the developer.

Poorly coded extensions are the first call for kiddie scripters and miscreants. If an extension or plug-in can be compromised many sites can be taken down before the issue is resolved.

See this forum thread for details of an attack. Hundreds of sites have had gambling pages installed without the site owners knowing about it. In this case, Wordpress sites are affected, but it could just as easily be Joomla. The threat is very real and just because you can install an extension doesn't mean you should.

Make sure you remove anything that you install and subsequently never intend to use.

Leaving extensions and plug-ins lying about that will never be updated gives backdoor entry to those looking for it.

Tip Four

Make a copy of your website using XCloner and use that to test new extensions, plug-ins and make CSS changes.

Installing anything on your production site without testing it on a copy first is pure folly. You could end up staring at a blank screen if something goes wrong.

Perhaps the plug-in is incompatible with your server PHP version? By using a test site, you can save yourself a lot of grief and ask the developer to help you solve the problem at your leisure.

XCloner will backup your site to the server and then clone it on another domain using the FTP details you specify. Get it here.

Tip Five

Backup, Backup, Backup.

You can't have too many backups. Akeeba backup will schedule backups and automatically FTP them to a destination you specify. DO NOT rely on hosting companies to keep your data safe. If your hosting company went bust or ceased trading, you would lose your entire site.


Tip Six

Don't be tempted into saving pennies by scrimping on hosting costs.

A good hosting company can save your bacon if you do get hacked or manage to make a mess of your production site. Prompt customer support is worth the cost of a months hosting fee many times over in these situations.

Good hosting companies will be able to update your server files and advise you on PHP issues like which version you should be running. They can also rescue Joomla file permission problems which are one of the most common reasons for people fouling up their production site.

Tip Seven

Never use the "1 click install" available using software like softaculous installer.

These types of quick software installers create independent files to hold all of the server configuration information and backing up or trying to move your site can subsequently be problematic.

Take the time to configure the database and database user yourself or ask your hosting company to do it for you.

When it comes to installing Joomla the most common stumbling block is putting in the database user and password correctly. If the installation routine keeps telling you the user/password/database name is wrong, then it is. Don't start thinking that something else is the problem.

Putting the database username in the database field or not entering the database prefix are common problems. Double check your information.


Tip Eight

Professional Joomla templates are the perfect way to give your site a great look.

Customers who disdain templates in favour of creating everything from scratch are giving themselves an unnecessary amount of extra work to do. As well as adding to the overall cost of the project.

I've seen many Joomla developer jobs advertised where the stipulation was that the applicant was able to create templates from the ground up but this is just a form of programmer snobbery.

Using Joomla in the first place implies that you are going to work with a bloated CMS because it has so many features that you will probably never use. Therefore insisting that a developer can not use commercial templates defies clear reasoning.

I've used Rockettheme templates for years, and they are a brilliant developer's tool. With some simple CSS customisations and a few colour changes, no one would ever know that the site was produced from a template.

Getting yourself a Rockettheme membership is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself as a developer because of the fantastic support available in the forums. You'll never be stuck for an answer to a problem or "how to".

Tip Nine

Don't delete the Beez Template!

Rockettheme templates introduce more complex technology. They use a separate Gantry library to handle much of the layout and Ajax features for some modules.

Sometimes you can find that things aren't working as they should do and you'll need to do some troubleshooting.

To find out what isn't working or why something is behaving oddly the first step is to revert to the default template and then do a test. This rules out your commercial template from being the problem.

If you are experiencing difficulty with any extension or plug-in, support will ask you to make the Beez template the default one so don't delete it.

Tip Ten

Do delete any other templates you are not going to use.

When you are assigning modules to positions, it can be frustrating to change the template used by the module. Delete any other templates you have installed to stop this happening.

Tip Eleven

Always use custom CSS Overrides.

You can spend a day making CSS changes to get the look and feel you want for your site and go to bed jubilant with what you have achieved.

The next morning you see a Joomla update is available, apply it, and promptly wipe out all of your hard work.

Learn how to make a custom CSS file and keep all of your changes right from the start so that you don't have this happen to you. Altering the core CSS files is just lazy, and you'll have to keep redoing your work until you learn your lesson the hard way.

Tip Twelve

Use Module Class Suffixes To Alter Module Layout

Having trouble making a logo sit flush against the module beneath it? Want to make an advert fill the module so that it doesn't have any white space around it?

