A great CMS choice for both first-timers and experienced web developers is Joomla, an award winning open-source CMS that has been in development since 2005. It currently powers over 2 million websites in 68 different languages, and is managed by a team of more than 1000 dedicated volunteers. Joomla is a stable and secure platform that is so easy to set up even the most inexperienced users can have a fully functional website up and running in less than an hour. Joomla comes with more than 10 thousand free templates and extensions, so whether youre looking to build a personal blog, a company website or an e-commerce store, its easy to create a website tailored specifically for your needs.
This guide will provide you with simple instructions for setting up your own Joomla website. It will show you how to install Joomla on a hosted web server, how to create a blog, how to make your first blog post, and how to customize your site using templates and extensions.
Before you install Joomla, youll need two things – an address for your site (a domain name) and somewhere to install the Joomla files (a web hosting service).
If you already have a domain name and hosting service, feel free to skip straight to step 4.
Choosing A Domain Name
Choosing an appropriate domain name is an important step in creating your Joomla website. If youre just creating a blog to share with friends and family, your choice of domain name doesnt matter so much. However, if youre planning to create a site for your business or are hoping to attract visitors through a search engine, its important to choose a domain name that reflects your brand, has the right keywords, and is easy for people to remember.
Here are some tips for choosing a great domain name:
- Keep it as short and simple as possible. Longer domain names are usually harder to remember. Long domain names also increase the risk of misspellings and mistyping.
- Avoid words with multiple spellings as they can confuse your visitors. For example, if youre creating a blog about socks, topwoolsocks.com is a much better choice than topwoolsox.com.
- Try to include keywords in the domain name to help improve search ranking and make it easier for visitors to find your site. For example, if youre creating a blog for your car washing business, try to include the phrase car washing as well as the location of your business (eg. atlantacarwashing.com).
- If possible, choose a .com top level domain (TLD) extension. You might be tempted to choose one of the new TLD extensions such as .club, .tips or .online, but these extensions will often make it harder for visitors to find your site. Most people are so used to .com extensions that theyll type .com without thinking.
Before registering a domain name, you need to make sure its available. There are a number of domain name search engines that show you available domain names, available extensions, the cost of registering the domain, and suggestions for similar domain names if the one you want is already taken. A popular domain name search engine can be found at Name Fresh.
Once youve found a great domain name, youll need to register that name with a registrar. Registering a domain name is like renting a house – youll never actually own the domain, but as long as you keep paying the yearly registration fee you can keep using the name indefinitely.
Many web hosting companies offer domain name registration as part of their service. Registering a domain name with your web hosting company is usually the easiest option as the domain should be automatically configured for use with your site.
Finding A Web Hosting Service
Every website on the internet is simply a collection of code stored on a server somewhere in the world. When you visit a website using a browser, youre actually connecting to that server to read and interact with the code stored there.
To create your own Joomla website, youre going to need a place to store your code, and thats where a web hosting service comes in. There are hundreds of web hosting companies offering similar services including shared hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated servers, unlimited disk space, unlimited email addresses, free domain names for the first year, and easy setup. Hosting fees usually start at just a couple of dollars per month for the cheapest plan, which should be more than adequate for the average user.
Here are a few tips for choosing a web hosting service:
- Look for a company that offers 24/7 dedicated customer support. If your site suddenly goes down, you want to be able to get it back up and running as quickly as possible. Its a good idea to check customer reviews and feedback to make sure their support performs as advertised.
- Choose a company that guarantees at least 99.9% uptime. If youre running a web based business, every second your site is down could lead to lost revenue.
- Check that the company has an easy to use control panel with an Auto Script Installer such as Softaculous, Installatron or Fantastico. As you will see below, its not impossible to install software without an auto installer, but it definitely makes it much easier.
If youre not ready to pay for web hosting, Joomla offers a free, slightly modified version of the CMS at the joomla.com website. They will host your site for free and give you a free subdomain. Users are limited to a small selection of extensions and themes, and have limited mailing functionality. This free service is a good starting point for beginners wanting a simple, personal site.
There are two main ways to install Joomla – one-click installation using an auto script installer, or downloading the Joomla source files and installing them manually.
If you have an account with one of the major web hosting services, you should have the option to automatically install Joomla. This is the option we recommend as it makes installation much easier.
If you dont have this option, dont worry – well show you step-by-step instructions for manual installation.
NOTE: The screenshots you see here may be slightly different from yours depending on which web hosting service you use, but the installation process should be almost identical.
