Today I'm speaking with Anthony Olsen, a fellow Australian and Joomla enthusiast. Anthony has been working with Joomla since 2006 and is the lead designer at Joomlabamboo, who develop some of the finest templates around. Let's discover more about the typical life of a template developer and learn how Joomla has changed over the years. And if you're new to Joomla or if your site could use a facelift, be sure to check out the special offer Anthony has prepared for you.
BAJW: Welcome Anthony and thank you for making the time to chat with us today. Can I start by asking you, what does a typical workday look like for a Joomla template developer?
AO: Thanks for the opportunity Richard.
My day usually starts with checking our support forum, contact email and ticket system. Our main audience is based in the US and Europe, and even though we have a few support crew working in the UK and in the US there is often a little bit of overflow waiting for me first thing in the morning.
The upside to this is that my days can be spent quite productively - working on a design or writing code - however it does mean that they are also usually top and tailed by answering emails and checking support.
What I spend my time on during the day really depends where we are up to in the release cycle, but I like to split my time between tinkering with design, blogging and digging into the code of our template framework.
In addition to that I have Skype and Twitter open as way of keeping connected to the world. I work from home and so the different chats and feeds help to keep me sane.
BAJW: What kinds of template features do your customers want these days?
AO: Overwhelmingly our members are attracted to our stripped back design aesthetic. I'm surprised sometimes by how popular our leaner designs are actually.
I think that a lot of clubs get trapped into feeling like they need to show everyone what the template is capable of on the front page of the demo and a lot of users see that and assume that the theme is bloated with features they don't need.
I doubt that any template maker expects an end user to implement a theme in the exact way that a template is advertised on their demo site.
I think generally though people are attracted to templates that are easy to pull apart and implement across a lot of different contexts. My focus is to release templates that have a clean and often minimal aesthetic that can be implemented across a wide variety of site types e.g. design focused but not context restrictive.
BAJW: How have you seen the Joomla community grow over the past several years?
AO: When I started working with Joomla in 2006 I really had no idea what a CMS was, nor which was the most popular. I tried out a few of the open source CMS's on my Fantastico install and ended up deciding that Joomla was the right one for me.
The template market has changed significantly during that time. Late 2009 and early 2010, the Joomla template community really started pushing each other and I think there was a bit of a revolution from a design point of view. What I like about our community is that on the whole there is quite an open dialogue between theme developers and other designers. Whether that's via twitter, Skype or on public forums like blogs.
BAJW: Has the Joomla version update schedule made life difficult for a template developer? How so?
AO: Well to be honest it hasn't made it easier :) I like the fact that updates will be more regular and that the major / minor update path is a lot more clearly mapped out now.
For a small team like ours though, managing to keep track of two code bases has been a bit of a challenge. I'm working on a unified version of our template framework at the moment which I hope will reduce some of the work load and I'm moving to create a base reset for the framework templates that should more or less keep them platform agnostic for future updates. My hope is that it will mean that future Joomla updates won't require us to change too much of the core CSS and HTML.
BAJW: What features would you like to see implemented in future Joomla versions?
AO: There is one thing that I miss in Joomla 1.7 that existed in Joomla 1.5 from a template point of view.
The first is the params.ini file which stores the default data for the template in 1.5.
Joomla 1.7 stores the template defaults in the database and they are taken from the defaults set in the xml file. This means that the defaults set in our templateDetails.xml file need to be spot on and I need to be careful with setting every default value in the template.
In Joomla 1.5 that would normally have been taken care of by simply dragging the development params.ini file into the release package, so while it's really just a small issue it does tend to cause some frustration if the deadline for releasing a template is impending.
The big thing that I am looking forward to though, is a reworked administrator. It's fair to say that it's one of the biggest criticisms levelled at Joomla and in particular Joomla 1.6+.I do have plans to port our existing admin templates to Joomla 1.7 and also have been talking to Kyle Ledbetter about contributing to his effort to revamp the default admin as well.
BAJW: Thanks Anthony. I love the clean and minimalist designs you produce and look forward to your future releases. You know, our readers love a bargain – can you offer one?
AO: Sure thing :) Your readers can use the coupon "buildajoomlawebsite" on our subscription page to receive 20% off the subscription cost.
BAJW: That's fantastic – thanks again Anthony.
If you're about to build your first Joomla website or if it's time to update your site, make sure you spend some time at Joomlabamboo. Remember this offer ends in two weeks - so hurry!