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A lesson from the Joomla footer

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This is a Guest Post and does not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of Techzim. We have a strong filtering process of what makes it to our blog and are confident that you’ll enjoy the article below.

This guest article was authored by Prosper Chikomo, an internet entrepreneur and author of Turning Iron into Gold: Golden Opportunities: How to Spot Them, Create Them, Make Money from Them, and How Not to Miss Them (Available on Amazon.com

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JoomlaI was inspired to write this article by a comment from kthacker on a recent article I read on Techzim titled Why not use Free and Open Source Software.

Many years ago, I found something called Joomla. I downloaded its manual and taught myself how to install extensions, templates, etc. I was doing fine, until I got to the damn Joomla footer. I wanted to remove the text in the footer section that says “Joomla is open source software bla bla bla”, and in one attempt a whole bottom section disappeared.

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I searched the internet for answers and all I found did not work. What made it worse were the different Joomla versions available. I really tried to remove it, even following instructions step by step and the damn footer just wouldn’t go away. I even read posts talking about clearing the cache etc. and I did so to no avail.

Then one day I learned that WordPress is open source. I went on to download the software and I was good to go.

How I learned PHP

Probably the first thing I did was to try to delete the footer text in WordPress.

It was so easy that I immediately dumped Joomla for WordPress, and I never looked back.

The point of my article is not to debate which CMS is better, rather, it is to share with software developers the idea that, just that one small “non-core” thing can make or break the success of your product on the market. The Joomla footer text does not change the functioning of Joomla in anyway, but the sophistication and laboriousness of editing it was sure enough to send me into the WordPress camp, which welcomed me with open arms, bells and whistles, and a bottle of rum.

Remember watery AIM toothpaste

Your software may be a true work of art fused with genius, but these are some of the little things that can cause your excellent product to fail on the market if you are not careful and you do not address them. Getting feedback from users can go a long way to help you address these small but influential things.

For me, it was the damn Joomla footer that converted me to WordPress.

If removing the Joomla footer had been easy, I would probably have advanced my Joomla knowledge.

How to create customers for competitors

I am sure I am not the only one in the whole wide world who dumped Joomla for the same reason. Someone may say it’s easy to remove the Joomla footer, but for who? There are many kinds of software users out there with different levels of sophistication. I was a novice, a new customer, a member of the general public, which I still proudly am, but had it been easy for me to edit the Joomla footer text, I would have adopted Joomla, and probably never known WordPress.

If you want your software to be adopted fast by the market, and to continue to be used by the market, including novices who are willing and eager to learn, then make learning how to use the software a breeze.

All right sparky, let’s go!

Even installing the software must not require doing anything unusual or extra-ordinary. One open source software I wanted to try out just would not install in a LAMP environment that I had used for Joomla and WordPress  and virtually everything else. The software needed a different kind of LAMP set-up. Scrounging the internet for a solution, I found many people complaining about how hard it is to install the software. Naturally to this day I don’t touch it. I never care to download it to check if it is now easy to install like Joomla and WordPress.

You must also not expect everyone else to be an expert in your software you created yourself, and therefore only you know inside and out, and even with your level of sophistication.

Getting rich like Bill

If Joomla were a commercial product, the only money its developers/maintainers would have got from me would be just the initial purchase fees and that’s it, whereas WordPress would have got hundreds of millions of US dollars from me by now. Ok a few dollars. Or maybe I wouldn’t have bought it altogether.

But then again, maybe I wasn’t in Joomla’s target market.

The lesson is not just for software engineers and web developers. It also applies to all fields of endeavour, all kinds of products, and all markets.

Not just hardware or software, but service

Right now I am thinking of buying a new computer. The most important things I am considering are not just the hardware specifications like RAM, disk space, and processor speed. No, the most important thing for me is how fast the computer switches on to the operating system, and how fast application software like the word processor loads. I don’t want a computer that will exhaust resources of the national power grid still starting the operating system, taking 5 minutes before I can enter my password, and when you have to demonstrate something to a prospective client, you observe 5 minutes of silence as the computer would still be loading the appropriate software.

