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Choosing an open-source CMS, part 2: Why we use Joomla

February 19, 2013 06:00 AM ET

VideoRay manages its product database

VideoRay, a well-known manufacturer of submersible remotely-operated robots, needed a website that could efficiently handle 15 different variations of its products for 12 different applications. VideoRay's products are used by research scientists, law enforcement, the military and other government agencies.

Joomla
VideoRay, which manufactures submersible remotely-operated robots, needed a website that could efficiently handle 15 different variations of its products for 12 different applications.

The previous site didn't use a CMS at all. "Managing all of that with HTML pages was a nightmare," says marketing manager Brian Luzzi. Using the open-source Joomla 2.5 CMS to recreate the website took just four months and was "very cost effective," he says.

Luzzi worked out the design using Photoshop layouts -- "I had ten templates I wanted," he says -- and then hired CloudAccess, the same developer that built Boston Children's Hospital's SPARC site, to build the site and integrate modules such as the Joomcart shopping module. The new site, which launched last July, is far easier to use. "I was sick of editing pages in HTML and Dreamweaver. The new back end is really simple," he says.

VideoRay needed a custom component in order to present its products correctly; Joomla has an application framework, separate from the CMS, that lets developers build those, says CloudAccess' Gafill. "Using Joomla we were able to develop this component, this extension, that was instantly usable," he explains. Luzzi now uses it to administer VideoRay products within the site and manage which products are displayed.

Because some of VideoRay's customers do sensitive work, Luzzi also wanted to create an area where users could view password-protected content -- a feature that Joomla supports natively. "Within the first 15 minutes of developing a Joomla site, you can have a login form with password-protected pages," says Gafill. The new feature, Luzzi says, is "one of the coolest things about the website."

Joomla
VideoRay's new site is much easier for customers to use and navigate than its predecessor.

"We did have some custom components, like our database-driven product configuration, that didn't work out too well," Luzzi says. According to Gafill, that's because VideoRay's products have many sub-products and options that were not easy to integrate into any of the shopping carts available for Joomla. While getting those product configurations into the system wasn't easy, CloudAccess' developers were able to "bend the functionality" to fit VideoRay's needs. "This is why they opted to go a custom-built Joomla site and extension," he says.

Overall, however, Luzzi is pleased with the new site. "In retrospect it was so easy I feel like I could have done it myself."

is a national correspondent for Computerworld. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter @rmitch, or email him at rmitchell@computerworld.com.

See more by Robert L. Mitchell on Computerworld.com.

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