My Artisan Web has partnered with Joomlashack because their templates are lightweight and fast.
One thing that really speeds things up is being organized.
Your My Artisan Web site uses the Joomla Content Management System (CMS). The primary function of a CMS is to organize and present all the content in your site. It does this through content articles. These discrete pieces of content must be organized into a two level hierarchy called sections and categories.
To get a better idea of how a My Artisan Web site can be organized, let’s make a sitemap for an imaginary site. Our site is one for a company called Widget Inc. It sells widgets in both blue and green. This example could be easily generalized into any sort of “brochure” site for a small company.
A sitemap is a standard planning tool used by web designers and is critical for a web site. It’s often shown as a tree diagram showing all the pages in the site. Figure 1 shows an example.
A Website Sitemap
In this sitemap, each web page is represented by a box; the lines are links within the site. A sitemap represents the architecture (links) through a site rather than content organization. It is still a useful planning tool for organizing the site, however. In Figure 1, there are seven pages; from an organizational point of view, it seems like there are four main paths in the site:
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Widget Blog
There are two main ways that your site generates content on its webpages:
- Articles (organized in sections and categories, or uncategorized)
- Other components such as Weblinks or Contacts
Components are presented in the Main Body of a web page, usually a big column in the middle. Modules are generally found around the edges of that Main Body. In this lesson we will look at the task of organizing and presenting the articles.
How are the Content Articles Organized?
You have two options for how to organize all of your content articles. Remember each article is a discrete piece of content, for example it might be a two paragraph news announcement about your company. A small site may only have 5 to 10 articles, a big site could have thousands. The size and complexity of your site are a huge consideration for how to organize your articles.
Let's take a quick conceptual look at these two organizational options, and then we will see how they apply to our imaginary Joomla website for Widget Inc.
- Uncategorized Articles
- Sections and categories
1. Uncategorized articles
Uncategorized articles by far the simplest way to organize a Joomla website. As the name implies there is basically no hierarchical structure.
Let's make an analogy to help us understand. We will imagine we are trying to organize a stack of papers on our desk. Each piece of paper represents a single content article. Our website will be represented by a filing cabinet next to our desk.
If we were to organize our articles as uncategorized, we would simply place them in a drawer of the filing cabinet. If there are not many articles, this is a fast and easy way to organize them. I can easily find them by just picking up the small stack of papers and flipping through the sheets (that is, following links to the different articles).
2. Sections and categories
If I have many more articles than a dozen, using uncategorized articles isn't going to work. If I pick up the stack, I might have to flip through a stack of a thousand pieces of paper.
As with almost all content management systems, there is a hierarchy to organize large amounts of content articles. The highest is called sections, and below that are categories. In the most general case you will have kind of structure (sections and categories) found here.
- Section 1
- Category A
- Article i
- Article ii
- Category B
- Article iii
- Article iv
- Category A
- Section 2
- Category C
- Article v
- Article vi
- Category D
- Article vii
- Article viii
- Category C
You can’t put content items in a section; they must go in a category. This means that each section needs at least one category.
To return to our filing cabinet analogy, in the cabinet you have drop down folders, inside them you have manila folders and inside those sheets of paper that are the articles. This is shown in Figure 2.
The filing cabinet is the website, the dropdown folders are the sections, the manila folders are the categories, and the paper are the articles.
The highest tier of the Joomla content hierarchy is sections. The best way to think of sections is as containers that provide the largest set of items in the hierarchy. Sections are the parents of Categories. A section can have one or more children (categories).
Categories are the middle tier of the hierarchy. Categories are children of their parent sections. A category must be assigned to a section; it cannot exist without one. Categories are the parents of content items. A category can have one or more children (content items).
Content articles are the lowest tier of the hierarchy and the most important. They are what most people think of as “pages” of their website, that is, content articles are what you create to add content to display to the site visitors. A content article must be assigned to a category; it cannot exist without one.
A Sample Hierarchy
Let’s assume you wish to create a website discussing Classic American Automobiles.
Plan the Sections
Let’s also assume that you have decided that one type of automobile you wish to discuss on your website is Muscle Cars – those big beefy performance autos that were so popular in America in the 1960s and 1970s. We will make this type of automobile our highest tier – a Section. So, first we create a new section and we name it “Muscle Cars.”
Plan the Categories
A logical subset of the parent items Muscle Cars would be a list of the manufacturers who made muscle cars. So, next we create Categories for each manufacturer: Chevrolet, Chrysler, Pontiac, Ford. We assign each of these categories to the section “Muscle Cars.”
Plan the Articles
Now we get to the meat of the matter: building the pages for each model of car. The models of cars are, in other words, the lowest level of our hierarchy. To create pages for each model of car we create content items for each model. Assign each model (content item) to the proper manufacturer (category). Let’s look at one specific category: Ford. For that manufacturer, we want to create pages for each of the following models: Mustang, Fairlane, Falcon, and Galaxy. In this case we will create content items for each model and assign each to the category named “Ford.”