It’s about saving me time and money, and a lot of time, days even, spread over my ownership of that computer. So, if a computer takes ages to start, even though it may have 4GB RAM and a 500GB HDD, it still wouldn’t work for me if it is slow. And I am sure many people prefer a faster computer to a slower one, even though it may be slightly faster.

From acorns …

If a computer can save me 5 minutes of waiting per day the first time I switch it on, that translates into more than 30 hours – more than a day – of time saved in a year.

From a software engineering front, if your software takes ages to load, either do something to cut the time it takes to load or you may find people migrating to faster software. It can be a magnificent piece of software, but just the loading time may put many people off. That extra 5 seconds can make or break your product.

In some cases, you also have to research (not guess) what the specifics of a typical user’s computer in your target market are. I remember Western websites having flash all over when flash player was not ubiquitous. Now some Western software companies are taking their software online because broadband is like water in the West. Well, in Africa we still want the product on CD and the key. It is no wonder that some Western companies think Africa has no market, and find their software being pirated en masse.

How mobile networks “steal” customers from banks

I remember signing up for a mobile money transfer product of one bank and just trying to use it the first time on my mobile phone. The steps I had to go through where I was asked for pin numbers every step of the way just put me off and I never used it again. I was curious to see how it works, but when it “ didn’t work” I just dropped it and said nothing to the bank. I am sure I am not the only one who had that experience. But had it worked like a charm, I would most likely have proceeded to do a transaction, and then more transactions, growing my customer lifetime value to the bank.

These may be small things, but they can make or break a very promising start-up or successful business, or even revive a failing business or product.


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46 thoughts on “A lesson from the Joomla footer

  1. I could not put in more plainly myself. I want something that just works. Even Linus Torvalds does not want to compile his Linux distribution from scratch that’s why he prefers distros like Fedora, .use and Ubuntu’

  2. It has always been very easy to remove a Joomla footer. The simplest being editing your template or using an exiting one. If you had read deeper you could even create one yourself.

  3. Removing Joomla footer probably depends on the template you are using. No big deal really. Couldn’t read whole long article though…

  4. If you knew how to code, the footer would not be an issue at all. How can you write about learning code and then complain that you can’t get rid of the footer. It shows that you obviously can’t code at all… #FAIL

    1. This is exemplary of what’s wrong with PHP/CMSes, it’s not the language, but the countless multitudes of people who ‘know’ PHP, but the knowledge is shallow and they know just enough to be dangerous. It looks easy, so easy anyone could do it. Unfortunately people don’t know what they don’t know (unknown unknowns e.g. the author shows evidence of not knowing the templating system in the example), and this is rather dangerous.

      An unfortunately large proportion of PHP ‘developers’ ‘search for solutions on the internet’, and the resultant code is a Frankenstein’s monster of copy-pasted code from different places. There is no hope for security.

      1. I support you 100%. People think if they know how to operate a CMS they are now developers. A true web developer is fluent in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL and a server scripting language(ASP,PHP,JSP,etc). If you are not well versed with almost all these technologies, please, please don’t call yourself a developer. You are a embarrassing the rest of us

        1. The writer doesn’t say anywhere in the article that he is a developer. he learns enough to be on his way with the desired end. It’s a pity he has to learn code simply coz of poorly designed CMSs.

              1. Then am at a loss for words. It is best practice that all software be accompanied by some sort of documentation to explain how it works. All software is also uniquely designed and with its own level of intuitiveness, target users and specific functionality. Different CMSs are designed with specific users in mind. Their customization also deserves a bit more reading that you could not do just by intuition. Not all CMSs are for average Joes.

                For this Joe, he failed to even google it, or doing a simple search on the Joomla forum where information is shared freely by both users and developers.

              2. if i have to RTFM just so i can create content online via a CMS then that’s a sign of poor design.

