With the advent of China’s Belt and Road Initiative I found it necessary to learn about the involved regions and histories. I’m curious. Grown up in Germany during the Cold War I was teached that Russians were always mostly the evil ones and people from the West are usually the “better ones”. I never believed it but I also had a clear lack of information about Russia and of course China. Both regions didn’t existmore or less in the media and my school lessons at that time (1960ties).
My biggest lack of knowledge was about Central Asia. Six years ago I was in Mashad, Iran and I got an idea how complicate the relationships are.
But back to the Great Game:
“The Great Game” was a political and diplomatic confrontation that existed for most of the nineteenth century between the British Empire and the Russian Empire over Afghanistan and neighbouring territories in Central and Southern Asia. Russia was fearful of British commercial and military inroads into Central Asia, and Britain was fearful of Russia adding “the jewel in the crown”, India, to the vast empire that Russia was building in Asia. This resulted in an atmosphere of distrust and the constant threat of war between the two empires. Britain made it a high priority to protect all the approaches to India, and the “great game” is primarily how the British did this in terms of a possible Russian threat. Historians with access to the archives have concluded that Russia had no plans involving India, as the Russians repeatedly stated.” Wikipedia
A good start for me to understand the history of Central Asia far better was this book from 1994: The Great Game: On Secret Service in High Asia – Peter Hopkirk
It tells the story of the Great Game through the exports of the young officers, both British and Russian. Disguised as holy men or native horse-traders, they mapped secret passes, gathered intelligence and the allegiance of powerful khans.
Do you know some books, movies, websites, whatever to learn more about Central Asia? Please comment I’m still curious :)
Letzte Woche stand ich vor der Entscheidung, wie ich denn nun diese kalte Welt im Norden bereise. Ich entschied mich gegen das Auto und für den Zug. Am Mittwoch morgen um 6 Uhr brachte mich Tine mit dem Auto nach Narbonne. Der Plan war, mit dem TGV nach Dijon zu fahren, dort in einen anderen TGV umzusteigen und in Richtung Zürich weiterzufahren. Als Bahnhofsfoto Projekt Fan, fotografierte ich das zunächst mal das Bahnhofsgebaeude.
Ich habe Zeit zum Lesen und geniesse es. Gerade habe ich das Buch Unterwerfung von Michel Houellebecq durchgelesen. Er spielt im Jahr 2022.
Frankreich hat ein Problem mit sich selbst, dem Front National und den Muslimen.
Um den Front National zu verhindern, haben die sozialistische Partei und die Konservativen im zweiten Wahlgang ein Bündnis mit der islamischen Partei geschlossen. Momentan (2015) gibt es keine islamische Partei aber die Gründung einer solchen ist überfällig. Der Anführer der islamischen Partei Ben Abbes ist jung und von allen Seiten des politischen Spektrums geschätzt. Er wird Staatspräsident und fängt an das Land zu verändern.
After you managed to create content, you need to think about how displaying it. This sounds simple but it is quite important. In the last chapter we created an article and featured this article on the frontpage. Visitors can see the article only by visiting the front page.
The standard frontpage (Home) has the menu item type Featured Articles. When you access the Main Menu in Menus → Main Menu you probably noticed the little “home” symbol. It means, that this menu contains the link to the front page (Figure 1).
You have different configuration options while editing the Home link. The featured articles menu item type offers leading articles, intro articles, columns and links. To understand how it works, we need a few articles. For the sake of simplicity in our example, just copy your first article. The copy process is possible in the Save dialog and in a batch dialog. Select the article you want to copy and click the Batch icon (Figure 2).
If you have more than 4-5 articles (don’t forget to “feature” them), you can try out the different options. Go to Menus → Main Menu → Home and take a look at the Layout tab. You can see one leading article, three intro articles in three columns (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Layout in Home menu link
On your front page it appears like in Figure 4.
