Do you Joomla? - Building a Website for your Small Business

I Joomla.  I Joomla a lot.  Sometimes I Joomla with other people.  Sometimes I Joomla all by myself.  Other times, people ask me to Joomla for them.

Hmmm?  What is Joomla, you say?  Joomla is the best thing in the world.  Ok, a better description, Joomla is a Content Management System (CMS).  Ok, what’s a Content Management System?  It’s a website builder for the not so tech savvy and for the tech savvy.  Finally, everyone can get along.

So let’s step back in time – back to around 1997.  Let’s set that target date into the console, get our DeLorean up to 88 mph and activate that flux capacitor and we’ll find me at a computer trying to make a website for my fencing team.  Basically, what you saw was a blank screen with HTML code.  There I was painstakingly typing out the <header>, the <title>, the <body>, putting every single code so my <img src=”images/uncfencing.gif”> was <align=”right”>, and my titles were <u>underlined</u>.  Ok, let’s start a new paragraph…

Then I had to save and open the newly saved HTML file and see if I got everything I wanted in it.  Oops, I forgot to put a <background bgcolor=”#ffffff>.  There…crud, why didn’t that work?  Oops, I forgot to add the last quotation mark…<background bgcolor=”#ffffff”>. 

It was tedious, and I wasn’t at all great at it.  But that was just the elementary stuff.  What if I wanted <img> and <i>texts</i> in a <table><tr><td>table</td></tr></table>?...Without <border=”0”>?  And this was the way it went for many years.  Almost up until 2003.  I was a tech geek still doing things the hard way creating websites.  Every page of the All-American Fencing Academy website, meticulously handcrafted code by code, page by page.  Finally, all the information was online…all 25 pages of information that any parents or perspective student would want to know about fencing and the All-American Fencing Academy.

Oh wait, I forgot to add contact information <a href=”mailto:[email protected]”>.  Now I have to go page by page to add that to every instance of the menu.  Crap.

Yes, I could have hired a professional to do this.  But I’m cheap.  And I liked to be able to change information and pictures at a moment’s notice.  So I’m cheap and micro-managing.  Ok, now I want that image to be a little smaller.  Now I’m cheap, micro-managing and anal.  So time consuming for a small business.

Then I moved on to using Microsoft’s Frontpage and Adobe’s Dreamweaver.  No more hard coding!  Unless I just couldn’t get Frontpage or Dreamweaver to do what I wanted it to do,  I forced it to with a crack of my whip and some swift key strokes.  Sorry, Frontpage and Dreamweaver, you get a ‘safe word’, you will do my bidding.  It was easy as it was typing these words and clicking bold.  I even had spell check.

But eventually I faced the problem of only being able to change my site from my own computer or laptop where all the files were saved and the programs were installed.  If I needed to make changes out of town or add information on the fly, I couldn’t do it.  Oh yes, I found ways, but that involved calling the wife and talking her through all my ftp passwords and adding information.  Many small businesses operate outside of their offices.  They may be at home, at the airport or in a hotel.

Then I discovered Mambo.  No, not the dance.  It was a content management system.  Great!...What?  What’s a content management system?  I soon found out this was what I needed all along.  So, what is it?  The content management system, commonly referred to as a CMS, helped you create websites and add your information easily.  It was like a blogging system.  I can choose a template… add any information  I wanted, and it was online based, so I could log in anywhere and change it anytime I wanted. 

But we’re not here to talk about the Mambo CMS, I’m here to talk about Joomla.  Shortly after messing around with Mambo, I discovered Joomla.  Mambo was jealous.  I didn’t tell her about Joomla.  Pretty soon, it was more than just a casual friendship and experimentation, I was way into Joomla.  She was exciting.  She had more toys.  And I was digging so far into her code that we were both being unsafe.

Need a second for a smoke break? 

Just another digression…Joomla is an off-shoot of Mambo.  As I understand it, the developers of Mambo split off and created Joomla.  But you don’t really need to know that.

Ok, let me begin again.  If you have a website that you’re managing for yourself and you think you need a better way to manage it, then take a look at Joomla.  First, let’s take a look at what you need.  You need a webhost (something that’s storing your website information).  You need a domain (, that’s the name of your website.  Most people already have those.  But here’s something new.  You need a database.  This was new for me too.  Most web providers provide database support to your website, sometimes you have to ask for it.  I use GoDaddy and it comes with 10 databases.  You only need one.

A quick explanation for the database and what it does for you.  Remember those puzzles growing up where you had the head piece and the legs piece, and you can interchange the body piece with different clothing?  So you can change out the body for a fireman, policeman, senator or stripper?  (Yours didn’t have those?  I pity you.)  Well, imagine your collection of clothing pieces is the database and the head and legs are the template.  One file with many different options of content.

So now you’ve got your host with database support and domain name.  Now you need Joomla.  How much does Joomla cost?  Free.  Yeah, it rocks.  It’s free.  F to the R to the double E, free.  You can get it by visiting  You just download the zip file, extract the files and upload everything onto your website.  Installing is as easy as browsing to  Then you just follow the instructions.  It takes about 10 minutes to install Joomla on your website.

Now there’s two parts of Joomla.  There’s the front end and the back end.  The front end is what everyone sees, it’s your actual website.  The back end is where you add your information, news, images, or even change the look of the website.

I mentioned that Joomla has toys.  Think of Joomla as a frame for your puzzle and everything is divided into rectangles or squares, these are different sections of your webpage.  How you arrange these rectangles and squares is your template or theme.    One section will contain all your news, content and information.  The other sections, you can fill with whatever you want often called modules.  On Joomla’s website, you can download different modules that display calendars, weather, image rotators/slideshows, advertisements, news scrollers, etc.  The choices are almost limitless…and you can arrange them wherever you want on the page without having to know how to code.  And you can rearrange these modules just as easily.  You can also easily install different templates and themes and you can change the entire look of your website without jeopardizing your website’s content. You can add an item to any menu and have it reflected on every page of your site. Can you feel that phenomenal cosmic power? 

All of this editing is done online.  Remember the back end I talked about?  In the installation process, Joomla creates a back end log in.  Once you log in to the back end of your website, you can make any changes you wish and it’s as easy as formatting in a Microsoft word document.  As long as you have internet access, you can log in and change your website.  But you don’t have to do it all by yourself!  You can set up other administrators and writers to add information to your website.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Joomla not the woman for you?  There are a host of other content management systems out there.  Mambo.  Drupal.  Joomla.  Wordpress seems to be the most popular.  They all come with their own toys.  Just remember they most likely don’t play well together.

Now you have the tools for creating a great website.  Go forth and prosper.

About the author

Gerhard Guevarra is the owner of All-American Fencing Academy. With his impressive enthusiasm for teaching and training new and competitive fencers, he instantly grabbed the hearts of our regulars and won the 9th Idea Cafe Small Business Grant.


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