To continue our Interview Series with the world-known CMS experts, today it’s our pleasure to have a chat with Tessa Mero. College instructor who’s very passionate about open source projects, Tessa is also specializing in Joomla! related database migrations. Fortunately, she agreed to share her opinion on a range of Joomla!-related topics with us – therefore, sit back and enjoy the interview.
First of all, we are pleased to interview you, Tessa. It seems like you were born a developer, weren’t you?:) When did you discover your interest in technology and Joomla CMS in particular?
I guess you can say I was born into technology. My dad was always a computer guru and would always build his own computers and give me his hand me downs. I started typing at crazy speeds by 10 years old. By age 14, people in school would crowd around me to watch how fast I type. It really shocked people. I’ve been in love with computers since being a child.
I discovered Joomla! while I was in college working on a degree in web application development. I knew CMS’s existed after taking a class on it. I got a job as a web application developer while still in college and needed a quick platform to start coding in. After I downloaded Joomla for the first time, my company sent me through OSTraining live classes and also sent me to a Joomla conference in New York City. After you meet the Joomla community, there is NO going to any other options!
You have developed a new course at the college: SEO and CMS, with the focus on Joomla. When and how did this idea came to your mind? Is there any story connected with it?
So this idea started while I was teaching a live PHP class. I used to sneak in about 10 minutes of talking about Joomla. It amazed me how excited students would get about how CMS’s work. After that, students were emailing me frequently to ask more questions about Joomla. Soon after, one of the college programs, the self paced web application program, asked me if I was interested in developing curriculum for a Joomla course, since they know how much involved in the community I am. I had to add a little SEO to the curriculum since “the bosses” didn’t allow me to drop that course completely. Soon after, I was asked to teach the whole program.
What are the top mistakes developers make when developing Joomla websites? What tips would you give those who wish to take a full advantage of Joomla but are just at the beginning of their path?
The biggest mistakes new Joomla users make is using a free unsupported template for their website. Another mistake is using an out of date hosting server that doesn’t meet the minimum requirements of running a Joomla website. These 2 big issues can cause loads of other issues and wasted time debugging and getting nowhere. I can’t tell you how many dozens of hours I’ve wasted using a free template trying to fix bugs. I have learned that paying a small fee for a template or template club has saved me a lot of headaches over the time. My advice is to use a template club like YooTheme (my favorite), RocketTheme, etc. My advice is to use a recommended hosting account. The easiest to use is SiteGround and CloudAccess. The two I would recommend to get started. You can also set up a free subdomain and hosting account at joomla.com (hosted by siteground), and a free subdomain and hosting account (with less restrictions) right on cloudaccess.net.
Are there any Joomla CMS developer online tools that you use and would be willing to share? We are sure that our readers will appreciate your advice.
One of my favorite application building tools to use for Joomla is the Fabrik component. It’s something I’ve been using for over 4 years now and can talk about it all day long. If you are interested in building your own extensions, I would recommend using Component Creator. You can build custom components in minutes. There are so much documentation on coding extensions (plugins, modules, components…etc) that you will be able to figure it out being new to Joomla.
Can you pass on any advice about learning how to create websites with Joomla? Do you think it is necessary to ring the bell of a developer?
My best advice is to take online training courses or hire a professional to work with you. Once you have someone show you how to get through the initial stages of learning, the rest you will pick up quickly on your own. This is a service I offer as well. I absolutely love teaching and watching others grow and become successful.
There are thousands of extensions available at the official Joomla Directory. What are Top 5 extensions you can’t afford to miss out every time you configure a Joomla website and why?
Being an assistant manager of the Joomla Extensions Directory Team, I am very familiar with a lot of these extensions. The top 5 extensions to use and why:
- Akeeba Backup Professional (The only solution to backing up your site in minutes and being able to restore to previous versions).
- Admin Tools Professional (It’s the easiest in the world to configure, and it makes your website extra secure)
- JCE Editor (It is similar to the built in TinyMCE Wysiwyg editor, but with a ton more customisable options).
- ACL Manager (It has saved my life so many times, although it is a bit confusing to figure out at first, but makes sense. Just have it installed and ready to use).
- RSForms Pro (You can build a form in less than 2 minutes. It’s so easy to use. I’ve had students install it for the very first time and build out a form without having to read documentation or ask questions).
You’re a lover of particularly one CMS solution – Joomla, aren’t you? If not this web option, what alternative would you prefer? Why?
I absolutely love Joomla and its community. I cannot imagine ever moving to another CMS community. But if this was not an option, I would need to choose a CMS where you can really customise it to be a complex web application, so Drupal would be the only option. Now I feel a little sad to imagine Joomla not existing. 🙂 *wipes a tear*
Have you ever experienced CMS migration? What would you recommend those undecided? What do you think about the automated way of data conversion?
One of the skills I’m most talented at is data migration. Whether it’s from one CMS to another CMS, or one extension to another extension. I love moving data! I’m not a fan of automated data conversions. When an error occurs, you really don’t know what it destroyed and what other problems it caused. When you manually move data, you know exactly where it’s going and what you are doing. And if you make a mistake, you know exactly what you need to do to revert your changes. We all have our own ways of working, and this is what works best for me. But overall, it really depends on what kind of data you are moving and what kind of migration tools are available. Not all of them work as smoothly as you think, so sometimes it doesn’t hurt to try a tool for the first time.
Do you think that keeping the same design is of crucial importance when migrating across different CMS solutions?
The design really depends on what the client wants. If they want the same design, then yes, that’s what you need to do. It’s most likely you won’t be able to replicate exactly what the previous design was, since you’d have to find a Joomla template that has similar module placement, or design your own template to replicate the previous design. I am not a designer and have only worked on backend/database stuff. I work with a designer who worries about all this stuff for me. 🙂
And the last question for today. What are your predictions concerning Joomla evolution in the future?
My predictions is that Joomla is strengthening and only going to become stronger than ever. I can’t say that we are all perfect and happy, we have a lot of bumps in the road we are getting through, but because we are all handling it and working through it together as a community, that we will become stronger as we grow. I can’t even tell you how much we have in store for our community! Lots of excitement and new stuff to come. Be sure to follow newsletters from the Joomla Extensions directory, follow the Joomla Community Magazine, and any announcements on the Joomla.org website.
Joomla could also be stronger with YOU involved. Checkout Joomla Volunteers Portal and check out how you can be involved and contribute to the Joomla project. 🙂
A huge thank you to Tessa for sharing her time, thoughts and experience with us. Keep reading our ongoing Experts Interview Series with a lot more experts to be invited soon.
P.S. Left with a strong desire to switch to Joomla? Then look no further than aisite automated migration service to perform the conversion as safely and easily as possible. Find more detailed information here and try your Demo Migration without any delay.