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My personal site on assignments in Afghanistan, Armenia, etc

Posted: Sun Jan 04, 2009 9:21 pm
by gmaassen
I have worked on my personal website for some time as an example how one can build a non-commercial personal and hopefully professional looking site with free extensions only.

It serves as an archive and introduction to my academic publications, and management experience with business development and judicial reform projects, legislative initiatives and educational programs in developing countries such as Afghanistan, Macedonia and Armenia.

The audience of the site is relatively limited:
  • Students and other course participants who like to download materials;
  • Other professionals who work in developing countries who may want to read some of my work and/or get inspiration to set up their own sites for their projects; and
  • Showcase what is possible with Joomla.
What do you think of the layout, color scheme? Too many bells and whistles, or is it balanced?
Am I missing components? Is it easy to find information on the site?

Any feedback is more than welcome!

Extensions: One of the great aspects of Joomla is the availability of many excellent components, modules and plug-ins. The challenge in many ways, however, is to find extensions you like. I have outlined below the free extensions used for the site.

Although I have tried to minimize the number of extensions, I felt that the following were needed as a minimum to get the site going:

File Management: I used Docman as the document repository. It is a user friendly component with many interesting plug-ins and excellent support forums. I used the following docman plug-ins and modules:
  • • The doclink plug-in: Used to link to documents that are in the docman system
  • • The docman catdown model: This module shows you all files from a category in the article. We use the “loadposition” tag in articles to show the list of documents in an article.
  • • The mjaztools autopopulate component to upload many documents at once. This was especially useful when we populated the website.
  • • The latest downloaded and most downloaded modules
I did not use the bot_docman_search plug-in. Instead, I am using the Customproperties component for the website’s search function.

Searching the Site: I used for some time the standard search module of Joomla!, but found out the more you publish in the system, the longer the lists of search results tend to be. To narrow down the search, I came across “tag” extensions in the JED. The site uses the Customproperties component and its mod cpsearch. Users can search the entire site or certain parts of the site with this component.

I did not use the plug-in plg-cptags of Customproperties, because it does show tags on the frontpage after the read more button.

Photo Galleries: I was particularly interested in a gallery that generates thumbnails automatically with a nice shadow and border. I finally ended up with the free version of Easy Picture Gallery because of the quality of thumbnails and the limited number of pictures I wanted to show on the site. I would have used phocagallery for larger photo repositories.

Linking Urls: When I started with Joomla, I could not believe that you cannot link to other articles. The “Linkr” component and button plugin are installed for the website to make it possible. I used for the project management tools article together with Xtypo to mimic a image menu.

Xtypo: This is used to style some articles with CSS without the need to understand CSS.

Sitemap: Phoca documentation is used for the site as a sitemap.

Section-Ex: This component is also used to provide visitors an overview of content, for example, the list of publications and FAQs.

Feedback: The joomlacomment component is used to give visitors the opportunity to leave comments on the site. I figured that it would be nice for students to leave a note on the site.

Tabs and slides: For a few larger articles in the section on projects, I used a simple but very easy to use plugin by joomlaworks.

Template: The free version of JSN Epic 2.0 by Joomlashine is used. It gives a lot of flexibility to adjust the layout of your template.

Backups: I have installed Lazybackup so I get weekly updates from the system with a copy of the database. Joomlapack has been installed because it creates a nice zip file of all docs and directories.

References to Other Articles: For this, we use RandomContent - a plug-in to show related articles below the page “You may also be interested in these articles:” You can also use modules available in the JED for this purpose and place them in template positions.

SEO: For search engine optimization, I looked for something that would automatically enter keywords and text in the metadata files. For keywords, I use the “Add Keywords” plugin and for metadata the “SEO Simple – metadata” extension. I did not bother to use SEF, because google seems to find my site easily.

