Modifying the feed view to display an image, and altering the module to provide easy CSS access
The Podcast Suite is a useful podcasting component (plus plugin and module) for Joomla 1.0 and 1.5. As I recently deployed it on a client’s site, though, I encountered some limitations. While I’m sure these will be addressed in future releases, I decided to share some quick code modifications that others may find useful.
Continue reading “Some useful modifications to Joomla Podcast Suite”
The most annoying issue with Joomla!, despite the admirable efforts of many people involved with the project, is its tendancy to output crappy HTML. Even still, at least one of the default themes uses tables for layout, and last time I checked the RSS feeds that it spat out wouldn’t validate.
But the biggest problem is not with the core. A little bit of hacking can get around that. The bigger problem is the poorly coded extensions (plugins, components, modules). Running a website off an open-source CMS means you almost invariably are going to need to rely on 3rd party extensions, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
What’s wrong is the shoddy state of Joomla’s extension landscape. Credit to the extension authors is of course due more than blame, as they’re working (generally) for free, out of goodwill. But having to re-work over the HTML generated by pretty much each and every extension–whether it’s removing tables used for layout, getting rid of deprecated elements and attributes, or just fixing plain old errors–gets tedious quickly. People should know better than to just throw
<style> tags into the middle of a document. I shouldn’t be seeing
<td align="center"> anywere.
Joomla! is, in many ways, a great CMS. One of its shortcomings, however, is that it has been slow to adopt web standards, which frequently manifests itself in annoying validation issues with generated XHTML and XML feeds. These issues are usually fairly easily overcome, but it would be nice if you didn’t have to worry about them in the first place.
The default WYSIWYG editor, for instance, seems to purposely prevent you from entering your ampersands (
& which is required for XHTML validation. The way around this is simply to use a different editor; namely, JCE, or the Joomla! Content Editor. JCE will, among other nice features, automatically appropriately encode your typed ampersands, making it easier to ensure your code validates.
One annoying “feature” I’ve encountered with JCE so far, though, is the inability to insert empty
alt attributes. Often, particularly in the case of an icon that is more than adequately explained by surrounding text, adding
alt text would actually just be at best redundant and at worst confusing to people using screenreaders. However, to validate, you have to include an empty
alt attribute (
alt=""). JCE doesn’t seem to like this, and will strip your empy
alt attribute. I’m sure there is a relatively simple hack to circumvent this.
For those searching for a free, feature-rich and easily-extensible Content Management System (CMS), WordPress is not to be overlooked. Not only is there a growing “literature” of blog posts and tutorials on how to use WordPress as a CMS, but the core developers seem to recognize WordPress’s suitability for this role and are continually providing further enhancements that make it easier to use WordPress in this way. And if there is some CMS-like functionality you need from WordPress but can’t get it with a plain ol’ vanilla install, there is a wealth of well-coded and reliable plugins among which you are likely to find a solution.
One powerful reason to make wordpress your CMS of choice is its ease of use. While Joomla!, Drupal and the like are all excellent CMSs, none of them prioritize simplicity to the same degree that WordPress does. This isn’t as much of a criticism as it sounds like–there is an inevitable trade-off between the available features and power of a piece of software and its out-of-the-box, so-easy-your-dog-could-do-it usability. WordPress is a platform for the unwashed blogging masses, while Joomla! and Drupal are fully-fledged CMSs that compare favourably with any enterprise-level solution you’d pay thousands of dollars for. Each understands its user-base and its niche and guides software development accordingly.
But in addition to being suitable for the masses, WordPress is a great choice if you’re doing a website for a client who either is a) not as comfortable with new technology; or b) has little time and is someone for whom the need to learn how to navigate a complicated CMS admin panel will be a significant barrier to actually using it. You can easily teach someone the WordPress “basics and then some” in an hour, which means satisfaction both for the client and for you (imagine all the support email questions you *won’t* be getting!).
That’s it for the first part of this mini-series. In the next post, I’ll dig in to some more technical issues and look at how recent advancements in the WordPress platform are increasingly making it a viable CMS solution.