Zoo, from Yootheme.com, is an exciting new Content Construction Kit for Joomla. What is a Content Construction Kit? It’s a tool that allows you to create unique content types, such as a blog, a cookbook, a business directory, without any programming knowledge.
Joomla is a powerful CMS, but there are times when you need a page or content type that Joomla cannot create. For example, a standard Joomla page has the following basic parts: Title, Content, and Meta Data. Joomla Meta Data is extra info like Author, publish date, links to email or print the article. You can configure Joomla to show or hide the title and the meta data, but that’s about it for content customization.
Content Construction Kit – What is that?
That’s where a Content Construction Kit (CCK), or App Builder, as Zoo calls it, can help you add MORE Meta Data to a standard article. For example, say that you want to add author information, related articles, a photo gallery, and comments to articles in a section of your site. With Zoo, you can easily do this by adjusting the settings for that part of the site. All without programming.
Zoo comes with several apps, but I will focus on the Blog app since most people are familiar with what a blog does. What’s more, blogging is a weakness in Joomla (eg, Joomla has no built in comment system), and the Zoo Blog app comes with the free version of Zoo, so you can try it out yourself. (BTW: I highly recommend the free Zoo blog as a standard Joomla Blog Extension).
How Does Zoo Work?
Although the Zoo Blog is great right out of the box, you might want to customize the front end appearance of the blog output by adding or removing elements like Teaser Image, Photo Gallery, etc. With Zoo, this is pretty easy.
First: you click on the Blog App configuration and specify which elements you want to be available to the Blog App.
On this screen, you can add or remove the elements that are available to the Blog layout.
Second: you use the Layout screen to specify which elements you want to display on the front end and the order in which you want them to appear. On the Layout screen, you can add or remove elements that are displayed on your blog front end. To change the order of an element as it appears on the front end, click the brick icon on its left side and drag it to a new location. To remove an item, click the delete Icon. To add an element, click on the brick icon and then you can drag it to location you want. Of course, you can add CSS rules to adjust the look of all elements on the page.
Automatic Image Sizing
Another nice feature is that you can specify image sizes and dimensions for any image element. That way, when an author uploads an image, say, for the teaser, that image will automatically be resized. You can also limit the actual file size. Furthermore, Zoo automatically places the image in the article so the author does not have to worry about where to insert the image. However, you can still insert images anywhere you want in the Zoo article text areas.
Other Zoo Features
Zoo has too many features for me to describe here, but there are a couple more I wanted to mention.
Front End Submissions
Front end submissions allow authors the ability to submit content without getting into the Joomla Admin part of the site. This is a great feature and it ties into the next great feature.
Required Items for Front End Editing
Zoo allows you to make specific elements required when the user is editing from the front end. For example, say you have a big blog with multiple authors. In order to keep content consistent, you can make some blog elements required. To illustrate, you can make a teaser image required. That way, the authors don’t have to remember to insert a teaser image. Zoo will require that they upload a teaser image. And as I said, Zoo automatically resizes and places the image in the teaser. All the author has to do is upload the image.
Zoo is a great new extension for Joomla and it keeps getting better. For example, although Zoo has a Catalog app, it is not an shopping cart; you can’t sell anything. But the developers at YooTheme are working on a shopping cart app. Since Joomla is lacking a good shopping cart, I am very eager to see if we’ll finally get a robust, easy to use shopping cart for Joomla. If it’s like other Zoo apps, it should be pretty easy to use and nice to look at.
You can try the free version of Zoo to get an idea of it’s power. If you need a Joomla blog, definitely give it a try. But the full app will cost you $125.00. Not cheap, but still a good deal for what you get.
Many people who use open source CMS software such as Joomla or WordPress, act like it’s a crime that developers dare to charge for their software. Since I am a website developer and designer, I try to think of software cost in terms of man hours and development costs. How much would it cost me to build an app like Zoo? $10,000? 20,000? As you can see, $125 starts looking pretty reasonable.
Of course, K2 for Joomla is the original Content Construction Kit for Joomla and it’s free, so give that a try too. But we aware that it has almost no documentation so you’re on your own to figure out how to use it. But it’s free :)