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TJ Baker
Joomla! Expert
Published on 20 May 2007

Creating a Blog Site With Joomla

Want to learn more about how to build professional websites with Joomla? Then check out Joomlashack University, the #1 Joomla online training program in the world.

Right now, there is no robust and feature rich blog extension for Joomla that will fufill the core features that is needed in a blog, and does it as a native (not a port) extension. Until something has been developed to fill this need, wannabe bloggers are probably much better off building a blog out of its consituant parts. Its a little more work, but the solution is more robust and easier to manage.

There are many places on the web where you can create a blog, some are free and some are paid services. To name a few:

The 800 lb gorilla in the room here is Blogger. Part of the Google world, it by far hosts the most blogs. This is probably because it is very very easy to set up and free. A quick look at some Alexa rankings (rough estimate of traffic) show this picture.

So why would we want to use a content management system to blog with? Isn't there already much easy solutions?

Well, first off, this is a book about Joomla, not Blogger, so I want to try and show how you can use Joomla to blog, sell products, build community sites, make your coffee, etc etc. But there is a real reason too.

Blogs are closed systems.

What I mean by that is the software that powered alot of these blogs is basic. That's perhaps part of Blogger's huge popularity. But if a moment should come that you want to extend the features of your blog, you are stuck. Maybe you want to add a forum, or a shopping cart for your ebook, or a subscription part of your blog. Try to add any major functionality to it and you are stuck.

A big theme of this book is being very excited about how amazingly extendable Joomla is. With that in mind, if we can have Joomla mimic the basic functions of a blog, then that can be a basic foundation for all you bloggers out there to build a super sticky blog site.

Basic parts of blog

Let's pause from our headlong rush into joining the blogosphere and consider what essential features you need for a successful blog.

  • Flexible Layout
    Been to one Blogger blog and you have been to them all. Being able to make yours look different to the other 27 million blogs out there is a good thing.
  • Browser-based Editing
    You have to get your content on the web fast and easy.
  • Automated Publishing
    FTWho? You don't want to have to mess with complicated file transfer, you want to click a button and have your posts appear. Text formatting and spell checking is a bonus too.
  • Categories
    Part of having a usable site, being able to split your posts into categories will make them easier to find.
  • Automatic Archiving
    I am unsure as to the usefullness of this. User will be far more likely to browse through categories than archives, unless they really like your writing. But heck, it seems a standard feature of blog software, so we'll throw it in too.
  • Search Engine Optimized Titles
    If you have written a post, you don't want your URL to be www.myblog.com/9823749.html?myleftleg. You want to be able to squeeze every ounce of SEO out of your post. So having a URL that includes keywords about the post is useful in this regard.
  • Comment Systems
    An absolute critical feature. The comment system is one of the #1 ways that your site becomes sticky (how likely a visitor will return). Free for all commenting is something bloggers have embraced and has led to their explosion in popularity. Many corperate sites that have blogs are afriad to tread this path. So Web 1.0...
  • Trackback or Pingback
    Two things are going on here. Pinging is a mechanism whereby other blog search engines are alerted automatically to a new post being made by you. An example is Technocrati.
    A Trackback is more complex. The bottom line is you read a post, and you comment about it on your blog. You place the URL to her post in yours and her blog picks up your post and leaves it as a comment in her post. Confused? Its a tool to get more traffic, that's good, and we want it.
  • Syndication Feeds
    RSS and ATOM are XML applications that can push your posts onto other RSS readers. Email clients such as Thunderbird come with RSS readers, as do personal sites like Yahoo. Perhaps a more important point is that a web site can read RSS, you you can have your posts appear automatically on someone elses website, where (hopefully) it will get even more readership. Its kind of like automatic and dynamic real time article syndication.
  • Email Notification
    If you make a post, wouldn't it be good if you had an email list that got notified that you did? If you are a web business, you will soon start building a list of emails. This is a whole other subject beyond bloggin however involving CAN's of SPAM.
  • Search
    As a prolific blog poster you will seen have your archive bursting. You will need a robust search tool that can help site visitors find your posts. Steve Krug maintains that some visitors will automatically look for a search as the first thing they do, people are either searchers or browsers.

How can Joomla meet these Blogging Requirements?

There are two ways to implement a blog on a Joomla site. Firstly, there are several blog components available that run as self contained blog tools inside build the blog from its seperate parts. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and we will look at both.

Blog Components

Joomblog

Joomblog (www.joomlafreeware .com) is Joomla version of blog, including blog, blog comment, blogside, blogroll, blog-archive, blog section/category, blogmail (email/MMS), blog header and personal guestbook.

Joomblog is a very simple component and an interesting candiate for blogging. Describing it as a blog might be somewhat of a stretch. Its actually an integration of two functions. The first is that it allows registered users to have a blog page all to themselves. The core Joomla functions of handling content are used to do this.The second is a comment function that allows you to have comments enabled for specfic sections. It also has a module that links to all content submitted (aka blog posts) by a particular author. So to summarize, Joomblog allows you to have mutiple bloggers on a single site. Its not so much of a blog component perhaps, but more of a packaged authentication/permissions tool focussed on blogging.

