Joomla project: help site

Last friday, I was sitting at work, trying to figure out what to do next.  My bosses have this “Do what we tell you to do, then find your own work” approach, so this wasn’t new. 

It didn’t took me long to find a next task.  There’s a tool I’ve tested and implemented, Dotproject.  It should help us to organize our projects.  The specific goals is to allow management to see what we’re working at, and to allow them to assign us new tasks. 

Because of this – and because I’m the only one who’s got experience with the tool – I needed a manual.  My first idea was to just write a manual.  But there were enough reasons for me not to do it:

  • People seem to forget we have a file server.
  • My e-mails aren’t read by anyone, it seems.
  • I wanted the manual to be “dynamic.  So, I needed images, and maybe even videos.

Since I’ve started to appreciate WordPress more and more; I first tried to build a solution in WordPress.  But, I quickly gave up on that idea in favor of Joomla; which is still my favorite CMS solution. 

The concept

The concept of this project is simple.  I’m building a site, where people can read instructions for Dotproject.  Because I’m using a website, it’s easy to use big images, video’s, hyperlinks and so on.  The image I had of the website, was one of a website that’s easy to use.  Simple navigating between the different articles was a must.

Tackling the project

I started with much enthusiasm; and made a design of this site.  What did I need? How did I plan to achieve it?  What I wanted was a site that was simple; yet got the message across.

I started by installing Joomla.  For this, I created a folder named [help] in the directory of Dotproject.  If people need to read the manual, all they need to do is type http://urltodotproject/help  Logical, at least for me. 

For this project, I chose to start with a “blank” copy of Joomla.  This means that I didn’t install the example data; because it would only get in my way (Installing a “blank” copy is, imho, always the way to go). 

Once that was done, I prepared the site for the “test articles” I always create to verify if things are configured the way I want.

  • I created a Section, named “General” and a category in that section named “General”.
  • Then, I created a section named “Guide”; and a category in that section named “Articles”.

Next on my to do list; was the creation of two menu items.   As you probably know, this is an absolute must to publish articles. 

I started with a menu section named “Guide”.  I made this menu item a Category Blog for ‘”Articles”.  Then, I created a Category List for that same category.  For both items, I changed the order so the oldest articles would show on top.  For me, that’s the way to go when building a site Guide.  I want people to see the articles they need to read first, on top of the list. 

Next, I went to the general article settings.  I made sure that “navigation” was enabled, and that the article title linked to the article.  It makes for easier navigation; both when reading an article and when looking at the “Blog”. 

My next task was to create a few test articles to see if all worked as planned.  After some tuning, I was satisfied with the settings. 

The hardest part, however, was to find a template.  I wanted a template that looked nice, but which was “clean” as well.  No images in the header; no complicated design… I considered using Artisteer to build my own template, until I found a nice template over at joomlartworks.com.  I downloaded their theme, jaw 039.  It’s a simple template, but perfect for this project. 

The final touch

As a final touch, I started to enter the articles that I had already written.  To do so; I first installed the JCE editor.  Once you’ve worked with this editor; you’ll start to realize that TinyMCE just isn’t up to par.  JCE, however, was designed for Joomla (at least , I think it is) and offers some nice options.  E.G the option to right click in the article to format the text; an image button which lets you both upload and insert images, and much more. 

After my first few articles were inserted, the day was over.  I’m pretty pleased by the result so far.  Of course, the site won’t be finished until all the neccesary articles are written and inserted; but so far I think I’ve done a good job. 

If I decide to make some changes to this “Help Site” I’ll make sure to let you know in an update.  This little project has once again proven what a great tool Joomla can be. 

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