Reviewing Barrie North's Joomla! 1.5 book and video

Barrie North has a problem. He can't stop talking about his favorite content management system, Joomla!. So last year, he decided to write his own Joomla book titled appropriately, Joomla! 1.5: A User's Guide. The problem is that people like North are never willing to let that be enough. As Joomla! 1.5 continues to evolve since its initial release so too has North's offerings. Two weeks ago North's publisher, Prentice Hall, sent me a second edition of Joomla! 1.5 as well a new video from their LiveLessons series, Fundamentals of Joomla!. Unlike last year, I decided to actually review the book as well as watch the video.

Let me first say, I'm a reluctant book reviewer. There is nothing that weighs on a person's busy day than having publishers send me a steady stream of content management related books for review. Eventually, those technical books begin stacking up on my desk and secretly I know half of those books aren't worth my time or your money. Luckily for all of us, North's Joomla 1.5 book and Fundamentals of Joomla! video are well worth the purchase. I can't help but give two thumbs up to both North's updated Joomla! 1.5 book and new video.

The Book

Book available via CMS Report's Amazon association Joomla! 1.5: A User's guide is probably better described as a tutorial than a reference book. The book really does a fantastic job in not only presenting information about Joomla! to the reader but also putting that information in the proper context. For example, in answering the most basic questions of what is a CMS he talks about how a CMS relates to dynamic Web pages.

A CMS further simplifies web pages by creating dynamic web pages. Whereas CSS separates presentation from content, a CMS separates the content from the page. Therefore, a CMS does for content what CSS does for presentation. (p. 4)

On the surface, the above excerpt may not sound as a revolutionary way to describe a CMS, but I've read a lot of books that butcher the terms and bore the reader. For example, grabbing from my stack of not so great CMS books another author describes a CMS poorly by saying that a CMS "contains the terms content and management (administration), that imprecisely refers to a system that administers content". Do you see the difference? While many CMS books will present information to the reader, Joomla! 1.5: A User's Guide  goes a step further by actually trying to teach the reader.

The Joomla 1.5 book contains twelve chapters and four appendices that cover a range of topics that include installing Joomla!, administration basics, organizing content, and extending Joomla! with components, modules, and templates. A chapter is also dedicated toward getting users and traffic to your site by doing search engine optimization the right way. Later chapters in the book present tutorials on how to create a school site, restaurant site, and blog with Joomla!.

I found the tips, notes, and "need to know" boxes located throughout the book to be extremely helpful. These boxes complemented the content quite well. In some books those info boxes seem to compete with the main content and can be distracting to the reader. This isn't the case with North's book.

If you already purchased North's original Joomla! 1.5 book you're probably curious to what has been updated in the second edition. The screenshots and various text in the first edition were accurate for Joomla! 1.5.0. In the second edition, screenshots have been updated for 1.5.9. The text and also been updated with additions for any new feature introduced in Joomla! since the release of the first edition book. The second edition also includes updated chapters about search engine marketing since this topic also changes quickly.

The Video

Book and VideoThe video instruction, Fundamentals of Joomla!, is part of Prentice Hall's LiveLessons video series. While this video makes a great companion to Barrie North's Joomla 1.5 book, the video can stand on its own too. I originally had not intended to review the video, but the quality of North's book had me wonder how North's tutorial skills carried over to DVD. I was quite pleased with the quality of video training and would recommend it to anyone needing to learn Joomla! or teach Joomla! to others.

While individuals will enjoy learning about Joomla! at their own pace, I really see Fundamentals of Joomla! perfect for instructing small groups how best to use Joomla!. The 13 comprehensive video lessons are easy on the eyes and a perfect tool for those responsible in training others what they need to know about Joomla! North does a great job presenting visually and verbally many of the same Joomla! topics covered in his book.

When viewing the video I did run into an editing issue in Lesson 2 of my review copy for Fundamentals. I'm told this has been corrected and corrections were also made for a reported issue with lag time between the video and audio in Lesson 6. Updates are also available through the publisher's InformIT website.

Fundamentals arrives on DVD and is playable on both Windows and the Mac. I viewed the video on my PC with Windows 7 installed and ran into no issues. The DVD is also accompanied with a 120 page lesson book.