Categories, tags and menu links
Joomla offers three possibilities to structure your content: Categories, Tags and Menu links. Each article belongs to one category. Categories can be nested. Menu links can point to articles or categories or they can point to a set of articles as with the featured articles for the frontpage. You can add an unlimited amount of tags to each article.
This simple and easy extendible structure offers amazing ways to display content.
As you already know, Joomla!’s templates are offering positions. Positions are places where you can place your content and your navigation elements.
Joomla!’s content display system is the arrangement of modules and the components on predefined templates positions. Each page can have exactly one component and an unlimited amount of modules.
Categories can be created and managed in Content → Categories.
Menus can be created, managed and filled with links in Menus → Manage (read more about creating a menu in chapter 4 – It’s all about users, permissions, modules and articles)
A navigation on top
An empty Joomla page has a “Main Menu” at position-7 in the default template. In the Protostar template position-7 is in the right sidebar, but let’s assume, we want to have the main menu on top. To achieve this goal, go to Extensions → Modules → Main Menu and move it to Navigation position-1. In the Advanced tab change the value of Menu Class Suffix to “ nav-pills” (there’s a white space at the beginning!) (Figure 5).
It will change the class attribute in the HTML code and when everything is correct, your navigation should look like in Figure 6.
Articles in categories can be displayed in “blog style” like on the frontpage or as tables of articles. Both are highly configurable. You just need to check out a few menu item types.
With these few tools you can create amazing layouts.
Creating content is hard! Every piece of content is a story. And a story can be good or not that good and thus attracting visitors or bore them. Thousands of books on the subject of writing stories have been published, a lot of people have taught the lore. I have a relatively easy task to cover just the technical part :)
What is an article in Joomla?
Technically, an article consists of
a title (headline) and an alias (in the url)
the text (a mixture of text, images, and other media)
a category where the article belongs to
additional tags to describe the article
an author and an alias for the author
a language the article is written in
meta data for search engines and other robots
and a lot of options how, where, to whom and when the article is displayed. You already wrote an article in the last chapter and this was not complicated. Just a title is necessary, all the other fields have a default value or are optional. Let’s go through this list :)
It’s a little, but an important part.
It needs to be crisp and short to attracts readers and it’s handy for you because the title appear in lists of articles on the website and as lists of articles in the control panel.
the title appears as the page title on top of your browser window and it can contain the site name too. You can configure this behaviour in System → Global Configuration → Site → SEO settings → Include Site Name in Page Titles
it can appear in the URL of that page and it’s up to you how to setup the URL System → Global configuration → Site → SEO settings.
In Joomla, the text of your article contains a part that is displayed in lists (teaser) and the rest of the article. This rest can be structured by page breaks, so that a long text results in 10 pages each with a table of content. But step by step :). When you create an article you will do this with the help of an editor. Joomla uses a rich text editor (TinyMCE). That means, it is not necessary for you as the author to learn HTML tags. The editor looks like a text processor window on your PC (e.g. Word, LibreOffice) and it is easy to understand the icons (Figure 1).
If you hover over an icon with your mouse, there appears a tooltip with the description of the function the editor performs when the icon is clicked on
It is possible to install different editors, for example the Joomla Content Editor and it is also possible not to use any editor. Joomla itself comes with two editors and you can configure the default editor in System → Global Configuration → Site → Default Editor.
The default settings allow your users to choose between the available editors by themselves in their user account. You can disable this feature in Users → Manage → Options → Frontend User Parameters.
Paste from Word
The worst case of editing happens, when people paste from programs like Microsoft Word. Even if the situation gets better there is still NO REAL WAY to get the same formats on a website that is based on HTML by pasting from a text processor like Microsoft Word that is based on binary formats or “complicated” XML. The editor offers a “Clean up messy code” icon but it will not clean up logical errors or differences in the markup. Please keep that in mind when you talk to your users :)
In the third row of the editor window you’ll find a button called images. It offers a dialog to choose existing images from your inbuild Joomla image library and it allows you to add images to this library by uploading them.
