What does the latest version have to offer? Is it time to try an alternative to WordPress? Expert Viktor Vogel gives the lowdown
Viktor Vogel – 1&1 Joomla! Expert
Joomla! is making large strides and constantly reaffirming itself as the CMS-of-choice for many web developers. Debuted in late February, the latest instalment of the platform (version 3.4) is leading the way for future releases and brings many benefits to end-users and developers. Designers creating dynamic websites and powerful online applications should take note of these improvements and consider how they can take advantage of this and contribute to the future of Joomla!.
The platform’s evolutionary path led to powerful capabilities being integrated into the core, making it a secure out-of-the-box solution. Favourably, there is no need to install additional plugins or extensions, unlike other CMS, since the default installation fits most user requirements. For example, recent noticeable improvements have been made to responsive design and compatibility with other CSS-style frameworks. Designers do not need to expend any effort for their Joomla! websites to automatically adjust to fit the screen size of their visitors mobile device. Other significant advancements were made to backwards compatibility and internal routing. Features that improve search engine optimisation, such as changes to internal routing, have been (and will continue to be) dominant trends.
The biggest change for user experience with the newest version is that it is even easier to edit websites. A new feature, called ‘Front-end Module Editing’, enables users to edit directly from their page without needing to access the admin dashboard. This capability also adds a layer of security since it is not necessary to grant back-end access for text and visual modifications. The reCAPTCHA plugin was also updated so users can benefit from Google’s new No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA API. Users will notice that their login and registration forms are protected against spam through one-click authentication, instead of solving an ‘old-fashioned’ CAPTCHA.
From a technical standpoint, the base version is now smaller and more flexible, providing a streamlined installation. With this release, the first step was made toward achieving the long-term goal of a lighter core: com_weblinks were removed from the core distribution. Version 3.4 also boasts major strides towards standardising all of the en-GB language strings in the Joomla! core. The full list of improvements in Joomla! 3.4 can be found on GitHub.
One specific aspect that will continue to improve over the next releases is the move to a light core. To achieve this, the production leadership team will work to remove some components of the core and maintain a separate core-supported extension category. This will enable additional customisation through the use of third-party alternatives for extensions such as: contact, finder and weblinks.
As an open source CMS, Joomla! relies on crowdsourced software development and an active global community to progress the platform. The development community dreams big and works as a team to actualise the goals of improving the CMS together. From supporting users to fixing bugs and developing new features for its vast user base, contributing to Joomla! can be a very rewarding experience. Being community-minded, Joomla! users and developers help each other. Support for using the platform and its extensions are always available. Furthermore, this mindset contributes to the continued evolution of the platform. Always improving, websites built with Joomla! are secure and modern while the latest ideas are continuously being implemented with every release.
Joomla! users that do not possess in-depth understanding of coding can take a more knowledge-sharing role and participate based on their strongest skillset, like providing assistance with documentation for example. They can also report bugs that can be fixed by the developers in the community. Those looking to get involved in the hands-on development of the platform first need to know about the Joomla! coding standards. After some experience addressing existing bugs, it is possible to apply to become a member of some specialised, official Joomla! teams. Attending community events, which occur around the world, is also a great way to get started with the CMS. All involvement and support for the improvement of Joomla! are greatly appreciated. To become a Joomla! contributor, you can first see what assistance is needed and then you can join a working group at volunteers.joomla.org.