What's Exactly a Joomla Template?

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If you are a website designer, there's little doubt that you've heard about Joomla templates. But do you really know what's exactly a Joomla template?

A Joomla template is actually a series of files within the Joomla Content Management System (CMS) that control the presentation of the content. So, for all those uninitiated, a Joomla template is not a website in itself nor it represents a complete website design. It's simply a template, ie, a basic foundation design that'll help you preview your Joomla website. In order to produce the effect of a 'complete website', the Joomla template works in tandem with the content stored in the Joomla databases.

What are the contents of Joomla template? Basically, any Joomla template contains design information, like stylesheets, images, JavaScript, etc. Simply put, Joomla template is a theme or a skin of your Joomla system. However, there can be only one Joomla template per page.

What's the purpose of a Joomla template? What effectively Joomla template does is to command Joomla where to place Components and Modules, and how to display the Modules. You must be well versed with Joomla Modules, as these can be displayed in plenty of variations and each variation is different in its HTML output structure, including the most popular variation output – the XHTML output.

Users of Joomla 1.5 will be well aware of the concept of Joomla Chrome in that version. It is the process where Joomla templates were allowed to skin any component using new Joomla MVC structure. You can found pieces of Joomla Chrome in HTML directory of Joomla template. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most robust additions to the capabilities of Joomla templates.

Why is it called a 'template'? This is because generally, you'll need only one HTML / CSS layout for your entire website. And this 'template' becomes a model for every page on your website. The visitors may be accessing all the pages or just one page of your website, but the same template will be used to design each of these pages. Joomla has sufficient in-built intelligence to incorporate different content from its database into the same template to give a unique appearance to every web page as it'd be presented to the visitors.

The USP of Joomla template is in its architecture, where the design is a separate entity and the content is also a separate entity. While the design is contained in a small group of files, the content is contained in a database. This is a drastic improvement over the practice of creating a bunch of static pages, and each page having different design elements that are repeated for every page. The advantages of this approach include:

1. Flexibility and ease of changing design of your website within a few seconds. All you need to do is simply upload a new template or make necessary changes to the existing one. All the changes will be reflected on all the web pages. For instance, if you want to increase the font-size of a text, all you need to do is edit the CSS and increase the size accordingly, it'd be reflected across all the pages of your website.

2. It makes the backing-up of the content of the site easier. All you need is to download a single database file and you are done for your entire site! There are also some Joomla extensions available that can email a daily database backup automatically.

3. Depending on the variables, content can be accordingly presented. For instance, registered users can be allowed to view additional content than the unregistered ones. Thus, restrictions against non-members can be easily placed with Joomla templates.

W3C and Table-less Design

There are, basically, three essential attributes of a good quality webpage. These are usability, accessibility, and SEO-ability [http://www.prateeksha.com/joomla-seo.html]. In fact, if you take a holistic approach towards web designing, then all these qualities tend to overlap in the sense that is a webpage is usable, it tends to be both accessible and SEO-able. In other words, all you need to do is target one quality and the others will fall in line. Perhaps, the simplest mode of achieving these desirable features in a webpage is to use the framework laid out in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) web standards.

Take, for example, a site that is structured semantically with XHTML. It'll be easily read with the use of a screen reader by the one who has poor eyesight. Moreover, it can also be easily read by a search engine spider. The working of Google is similar to that of a screen reader in that it does not know how to read your website but it achieves the task.

Basically, Web standards are nothing but a set of rules put in place for use by the web browsers in order to display a webpage. W3C is the organization that is behind the publication of these standards. It is the same organization, whose Director, Tim Berners-Lee, is credited with the inventing the World Wide Web in 1989.

Interestingly, if you ask, say, 10 designers about web standards, you'll most likely get 10 different replies. But one common thing that emerges out of their replies is that these are based on using valid code in any language you use – HTML or XHTML.

Semantically Correct Code

A semantic webpage simply means that XHTML in the webpage describes only content and not presentation. In other words, it means employing a structured organization of H1, H2, H3, … tags and using just tables for tabular data. A semantically correct code does not use layout for tabular data.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

CSS is similar to having semantic code to control the look and layout of a webpage. In effect, CSS is a simpler mode of adding style (like fonts, colors, spacing, etc.) to the webpages. CSS exists parallel to XHTML code and thus, it helps you to separate content from presentation, ie, semantic code from CSS. A good example of understanding this concept is CSS Zen Garden, a website where the same semantic XHTML is shaped in different and unique ways with different CSS. The net result achieved is the webpages that look very different but have the same core content.

However, you can still take ample steps to ensure that template is accessible (like scalable font-sizes), usable (like clear navigation), and optimized for search engines (like source ordered).

Prateeksha Web Design has all the skills, expertise and experience to make sure that your Joomla Template website ranks among the top 10 of every major Search Engine results. and with our professional help, your Joomla Template website can also feature among top results in Google.

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