                I’m In total agreement. However, installing and configuring a CMS is a whole different ballgame, where Reading TFM is an absolute must. CMSes are complex beasts with a lot of moving parts, installer scripts/wizards help, but you need to have a general idea of what you’re doing (for example, what a template is, and how to install and configure your own)

          1. @kabweza:disqus no one is saying the writer said he was a developer. It’s just a comment that came out from the article, I wonder how you missed that(Unless, maybe you a trolling and just want more page views Mr MOD)

            1. Sorry @p4tr10t:disqus, totally misunderstood your comment based on what the first commenter in this thread @e098fa376a660f6841c79389379a6071:disqus said,

              If you knew how to code, the footer would not be an issue at all. How can you write about learning code and then complain that you can’t get rid of the footer. It shows that you obviously can’t code at all… #FAIL

          2. That’s not because of a poorly designed CMS, but depends on the template he’s using. It’s a appalling article. No matter what CMS he had used, could have been in every CMS.

      2. I believe working with an CMS SHOULD be “easy, so easy anyone could do it.” A CMS is software. Software should be as usable as possible to any person regardless of the programming skills level.

        it’s creating your own CMS that should be done by an experienced developer

        1. I agree 100%. But I am willing to bet $1 that you don’t need to delve into the source code to change Joomls’s footer today, and probably at the time the author tried it as well. IIRC, Joomla templates (as of v.1.5) had settings on admin page for various settings (Page title, slogan, footer), but I could be wrong.

    2. Lol!

      I wont say more. there’s a saying that goes RTFM. Even a brilliant coder/developer has to understand the system on which they’re working. There’s no magic

  5. While its good to have something that just works, it is also useful for one to learn how things work before you try them out. You can’t say Joomla is wrong when it was the user’s lack of knowledge that necessitated the move to WordPress.

  6. Guys, the point of the article is that CMS should allow the average Joe to be on their way creating content with as little time as possible spent customising. it should be straight forward. The author doesn’t claim at all that he’s a programmer.

    if you haven’t already please read the following books, that really drive this point home:
    – “Don’t Make Me Think” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_Make_Me_Think
    – “The Design of Everyday Things” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Design_of_Everyday_Things

    1. Joomla has to be one of the most easiest CMSs to deploy. That explains its proliferation(both good and bad). Customization of a template is actually an average Joe undertaking. It is well documented and relatively easy. I know people with absolutely no IT background who have not struggled with figuring where the footer comes from and how to remove it.

    2. That’s exactly the point! You don’t need to be programmer to deploy Joomla, but you need to know how it works.

      If removing the Joomla footer had been easy, I would probably have advanced my Joomla knowledge.

      This sounds like putting the carriage before horse: had the author advanced their knowledge of the platform first, then removing the footer would have been easy.

  7. The user needs to do research before choosing a CMS (or whatever product/app/software). Look at what you need, look at what is available and then make an informed decision.

    The different products (CMSes in this case) are designed differently and have different target audiences. Some CMSes are not designed for the `n00bs`, some are.

    If you want something that just works, try something like: https://www.lightcms.com/. If you want all those Joomla features (http://www.joomla.org/core-features.html), then you will need to have some web dev skills (or get someone to do it for you) because the cms is a lot more complex.

  8. Use the best tool for the job – WordPress works well if you want a blog or a basic CMS website whereas Joomla! is a beast that you can extend via plugins, components and modules. Joomla! has an object oriented API and follows a strict MVC architecture. If you are a professional who cares about code maintenance and good programming practices, then Joomla! is the way to go. *Disclaimer – I’m a Joomla! extension developer.

  9. I will not stop or hinder my desire to learn new things just because i am not an expert at them/it already. I downloaded Joomla for the first time years ago, I wasn’t writing about something that happened yesterday and from that day onwards i learned a lot just by by playing around with WordPress. The Joomla footer is no longer an issue.

