Joomla! and the Template of Doom

Just over a year ago I began planning the migration and updating of Now Hitting. This was necessary since the Arizona Diamondbacks had decided to change their colors from Purple and Teal to Sedona Red, Sonoran Sand, and Black. I’m not going to get into my feelings on the subject of the color change, those have been written about ad nauseum on Diary of a Diehard. The point was that I was faced with the task of updating a system to change the color scheme and potentially the layout. In a Web 2.0 type of world, this wouldn’t be a problem. You would simply open up the cascading style sheet (CSS), make a few changes to the color values and wha-la, a new look and feel with minimal effort. Yeah, that’s great but unfortunately Now Hitting has been in existence since 1998 which predates much of the internet technology including CSS. Ten years would place the original Now Hitting somewhere in the Mesozoic era probably in the Triassic period. I was definitely dealing with a websiteosaurus of epic proportions.

It was not just that I didn’t have CSS at the time I wrote that site, I didn’t own any kind of development platform. As a result, each page was individually coded by hand in HTML version 3.2. That wouldn’t be so bad if the site were something small like 10-12 pages. Now Hitting though had chronicled the history of the Arizona Diamondbacks and had roughly 400-600 pages. That would mean that I would need to modify each page individually. That in itself was a daunting task that I was dreading. As I opened the first few pages I realized that I had succumbed to the dreaded table-itis using HTML tables for all layouts. I quickly realized that I was going to be updating until the Diamondbacks celebrated their 20th anniversary. Something was going to need to happen to make managing this web site a little easier. I began searching for a new platform where I could move the information and keep it in a rational order that would not take me quite so long to manage and update.
At the time I had no idea that what I was looking for was a Content Management System (CMS). After some extensive research I realized this was indeed what I was looking for. At the time there were several available but the primary one garnering the attention was something called Mambo. I began looking into this CMS about the time when there was a falling out within the Mambo community causing the developers of this open source system to split off and form a new project called Joomla!. Joomla! was a system that would allow me to differentiate the content from the presentation and make the site more dynamic. It was database driven so the pages were actually created on the fly rather than static as had been the case with the first iteration of Now Hitting. This was definitely what I needed and so I waited until the first release of Joomla! to be posted then began creating the framework for the new Now Hitting. The transformation took longer than I had anticipated mostly due to the fact that I had to learn Joomla! plus try to decide how to put Now Hitting back together. The effort took most of the off-season but was completed in time for 2007 Spring Training. Besides learning Joomla! I also created my first CSS-based template for Joomla! 1.0.x. The system had a distinct look and feel to it and more importantly it validated to proper (X)HTML and CSS 2.0. With my new CMS and template I was able to grow the content substantially faster than I had been able to do when I was coding by hand. The result was that the site went from 400 pages to roughly 2,000 pages of content as I began to fill in needed information in the historical timeline of the Diamondbacks. I figured that I had found content nirvana. I should have never said that.
Recently the Joomla! community has introduced version 1.5.x which is substantially different than 1.0.x. By substantially different I mean it is not a simple point release upgrade. No instead it is a migration moving content from one type of data store to the next. Nearly everything about 1.5.x is different and as such many of the modules will not work natively within 1.5.x. I am now at another cross roads and over the next few months I will begin the arduous task of once again migrating NowHitting to a new platform with new templates. Hopefully this will be relatively painless but I highly doubt that. I already have a list as long as my pitching arm of changes I want to make. Some of the changes are in content; a lot are in usability and presentation meaning that once again I’ll be developing more templates. I am still gathering requirements so if any of you are active consumers of NowHitting please feel free to contact me with ideas and suggestions. I’m pretty open to changes right now and who knows maybe I’ll make you famous (well as famous as someone can be when they are recognized online).

One Comment

  1. Jeff Blogs says:

    Fonts and the Web

    With my decision to move to Joomla! 1.5 began the long and arduous task of identifying what would work, what would not work, and what possibilities I had to make things cooler. I started out downloading Joomla! 1.5.3 and installing…

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