Use the module suffix found under "advanced options" to change the look and feel of your module. Use "nomarginall nopaddingall" to remove all the white space around a module.

Every Rockettheme template comes complete with a list of module suffixes that will change the colour and display of your module. Using these suffixes is the quickest way to customise your template.


Tip Thirteen

Changing The Home Page Browser Title.

You've set the site name in the global configuration, but it doesn't appear in the browser page title bar? All you see is HOME.

Navigate to menus>main menu>home

From the menu on the right-hand side of the page choose "Page Display Options."

Choose "Browser Display Title" and enter the text you want to appear. You can do this for any article that is linked from a menu item.

Tip Fourteen

Install an advanced text editor

The basic text editor that ships with the standard Joomla installation are not up to much so installing a better editor is an essential requirement. There are several good ones available, and I like to use the JCE editor which is very comprehensive. You can find that one in the Joomla directory here.

Tip Fifteen

Always write your articles in a word processor.

Unless you are just posting a few lines then composing your article in the Joomla editor is a rookie mistake.

The default setting for user timeout is fifteen minutes (Global configuration>system>session settings) so unless you change this to a longer timeout, you'll compose a fantastic article and spend several hours doing it only to lose it all when you click "save and close" and your session times out.

Get into the habit of writing everything in Word before transferring it to the Joomla text editor.

Tip Sixteen

Don't paste text directly from Microsoft Word

Right click in your Joomla text editor and select "paste plain text" otherwise you will end up with a page full of Microsoft formatting in your HTML

Tip Seventeen

Page Titles

For beginners, this is one of the most infuriating features of the Joomla CMS because there are so many options.

In the article parameters (article manager>options) the first item is to choose whether or not to allow page titles and if you do allow them the second option is to choose whether or not they are linked.

Page articles turned on and linked is the preferred option for search engine optimisation.

The reason I don't use them is this:

If you use a page title, then that text becomes the heading for your page. Repeating the heading with a {h1} text heading looks silly.  By turning off the page title option, you leave yourself with just the article heading to worry about

I have page titles turned off, but they are still used by Joomla to display the browser page title.

If you want to turn on a page title for a particular page then opening the article and amending the article parameter will override the default setting

Tip Eighteen

Use menu system aliases.

Once you've made a navigation menu and published it the menu alias is inherent to that menu. This means that if you publish another menu linking to the same items (for example producing a set of footer columns) you will create duplicate pages.

To avoid this when you create your second menu instance instead of linking to the article or component link create a menu "alias" item.

An alias item is a menu item that links to the already created menu.

In essence, you are just duplicating the existing menu item, avoiding any duplicate page penalties.

Tip Nineteen

Activate search engine friendly urls.

To do this, you need to look for the file in the root directory called htaccess.txt and rename it to .htaccess.

This will make the file active, and it contains all the information needed to make search engine friendly URL's work.

Once you've done that turn on search engine friendly URL's in the global configuration.

Tip Twenty

Hidden Menus

If you have a large amount of content, then you'll need to create a hidden menu that will link to each article.

Doing this ensures that every article will be found in the "root" of your site and not placed in subdirectories. Articles found closer to the root are considered to be more important by search engines than information that is located several directories away.

You could use an add-on like SHS404 to manage your article titles and URL's for you, but it's a questionable long term strategy.

When Joomla was upgraded from 1.5 to 2.5, the extension was rewritten, and so people who upgraded their Joomla version found that all of their old URL's would be lost by using the new version.

Unless you want to spend a couple of days when Joomla goes through its next major rewrite 301 redirecting all of your old URL's to a new format, then you are better sticking to the core Joomla SEF.

Tip Twenty One

Use Jbeleto to create a sitemap and submit it using Google Webmaster tools.

Jbeleto is the best tool to use for creating a Joomla sitemap and submitting it via webmaster tools because the sitemap automatically updates as you create more content.

Bonus Tip

Leave the "meta description" blank in "global configuration", or else you'll have loads of pages with the same meta description, and Google has categorically stated they hate that. Use SEO CompanyTelford if you need help with your rankings and page display.

Change the meta description on the "home" menu item so that you have a snippet for your home page but other than that let Google do the work for you by snatching text from the page to make up the description.

Building a Joomla website means you have more to do with administration and housekeeping than a site built in Wordpress, but for those prepared to take on the learning curve it is undoubtedly worth the time spent.

Want to add any tips to this article and improve it? Email [email protected]