(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)
Every website has some content, and all kinds of information is provided on websites; not just text, but pictures, animations, and video clips—anything that communicates a site’s body of knowledge. However, visual design is the appearance of the site. A good visual design is one that is high quality, appropriate, and relevant to the audience and the message it supports. As a large amount of companies feel the need to redesign their site very few years, they need someone who can stand back and figure out what all that content should communicate. This could be you.
The basic principle of Joomla! (and other content management systems) is to separate the content from its visual form. Although this separation is not absolute, it is distinct enough to facilitate quick and efficient customization and deployment of websites. Changing the appearance of web pages built on CMS comes down to installing and configuring a new template.
A template is a set of files that determine the look and feel of your Joomla-powered website. Templates include information about the general layout of the site and other content, such as graphics, colors, background images, headers, logos, and typography and footers. Each template is different, offering many choices for site owners to almost instantly change the look of their website.
You can see the result of this separation of content from presentation by changing the default template (preinstalled in Joomla!). For web designers, learning how to develop templates for content management systems such as Joomla! opens up lots of opportunities.
Joomla! gives you big opportunities to build websites. Taking into account the evolution of web browsers, you are only limited by your imagination and skill set, thanks to a powerful and flexible CMS infrastructure. The ability to change or modify the content and appearance of web pages is important in today’s online landscape.
What is a Joomla! template?
The Joomla! template controls the way all information is shown on each page of the website. A template contains the stylesheets, locations, and layout information for the web content being displayed. Also each installed component can have its own template to present content that can overwrite the default template’s CSS styles.
A template alone cannot be called a website. Generally, people think of the template as the appearance of their site. But a template is only a structure (usually painted and colored) with active fields. It determines the appearance of individual elements (for example, font size, color, backgrounds, style, and spacing) and arrangement of individual elements (including modules). In Joomla!, a single page view is generated by the HTML output of one component, selected modules, and the template.
Unlike typical websites, where different components of the template are duplicated throughout the website pages, in case of Joomla!, there is just one assigned template that is responsible for displaying content for the entire site. Most CMS’s, Joomla! included, have a modular structure that allows easy improvement of the site’s appearance and functionality by installing and publishing modules in appropriate areas.
Search engines don’t care about design, but people do. How well a template is designed and implemented is, therefore, largely responsible for the first impression made by a website, which later translates into the perception that people have of the entire website.
Joomla! 3.x templates are not compatible with previous versions of Joomla! and have been developed as a separate product.
Templates – download for free, buy, or build your own
I also want to show you the sites where you can download templates for free or buy them; after all, this book is supposed to teach you how to create your own sites. There are a number of reasons for this.
First, you might not have the time or the ability to design a template or create it from scratch for the customer. You can set up your website within minutes because all you have to do is install or upload your template and begin adding content. By swapping the header image and changing the background color or image, you can transform a template with very little additional work.
Second, as you read the book you will get acquainted with the basic principles of modifying templates, and thus you will learn how to adapt the ready-made solutions to the specific needs of your project. In general, you don’t need to know much about PHP to use or tweak prebuilt templates.
Templates can be customized by anyone with basic HTML/CSS knowledge. You can customize template elements to make it suit your needs or those of your client using a simple CSS editor; your template can be configured by template parameters.
Third, learn from other template developers. Follow every move of your competitors. When they release an interesting, functional, and popular template, follow (but do not copy) them. We can all learn from others; projects by other people are probably one of the most obvious sources of inspiration. The following screenshot presents a few commercial templates for Joomla! 3.x. built in 2013 by popular developers, bearing in mind, however, that the line between inspiration and plagiarism is often very thin:
Premade free templates are a great solution for those who have a limited budget. It is good experience to use the work of different developers and is also a great way to test a new web concept without investing much apart from your time. There are some decent free templates out there that may even be suitable for a small or medium production website. If you don’t like a certain template after using it for a bit, ditching it doesn’t mean any loss in investment.
Unfortunately, there are also some disadvantages of using free templates. These templates are not unique. Several thousands of web designers from around the world may have already downloaded and used the template you have chosen. So if you don’t change the colors or layout a bit, your site will look like a clone, which would be quite unprofessional.
Generally, free Joomla! templates don’t have any important or useful features such as color variants, Google fonts, advanced typography, CSS compression options, or even responsive layout. On the downside of free templates, you have the obvious quality issues. The majority of free templates are very basic and sometimes even buggy. The support for free templates is almost always lacking. While there are a few free templates that are supported by their creators, they are under no obligation to provide full support to your template if you need help adjusting the layout or fixing a problem due to an error.
Realize that developers often use free templates to advertise their cost structures, expansion versions, or club subscriptions. That’s why some developers require you to leave a link to their website on the bottom of your page if you use their free templates.
What was surprising to me was that not all the free templates for Joomla! 3.x are mobile friendly, despite the fact that even the built-in CMS are built as Responsive Web Design (RWD). In most cases, it was presumably intended by the creators to look like JoomlaShine or Globbersthemes.
The following is a list of resources from where you can download different kinds of free templates:
Quite often, popular developers publish free templates on their websites; in this way they promote their brand and other products such as modules or commercial versions of templates. Those templates always have better quality and features than others.
I suggest that you download free templates only from reliable sources. It is with a great deal of care that you should approach templates shared on discussion forums or blogs because there’s a high probability that the code template has been deliberately modified. A huge proportion of templates available for free are in fact packaged with malicious code.
Hopefully, after reading this article you will have a better understanding of the features of the Joomla! Template Manager and the types of problems it is able to solve.
Resources for Article:
- Installing and Configuring Joomla! on Local and Remote Servers [Article]
- Joomla! 1.5: Installing, Creating, and Managing Modules [Article]
- Tips and Tricks for Joomla! Multimedia [Article]