Richard Korts
Richard Korts used Ask the Experts™
I am trying to teach myself Joomla.

First, a little background. I have been building web sites the "old fashioned way" since 1996, using JavaScript since 1998, css since probably 2003 or so & using php & MySQL for at least 8 - 10 years.

I have built a number of content management systems the "hard way"; an admin back end with php & MySQL driving the front end.

I'm tired of doing it that way, looking for a simpler way. Hoping Joomla can do the trick.

So I thought a good way to learn is to try to replicate a simple cms site I did in Joomla. The attached images show some of the site pages. I purchased two books; Joomla for Dummies & Joomla, a Visual Quick Start Guide.

Everything seems backwards in these books.

Please see the attachments. You can look at the current site index page at I cannot provide full site access because of the private nature of the data.

It seems to me that I need several templates to replicate the current site. I'm totally confused about:

(1) How can I build Joomla templates to replicate the current. Note that the images on the left are image map components linked to other pages. The overall background is a background image on every page.

(2) Joomla seems based on this concept that all content is "Articles". As you can see, in this case I need the ability to display a member directory in a scrolling window; the directory content comes out of a database table; etc. Is there a way to do this kind of thing in Joomla? Also note the map page; uses Google map api, etc.

Or do I need a different tool?

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I would download a trial copy of artisteer and try and replicate your layouts (this will export to joomla,drupal or wordpress) -  the template defines where you can put things once you have it installed (see the artisteer website for installing and using)
Also I would install Joomla with the sample data and have a play on that.

my quick overview:
Article manager - this is where you can create articles to be disaplayed - you will probably want to install a better online editor so you can create better looking articles. also you can dreate categories - this helps to disaply certain categories only in the menus.

menu manager - this defines a set of menus - each menu has a list of menu items
the menu items be either a single article, a group of articles (blog), or a function (such as a calander)
if they are articles you have to define the articles before you create the menus. (I usually create dummy articles to get going.)
for functions you have to install the extension first.(search joomla extensions for add ons)
Then in Extensions/Module manager you have to define where the menus will be displayed.
(use the sample install to play around with the settings)
in ArRtisteer faqs/installation it  will explain what positions you can use for the menu or the article
Joomla also lets you have different templates for different pages.

the beauty of Joomla and wordpress is the extensioniblity of it and how easy it is to add in event managers, membership groups, editord for users to maintain the site.
my  overview:

Joomla is the best CMS to design website easily.  

1: Download a good joomla templates form internet
install it from extension manager
2: create a category  
3: Article manager - this is where you can create articles to be disaplayed
4: menu manager - this defines a set of menus - each menu has a list of menu items
the menu items be either a single article, a group
5: module manager - where you  can set the location where you want to show menu manager
once you have joomla installed you can search the extension directory
for a members site I use community builder extension from
the initial bit is free but if you want add-ons its a small fee for extras
this displays members lists, a login and subscription etc..

in terms of your aim of getting the same look and feel as your existing site I would say you need to use a CMS system and see what you can design with it , not  have a design and try and shoehorn a cms system into it.  Saying that I've found the latest artisteer very flexible.  Also web design has changed to encompass mobile and tablet devices so "responsive" websites are now the favoured to display nicely on any device, so scrolling areas inside windows look a bit old fashion (in my opinion) as it depends on the users screen size.
however, checkout the menu extensions  and you could get the same sort of look
Start small and experiment I do agree with using Artisteer as I also use it, however the template is just the template (in PHP) so to speak. Two things you will need to succeed are knowing Joomla and a just a hint of PHP (In case you want to add a module, which is basically a Joomla Div or other template changes) I would also recommend go and learn Joomla 2.5 or higher and worry about Artisteer later, as you can get free templates online but learning the core Joomla is key.
Your understanding of MySQL will come into play later Joomla will build the DB at install for you, but there will be a day when the manual modification in DB may be needed.
I have been using Joomla for a few years and I really have not found a web site that I could not do a better job in the hand coding HTML as I can in Joomla. Joomla is different to learn but once over the hurdle it is totally awesome.

Hope that helps...Wade
I'm using Artisteer too for all my template needs this save a lot of time.
The good thing is that Joomla have a big community and a lot of extensions.
The way I have learned Joomla (PHP & MYSQL) is by installing a webserver Wampserver  locally and test different extensions.
This way you will see if you like it or not.

Joomla is good for community - association needs, membership, private content ect.

Other CMS that could do the job:

If you have budget:

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