Blogg-X

Blogg-X is a cross platform (OS X, Windows XP, Linux) content management tool for websites based on the Joomla! CMS. Blogg-X runs locally on your computer as a desktop application.

Blogg-X is another interesting tool. Again, its stretching what we are considering to be a blog component, in fact, its not a component at all. Blogg-X is software that you actually install on your local computer. It allows you to create, edit and post content to your site. Basically, its an editor that talks directly to the content. It even allows you to create content offline and then upload it when you are back connected. Not really a "blog component" though.

A related tool is JExplorer (www.joomlatools.org). Its basic functionality is the same but is alot more powerful. Its more of a future platform for any kind of remote publishing to a Joomla site.

JD-Wordpress

Joomla! does content management very well and Wordpress does blogging very well.

JD-Wordpress is more of a complete blog offering. That not really surprising though, its basically Wordpress squished inside Joomla. It does all the things you might expect of a blog. The administration is difficult however. The admin interface for the Wordpress part of the site is very different to the rest of the Joomla site. This means that its something new to learn. Another challenge is "skinning" the blog to look like you want it to.

Summary

There does not seem to be much to help us here. When we look back to our list of essential features, there is not really a blog extension that bundles them all into one for you. JP-Wordpress is the closest, but it is challenged by being something else that being squeezed into Joomla.

Let's look at another alternative then, building a blog out of the seperate peices, and things that Joomla can do itself our of the box.

Building a Blog from Joomla "Out of the Box"

So let's go back to the drawing board and look at what extensions you might need to pick up to duplicate the whole effect of a blog.

  • Flexible Layout
    Joomla is probably the easiest CMS to "skin" or "template" which means you can have your blog looking like anything you want.
    Conclusion: Out the box.
  • Browser-based Editing
    One of the whole points of Joomla is to be able to maintain your site and edit your content in a browser.
  • Automated Publishing
    Publishing is one-click with Joomla. You can even have items be published at a future date. Say you need to go out of town, and you write some blog posts to get published while you are out of town.
    Conclusion: Out the box.
  • Categories
    This just requires a bit of planning. When you are setting up your site, make a section called "blog" or similar to hold all the categories. Then make categories as you need them. Last step is to make a menu that has a link to each category. A module is automatically created at the same time, which you can place as needed.
    Conclusion: Out the box.
  • Automatic Archiving
    I have yet to find an easy way to do this. The archive function in Joomla allows you to index content by date, but it changes the URL. That is very bad for a blog as you need persistant URL's for all those people linking to you.
    Conclusion: Still looking
  • Search Engine Optimized Titles
    For OpenSEF. It's new Ajax admin interface is great and it seems to produce robust URL's. The clincher is the ease in which you can create redirects. If you have a lot of URL's that need to change, links from other sites. All I have to do is monitor my logs and when I see traffic coming in from old URL's its a 3 second (literally) job to set up a redirect to the new URL. No messing with htaccess here.
    The second part of the process was internal links. These are useful for SEO, but who wants to be found on a Google search for "read more". There is a mambot from Run Digital that changes that though, and makes the link much better. It also does it automatically.
    Conclusion: Install Open-SEF
  • Comment Systems
    Luckily, at the time of revising how I was building my blog, a new comment component was released. I am using it on my site now and its great. The front end looks good, has a robust captcha and is easy to template. Its also got some nice extra features like hiding the comment form with Ajax. Its $12.50 for the basic version, but well worth the price.
    Conclusion: Buy JomComment
  • Trackback or Pingback
    Here is our first major issue. Currently there is no method of acheiving trackbacks on a Joomla blog built from its seperate peices. If this is an absolutely critical, must-have feature for you then you might need to be using the JD-Wordpress extension. If its more a question of "it would be nice if I had it", then its probably worth going with the seperate pieces solution and wait for this to be developed. In 1.5, this function will be much easier to add and there are at least two developers working on a solution at this time.
    Conclusion: Wait for a release
  • Syndication Feeds
    Joomla has built in RSS syndiation, there is actually nothing to do here. Well, that's not quite the whole story. The RSS as it runs in Joomla is only of the Front Page (or home page). This means that if your blog is on an interior page, or you want to have multiple feeds, you need to find some help. Fortunately, there is a great extension from Run Digital that will do both of these, and its free.
    Conclusion: Out the box, or get Run Digital RSS feed manager
  • Email Notification
    Right now there is no way to have email notification to an emaillist when you make a blog post. There is a way round this. Several 3rd party (non-Feedblitz. You can have people subscribe to an email list and they actually get the introductory text from your blog posts emailed automatically to them. There is nothing you, as the blog author, need to do.
    Conclusion: Seek a 3rd party application.
  • Search
    Joomla has a powerful search function built in.
    Conclusion: Out the box

The Best Way to Set up a Blog with Joomla?

Right now, there is no robust and feature rich blog extension for Joomla that will fufill the core features that is needed in a blog, and does it as a native (not a port) extension. Until something has been developed to fill this need, wannabe bloggers are probably much better off building a blog out of its consituant parts. Its a little more work, but the solution is more robust and easier to manage.

Want to learn more about how to build professional websites with Joomla? Then check out Joomlashack University, the #1 Joomla online training program in the world.

published in Joomla Tutorials

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