The book is a well rounded and practical look at how to create a social network website using Joomla! and the JoomSocial extension, covering everything from installing Joomla! itself, to installing and configuring JoomSocial and other complementary extensions, some discussion of what makes a social networking site successful, and even an introduction to customising Joomla! templates.
The book starts with thorough instructions on how to install XAMPP on a local computer, then Joomla! itself. I thought these detailed instructions on creating a development environment on a local computer were well done, and could easily be followed by someone new to Joomla!
Installing the JoomSocial component follows the same proceedure as for any other Joomla! extension. The real work begins configuring the component and it's many plugins and modules. I think even experienced Joomla! professionals will find time saving suggestions in this section of the book. JoomSocial is a complex component, and without a good road map of where you are going and an overview of how everything fits together, you could have a lot of trial and error. This was one area of the book in particular which I think will be of interest to experienced and novice Joomla! users alike.
Clear instructions are given on how to migrate this draft site from our local development computer to an online server using Akeeba Backup. This is one of many examples in the book where novice users will learn not just about JoomSocial itself, but additional good Joomla! practices that they can take with them to other Joomla! projects. I think this will be an added bonus for many readers.
Once the site has been installed and is active on a remote web server, we can check that the process of adding user accounts and editing profiles within JoomSocial is working correctly.
A social network site needs users to be successful, and the book discusses some of the broader details a site administrator will have to think about – is the interface easy to use, how do users invite others to join, how do you encourage users to make connections within the network, and how will users add content to the site? Obviously important details if the site is to grow.
As part of the chapter on how to encourage users to submit content, the book covers in detail the task of installing SOBI2 and some of its associated modules. SOBI2 is a third party Joomla! component that allows for the creation of directory and review systems for Joomla! sites. I thought this section was another nice bonus in the book, since it gives good information on how to install and configure a component which has applications in many Joomla! websites.
Customising a Joomla! template isn't a topic I was expecting to find covered, and I thought it was interesting that the authors decided to include this. Throughout the book, the authours use a GPL template from RocketTheme. In latter sections of the book they touch on how to customise this template, with the intention of modifying the template design, and improving the interface for site users. Some of this may be outside the comfort zone of novice readers, and the book doesn't pretend to offer a full guidelines on how to create or customise Joomla! Templates. But for anyone who has had some exposure to HTML and PHP, this introduction to templates, how they work, and how to change them will be enough to get them off to a good start.
No book about social networks would be complete without a mention of Facebook and Twitter. JoomSocial lets users integrate these other networks into their profiles. It's a relatively easy process and the necessary steps are clearly described.
The final chapter of the book discusses some of the other social networking extensions for Joomla!, especially Community Builder. All extensions have thier strengths, and so I liked that the authours gave a brief overview of the other options available, how to install them, and how they compare to JoomSocial. Developing a social networking website is a large undertaking, and you want to be confident at the start that you've chosen the right software pakage, and that your site will come together at the end the way you picture it at the start.
Overall, what I enjoyed most about this book is that it looks at the big picture of what's involved in making a successful social networking website with JoomSocial and Joomla! Installing and configuring the component, its extensions and plugins is one thing. The book reminds us that to be successful, the website administrator also needs to think about the site design, its interface, and how users will will use, contribue and share the content on the site. Along the way, the book also discusses many 3rd party Joomla! extensions and good practice techniques which I think a lot readers will find valuable. The text gives thorough step by step instructions with screenshots throughout, and almost any reader will save time configuring the multitude of settings within JoomSocial by following the suggestions.
David Taiaroa is an experienced Joomla! and website designer with Panchroma Website Development: www.panchroma.ca