Re: My personal site on assignments in Afghanistan, Armenia, etc

Posted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 11:16 pm
by natureguided
Sir... You're site looks great. I especially like your use of images in the header for your pages and the menu bar beneath. The overall color scheme goes well with your images. I think that the overall design is clean and crisp; balanced and to the point. Good job. I'm new to Joomla and have been looking at various templates for days. What you've done with your site is very much the look that I've been searching for myself. I'm an older student, 50+ finally finishing an undergraduate degree started many years ago. As part of my senior project, I want to create a companion website for a prototype information guide for Everglades National Park. I want some of my own photos to be the first view that visitors get when they enter my site my site. I also want a clean look and decent photo galleries within the site. So you've given me some good ideas just by looking at your work. I'm also appreciating your photo galleries. Thanks for your discussion above into how you put together the elements of your site. My only question is that after using the free version of JSN Epic 2.0, do you think that you could have gained anything from the paid pro version, or did this one cover all the bases for you? What you've done looks very good. Thanks for sharing... Rick

Re: My personal site on assignments in Afghanistan, Armenia, etc

Posted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 1:46 am
by gmaassen
Dear Rick,

Thanks so much for your review. Much appreciated.

The idea behind this project is to showcase what is possible utilizing the excellent work that is provided by the community for free. Although there are many great templates available at reasonable prices, I felt it would be more fun to do a bit more research and see what is possible without joining a template club or something like that.

I looked for a FREE template that offers many positions for modules. Many free templates are a bit limited when it comes to this. After a long search I found JSN EPIC.

To see the positions for modules in a template, you can use a trick: for example, for my website you can type This shows the positions in the JSN template

.../?tp=0 shows the site without the positions.

The template gives you the opportunity to manage the width of the template (in the template settings), so it is very easy to align the header image with the rest of the site (I just make sure the logo width has the same pixels as the template width). I also like the way the template renders text and like the images the designer have used for the read more button.

The professional version provides more positions and options (in the template editor), which I did not really need. It also provides extra settings such as the template color which I could change in the template CSS file directly if that were needed. If I were to develop websites for professional use, I certainly would consider the pro version of this template.

Best greetings and good luck with the project. Will certainly visit the website.


Re: My personal site on assignments in Afghanistan, Armenia, etc

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 6:25 pm
by designguru
I really like the site - its a great example of how Joomla can quickly help you develop a site with the various tools you need...

Thanks for the write up on which extensions you chose; I just posted a link to this thread on my blog ( ... -downloads) so that more people can find it!



Re: My personal site on assignments in Afghanistan, Armenia, etc

Posted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:41 pm
by gmaassen
Thanks Qasim, the link appears to have increased traffic.

Meanwhile we have added one extra plug-in: BIGSHOT Google Analytics - this allows us to follow traffic to the site.

It is amazing how much information is available once you use Analytics. This plug-in is very useful and as with all other extension on my site, for free. Just make sure you sign up with Google for a web-ID (also for free and really easy to do), enter the web ID in the plug-in and activate the plug-in.

We will post again an update if we have found another useful extension for the site. We also keep track of the extensions we use on the site in the FAQ section: ... &Itemid=64

Re: My personal site on assignments in Afghanistan, Armenia, etc

Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 10:51 pm
by gmaassen
JCE Editor: How could we forget to mention JCE Editor. It is an advanced, configurable WYSIWYG editor for Joomla! based on Moxiecode's TinyMCE. Includes advanced Image/Media, File and Link handling, plugin support, and an Administration interface for editor configuration. I use it for example to link urls to images in articles. I tried the readmoreext1.5 plugin that does this automatically, but it appears not to work for articles listed when you use Section-Ex as we do for this site.

Make sure that you enable the editor in the "Global Configuration" and/or in the "User Manager" for each user that wants to use this editor for your site.

Re: My personal site on assignments in Afghanistan, Armenia, etc

Posted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 3:50 pm
by gmaassen
Interactive Maps

First of all, thanks so much for the many positive emails about the site. Although nearly complete, we got the feedback that an interactive map would make the site more interesting, so we did:

We use amMap as our interactive map. There are many extensions available for the Google map API, but they often look the same. So, we wanted something we could tailor to the color scheme we use.

We use this tool to show locations of assignments. You can also use it to show your offices, routes of your journeys, create your distributor map, etc. Photos or illustrations can be used instead of maps, so you can make different presentations, e-learning tools and more. YOS amMap is a Joomla extension which integrates almost all amMap features.

As with all "our" extensions on the site, it is for free.