iJoomla Magazine is an excellent extension that has vastly improved the CMS experience for publishers using Joomla. The component has undergone a great deal of development since its first releases, and has been given a big thumbs-up by critics as well us developers and publishers. PHP Magazine Network contacted Merav Knafo, iJoomla’s founder, for an interview about the iJoomla experience.
1- Merav, why do publishers need iJoomla Magazine?
Because Joomla may be great for blogs, but not everyone wants a site that looks like a blog! When I started with Joomla, I tried to use core Joomla and was always disappointed with the result. It looked okay but it just didn’t give me the slick look I was after. That’s why I’ve created iJoomla Magazine. It allows you to make your site appear really professional and clean.
2- Was Joomla the perfect platform to run and build your solutions?
Joomla is a powerful CMS and has millions of fans; in that respect it was perfect for us. It’s also been a lot of fun to work with an enthusiastic group of people, like the Joomla Community.
3- What do you think about other open source CMS systems such as Drupal, ezPublish and XOOPS?
I personally haven’t used any of them. I started with Mambo and was hooked; I didn’t need to look any further. From what I hear though, Joomla is more powerful and robust than the others and it has much bigger variety of extensions and templates.
4- As your project name is related to Joomla, are there any plans to make your solutions available for other platforms in the future?
We don’t plan to move into other platforms simply because maintaining different versions of our component would probably be too hard. We are not Microsoft, after all (yet)! I would much rather focus on one niche and do it right rather than expand to other platforms and do a mediocre job. I also feel that Joomla has the brightest future of all the platforms, especially because of the strong community and the thousands of developers involved.
5- Can you tell us a little about your new projects: iJoomla Surveys and the iJoomla News Portal?
We’re very excited about both projects. The news portal was born when I noticed that people were using the magazine component as a news component. Although they were able to make it work, it wasn’t completely the right solution. The natural step was to create a component that would be used just for news publishing. That means dynamic content and a hands-off approach that allows users to publish a constant flow of news articles with minimum effort.
The Surveys component was an idea that I got more and more excited about after doing some research and seeing what’s out there in the non-Joomla world. It turns out that most Survey applications cost anything between 20 to 200 USD per month and limit the responses. If there’s anything I’ve learned about Joomla users it’s that they like to keep everything under the same “roof,” which is the Joomla admin. They certainly don’t want to send their visitors to another platform or site. So I thought offering surveys for a reasonable price and without usage limitation would be something a lot of people would appreciate. So far the responses have been fantastic. Users really like it and have even given us a few new feature ideas.
6- Now that you cover magazines, news and surveys, do custom components cover every professional’s needs in content management ?
The problem for Mambo and then Joomla has always been that only small and medium-sized sites used them. Big companies wouldn’t touch them. The reason was quality. The development standard for components was pretty low, even with commercial components. I’ve used and tested a lot of components in the past year-and-a-half and discovered that too many of them were not developed professionally. Large firms are not going to work with platforms that give them headaches. They would much rather spend a few hundred or even thousands of dollars and get something that works. iJoomla was created to close this gap and provide truly professional components that even big sites — sites that don’t compromise on quality — can use. When I say professional I’m talking about three specific areas:
- Professional product design;
- Professional programming;
- Professional QA.
We really do everything we can to make sure that our components are as good as they can be. All of the members of our team (currently around ten people) are top professionals. I think that in time, big companies will realize that using an open source system like Joomla together with our professional components is a solid, economical and logical solution.
7- How do you find professionals interested in adopting Open Source CMS
Our goal is to raise the level of development in the Joomla industry. The days of a single developer designing components all by himself, without proper product design and QA, are numbered. In the future, quality will be the main selling point, and the Joomla community will not compromise on that like they do now.
I also predict that the new Joomla version (1.5), because it’s more user-friendly, will bring a lot more people into the community. They won’t be as tech-savvy as current Joomla publishers though, and they won’t tolerate badly-designed components.
8- What were the most important technical issues that you faced in the development of your solutions?
The main problem we had was integrating with other popular components and with core Joomla itself. Early on we found that SEF was very important to the Joomla community so we made every effort to make our products compatible with the popular SEF components. We had pretty good success, especially with Artio and SEF Advance.
The other challenge was keeping up with the constant Joomla releases. Joomla has made some very big changes in the past year and sometimes these changes broke some of the functionalities of our magazine component. We really had to roll up our sleeves and fix these problems, while still keeping it compatible with the previous releases and considering the upcoming Joomla 1.5.
9- An iJoomla success story?
iJoomla certainly helped our publishers be successful. I’ve seen some really amazing sites that were created using iJoomla Magazine and some of them are huge publishers. The United Nations, for example, have just started using iJoomla Magazine. I’ve also noticed that in time, our clients have become more and more savvy, and are using the extension in ways that I never dreamed of when I was designing the features. Some of my favorite sites using iJoomla Magazine are:
10- So what are you working on now?
We’re working on some very exciting components. The biggest are iJoomla DigiStore and iJoomla AdServer. The Digistore will allow you to have an online store up and running “out of the box” without any programming or any modifications. Initially, it will be suitable for virtual goods such as software and eBooks, etc. We think that VirtueMart shopping cart is way too heavy for 99 percent of the users. We want to provide a simple and elegant solution for anyone who wants to sell virtual goods and allow their users to instantly download the products. And as always, we will provide free support, which is something you usually can’t get with free components like VirtueMart. iJoomla DigiStore will be available in a couple of months, if everything goes as planned.
The other component is an ad server that will allow publishers to run many different types of advertisements on their sites, manage advertisers, create campaigns, view live stats, and more. This component turned out to be very complex and it’s been taking us longer to develop than we’ve anticipated. But we’re making good progress and we hope to release it in a couple of months.