Blue Heron Services completed a sizable Joomla! website upgrade project this year. I know there are 1000’s of sites running Joomla! 1.x out there so I thought I would share the project details.  The project shows off how web owners can build their site without having to go 100% custom.  The site is an online community which sells memberships for online access and also hosts a popular forum.  It was developed in 2008 using Joomla! Content Management System (CMS) version 1.5.23.  Fast forward 8 years and the site was hobbling along with much needed attention. Check it out http://www.lafayettekayakfishing.com

Some Background

The Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club has a website for it’s club members.  It primarily provides Membership purchases and the forum has over 1200 users who interact daily for the latest fishing reports.  The club hosts 6 tournaments and 12 monthly meetings and they use an integrated calendar/events application to display these events and all the details.  Within the tournament pages users enter the tournaments and pay via PayPal.

PayPal Forces Hand

The old site used legacy technologies that were too dated for Paypal. Actually Paypal sent threatening emails on multiple occasions indicating they would shut down use of payments.  The site needed an upgrade to accept memberships and tournaments payments which was hundreds of transactions per year.  So this was pretty critical for the club to have minimal downtime, especially with an event coming up that requires payments online for ecommerce.  We performed a full backup of the site and created a sandbox to run through all portions of the site.

What is Joomla!?

Joomla! was created in 2005 and is a free, open-source content management system (CMS) for publishing websites and content.  It has been used globally by developers along with other mainstream solutions.

Joomla! Modules and Plugins

In the Joomla! world modules are software components built by 3rd parties and are made available to web developers.   The site uses many modules. Some are free and some require purchase.  I”m going to run through the major components, what they do and mention notables from the upgrade.

Kunena

Kunena is a module for hosting a forum and is the heart of the site.  This was a straighforward upgrade but we also had to update the Tapatalk plugin which exposes the forum to the Tapatalk mobile app.  But it was a huge critical piece of the upgrade puzzle being that most users logged into the site to get on the forum and communicate.  Needless to say we were concerned of losing 8 years of forum data.  But Kunena makes it pretty simple to migrate all of the data up.  No issues really and all old threads have been ported over.  One issue we found was having the old Tapatalk plugin on the old site while attempting to test the plugin on the development site on a subdomain.  Tapatalk only wants 1 plugin per domain so we had to strip and replace.

Event Page / Calendar

We had to completely replace EventList, a module originally developed by “Schlu”, whatever that is.  Most site owners that had EL running loved it.  But it had not been updated in years and it was time to move forward since EL disappeared.  Since we already had a RSJoomla product (RSMemberships!) we looked at RSEvents! Pro which we found fit in nicely.  We just had to recreate all of our old events.  It’s a full-featured Events Management package that includes payment integration built into the system.  It also sends out email notifications to subscribers and admin which is nice. First we wanted a simple listing of all 25-30 events for the entire year.  We didn’t want a calendar page that you’d have to scroll through.  Here’s an image of a simple list-Events
All events now have a tournament registration join button that seamlessly takes care of data collection from the user, online payments and user submissions tracking.  JoinWe used to have a link on the event page to register which took users to RSForm Pro! which is a form app that we were able to do away with. RSEvents has it’s own built in form for payment.  It captures email, name, allows user to select tickets and then pay which we used the Paypal integration.  he backend shows admin all transactions, incomplete and completed.  The event on front end also shows list of registered users for the event (not shown).Form

 

RSMemberships!

Made by RSJoomla and will run you about $52 for a site subscription annually.  RSM is meant for selling membership access to website content so not really for a local club selling memberships.  But it was the closest thing we could find off the shelf so we made it work and it does.  LKFC also needed a module that allows automatically managing of hundreds of individual memberships with a 365 day period each.  RSM fit in nicely with the requirements.  It has a PayPal plugin for accepting online payments directly into our account.  It also sends one reminder to expiring memberships at predefined days before expiration.  I wish it allowed for more than one though, such as 2 follow up emails after expiration.  Membership reporting is less than desirable.  We can get a list of all active memberships which is good but beyond that the reporting could use improvement.

Community Builder

Community Builder is a flexible and powerful add-on application that manages a social network of registered users on the Joomla! platform.  It is what houses users profiles within a site.  It does a whole lot more than just that but essentially that is what this site is using it for.  Very straightforward upgrade of CB.  They don’t change of ton within CB over years so upgrading this is straightforward.

Conclusion

Joomla! is a solid choice for a CMS system if you are considering building a website for an organization.  It may not be as well known as some of the others but it has many powerful features. For an organization that is looking to build an online network within their site, host a forum and manage events, Joomla! is a great off-the-shelf solution.  Joomla! CMS combined with RSEvents!, RSMemberships! and Kunena Forum is a folid match of web products.

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