If you're just getting started, take a look at the Absolute Beginners Guide to Joomla!. There are a great many conceptual ideas there that you need to understand.
There are five parts to setting up your frontpage.
- Choose a desirable template for your site. Install it, and get it basically working. The template determines the column layout for your site.
- Choose and configure your modules, so your frontpage displays the right menus, etc. Modules are those things like menus, login forms, banner-ad positions, "Breaking News" boxes, etc., that show up on the pages of your site.
- Use Extensions/Module Manager in your backend menu to do this. Edit each module in turn to place it in the correct spot on your template (for example, right, left, breadcrumb, etc.)
- You can disable the modules you don't want to see, enable the ones you do, position them within your template, and control their order from the Module Manager. When you're doing this, make sure you have not enabled caching.
- If caching is enabled, it may look like your changes are not taking effect, which can drive you crazy.
- Use the Preview button on the backend (upper right), and Shift-Reload on your browser, liberally to make sure you have things right. Change one thing in the backend, then view the frontpage again.
- Note well: all modules in 1.5 are controlled from Extensions / Module Manager, even the ones that aren't really extensions.
- Make sure your frontpage is configured so that the front page manager can control the order of articles in your front page. You need to set certain advanced parameters correctly.
- Use the Content Manager to enable certain articles to be published on the frontpage. Only enable the ones you want on the frontpage.
- Use the Front Page manager to set the order of articles on your frontpage.