The design of a site should be based on the purpose and expected content of the site. You need a clear idea of what you are trying to communicate and plan the content accordingly. The visual design should also support the purpose of the site.
The aim of this document is:-
The menus and the graphic design are dealt with in other background documents in this series.
Everyone: who is going to create a Joomla! site.
Joomla! has a fairly rigid structure for the content of the site. You need to know about this because it is better to plan ahead and exploit the content structure than set off in a random direction. This equally true whether you are creating a new site or altering an existing one. There are three levels in the content heirachy:-
And, outside the heirachy but closely associated with it:-
You should already be aware of the vocabulary of Sections, Categories, Articles and Menus from other documents in this series.
These can best be explored by looking at the Administrator pages of an existing site.
Sections are the top-level of organization. They should reflect the purpose of a site.
Explore the Section Manager
The sample data on localhost has three sections, About Joomla!, News and FAQs. These are enough for this small site to divide the content in a logical way and support the piurpose of the site, which is to give helpful advice about Joomla!.
This displays the Workspace page which consists of Details and Description parts, as well as the usual Toolbar icons. The data in the Details and Description parts can be altered here. The Description appears on the Site when a Menu is created to list the contents of the Category. (Cross ref below for detail). This too can be altered using the same editor as that used for Articles on the site.
Workspace page for the FAQs Section.
Explore the Category Manager
The sample data has nine categories. A larger site - or one that exploits Categories for displaying Articles - can have a lot more.
Screen of Workspace page for Category.
Most articles are assigned to a Category.
Menus are used to create the main navigational links on the pages of the web site. They are not part of the content heirachy in the background. The Menus are themselves a hierachy and there can be confusions between the underlying content organisation of Sections/Categories and Articles and the hierachy of the Menus. Sometimes the Menus reflect the Sections and Categories closely. On other sites the Menus do not exactly match the content structure, so a bit of care is needed here to think about the right things.
The Menus normally reflect the content structure, although there may be occasions when they do not. The key is to avoid muddling Categories and Menus. The Sample data is not helpful here as the list of Menu Items under the Main Menu is the same as the list of Categories. You will find sites where there are Menus that do not relate to a Category. (cross ref if I use the example of Links in the U3A site)
Joomla! adds the Main menu to your site automatically. It already contains a Section for the Front page, so the Main Menu displays the Home page.
Some sites stick to the Main Menu and add a heirachy of Menu Items beneath the Main Menu. Other sites, such as the Sample site, use 6 Menus, each with a few Items (or sub-menus) under them. Examples show a difference.
|Menu in sample data. Here there are several menus
and fewer Menu Items.
|Menu on another site. Here the content is all under the Main menu in Menu Items. The exception is the short User Menu|
Using the Sample web site - if you move away from the Home page, the Login Menu no longer displays. (Mildly irritating - but this can be altered).
This is worth knowing about before you think about a site.
There are built-in layouts in Joomla! that take advantage of the organization of content in Sections and Categories. These make it possible to list articles that belong to Sections or Categories. When a new article is created and assigned to a Section and Category, it is automatically placed under a menu.
When you add a new Article to a Section or Category (depending on which one you have chosen), it will automatically show on the page so you do not have to do anything other than add the Article and assign it to the appropriate Section or Category. This also means that you can create Categories specifically for displaying in List or Blog mode.
For a New web site you need to:-
There is no automatic way to do this - you have to think about it and whether you are going to want to exploit blog and list layouts.
Note that the sample site - and many others - use a variety of techniues. They do not limit themselves to one level in the heirachy but set up the design to allow for multiple levels of content and also some blog and list layouts.
Every web site has a purpose and to get a good content structure, you need to understand what you are going to try communicate. This is not entirely straight forward. When it has all been done and in retrospect, it looks easy. But it is actually challenging to identify the main Sections / Categories and translate these into likely content. And then deal with Menus to present the content in the most helpful way.
Back to paper and pencil as a starting point!
Things to think about:-
The final design depends a lot on the range of content and whether you can think of it in a Section/Category heirachy.
If you are not in a hurry and not very experienced, there is a lot to be said for:-
The advantage of thinking it out is that you do not get distracted by how you are going to implement the design - you just focus on the content.
List the Sections and Categories out clearly ready to create them on the web site.
Note that the position and layouts of Menus can be very varied. This deals with the structure of the Menus. Their appearance is dealt with in the part about the appearance of the whole web site. (Cross-ref.)
It is not difficult to alter the Menus after the site is established so this list can be seen as a starting point. No-one gets it right first time.
Write them down and indicate what sort of Menu, for this will be needed when you create them.
Top level of U3A menu closely reflects the Categories to give a variety of listings and articles about this organisation.
Sample makes greater use of Menus and less of menu items
Name the menus
Use names that makes sense to anyone visiting the site - obvious but not always done.
The key is a good understanding of the purpose of the site and what features will be dislayed.
Clubs: These can be very varied as a sailing club one illustrates: the content is quite complex because such clubs have a lot of activities, they have boats and they usually have a property of some sort. They also aim at different people - sailors, social members, young people and learners. It is not a business but it does want to encourage people to join and wants to give a lot of on-going information about club activites and local sailing conditions. There are about 1500 sailing clubs and associations in Great Britain alone and the web sites are all slightly different. There may be people who want to enter their own content, so you could have a number of Authors or Publishers responsible for adding detail about events or reports on events or descriptions of boats and much else. So such a site could be very varied and quite dynamic.
Associations: there are many organisations who want to keep their members in touch with one another and also provide information about activities.
Orgnisations who want to disseminate informatation: here
--Lorna Scammell January 2011