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Joomla 3.0 review: Making way for mobile

By Brian Proffitt
October 4, 2012 06:00 AM ET

The reason for this new design is simple: It's much easier to display controls in a reactive design when the content is displayed vertically. The net effect is that controls and tools are formed to fit in much narrower areas in order to work better on screens that are taller than they are wide, like those on mobile devices.

Joomla 3.0
The Joomla controls are completely redesigned in Joomla 3.0.

Navigating around Joomla's new interface is like visiting a remodeled home. The walls are moved and repainted, and the furniture is restored, but all the familiar things of the home are still there. Article Manager, Media Master and Menu Manager are still there and, surprisingly, function very much the same, despite their new look and feel.

There's good and bad in this. The good news is that all of the old favorites in Joomla are still there, ready to go. The bad news is that some of the old idiosyncrasies of Joomla seem to be there, too, like Joomla's one-menu-item-per-page limitation that you have to design around.

Site management

Exploring the specific content tools, I was happy to see that the new design layout went beyond making Joomla suitable for the small screen. Configuration options and filters are much more accessible and stand out more than the smaller icon and text control links in previous versions.

Joomla 3.0
In Joomla 3.0, content controls are much easier to find.

The overall effect of this redesign is not to add new functionality to Joomla so much as to make the old functionality much more obvious. To change the name of a site, you used to have to drill down a couple of screens to make the change. Now it's right in the Global Configuration screen.

At a Glance

Joomla 3.0
Open Source Matters
Price: Free
Pros: Design elements better suited for mobile platforms; controls much easier to find, making it better for beginners; installation simpler and faster
Cons: Not many new features past design; still need to wait for extensions to catch up with this version

One of the really great aspects of this redesign is that extensions and plug-ins all have a similar control interface. The old inconsistencies between extension controls used to drive me nuts.

Building a test site was, as usual, pretty straightforward. Once you understand the use of categories and menus within a Joomla site, getting things organized is a snap. I got the sense that the new interface will actually help newer users build their sites, because controls are so easy to find. That's a very subjective statement, mind you; my strong familiarity with Joomla in general makes that theory hard to prove just from my observations alone.

Bottom line

In the past, I recommended Joomla for sites that are somewhat complex and are going to be managed by someone with strong technical skills. That recommendation still holds, but the new design of the back-end elements makes the system a bit more accessible to beginners, especially when the sample content is used.

Now that the responsive design features have been baked in, Joomla has a lot going for it for mobile developers as well. With a huge community, plenty of extensions and many templates, Joomla 3.0 has a lot to offer developers. I am looking forward to watching this platform mature.

Brian Proffitt is a veteran IT writer with experience in open source, mobile and big data technologies. An unrepentant Hoosier, he can be followed on Twitter: @TheTechScribe.

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