Visually, we have created a content hierarchy that looks like this:
- MUSCLE CARS [Section]
- Chevrolet [Category]
- Chrysler [Category]
- Pontiac [Category]
- Ford [Category]
- Mustang [Content Item]
- Fairlane [Content Item]
- Falcon [Content Item]
- Galaxy [Content Item]
This car site is an example of the basic concept of organizing content in Simplweb.
Take a moment and think how you might organize your content. Make three headings on some paper for Sections, Categories and Articles and write down what each will contain.
Creating a Site (Widget Inc) as Uncategorized Content
So we can better understand how to set up content on a site, let’s first not organize our content into sections and categories, but just make all the content items uncategorized.
The simplest way of creating a site is with uncategorized content. It’s much easier to understand how a CMS site is driven, so it is a good place to start. The uncategorized method is not much use once you have more than a dozen pages, however, because the content gets too difficult to manage. A single uncategorized content item in the database will correspond to a single page of content on your website- nice and easy.
To make this example we are working through more appropriate, we need a slightly simpler sitemap of Widget Inc we saw a moment ago in this lesson. Let’s say we have a simple website that consists of three pages: a “Home” page, an “About Us” page and a “Services” page. This is shown in Figure 3.
Simple Sitemap of Widget Inc
If you haven't already, please review the lesson “Administration Basics”. You will need to have a good sense of how to navigate the backend as you work through this example.
We have two content items we need to create, “About Us” and “Services”. After creation we would have two articles in the Article Manager as shown in Figure 4. Notice how the Section and Category columns are blank.
Article manager with About Us and Services content articles
If we looked at the front end of our site, we would not see any articles yet. We have not linked to them.
One of the hardest things for users to realize about a CMS is that content does not exist by itself on the pages of a website, only in the database attached to that website. The content is only shown on the website when it is linked to in a menu- that is, the menus determine the content of a Simplweb site, not the content items (see the Guide to Administration Basics). Sure, they will be there in the database, but they will only appear once we link to them in a menu somewhere. A consequence of this is that you have to create the content first and then create the links to it.
This is true for all content that is in the “main body” of your pages. They must have a link to them to cause them to appear on the site. They must also be “published” in the content item manager.
After creating two links/menu items to our articles, our main menu will look like Figure 5.
Main menu with Home, About Us, and Services menu items
The home page must also be an article. We would have to create an article and then link to it in the menu manager. The default item in the main menu will be the home page of your site. That’s the one with the star next to it. In the default Simplweb installation this is set to be a single article, but it could just as easily be a category, or another component. There is also a special component that can help you build you homepage called the Front Page manager
Creating a Site (Widget Inc) with Sections and Categories
Let’s go back to the example we started with- our seven-page site shown in Figure 6. Now that we have a better idea of how to create articles and how to link to them with menu items, we can examine how to create this site with sections and categories.
Our seven-page Widget Site map again
We know that two of these pages will be components: the Front Page component for the home page and the Contacts component for the Contact Us page. That leaves us with five other pages. We can see that there are actually seven content items here:
- About Us
- Widget Blog
- Today’s blog
- Yesterday’s blog
- Green Widgets
- Blue Widgets
We have two organizational levels: First are sections, and then inside them are categories.
At first glance, our structure might seem obvious. Leaving out the two components, we have three sections:
- About Us
- Widget Blog
One way to organize our content might be in the following manner:
The Services categories work fine and make sense; the other two seem to duplicate the content level. This is because the content hierarchy for that area is only one “level” deep. We end up with a redundant level.
There are two solutions to this:
- Perhaps the easiest solution is to make all single level items uncategorized content. We have already seen that this is easy to set up. The down side is that the site can quickly become difficult to maintain. I have found this to happen with many more than 10-15 uncategorized articles, mainly because Joomla provides no organization for them, so they are all lumped into one group.
- The second solution is to be more creative with our sections/categories. For example, we could have just a single section, let’s call it “AllContent”. Then we have all the sections inside it:
This problem of a redundant level often occurs with smaller sites that have little content. In those instances you have to get creative. In our example it might be good to use a mix of both solutions- a single uncategorized article for About Us and then two sections for Services and the Widget Blog. The Widget Blog is a good candidate for its own category and section because this type tends to have several entries. Even though there is a redundant layer of structure, it will be easier to keep the site organized.
To continue, let’s use the “middle of the road” solution in which About Us is uncategorized with two sections. We will choose to have two section and three categories:
- Blue Widgets
- Green Widgets
- Widget Blog
- Widget Blog
- About Us (uncategorized)
Now, it seems like the Widget Blog will have a redundant level. If I am the site designer, I might as well do this, however. If the site grows, as hopefully it will, I will have the ability to add more categories. It's easier to do this if I already have the structure built in, even if it does not seem to make sense at first.
To start setting up our content, it's easiest to start in the following order:
1. Create the Sections
2. Create the Categories
3. Create the Articles
There are three possible ways to create your site:
- Uncategorized content articles
- Single Section (AllContent) and multiple categories
- Multiple Sections and categories
Which one you choose will depend on the size of your site and how many articles you have.