How this web site was changed

Web site owners often look to re-design their site from time to time. They like to keep up with the latest design trends and fashions or they simply want to improve their site because they are fed up with it. In fact, re-designing your web site regularly is an essential component of doing business online. Large companies, like Amazon, add design changes on a regular basis; these changes are so small you don’t notice them on a day-to-day basis, but compare such sites from one year to another and the differences are obvious.

A web site is not a static, “finished” object; it grows, adapts and changes over time. Web sites are an on-going, never-finished project. The problem for many businesses is they see their web site as something they “do” once and then leave it for a few years until it “needs” changing. And that attitude is why so many web site owners do not succeed online as well as they might.

Practical issues cause delays
However, attitude may not be the only problem; one of the principal reasons why web site owners do not change their sites frequently is a practical issue. Most web sites are not actually produced by the web site owner. Instead they are put together by a designer or developer who works for another company or is a freelance agent. That means making changes is difficult – and potentially costly. So, most businesses store up their desired web site changes until they have the budget set aside or until they can justify the design company doing several changes all in one go.

The answer to this problem is to use a “Content Management System” or CMS. These provide you with the ability to change, adapt, tweak and add to your web site whenever you want – and from wherever you wish. If you can type into a web-based form, you can use a CMS. The most basic form of content management is a blog system. Online applications like Blogger and WordPress are content management systems – albeit sometimes basic. They allow anyone to produce web sites without the need for any design or web coding skills.

If you are not using a CMS, you are seriously losing out. Your web site will inevitably become dated and your competitors could steal a march on you by being able to improve their sites more quickly and easily.

Content Management is now free
Until relatively recently, content management was the sphere of large corporates. It was used to help big business allow their staff to contribute to their web sites. That’s why many small businesses have been put off using CMS, because many of the systems are highly expensive and are geared to big teams. Nowadays, though, “open source” (or free..!) software is highly sophisticated. Programs such as Joomla or Drupal are top-end content management systems which cost you nothing. And if you use a web developer who runs either of these systems, you can contribute or make changes to your web site without having to interfere or know about any of the background coding. Your designer sets it all up for you – and then you use it, with no extra running costs.

This web site is run using Joomla – and here’s why.

  1. It enables me to structure my site “dynamically” – changing sections, menu items and layout at will.
  2. It means I can contribute to my site wherever – and whenever – I like. This article is being written on a laptop computer as I sit in the dining room of my holiday home.
  3. The design template system means I can change my overall site design and colours within just a couple of clicks, if I want to.
  4. Joomla has an extensive array of extensions which means I can add a variety of features whenever I want – mostly without any cost at all.
  5. I find it more intuitive and easier to use than Drupal (the other main contender for my site).

There are some additional reasons why any content management system works for web sites, though. These include:

  • Search engine optimisation enhancements, helping you ensure better ranking
  • Wider availability of content – instead of the article appearing on just one page, a CMS enables you to place content in multiple places on a site thus making it easier for your readers to find things
  • Increase of site size – both people and search engines “weigh by the pound” as far as web sites are concerned. The more pages they have – the more important and effective they are viewed. CMS makes it easy to add multiple pages, this deepening your site and making it more attractive as it is bigger.
  • Multiple authors – you no longer have to add to the site yourself, or just have one person in the company responsible. A content management system means you can give different levels of authoring and editing permissions to many people, thus making it easier to grow and adapt your site.

How was this site changed?
Prior to using Joomla, this site was produced in a combination of Microsoft Expression Web (formerly Microsoft Frontpage) and Blogger. I made the decision to move away form Blogger after it let me down on several occasions by not updating my site as a result of its well-documented failures on a technology known as “FTP” – the process by which files are uploaded to web servers.

I looked at several content management systems and eventually pitted Joomla and Drupal in a head-to-head contest. Joomla won hands down on several fronts; ease of installation, lack of technical knowledge needed, ease of use, more features, better developer support – to name just a few. So I set up my Joomla development site and started to create this new site.

My first step was to set up the sections I already had in my existing site. That’s straightforward and easy enough. Then it was to choose a design. In the end I chose a design from Joomlashack which has a wide variety of professionally designed templates.

The next problem was extracting all the content from my Blogger pages. There were almost 700 articles in there and I didn’t want to have to copy and paste that lot…! You cannot export Blogger pages easily, but luckily there is a WordPress feature that lets you import Blogger items into a WordPress blog. So I set up my site as a WordPress blog and then imported all the Blogger items – that took a total of 10 minutes.

Then I found Joomlahackers had a handy device that let you import a WordPress blog into Joomla. That took about a minute. Altogether, including the time looking for import and export software for Joomla it took me no more than half an hour to take 700 items from the old Blogger site and move it into Joomla.

The benefits of the change to Joomla
Within days there was a definite increase in traffic to my site; indeed, within a week traffic had doubled. The content had remained the same – the only difference was the extra features that Joomla provided. Things like having a “most read” panel, showing to visitors articles that were interesting other readers. Similarly, the list of recently added reports, the “similar items” panel and so on, all helped readers realise there was extra material they might find interesting. This resulted in more people recommending my site. In other words, the Joomla system made my site more relevant to people. The old Blogger site meant they had been missing out – indeed, one reader contacted me and said “I never knew you had so much information on your site” – and they had been a regular visitor for a few years. Even people who knew my material were not sure what else I had on offer – now Joomla allows them to find it more easily. Achieving that with Blogger was nigh-on impossible – and doing it with ordinary web design software like Microsoft Expression Web is very difficult as well.

There is one other significant advantage worth noting. It now takes me less time to administer my web site. Even though it now has more pages and more functionality – and I add to it each day – it takes less time than using Blogger. And it’s much less frustrating.

There are significant advantages to using a CMS like Joomla – I’m only sorry I didn’t make the move sooner.

3 thoughts on “How this web site was changed”

  1. You will notice this article was written in 2009. Since that time, WordPress has been developed significantly and now offers improved features compared with Joomla, particularly in terms of speed and ease of use. As a result this site was transferred from Joomla to WordPress at the beginning of 2011.

  2. Hi Graham,

    Do you still prefer your WordPress website to Joomla? What are the benefits of WordPress over Joomla? You probably know, we are Joomla experts and provide Joomla websites all the time. I'm interested to hear the 'good' and 'bad' of both.

    Thanks Barbara Payne

    • Yes, I still prefer WordPress over Joomla in SOME circumstances…! Those circumstances are when the site is largely self-managed, or when the people running the site have few technical skills. Joomla is fantastic, but is technically more demanding and requires more steps to achieve the same things that WordPress can achieve in fewer.

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