2008-09 Joomla! Community Magazine
Joomla! Community Magazine - Features
Joomla! 1.5 Web site David Umlauf Philly Roller Girls
Joomla! 1.5 Powers the Liberty Belles
I became involved with the Philly Roller Girls (PRG) through my girlfriend, "Dara Licks", who is one of the top players on Liberty Belles (the Philly Roller Girls traveling team). The team is a skater run, skater owned organization. They are growing rapidly and were in need of a new Web site. They hired a developer that quoted them around 3,000 dollars for a closed source, commercial, CMS with eCommerce, photo galleries, etc. They paid $1,500 up front and had a template designed. Unfortunately, the developer completely abandoned the site and stopped responding to attempts to communicate with him. They are now pursuing legal action to retrieve the down payment.
This is where I came into the picture. Their budget was shrinking and they were desperate. I had experience designing static Web sites, but nothing with a back end. I started doing research and convinced myself that I could set them up with an open source CMS. After reading many forums and testimonials, I decided that Joomla! was the software that fit our needs and was the best of all the open source management systems. I never mentioned to them that this would be my first attempt at setting up a site of this nature. It was a trial by fire mission that I was going to try my best to complete. I got off to a slow start after deciding to go with version 1.5. The installation process took me some time. Being the noob that I am, the most confusing thing was configuring the database. I eventually figured out that I needed to create a new database user in phpMyAdmin. After that, it was smooth sailing.
I'd bought a $50 book about Joomla! and later regretted it. Most of the information was copied word for word from Joomla.org. As soon as the structure made sense to me, I realized that you could put almost anything into a single article and have the appearance of a static page such as our about page or our contact page. I even opted to use my own static design instead of the Joomla! links component. I had the template that the dead beat developer designed and modeled my structure off of his. Joomla! was so flexible that it was easy to see how things would fall into place. I began testing different extensions based on their ratings, reviews and support. The blog was the easiest thing to set up with the built in articles/category structure. I began to see the downside of using 1.5 because it had less available extensions, but the legacy setting made it possible for me to use the extensions I needed. At the time of the site's release there was not a stable release of Virtuemart. I left the old store in place and plan to add a Virtuemart store shortly now that the stable version was finally released.
The next challenge was setting up the player profiles. I had an idea in my mind of how I wanted it to work. I wanted players to be able to sign on themselves and create and update their profiles and profile images. After going through all the extensions there didn't seem to be anything that fit. I tried some extensions that didn't have enough support until an extension combo finally solved this puzzle: Community Builder as the profile and Group Jive as the profile organizer. I end up having to go into the code of an extension most often when there are more features than I need without the option of deactivating them in the admin console. The profiles part of the website was the most time consuming because of the deactivation I had to do, but it works really well. The players have had an easy time setting up their profiles with minimal instructions. I would love to add a message board such as Fireboard down the road and have the skater's posts link to their profiles.
I used the Eventlist extension for the Upcoming Events section. Multiple users have access to update this section by uploading flier images, adding text, etc. I also use a module with this extension that lists the next three events in the side bar at all times.
One person is the main administrator of the Web site and three other editors are in charge of different sections. I currently have no daily responsibilities with the site and am only called on once in a blue moon with a question or a problem that I try to resolve quickly. The site is still a work in progress, but to me that is the most beautiful thing about a Joomla! website: the ability to change, adapt and grow with a client's needs.
My goal for this site was to give the Philly Roller Girls a site that was on par with the many other Roller Derby team sites and get past the learning curve of setting up Joomla! sites. In no time at all, I was setting up interactive features that I couldn't have imagined doing a week prior. I've also taken some huge strides in working with CSS, PHP and MySQL databases. I have since built around ten Joomla! Web sites, some of which are still works in progress. I started playing around with Joomla! in January 2008 and it's now August. If a dope like me can do it, anyone can.