You can manage your library under Content → Media
You can drag images in the content window of the editor.
Joomla! will NOT resize your images, so be careful with big photos! The best solution: your images have exactly the size in pixel you want to have them on your site. There are several extensions available for solving the resize issue and the Twitter Bootstrap framework that is used in Joomla 3.x, is helpful for responsive images.
After you have inserted an image from the library, you can configure (add attributes to) that image by clicking the image icon on top of the rich text editor (Figure 2).
References to other articles
The button Article in the third row of the editor window allows to link from an article to another article which is quite useful. This feature requires the Editor group permission.
Articles will appear in lists and on an article details page. On lists, the text should be limited to avoid confusion. With the help of the Read More button you limit the article text. Set the cursor in your text where the Read More break should appear and click the Read More button (Figure 3).
Embed a YouTube video
This is not only about YouTube videos but it is a good example for text filters. If you try to embed a YouTube video with the typical code
you notice that it is filtered by the editor and by Joomla. This is not a bug! It’s a feature :)
For security reasons
Joomla uses so-called text filters (System → Global Configuration → Text Filters) to filter the following tags: ‘applet’, ‘body’, ‘bgsound’, ‘base’, ‘basefont’, ’embed’, ‘frame’, ‘frameset’, ‘head’, ‘html’, ‘id’, ‘iframe’, ‘ilayer’, ‘layer’, ‘link’, ‘meta’, ‘name’, ‘object’, ‘script’, ‘style’, ‘title’, ‘xml’.
Unfortunately, we need to insert an <iframe> tag to embed videos from YouTube (and several other services).
So, how can the problem be solved?
One solution could be to trust your authors and create a White List (System → Global Configuration → Text Filters) for the authors, editors and publishers group (Figure 4) and then tell TinyMCE the <iframe> is not evil anymore (Extensions → Plug-in Manager → Editor-TinyMCE → Edit → Plugin → Prohibited Elements) by deleting the word iframe in the prohibited elements field.
After you have changed these filter mechanisms, it is possible to copy and paste the embed code into your article. Keep in mind that you need to switch the editor to the HTML view by clicking the HTML source code icon (<>). Afterwards, a popup window with the HTML code of the article appears. Now paste the embed code where the video should appear (Figure 5).
Click the Ok button and you already can see the video inside the editor window. After saving the article the video will appear on your website (Figure 6).
Now you can embed code from several platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Flickr.
Using macros in a text
It is possible to use so called macros in your text. A macro is an expression or command that is replaced with something different (e.g the embed code of your YouTube video). Theoretically, we could write in our article text (not in the HTML) something like this
The only problem is that this transformation is not a part of the Joomla core package. If you want to use macros, you need to install additional extensions, mostly so called plug ins.
Content in a module?
When we created an article, we used the content component of Joomla. Another possibility to create content can be a module. A module is a content element that can be positioned on your website. A menu, for example, needs a module to be displayed. The Login box is also a module. You can create as many modules with predefined functions as you need and position them in the predefined area in the template. Joomla comes with 24 pre-installed modules. You can see them with descriptions under Extensions → Modules → New (Figure 7).
It is possible to create a module that contains HTML text like an article (Custom module). And it is also possible to upload e.g. a background image for each module and to publish the module time based. It is not intended that custom HTML content in modules is created by “normal” authors. Content creation in modules is more a “Manager” or “Administrator” task. Try out the Custom HTML module. Create one, add some content and choose a position (Figure 8).
You can use the rich text editor and all the features that are available to write, format and enhance article text. You can even configure on which page the module should appear (tab Menu Assignment) and when it should appear (time based publishing). After saving, your custom HTML module appears on your site (Figure 9).
Figure 9: Custom HTML module on website
If more than one module is located at the same position it is necessary to bring them into the desired order. You have to choose a filter and click the filter icons once. After that, just drag the modules in the module manager to the desired place (Figure 10).