The first thing you need to do is log into the control panel for your web host. Your hosting company should be able to provide you with the address, your username and your password.
For this example, the web host is using the popular cPanel control panel.
Once youve logged into cPanel, scroll down to find your software installer. This web host is using the Softaculous installer. Click on the installer.
You can use the search bar to find the Joomla software, or you can look for it under the CMS
menu. Once youve found Joomla, click the Install button.
Choose the domain you want to use for the Joomla installation. If you cant find your domain, youll have to contact your web hosting company for help.
Scroll down and enter the name and description of your Joomla site, then choose an admin username and password. Its a good idea to pick something other than admin, as this can be easily guessed by hackers. Make sure you keep a copy of your username and password.
You can change the email and language settings if youd like. Once youre finished, click the Install button.
If everything goes as planned, the software should report a successful installation. It will also show your Joomla sites address and the administrative URL for making changes to your site.
Thats it! Simple, wasnt it?
If you click the site link, it should take you to your brand new Joomla site.
To manually install the Joomla software, youll need to head to the joomla.org website (not joomla.com) and click the Download Joomla link to download the installation package. Although there are many third-party sites that allow you to download Joomla software, you can never be sure that these copies are safe. Its always a good idea to download the latest version from the official site.
Click the Download Joomla! link to download a .zip file containing the latest version of the software.
Next, youll need to create a database. Databases are like a set of tables that store all your sites information.
Log into your control panel (using the steps listed above in the One-Click Installation guide) and look for a section called Databases.
For this Joomla installation, were going to create a MySQL database, so click on the MySQL Databases icon.
Scroll down to the Create New Database section, enter the name of your database (it can be anything, but its probably a good idea to call it joomlasite or something similar), and click Create Database.
You should see a green checkmark and confirmation that your database has been created.
Next, we need to create a user, so click Go Back, scroll down to Add New Users, add a username and password, and click Create User.
You should see a green checkmark and confirmation that your user has been created.
The last thing we need to do is add the user to the database, so click Go Back, scroll down to Add User To Database, select the user and database, and click Add.
This user will be responsible for the database, so you can give them All Privileges and save the changes.
Next, we need to upload the Joomla .zip file into the root folder of your site. This is typically named “public_html” but depends on what your host has set up on the server. If youre unsure about which folder to upload the file into, its a good idea to ask your hosting service.
To transfer the files, youll need to use an FTP client or you can use the file manager included in your control panel.
For this example, well take the easier option and use the File Manager. Go to your main control panel page and click on the File Manager icon.
Locate your root folder in the file tree on the left, click Upload, select the Joomla installation .zip, and upload the file.
Go back to the file manager, right click on the .zip file you just uploaded, and click Extract.
Once all the files have been extracted, open a browser window and enter the address of your site. You should see a Joomla installation page. Enter your site name and user details and click Next.
On the Database page, enter all the details from the database you created earlier and click Next.
You can check the installation details for your site then click Install.
You should get a green confirmation message saying the installation was successful.
Create Your First Joomla Post
Your site probably looks pretty boring at the moment, so lets start by adding a new post. Posts in Joomla are usually called Articles, and they will make up the majority of your Joomla site. Articles can be categorized by properties such as time and date, meaning its easy to keep all your posts organized.
Most of the development of your site will be done using the Administrators Control Panel.
You can go to the Joomla Administrators Control Panel by adding /administrator to your sites address. For example, if your site is cooljoomlastuff.com, your Control Panel can be found at cooljoomlastuff.com/administrator . To access the Control Panel, youll need to enter your admin username and password.
The Control Panel lets you do a variety of things such as create new posts, add users, read messages, change your site design, and add themes and extensions.
You can access all the features from the top menu, or you can access some of the most useful features from the menu in the left sidebar.
To create a new post, click on New Article under the Content menu in the sidebar.
You should see a text editor that looks just like an old version of Microsoft Office. It functions just like any other word processing software – you can change fonts and font sizes, make text bold, adjust alignment, add media and tables, and even print the document.
To begin with, enter a name for your post and add some text to the post field. When youve finished, click the green Save button.
If you click the Close button, youll be taken back to the Articles page. From here you can see all your articles and their current status (whether or not they have been published).
At the moment, the homepage of our site is only configured to show Featured Articles, so lets make this article Featured by clicking on the yellow star next to the article title.
If you click on the My Joomla link in the top right hand corner of the page, a new window will open with a preview of your site. You should be able to see your first article, ready for the world to read.
