One of the challenges that I observe with many new Web developers is struggling to understand how to develop enough sample content for one's site in order to make adjustments to the site template, and define it's structure, before adding remaining content and functionality. Tiggeler actually does a nice job carefully moving back and forth between creating content, and giving it structure. In doing so, it's also important to note that this book isn't about theory, or just reading, it's about doing. Every section includes a "Time for action" that walks site owners through doing what was explained on their own site. For more adventerous site owners, there's also a "Have a go hero" activity that is much less directed, and which provides additional (but appropriate) challenges.
Tiggeler starts out with the basics of downloading and installing Joomla. If you're going to use this book, you'll either need Web hosting (preferably Linux) or the expertise to install a flavor of XAMPP on a local computer. Either aren't necessarily difficult (most Web hosting offers 1-click installation of Joomla, making it as easy as a click of a button), but require thinking about Web design differently than with static HTML pages.
In any Joomla! book, there are a couple of must-haves for me, and Tiggeler does a nice job discussing them. The include: SEO, metrics and site security. Under site security note that JoomlaPack has been replaced with Akeebo Backup. It's the same great functionality, but with a new name (and a new subscription-based version that offers enhanced options). It's important to note here that Tiggeler is not only thorough in covering the basics, but often provides more advanced direction, and discusses any of the more technical issues which a developer might run into when installing a component, for example.
The book also includes screenshots that make it very easy for the reader to follow along. In fact, I found myself trying out a number of things on my own site as I read. The screenshots and directions were all accurate and correct.
Once you get comfortable with everything Tiggeler has to offer, including the very basics of component and module installation and configuration, I'd recommend that you turn to some of Packt's other titles, like Joomla 1.5 — Multimedia by Walker for additional guidance on learning the more detailed ins and outs of specific types of components. Joomla Cash is another option, and discussions key e-commerce components like VirtueMart.
Nevertheless, what sums this title up best for me is Chapter 4: Web Building Basics: Creating a Site in an Hour. I was suspicious at first, but am confident that with Tiggeler's guidance, it's quite possible to build your first basic Joomla! Web site in about an hour. That's an excellent premise, and the book delivers on it well.
If you're looking for a beginner to intermediate book, there aren't many other alternatives available. O'Reilly has a titled called Using Joomla! by Severdia and Crowder, that was published earlier this year. At the time, I was pretty impressed with it, but I think readers will find Tiggeler to be both more direct and more focused in his approach. For example, Severdia and Crowder devoted a chapter in their book to Joomla 1.6. It was interesting, but largely academic given that 1.6 is still in beta and not something most of us will be working with.
I teach Web Design, including a course on Web Content Management Systems (Drupal, Joomla and WordPress) and have literally read dozens of these types of books in the past year or so. I also teach a capstone course where my students create Joomla-based sites for local non-profit organizations. We have completed sites for nearly 100 clients in the past two years. Currently, Joomla 1.5 Beginner's Guide is what I recommend to new Joomla! site owners. As a result, I also will begin using the same book in class starting next semester so that students are familiar with what their clients will be reading.
Tim Krause is an Assistant Professor of Computing and New Media Technologies at the University of Wisconsin — Stevens Point. He writes regularly about Joomla and Web Content Management systems on his site: http://www.timkrause.info./ He can be reached at email@example.com.
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