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This and the next few articles are some general Joomla usage guidelines I wrote up for a client. I figured others would benefit from these very basic guidelines, as well. Included will be some core concepts such as categorization of information (categories), article creation, and basic menu administration.

Main Concept #1: Categorization of Information

While it is not necessary, for many sites, to categorize all of the information housed, doing so provides many advantages, and is strongly recommended. I like to approach a site's categorization first, before creating any new articles. Or, if I'm reworking a web site, I like to review the types of pages and create categories almost before doing anything else. Categories are exactly what they sound like -- buckets or folders in which to organize a web site's contents. Personally, I like to think of the following types of categories for all articles on a site:

  • Uncategorized. This is the default setting that will apply to all articles when a site is begun and other categories aren't yet created. On many web sites, the site owners never bothered to properly categorize information, and thus you'll see large sites with hundreds (or more) articles, yet none are categorized -- or, rather, ALL are categorized as "uncategorized." In general, I recommend not having any articles on a web site remain uncategorized, with the sole exception of the home page article, which is often (but need not be) a single "featured" article.
  • Administrative. I recommend making one category for nearly all sites called "administration". This category will be for housing utility-type pages, such as for example if your site needs a dedicated login page housed at www.yoursite.com/login. You would also use such a category for miscellaneous policy pages (e.g., privacy policy, terms and conditions, etc.). Contact forms and other utilitarian pages are also good for this category.
  • Company. For smaller companies, you may not have enough company-specific pages to merit its own category. I'm talking about pages like "About Us" and "Meet the Team" and individual bio pages. But, for larger companies, you may want a "company" category into which you'd place these types of articles. For very large companies, the heirarchy would probably be expanded -- e.g., "team bios" could be a category specifically meant to house individual biographies.
  • Blog. Most web sites these days have a use for news or blog-type information, so I recommend that "blog" be one of the standard categories to create.
  • Topical categories. From here, most sites can get into the topical content of the web site. For example, if your company has individual product or service lines, it can be good to create categories for each one, organized heirarchically where necessary. Each company is different, of course, so these topical categories could be as simple as "services" and "products", or they could follow a more sophisticated organizational structure.
  • Utility categories. Basically the only other main reason to have additional categories would be for utilitarian purposes, such as if you're running modules that have rules in place to pull from that specific category. For example, you may want a slideshow that has the capability of pulling content from a specific category. So, in that case, you'd create the category, and then populate it with the content to run your slides.

Implementing Categories

Let's say that we want to create a structure as shown above. The process (after logging into the Joomla administrator) would be as follows:

Go to Content --> Categories:

Select NEW:

Give your category a title, and press SAVE.

Now, it should be noted here that the category creation screen has many other options. Most are for advanced usage that many web sites will not need or want. But, a few are worth noting here.

  • The "Alias" field. By default, Joomla will take whatever your title is and convert that into a string (called an alias) that may find its way into the URL of your page. For example, if your title were "administrative articles", Joomla would change that into an alias of "administrative-articles". It would add the dash, as page URLs do not work well with spaces or other odd characters in them. As such, it's a good practice to use short, direct category names that you would like to see in your page URLs. Administration is a bit of an exception, as many of these URLs won't matter much for SEO purposes. But, for example, if you had a category called "services", you may well end up with URLs like "www.mycompany.com/services/consulting".
  • The "Description" field. This one isn't used too often, but for example maybe you would want some sort of introductory description to live atop your company's blog feed. If this were the case, you'd put such an intro here in the description area, and would set up the blog feed to show that description. I rarely come across clients who use this feature, though.
  • The "Parent" drop-down. For larger sites that need heirarchical organization, you can also set a parent category. For example, if your site has a "services" category, and then individual categories for each service, you would set each individual service's category parent as "services". So, a category like "consulting" would have the "services" category as its parent. But, I rarely see sites that have a true need for too much heirarchy, and advise against it for most normal sites.

Most of the other controls are more advanced and not applicable here.

You would then repeat the process for each new category. When you're initially setting these up, it's easy and convenient to press "Save & New" after setting each one up, as you can setup numerous categories in a quick span of time. "Save & New" is the equivalent of pressing save and then pressing the "new" button again. Just a time-saver, there.

That will do it for basic category creation. Keep in mind that this guide is meant as fairly basic, just to provide some fundamental orientation and guidance on using Joomla. For in-depth Joomla training and/or training on specific Joomla functionaltiy, please give us a call at (503) 902-HTML to arrange a training session.

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