I know, we still have no content on our site but before we create it, let’s have a look on the user accounts of our new Joomla website. When you installed Joomla, you created the Super Administrator account. This user is allowed to do anything. It is nice to be that user but it is dangerous too. You will probably have more than one user account on your website, e.g. authors who write articles.
To get more used to these topics, let’s build a platform for authors where they can post articles and upload images without the need to enter Joomla’s control panel. Follow the example and you’ll learn a lot about Joomla :)
About users, roles and permissions
Users are in general able to login on the frontend and/or the control panel just depending on their role permissions. A user account has to be a member of a user group. Instead of assigning access permissions to each user, they are assigned to a group. The individual user is then assigned to one or more groups. Imagine you have 10,000 users in four different groups. It’s very easy for the administrator to change the permissions for each of the groups. Without groups, you would have to change every user account manually. However, when using groups, you only have to change permissions once!
Joomla comes with predefined groups like author and publisher which are easy to understand. An author is able to create/write something, a publisher has the additional permission to publish content.
The predefined frontend user groups are: visitors, registered users, authors, editors, publishers.
The predefined control panel user groups are: manager, administrator, super administrator
Example: A website where authors can post articles
This is a very simple workflow but it covers some possibilities that exist in Joomla. I assume that you have a “naked” Joomla without sample data and you have a super administrator user account.
The desirable scenario
Admin user in control panel: – activates the admin notification when someone creates a new user account – creates a user menu for registered users with a link to create an article
Visitor on website: – registers as a new user
Admin user in control panel: – receives a notification and assigns the user to the authors group
Author user on website: – is able to create an article but is not allowed to publish it
Admin user in control panel: - receives a notification that there is new content available – publishes the article on the frontpage
Parameter and user menu
We have to set a few switches in the user options. Go to Users → Manage → Options and activate Allow User Registration and Notification Mail to Administrators(Figure 1).
Then we need a menu for logged in Users. Go to Menus → Manage → Create new menu and create one:
Menu Type: user
Description: A menu for a user with useful links
Save and close it. You have now created a kind of menu container. What’s missing is the links inside the menu container and a linked module that displays the new menu at a certain position in the template. To create and link the module, click on the link Add a module for this menu type (Figure 2).
In the module form you have to add a title (User Menu), the position (Right – Position-7 in the Protostar template), the access permission (registered users). Don’t forget to save & close it (Figure 3).
Now we need the “Create article” link in our menu that should be shown to authors. Go to Menus → User → Add New Menu Item (Figure 4).
In the following form you have to enter the name/description of the link (Menu Item Title), select a Menu Item Type(Figure 5) and restrict the access to registered. Each Joomla component can provide Menu Item Types. Our type (create article) is provided by the content component which is a part of Joomla core.
After you saved and closed the dialog a new menu item should be displayed in the list (Figure 6).
Test your work! Login on the frontend with your super administrator account. After the login, our new user menu with the create link appears (Figure 7).
Please log out after the test.
Registration as a new user
Now we create a new user account. Please access the website as any other visitor and click the Create an account link. Fill out the form and click the Register button (Figure 8).
If your server stack allows sending emails, a notification email will be send to the email address of the super administrator account.
Joomla offers a CAPTCHA to prevent spammers. To use it, activate the CAPTCHA plugin under Extensions → Plugins and select it in the options of the User Manager where you can configure the general behaviour of the login process too.
Assignment of the new user to the authors group
Log in with your Administrator account on the control panel, access Users → Users and click on the name of the new user (Hagen Graf). Check the Author group in the Assigned User Groups tab (Figure 9).
Depending on your environment it might be necessary to enable and activate the new user account. Just click on the red icons to do so (Figure 10).
Now we have a new author on our website.
The new author creates an article
Now switch your identity to the one of the new author, log in with your new user account on the website and click the create article link. Just add a title and a few words and click save (Figure 11).
