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on Monday, 15 February 2016

Our first JoomlaDay experience

This year myself and my co-worker Dan Marks attended our very first JoomlaDay event - JoomlaDay UK.  Here's a short round-up of our experiences from the event!

sam and danWe are apprentices at Virya Group - I'm a Digital Marketing apprentice and Dan is our Web Development Apprentice - we started working at Virya Group mid-2015.  

Our day-to-day job involves quite a lot of work with Joomla sites, so it was great to know more about the project and the community by attending this event.

It was a very eventful day, packed with Joomla attendees from all over the world and guest speakers from major brands such as Microsoft and Opera.  

We definitely found it to be a day of learning and celebrating what Joomla and its community can really do!

First impressions - awesome swag & great cake!

You could say then that the journey to the venue was almost as eventful as the event itself with rail and underground closures, but we managed to find the venue in the end and get signed in. First impressions were good - lots of freebies and swag, and the all important cakes!

Welcome and opening

First off we had an introduction to the day ahead from Brian Teeman. We learned about how great the Joomla community is, and got a taster for what we could expect from the day, including featuring some of the speakers who had travelled from all over the world to present.

Dan and I both went to the session on SEBLOD - we learned about a way of retrieving extra content from external sources and displaying them in different ways on your website, as well as how to add extra features to your articles. Coffee breaks featured pretty heavily during the event, with lots more cake and snacks to keep everybody going during the day!

Custom fields with Joomla

After the break our very Marco Dings spoke about how Custom Fields can be used for developing the content that is available in Joomla articles, and how much can be done with adding the custom fields that you create.

We’ve heard a lot about Custom Fields in the office, as our new website uses DPFields to add the extra features to our blog and portfolio sections.

Marco explained that DPFields is the basis on which the new Joomla Custom Fields (maybe called JFields, but it’s not decided yet!) will be implemented - the developer has offered the code to be included with some adaptations in the core of Joomla which will benefit millions of websites around the world - what an awesome thing to do!

The power and flexibility of Joomla

Throughout the morning we attended a wide range of talks to do with how Joomla can be extended with other plugins such as SEBLOD and HikaShop. It was interesting to see how - through the use of third party plugins such as these - a Joomla site can be extended into lots of different types of sites, from Ecommerce to news sites. That’s probably the main thing I have learned from attending JoomlaDay UK - how customisable and modular Joomla is in itself, but also when you look at adding functionality with the many plugins and extensions that you can find in the Joomla Extensions Directory (JED).


I got to meet several of the developers who write the plugins we use, which was pretty cool!  Around midday we had lunch and oh boy, did Microsoft put on a great spread of sandwiches and snacks, all of which were quickly consumed by the populus - by the time we got there it was slim picking!  We had a chance to talk with other people attending the event and catch up with the rest of the team over lunch, before the afternoon sessions started.

Responsive images and the future of web development

The first keynote after lunch was on the topic of responsive images presented by Bruce Lawson. It was very useful talk, and Dan picked up some rather useful aspects about the img tag and how it can be used to load different images depending on the scale of the screen on the user's computer. He found this to be very insightful because he hadn’t come across some of the concepts that were being discussed before - more homework to be doing!

After this keynote, we had another speaker from Microsoft - Martin Beeby - on the future of the web and how modern coding techniques allow us to do a lot more than we know, that ‘futuristic’ ideas he presented were actually possible right now with the innovative and ground-breaking research being carried out in the development world.

Both Dan and myself found this talk really interesting, and Dan is now thinking about how he can use some of the ideas in the projects he’s working on, both at work and in his spare time/for his apprenticeship.

Inline editing for Joomla

The next talk I attended was on inline editing by the group at ArkExtensions - they demonstrated how their extension enabled users to edit their website from the front-end in a really simple ‘click to edit what you see’ layout, rather than forcing the user into a popup or an editor which didn’t resemble the actual page layout.  They also talked about future plans for being able to add and edit menu items in the same way.

This was really fascinating, I could see how some of our clients would find this really helpful - a simple and clear way to update their website as they see it in the front-end. There were some things that might not work so well, like videos and tabs, but Paul Franklin explained that if we move toward making these features using the in-built Bootstrap framework instead of using additional plugins, it would allow full front-end editing.

JoomlaDay UK giving back to the world

By this time the day was coming to a close and it was time to say a big thank you to the people who has organised the event and also say thank you to the sponsors, and speakers, for without them they just would not have the funds to hold such a successful event.

The organising team announced that the event had been such a success that they were making two donations - one to Open Source Matters in order to help support JoomlaDay events in Africa who often find it difficult to attract sponsorship, and another to a charity called Clowns Without Borders who bring play and laughter to children around the world suffering as a result of conflict or crises.  What a great idea, and such a great way to give something back to the world!


The most important part of the day, however, was the post-event social at nearby pub the Albert - a great opportunity to get to know people in a less formal setting and kick back after a busy day with a few free drinks!

Thank you to everybody who made JoomlaDay UK happen - we had a great experience on our first JoomlaDay and look forward to many more in the future!

Sam Austin & Dan Marks - Apprentices at Virya Group



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