Interview with Cory Webb of Joomlaform & HowtoJoomla

Cory WebbWe’re delighted to announce a new feature here at Alledia.

Every Monday for the next few weeks, we’ll be interviewing people closely involved in developing for Joomla

First up is Cory Webb, the talented web designer who is involved in running two key Joomla sites:

If that, wasn’t enough, in addition to working with Joomlashack.com, he also has a full-time job.

Last week he was kind enough to submit to our questions about himself and about building templates for Joomla.

1) Hi Cory. Could you tell us a little about yourself? How did you come to Joomla? What’s your background? How do you pay the bills at the moment? Was it inevitable that you’d end up working on the Internet with a name like that?

Hi Steve. Thanks for interviewing me!

I am 27 years old, and I live in the great state of Texas…pretty close to President Bush’s ranch. I have been married for five-and-a-half years to a beautiful woman named Carly, and I have a 1-year-old daughter named Lucy.

I started using Mambo over 3 years ago when I was searching for a CMS to develop a website for the company that I work for. I found Mambo on OpenSourceCMS.com, and immediately decided that it was the best solution for my needs at the time. The rest, as they say, is history.

I have an electrical engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin (http://www.utexas.edu), and I worked for a major computer company as a hard drive qualification engineer (yes, it was as boring as it sounds) for a couple of years after college. I then moved to Waco to pursue an MBA from Baylor University ( http://www.baylor.edu). Since that time, I have worked full time as a programmer for a small healthcare software company, which is how I currently pay the bills. Since May, I have also been working with the team at JoomlaShack.com developing custom Joomla! templates for clients.

I guess it was inevitable that I’d end up working on the internet with a name like Webb. It was either work on the internet or become Spiderman. I still haven’t given up on the Spiderman dream, though. šŸ™‚

2) Have you worked or designed with other systems apart from Joomla? If so, how do they compare?

Before I found Mambo, I attempted to develop my own CMS using ASP.NET and a MS Access database due to restrictions with the hosting company that my client was using. It wasn’t pretty. I’ll never try that again.

I have also worked with a proprietary CMS that is marketed toward churches in my area. It was very limiting in terms of what you could do with the design. They were trying to make it easier for anyone to change the look of a site, but in doing that they tied the hands of any designer who wanted to make a totally custom design.

I’ve dabbled a little with Drupal and WordPress. I think they are both great systems, and I don’t think there is enough room to get into comparing Joomla! with Drupal and WordPress. There are plenty of articles out there that do a much better job of comparing the systmes than I could. Suffice it to say, I will stick with Joomla!

3) How did you get involved with Joomlashack and what’s your role there? What can we expect to see from the site in 2007?

Actually, I got involved with JoomlaShack through JoomlaForm. Barrie North submitted his site, CompassDesigns.net, to the JoomlaForm showcase which started a conversation between him and me. Long story short, he asked if I wanted to join the team as a freelance designer, and I said yes. I have always admired the work that they do, so it was a no brainer for me to want to join the team.

I work for them on a contract basis as a Joomla! template designer. In the time that I have worked for them, I have developed multiple custom templates, converted existing designs to Joomla! templates, and helped customize existing JoomlaShack templates to suit clients’ needs.

I think 2007 will be a great year for Joomla! in general. With the upcoming release of Joomla! 1.5, there will be a lot of exciting things happening in the community. I think you will see some fantastic templates coming from JoomlaShack in the coming months. Joomla! 1.5 removes some of the barriers inherent in Joomla! 1.0.x in terms of completely custom designs, and you can expect JoomlaShack to take full advantage of the new features available in Joomla! 1.5.

4) On Joomlaform.com you mention that sites “should not use tables in the design”. Could you explain why modern web designers are so keen to design without tables?

That’s a great question. I spent some time discussing this in a post at JoomlaForm.com, but I’ll summarize it here. The 4 main reasons I use tableless design are:

  • the W3 says we should not use tables for layout
  • imporoved accessibility for people with disabilities
  • greater flexibility with CSS-driven design
  • greater efficiency

If you want more evidence of the power of a tableless, CSS-driven design, check out CSS Zen Garden.

5) On a related topic, do you have any tips and tricks for removing tables from Joomla websites? Are there specific areas of Joomla where we need to be careful?

With Joomla! 1.0.x, it is impossible to remove all of the tables from your website without hacking core code. But, there are steps you can take to remove most of the tables.

For modules, you can add a parameter to the “mosLoadModules” command so that all modules in a given position will be rendered in div elements rather than in tables. I have a more detailed explaination of this at HowToJoomla.net.

For menus, if you are using the core menu module, I recommend setting the menu style to “flat list”. That way, the menu will be rendered in an unordered list (ul-li) rather than in a table. I like to use 3rd-party menu modules like Extended Menu so I can have greater control over my menu output.

The HTML in your template should not have any tables. It is possible (and recommended) to create a multi-column layout without using a single table. Don’t believe me? Check out Layout Gala.

6) Joomlaform.com mentions “logical, easy-to-use navigation”. Do you have any advice of setting up navigation? Should drop-down menus be avoided? Is there a sensible limit to the number of menus and/or menu items?

The answer to this is, it depends on the purpose and audience of your site. Some basic rules that I like to apply are 1) keep it simple, and 2) make it obvious. It should be obvious to anyone visiting your site where your menu with a quick glance. It should also be easy for your visitors to scan the menus quickly to find the link they are looking for.

I actually like drop-down menus, as long as they are obviously drop-down menus. It is a great way to organize a large menu without cluttering the page.

As far as number of menus goes, I think there should be one main meun in a very obvious location, and perhaps one or 2 sub menus depending on the navigation needs of your site. The number of menu items also depends on the needs of your site. I like to keep the main menu down to no more than 8 menu items. Any more than that, and it is probably time to consider re-organizing your menu structure to include some sub menus.

7) Joomlaform.com mentions sites “should make good use of graphics”. What graphics software do you use to create and optimize graphics? Why did you choose .gif as the main format for Joomlaform?

For most projects, I use Adobe Fireworks. It is simply the easiest program for creating web graphics. Occasionally, if the project necessitates it, I will use Adobe Photoshop.

Selecting a graphic format should be based on 3 factors: color, quality and compression. For images with few colors (like the JoomlaForm logo and the background fade image in the bottom section of the page), the .gif format is appropriate because it provides the greatest compression without giving up quality. If you are developing an image with several colors and perhaps a gradient effect, sometimes it is better to go with a format like .png so you do not lose any of the detail and quality of the image. For photographs, I almost always use the .jpg format because it provides the greatest quality and compression.

8) As a designer, what benefits are you looking forward to with Joomla 1.5?

The main benefit is the ability to override the HTML output of core extensions. Completely tableless design will finally be a reality in Joomla! 1.5. I can’t wait to see the crop of new designs that will accompany the release of Joomla! 1.5.

I am also excited about the re-design of the Joomla! framework. I think that as PHP developers recognize the power and simplicity of the new framework, we will start to see web applications and internet startups spring up around the framework in much the same way that applications and startups have sprung up around Ruby on Rails.

9) Do you have any new projects in 2007 we should be looking out for?

I have a couple of ideas that I’m working on, but I am keeping them under wraps for now. In the meantime, I will continue working on projects for JoomlaShack for as long as they’ll let me. šŸ™‚