The article is saved and submitted but the user (you) cannot see it, because it is not published. I configured this workflow intentionally as in some cases it is desired to have another person to edit the created content and then publish it.
Of course, it is also possible to skip that, add the user to the group Publisher and then the article would be published immediately.
The admin publishes the article on the frontpage
Joomla comes with a messaging system and this system creates a message when new content was created by a user. Depending on your settings (Components → Messaging → Options) the admin receives that message by email or via the screen. The admin has to go to Content → Article Manager and publish the new article. If the article should appear on the frontpage, click on the featured icon (Figure 12, Figure 13).
Tweaking the process
As we already noticed while following this example, many topics are covered and the configuration is easily done depending on your needs. There is a huge amount of permissions, options and settings to discover. I’ll provide a few examples in the following chapters.
The template is one of the most important pieces of a website. It provides the appearance, the design. The combination with relevant content motivates new visitors to stay on your site and explore. Regular visitors and users appreciate being on a site with a beautiful and useful design. Think of other products, for instance. A car needs a good engine and tires but one of the most important reasons for buying one is often the design.
Even if the design is not the main reason, it is often a trigger to contemplate the idea of purchasing and may cause a buyer to consider more tangible reasons. If the design is well-made, people expect the rest to be well-made, too (Figure 1, Figure 2)!
Both of these cars are made for different target groups and they come of course from different car makers in different countries. They are just an an example of different approaches in design.
A few definitions related to the design of your website
I just want to clarify a few terms to sensitize your thinking.
What is design?
The noun design stands for a plan or drawing which shows the function and the lookout of an object, to accomplish particular goals in a particular environment and to satisfy a set of requirements.
The verb “to design”stands for creating a design, in an environment (where the designer operates).
The term design can be used in
art (“almost instinctive”, “built-in”, “natural”, and part of “our sense of ‘rightness’),
engineering (product design of a new car)
production (planning and executing)
processes (business process modeling)
What is color?
Color is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue, and others. Individual colors have a variety of cultural associations such as national colors. There is great diversity in the use of colors and their associations between cultures and even within the same culture in different time periods. HTML colors and CSS colors can have 16 million different values. The combination of Red, Green, and Blue values from 0 to 255, gives more than 16 million different colors (256 x 256 x 256).
BLACK = color HEX #000000 = color RGB rgb(0,0,0)
Several online tools like the one in (Figure 3) can help you to find the right colors for your website project .
Figure 3: Popular Color Combinations – http://www.colorcombos.com/popular-color-combinations
What is page layout?
Page layout is the part of “graphic” design that deals in the arrangement and style treatment of elements (content) on a page.
To speak in Joomla terms, it is the arrangement of Joomla modules and the components on predefined templates positions.
A template involves repeated elements visible to the visitors. Using a template to lay out elements usually involves less graphic design skill than that which was required to design the template. Templates are used for minimal modification of background elements and frequent modification (or swapping) of foreground content. Joomla! come with two site- and two administrator templates.
User Interface Design (UI) / User Experience Design (UX)
“User interface design (UI) or user interface engineering is the design of user interfaces for machines and software, such as computers, home appliances, mobile devices, and other electronic devices, with the focus on maximizing the user experience.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_interface_design
The connection between both types of design is fluent. A simple but quite good explanation is based on Ketchup bottles. The UI part focusses on the interface of the bottle, the UX part of the experience in the moment of engagement (Figure 4).
Joomla! is only one more tool in the toolbox of a web designer.
A good Joomla template is not only about colors and graphics. The shape and positioning of the content is just as important. The website has to be user-friendly and reliable. Exactly this challenge reminds me of the two cars again.
Web design is still a young profession and it is starting to become an industry.
A web designer often has to deal with low bandwidth, incompatible browsers, inexperienced content editors and other people involved in the process of creating a ‘good’ website.
The creation of a Joomla! website is often a process, in which everyone involved learns a lot.
