Oh the places you’ll go … on the Internet

Photo by Flickr/James Cridland. Used with permission under Creative Commons License.

Sometimes I just reflect on what access and ease the Internet has brought to people’s everyday lives.

Tonight alone, I ordered books on Amazon, opted-out of pre-screened credit card offers for 5 years, window shopped for Mother’s Day and applied for a Tax ID number. All from the comfort of my computer chair.

I’ve heard the argument that the Internet has made my generation lazy (see: Generation Y), but I think it actually makes us more productive. If you think about it, we’re able to accomplish quite a bit more with a few taps on the keyboard or clicks on a mouse than was ever possible in the past. Heck, now people are walking, driving, biking, running, exercising even camping while they’re hooked into the Internet. That screams of productivity (not to mention lunacy).

There’s never been a doubt that the Internet affords us with many new and ever-changing luxuries. But I sometimes think it’s fun to marvel at what life might’ve been like 50 years earlier. Would have it been slower? More productive? Would we have had more face-to-face interaction and less static clutter?

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

A frustrating journey to Joomla and back

Photo by Flickr/gagilas. Used with permission under Creative Commons License.

I was recently named to the Denver Press Club Board of Directors and one of the duties I volunteered for was to take over website updates for the club.

Turns out they use Joomla, and while I dabbled with it some in the days before 1.0, I’d never really found it that intuitive. Unfortunately, not much has changed.

My first instinct upon login was to figure out how the structure worked. I guess it is only natural that with CMS systems like these that there’s and inherent lingo that goes along with them. With WordPress, I’m used to lingo like widgets, posts and pages. In Joomla, I’m dealing with articles (posts), components (?), modules (widgets?) and plugins.

At this point, I don’t have a lot of time to dive into the documentation to figure out what’s what, but I figured it can’t be that hard to figure out how this works, right? Boy was I wrong.

As far as I can tell, there’s almost no intuitive interfaces in this whole mess of menus and action buttons. I would kill to be able to juggle around modules and article blocks in a drag and drop interface. Or even have an opportunity to make sense of the source code. But it seems I’m relegated to reordering elements manually and attempting to decipher this smorgasbord of menus and submenus.

I thought the WordPress Media Library needed work, but Joomla Media Manager takes the cake. There’s no capability to select a group of images (or any other media) all at once. You CAN upload many at a time, but you have to add them to the queue one at a time. What a bore. Isn’t this supposed to be fun?

I could keep writing all day about the frustrations I had using Joomla but I won’t. I’ll just offer some advice to those folks, take a look at what Drupal and WordPress have been doing and take a lot of notes. Because your CMS needs a lot of work.

Why Joining the WooThemes Theme Club Was the Smartest Decision I Ever Made

Photo by Flickr/Titanas. Used with permission under Creative Commons License.

I first dipped my toe into the WordPress ocean a few years ago.

My first experiences in the late ’90s with LAMP-based systems with popular bulletin board system phpBB gave me a pretty solid foundation for my introduction to WordPress.

At first, – like many other probably – I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, but I had this idea that if I learned the WP core and how themes worked to expand and enhance functionality of a WordPress installation, that the sky would be the limit. It was.

And so I started off like many others have, with a skeleton theme and a lot of curiosity. I soon found though that at its vanilla state, WordPress is pretty darn complicated. This realization led me to look for a good solid framework. That’s where WooThemes comes in.

Disclaimer: I’m a WooThemes Theme Club member (and evangelist) though I’m not affiliated with them in any way and you’ll never see any affiliate links on my blog.

The thing about WooThemes is that they’ve been at it a few years and they’ve got their ducks in a row. And their framework is consistent.

What I’m talking about with “framework”, is how they handle in-theme functionality and element display across the board. Their code is organized, well-commented and documented. And the format is pretty much the same throughout their entire theme library.

So I do some WordPress design here and there (shameless plug) and for most of my projects I turned to WooThemes for inspiration. I think it’s just that I’ve grown accustomed to the ease-of-use and functionality that comes with a WooThemes design, so when I branch out to other companies and discover the same level of quality doesn’t exist in most other frameworks / themes, I’m disappointed.

So for more than a year now, I’ve been a member of their theme club. It’s definitely an investment at the outset. The pricing starts at $125 up front to join the club, with a $15 monthly maintenance fee after that. I decided having PSD’s was worth it from a development point of view though, so I sprang for the Developer subscription. With a $200 up-front fee and $20 monthly maintenance, it is the best investment I’ve made since I started working with WordPress.

WooThemes’ support is unparalleled and you’ll always be in good hands with co-founders Magnus Jepson, Mark Forrester and Adii Pienaar. They’ve also got a host of “WooNinjas” helping in the forums to make sure everybody is taken care of.

And because I design themes that stay largely in the vein of WooThemes’ bread and butter (magazine, business, personal and portfolio themes), I’ve come to rely on their monthly new releases. It’s always a pleasure to see what they come up with next.