    Comments have digressed from the points made in the article. If you go to the comment that inspired me to write the article, kthacker said

    … people will ditch an entire OS because they cant use itunes or
    some other specific app that was developed for windows properly…(even
    if they can use their FOSS pc for email, internet and movies)

    Just like with me many years ago, i ditched Joomla for WordPress. it matters little that your software is better than the other person’s. A second rate software can capture huge market share and make billionaires out of its creators. Even a second rate developer can command the national market while you brag that you know more and are better.

    tinm@n

    Its not poor design. The failure is on the user understanding how it works.

    That is the key to market success, make it so dumb easy for the user. if you search Google right now, you will find folks who tried all sorts of stuff with the Joomla footer without success. in WordPress, it is straight foward. kthacker put it very nicely. its those small things that drive people to the competition.

    in the case of the mobile money transfer thing, its not about understanding it but another small thing – the process of doing it, much like kthacker said.

    We can spend all day arguing about my first time using joomla, the point is, i left Joomla because of that and went for WordPress. if you are a software developer and you have the “smarts” for using your software or more sophisticated software, you can lose an entire market because of that.

      1. That proves my point even further. If we were talking about proprietary software, that would probaly be a call to support. That in itself can be a turn-off to many people. And apart from that, not many people new at something would know what you know right now, or even when you started.

        1. Look Prosper, these people probable don’t even get the gist of the article. I pretty much remember you mentioning that this footer business happened ‘many years ago’ and in your novice era. I don’t understand why these people want to be on about Joomla! and ease of removing a footer like that’s all this article is about; yet at some point they had to be digging deep in search of that very solution that is as much on their fingertips now. All of y’all were not born pros for pit’s sake!

  10. <rant>

    No offence to the respectable Techzim and all its authors, but shouldnt we have topics researched on first before posting? I do not think any form of backlash from your community has ill-intentions. Like you, we are technical people of various levels and forms of expertise. How else do we react if we see articles that we know(technically) are not true?
    </rant>

    1. @tinmann:disqus Didn’t consider this as backlash at all. I consider it a discussion where people are saying what the feel is correct and defend their points of view, which is brilliant. We love it.

      And yes, as usual, a sincere thank you for the feedback. It’s always very useful.

  11. Anybody sported how the Guest Author learned PHP? Read the article twice in a hurry and missed it twice. Please help …. anyone.

  12. I don’t get most of the comments, I thought the author was just saying if you create software or any tool it should be simple enough for the user. You don’t create software for other developers but sometimes for people who can only read and write.

  13. Funny that TechZim cant handle technical scrutiny but they had a go at the ZOL advert and so many other things they found wrong in the Zim tech landscape. Author just showed his ignorance of Joomla. People pointed it out.Now its an opinion piece. Talk about stubborn

  14. What a unnecessary basing off Joomla in this article. Joomla is way better than WP in most cases. And removing the footer is a piece of cake.

    Anyway, most serious people would make their own templates so than the relevance is gone of removing something. Than Joomla is way up there. Better and easier to make templates for and also much more advanced while for the average users (clients) very easy to handle. I have a lot of customers and they like Joomla a lot.

  15. Its official, TECH ZIM hates Joomla installs! Its does nothing but rubbish Joomla, from the security to a footer.

    Joomla has empowered many SME’s and Developers to enter the world wide web.

    Stop being Tech SNOBS!!

  16. I think most people dont understsnd what a CMS is at all. Joomla only manages your content and helps out in functionality in the form of plugins and modules. Joomla is awesome but obviously if the content you are uploading or creating onto it is bad you will think Joomla is also bad. Most of these so called “web developers” just install ready made themes and fail to tweak them then they blame Joomla for their lack of knowledge. Joomlas weakness from my point of view is just the SEO compared to WordPress and Drupal. Im also not really a fan of Joomla because there is the simple WordPress and the mighty Drupal. Lets not blame CMSes because we cannot code. If you build custom themes/templates you will not find find yourself blaming these CMSes.

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