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Joomla Developer: A Viable Career?

written by: sherisaid•edited by: Robin L.•updated: 7/31/2010

Joomla is supposed to be a tool designed for anyone to use, but is it really? Content updates can be managed by almost anyone, but most businesses require ongoing programmer support for feature customization, making Joomla programming a new and exciting niche for enterprising web developers.

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    What is Joomla?

    Joomla is a free, open source content management system (CMS) used to create and manage websites. The primary language used is PHP and it can be integrated with numerous support systems to create a feature-rich content management system. Content data is stored in mySQL database format. An attractive, user-friendly interface and editable look and feel make it a great base for a professional website, short-cutting many common tasks and the time it would take to create the same features from scratch.

    When Joomla was first introduced in 2005, it caused much excitement in the web development community. The appeal is primarily the built-in back office featuring a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) text editor, allowing non-tech clients to update their own content with little or no programming knowledge. This is a boon to both client and developer, lessening the cost of paying a Joomla developer to take care of routine, day-to-day tasks of updating the site, and freeing developers to concentrate on projects more suited to their skills.

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    Is it as simple as it sounds?

    Businesses that were quick to adopt Joomla soon discovered that options are limited for people with no Joomla programming experience. Lay people may be able to work with templates and set up simple features, but customization requires at least an intermediate understanding of PHP, with some additional experience in CSS, mySQL and database architecture. Businesses wishing to save money on programming costs quickly found themselves mired in special needs they were poorly equipped to handle, and the specialized field of Joomla development was born.

    The open source nature of Joomla's code makes it endlessly extensible; anyone can write modules to adapt and customize the system, and many developers offer modules on their own websites. However, even utilizing prewritten code, integration and customization can be tricky. Ready-made components include common features like photo albums, guestbooks, forums and event calendars. Since every business has different requirements for collecting and reporting customer information, a plugin component that addresses the specific needs of a business would be nearly impossible.

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    What does that mean to web developers?

    With expectations of simplicity dashed, and time and money already sunk into a Joomla -based website, many businesses today are scouring the web for experienced Joomla developers. Building a brand as an expert in a specific field is a good way to jump-start a career. It's a booming market and a great opportunity for a programmer with a good understanding of PHP to develop that talent into a freelance or in-house Joomla programming career.