Good web design is hard work and everyone has to start somewhere!
After having your site up in the language you prefer, most people start tweaking the colors and want to upload e.g. a new logo, even if there is no content so far. Joomla comes with preinstalled templates and so called template styles. A template style is a set of options (color, logo, layout) for a template. The configuration possibilities are depending on the template. Some template have a huge variety of settings and some are quite limited. It is possible to create as many styles as you want and assign them to different pages of your website.
In Joomla a single page is generated by the HTML output of one component, several modules and the template. Each page is accessible via a unique URL. Take the front page as an example. The content component produces the HTML output for the articles in the middle. This screenshot is based on the Joomla Beez Template (Figure 5). The blocks next to the articles are different modules. You can combine the HTML output from one component with the HTML output of any number of modules. Existing modules can also be reused on other pages.
You must know, of course, at which point you can assign modules at all. For this purpose, each template provides so-called positions. In order to see these positions you have to enable the Preview Module Positions switch (Extensions → Template → Options). After that, you can access your website by using the parameter tp=1(http://localhost/index.php?tp=1) or click the Preview link in Extensions → Templates(Figure 6).
You’ll see the emphasized module positions with their names (Figure 7).
In Extensions → Modules you can assign one of these positions to each module. If you need the module at different positions, you may also copy it.
To make things easier for you, Joomla! core comes with two site templates and two administrator templates. You can see a preview in Extensions → Templates → Tab Templates. You can filter between Site and Administrator templates by choosing the location filter (Figure 6 and Figure 8).
Styles offers the possibility to create and use different versions of one template. This is useful if you want to have different templates styles on different pages. A template has a minimum of one style. In this style, configurations can be made depending on the template, such as changing the colors or uploading the header logo. You may set the default style for your site in Extensions → Templates → Styles.
Example: An individual Style
Let’s create an individual style for our website:
Template Colour: #f88638
You can create additional styles by duplicating an existing style. For this example I duplicate the existing protostar style (Figure 9).
A new style appears, the name is protostar – Default (2). We’ll change the name in the next steps. Set it as the default style by clicking the star icon (Figure 10).
Check it and click the Edit Button. Enter the name for the style. In the Advanced tab you can choose colors, upload a logo and a few more parameters (Figure 12, Figure 13)
Each style can be assigned to a menu item (Menus asigment). If you would like a green background on your site when people click on menu item A, for example, and a blue background when they click on menu item B, you can assign the corresponding styles. In my case I have only one menu item and I already marked this style as default style, so it’s not necessary to assign it to a menu item
After saving the style, the website looks different (Figure 14) and because the Protostar template is fully responsive, the website is shown perfectly on a mobile device too (Figure 15).
Create your own template and customize it
A template in Joomla is the base of a style and consists of various files. It’s possible to edit the files of a template online.
BUT! You should NEVER change the source code of a core template. The reason is very simple. Your changed code will be overridden by the next Joomla! update!
It is possible too to copy an existing template, so let’s do that first.
Copy the Protostar template in Extensions → Templates → Protostar Details and Files by clicking the Copy Template button. Give your individual template it a name. I call mine “MyTemplate” (Figure 16).
Beside the new template Joomla creates a new template style too (have a look). It is possible now to work on the new template. You are able to create, delete and edit files (Figure 17).
It’s of course possible to edit the files in an external editor too. The site templates are located in the folder /templates. Each template has it’s own folder. There is now a mytemplate folder too. Under the /templates/systems folder you’ll find the template files to edit the Offline and the Error page templates. The admin templates are located in the folder /administrator/templates.
Overrides are a possibility to change the markup of an extension inside the template. The interesting point is, that your individual template is able to do that. Your template can even rewrite the output of third party extensions. A common use case is an alternative layout for an article in Joomla!.
In the template manager it is possible to create these overrides too.
There are by definition endless possibilities to design something creative. Joomla give you everything you need to build something amazing and hopefully you start to get more curious.