Create A Category For Your Post
The next thing youll need to do is assign your article to a specific category. Categories are how you keep all your posts organized. You can create categories based on the type of article, the topic or theme of the article, or any other factor youd like. Categories are hierarchical, which means you can have categories within categories. You can also define category wide settings so they will automatically apply to any article in that category.
To create a new category, go to the top menu bar, highlight Content, Categories and click Add New Category.
Add a title and description for the new category. In the sidebar, you can specify a parent category (a category to which this category will belong).
To add your first article to this category, navigate to the articles menu and click on your article. In the right sidebar, you can select the category from the drop down Category menu. Dont forget to click Save before exiting.
Create A New Page
The difference between posts and pages can be a little difficult to understand at first.
In general, posts are dated content entries that you can add to your site. Posts are designed to be time related – as you add new posts, older posts are shuffled down the order. Posts are good for regularly adding new information to your site, and are often used to encourage conversation.
Pages form the structure of your site. Take a look at any website and youll see its made up of one or more pages. For example, a business website might have a Home page, an About page, an FAQ page and a Products page. Pages are usually static, meaning once you have a good structure in place, you probably wont need to add pages often.
The most important thing to remember about pages is that once youve made one, you need to link it to your site for it to be visible. This is usually done by putting a link in the menu bar.
To create a new Joomla page, go to the top menu and highlight Menus, Main Menu and click on Add New Menu Item. This will create a new page in your Main Menu.
Add a title for your new page in the Menu Title box (well call this one My New Page), select a Menu Item Type (for this example well use a Create Article type, which makes a page to help create articles), and click Save. You can learn more about the different kind of menu item types by reading the Joomla Documentation.
You should now be able to see your new page by viewing your site with My Joomla and clicking on My New Page in the menu sidebar.
Install A Theme
The standard Joomla site looks very basic, so its a good idea to install a theme. In Joomla, themes are usually called Templates.
Templates make it easy to change the style and design of your site. You can choose from a variety of free and paid templates that offer unique options for your page layout, colors, typography, modules and plugins.
Its a good idea to look for a template that is responsive (it automatically changes the layout of your site depending on what kind of device is being used for browsing), is regularly updated, and has good support.
You dont need to limit yourself to just one template. You can download as many templates as you like and switch between them until you find one that suits your style.
To find a template, you can Google Joomla templates, find one you like, and download the template .zip file. Make sure its compatible with your version of Joomla. For this example, well use a free template called jPeople.
To install the template, go to the menu bar and highlight Extensions, Manage and click Install.
You can drop the .zip file in the drag and drop area and it will automatically install.
When the template has successfully installed, click on Go to the Template Manager and click on the star to make your new template the default template.
If you click on My Joomla, you should find that your site looks very different. The colors have changed, the top header is different, and there is a picture slider.
If you want to start customizing your template, click the template name on the Template: Styles page. You should see lots of options such as adding a logo, adding social media links and changing the slide images.
Add Some Extensions
Extensions allow you to easily increase the functionality of your site. If you visit extensions.joomla.org, youll see there are all kinds of extensions for just about any task you can imagine.
Some popular extensions:
- Akeeba Backup, which lets you create a site backup, and makes it easy to restore sites, migrate sites, or even deploy sites to a clients computer.
- Google Maps Plugin, which lets you quickly embed maps on your site.
- JEvents, which adds calendar and events management functionality to your site.
- FaLang, which makes it easy for you to offer multiple language versions of your site.
Adding extensions to your Joomla site is simple. The process is the same as adding a new template. All you have to do is download the .zip file and upload to your site it on the Extensions – Manage page.
For this example, well install the Akeeba Backup extension. Visit the Akeeba Backup page, click on the Get Akeeba Backup link and download the core version for Joomla.
Go back to your Joomla admin panel, go to the menu bar and highlight Extensions, Manage and click Install. Drop the .zip file into the drag and drop area, just like you did with the template.
When the extension has been installed, you can manage it by going to the top menu, highlighting Components and clicking Akeeba Backup.
From here, you can use the extension to backup your site, manage backups, or even schedule automatic backups.
If youve followed this guide from start to finish you should have a basic Joomla site ready to use. You should be able to add posts, add pages, manage menus, change your template and add extensions.
Its important to remember that all this is just the tip of the iceberg. Joomla is both customizable and incredibly powerful. To really get the best out of your Joomla site, your going to have to start exploring all the other functionality Joomla has to offer.
A great place to start is the Joomla Documentation, which has a number of easy to follow tutorials.