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How to create a blog-look with Joomla CMS

Saturday, May 18th, 2013 by Servage

Some say that WordPress is for creating blogs and Joomla is for creating traditional content sites. Those must be the old-timers who say this, as both platforms nowadays are great Content Management Systems (CMS), capable of creating both types of sites.

As blogs continue to grow in use and popularity, a modern CMS is sure to include the basic elements on its platform. Other than WordPress, many rely on third party developers to create extensions that bring blogging tools to the core function of the CMS. For Joomla, that has traditionally been the case. With version 3.0 of Joomla, that is changing.

All blogs have three essential elements: posts (aka articles), categories and the ability to apply tags. With Joomla 3.1 (released April 2013), all of this is possible in a default installation. This article is about creating a blog look within the native Joomla software. At the end, I’ll make note of some third party extensions that provide the functionality of interactive blogs on a Joomla site.

There are two primary menu types in Joomla that achieve a blog appearance on the front end. The key settings, or options, on the back end are virtually the same. A third menu type provides an additional option for article linking. With the 2 primary methods, the site is manipulated to have a blog feed, of sorts, presented in the top navigation menu.

The main Menu Item Type for this is to select “Category Blog” from the Articles listing. This takes any category, top level or sub-category, and presents an on-site page displaying articles, or posts, in a format resembling a blog.

The second primary Menu Item Type, also in the Articles listing is for “Featured Articles.” This method relies on flagging articles with “featured” designation. For sites with little content, this is manageable. But for sites with lots of articles, and more coming, this would mean you are having to designate new content and possibly unflag the featured status on older content frequently.

These two menu types have essentially the same Layout Options panel, in Advanced Options, where the key settings for the blog appearance are found. First you are determine the amount of Leading Articles, followed by the amount of Intro Articles and column formatting for Intro Articles.

  • Leading Articles – full width formatted posts, appearing at the top, designated generally for most prominent content
  • Intro Articles – appear directly below leading articles in column format and are for content that is second most prominent.
  • With the Layout Options, you determine the amount of columns and whether the layout is columns down or rows across, which offers just a slight difference in appearance. You can also designate a number of simple article links which show just below Intro Articles. Presumably, this is third tiered content that is still deemed prominent enough to display in this landing page for articles.

There are many options to consider for what ultimately determines the layout and function for the articles on the menu page. Here are some suggestions for a quality layout:

  • As leading articles are your most prominent, use no more than 3 here, 1 or 2 being best
  • As intro articles are second most prominent, and possibly ones that were just recently leading articles, I would suggest no more than 3 columns, with 2 to 3 columns being best and then balancing this out
    • 2 columns is ideal with an even number of intro articles
    • 3 columns may work best with an odd number that is greater than 2 articles
    • suggest this be no more than 10 articles total for intro articles
  • Amount of links is really just a preference, but I would suggest 0 to have less clutter on the page
    • If Article links are desired for prominent items, a good option is the Menu Item Type mentioned earlier. In this case select from the Articles list, “Single Article” and assign this menu to position of right, or left, side panel. This allows you to keep prominent content available on certain pages or all pages on the site, and keep the blog and/or featured articles page for just visible content.
  • For Leading and Intro Articles, utilize the “Read More” option. You add this per article when editing each post, and then you assign this feature to all articles in the Article Options for the menu or in the global configuration for articles. Without this, your blog type page can be cumbersome. Using this with a consistent amount of text and the blog or featured articles page looks uniform.
  • Also for Leading and Intro Articles, utilize an image to present the page with an even better layout. This too is done in article edit mode and allows you to add an image to float left or right of your prominently displayed articles.

Below is a view of a Category Blog page to give you a basic idea how it looks.

With tags available in Joomla (v.3.1+), most everything is set up to be tagged. As Joomla is just getting underway with tags, expect more features for this to be coming forth. We will be cover Joomla tagging specifically in an upcoming article.

Other options that exist for achieving an active blog on a Joomla built site include extensions such as:

  • K2 – popular extension, free
  • EasyBlog – another popular extension, does more than what Joomla offers, but with a cost and a bit of learning curve
  • WordPress for Joomla is an option that appears to offer much of WordPress functionality, though comes with a cost as well
  • Zoo is an extension that is very comprehensive and nicely put together. Cost is fairly steep and highest among the the 4.


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