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Building complex sites with Joomla

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How to survive complex web projects, tips and tricks for joomla sites

How to survive complex web projects, tips and tricks for joomla sites

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  • 1. building complex sites with Joomla*
    j and beyond 2010
    paul delbar, delius
    * and how not to get hurt doing it
  • 2. objectives
    share experiences about handling complexity
    how to do this with joomla
    warning !
    most of this presentation is not joomla-specific
  • 3. what do we mean by a complex site ?
  • 4. projects that tend to be complex
    migrations from other CMSs
    sites with complex content structures
    strongly typed or interrelated content
    online applications or platforms
    sites with an extensive functional element
    integrations with other (non-site) systems
    anything with vague requirements
    insufficiently clear and/or under constricted timelines
    building things you have never built before
  • 5. customer issues that make it complex
    lack of skills
    low process maturity
    unrealistic expectations
    very complex requirements
    poor communication and coordination
    budget issues
    timeline issues
    lack of a strategic perspective
  • 6. example : simplantacademy.org
    original project
    someone’s first Joomla site
    late and over budget
    (really) badly coded
    ‘can you fix this ?’
    customer had
    bad experience
    little technical knowledge
    an unclear process
  • 7. example : avrr.belgium.iom.int
    25th anniversary of REAB
    academic session, press, …
    discussed in March
    started September
    customer
    had 5 weeks until the event
    had no content available
    runs web projects like any enterprise IT project
    joint project with
  • 8. in general, areas of complexity are related to
    the technical architecture chosen
    how visitors wil experience the site
    visual design and user experience
    content and data to publish on the site
    features and functional elements
    other software solutions to integrate
    operational parameters (speed, size, …)
    the process driving changes to the site
    architecture
    navigation
    visuals
    content
    functionality
    integration
    operations
    process
  • 9. how to handle complexity
  • 10. 1. take the red pill
  • 11. 2. get to know your customer
  • 12. invest in effective communication
    to understand your customer, you should
    listen, listen, listen
    observe and learn about their way of doing business
    create a relationship
    based on mutual respect
    enabling open and factual discussions
    focused on your customer’s success
  • 13. ways to mess this up
    start the relationship by talking about yourself
    make sure you demo at least three large sites
    make technology the centerpiece of your offer
    avoid discussions about budgets and timeline
    ignore what happens after the site is live
    do not challenge the customer’s requirements
    assume content will be available on time
  • 14. the sales phase : foundation for success or …
    establish the correct sequence of events
    document and communicate your sales strategy
    my favorite quote structure
    background environment variables
    problem definition what the customer needs
    solution principle how you will fix it
    statement of work what you will do to get there
    estimate summary what efforts it will take
    financial offer what it will cost
    general conditions how you will do business
  • 15. develop a long-term plan
  • 16. 3. structure the project
  • 17. avoid heroic project targets
    avoid big bang projects
    use prototypes, pilots, phased rollouts
    don’t be afraid to split the budget over phases
    be clear on go/nogo milestones
    cleanup jobs : fix one issue at a time
    chances are you’ll discover more problems as you go
    don’t kill the patient in surgery
    do not let budget and time constraints rush you
    walk away from the deal if you need to
  • 18. help the customer understand how you work
    define each project phase
    analysis
    design
    implementation
    rollout
    maintenance
    by an explicit definition of
    phase objectives and end conditions
    deliverables
  • 19. example of a methodology summary
    this approach agrees very well with Joomla
  • 20. example of a quote
  • 21. 4. take your time to analyze and design
  • 22. the purpose of analysis
    to understand what the customer wants
    develop a common terminology
    not: teach them about components and modules
    break this into content, function, visual, navigation, …
    explain the process you propose to follow
    make progress visible : document what you learn
    use sketches, flipcharts, documents, …
    share results and actively request feedback
  • 23. the purpose of design
    to describe what you will build
    must be some form of documentation
    should cover all elements of the stack
    try not to loose the customer in translation
    ensure they feel comfortable sharing that you lost them
  • 24. analysis and design : navigation
    discuss the intended target audience
    translate this into a mindmap
    evolve into menu items for each tpe of visitor
  • 25. analysis and design : navigation
    complete the navigation design (Excel sheet)
    build a ‘menu mockup’
    will serve as an initial version once you start building
  • 26. analysis and design : visual
    wireframes work well with Joomla
    very clear separation into components and modules
    our favorite: WireframeSketcher (Eclipse plugin)
    prepare work sessions with customers
    first, establish sample menu/component layouts
    print empty pages and sketch or cut/paste modules
  • 27. analysis and design : visual
  • 28. analysis and design : content
    discuss and document a conceptual content model
    and here’s where Joomla doesn’t really shine ...
  • 29. 5. content: a matter of semantics
  • 30. example: 11.be
    consortium of non-profits working in the south
    original site
    mambo 4.5.3
    heavily hacked core
    objective
    upgrade to 1.5
    migrate content
    add functionality
  • 31. example: 11.be
    initial analysis: 3 weeks
    reviewing current site : what is being displayed
    review database structure : how is it stored
    conclusion
    everything is an article, a category or a section
    countries are categories
    articles (real) are articles (j)
    articles can describe multiple countries
    com_content was hacked to link articles to multiple categories
  • 32. … and everything becomes an article !
  • 33. translating the semantic content structure
    approach #1 : flatten into com_content
    approach #2: build your own component
    approach #3 : use a CCK extension
    approach #4: use one|content
  • 34. do not make everything an article
  • 35. 6. architecture : use a strong foundation
  • 36. example : ngo-openboek.be
  • 37. example : ngo-openboek.be
    three separate building blocks
    crisp interface definitions
    find a balance between
    does this make the project more complex ?
    does this make future modifications easier ?
    live public information
    data entry application
    data cube
    graph/grid
    API
  • 38. architecture matters
    encapsulate and interface
    use tried & tested design patterns
  • 39. 6. migrating: build the right tools
  • 40. example: broederlijkdelen.be
    belgian nonprofit
    original site
    old-style CMS
    provider bankrupted
    here’s the data dump
    we’ll get another one just before go-live
    can you start building ?
    now ?
  • 41. tools make your life so much easier
    migration tools
    script the entire conversion
    improve as you discover errors
    allows you to keep the live site running
    and update content just before go-live
  • 42. 7. start small but plan to grow tall
  • 43. example : biketowork.be
  • 44. example : biketowork.be
    J1.5 integrated with SugarCRM (one|content)
    uses standard SugarCRM SOAP-interface for updates
    lots of personalized, real-time content (no caching)
    originally (NOV08) targeted at 500-1000 users
    currently 7000+ users and climbing fast
    2000 visits/day in a short time window
  • 45. how you can achieve scalability
    decouple components and (sub)systems
    makes it easier to replace/rescale a single element
    helps to encapsulate low-level caching strategies
    refactor often (evolution)
    monitor performance, fix the bottleneck, repeat
    be ready for a step change (revolution)
    sometimes, it just gets too big
    be prepared to question the initial architecture
    in this case, dump SugarCRM
  • 46. good luck !
    questions can be submitted at your own risk
  • 47. and on a lighter note …
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgoKh-QbOMQ