By Jarrod Wright

An Open Letter to My Joomla Client

By Jarrod Wright

Don’t you just hate it when you visit a site a few months after the hand off and see all your hard work has basically been destroyed?

We’ve all been there.  Our clients might have the best of intentions, but their limited understanding of web development tends to wreak havoc without their knowledge.

Here is a letter you can give your clients the next time you present them with the finished product.  Hopefully, at least some of this information will sink in!

After you have read our ever-so-polite explanation of what they should and shouldn’t do, sound off in the comments section below.  Let us know if you have any additional suggestions or pet peeves.


Dear Client,

I have finished developing your new Joomla site.  I hope you like it!  As of this moment, your site is in pristine condition.

I would like to give you a few tips on how to keep your site looking great.  There are lots of little things that happen behind the scenes.  I don’t expect you to understand all the technical jargon or processes.  However, it is important for you to understand that seemingly harmless mistakes can severely hinder your blog’s ability to function properly.

Let’s work together to make sure you don’t fall victim to the classic newbie mistakes.  Together, we can keep your site in tip-top shape!  Here are a few things I would like you to keep in mind when adding content to your site.

Format Your Blog Posts Properly

There are a variety of reasons why it is ideal to type your posts outside of Joomla.  However, you need to be aware of the fact that Word doesn’t play nicely with Joomla.

post formatting

It might be tempting to type a post in Word, then copy and paste it into Joomla.  This, unfortunately, will make a big mess – one that could potentially destroy your blog.

This is going to sound annoying and time consuming (and it is), but it is also pretty important.  After you type your post in Word, copy and paste it to Notepad. Then, copy the Notepad text and paste it into Joomla.  This is the safest way to ensure all the unnecessary code has been stripped away.

Format Your Headings Properly

There are two ways to format the headings in your blog posts – the wrong way and the right way.

After you have entered your article in Joomla, you will want to format it and make it look nice.  You’ll probably pay special attention to the headings.  To make them stand out from the rest of the content, you’ll probably want the headings to have a different text size, font style, and maybe even color.  You could make all these changes manually.  However, if you do that, you are making a lot of extra work for both you and me.

This will make a big, behind-the-scenes mess for me.  It will also be bothersome for you.  If you ever decide to change the over all appearance of your blog, you’ll have to go into each and every post to adjust the headings.

Instead of giving both of us an unnecessary headache, let’s do things correctly from the very beginning.

format headings

When you are ready to format your headings, use the text editor.  Highlight the text and then select Heading 2 from the drop down list.  The default setting is paragraph.

If you ever want to change the style of your headings, just let me know.  All I have to do is make a simple change to the CSS file.

Format Your Links Properly

We have both worked very hard to bring this website to fruition.  Naturally, it is in both our best interests to see it succeed.  That’s why it would make me very sad if you sent potentially loyal readers away.

format links

When visitors click on a link to an outside source, it should open in a new window.  If it opens in the same window, you have made it very easy for readers to leave – and never come back.

The HTML editors allow you to choose the New Window option when creating a link.  Please check this box.

However, you’ll notice the default for links that take readers to another place within your site is Same Window.  Please don’t change this.

One last time:  external links open in a new window while internal links open in the same window.

Format Your Images Properly

When it comes to images, there are three things I would like you to remember:

1.  Don’t include spaces in file names

I won’t overwhelm you with computer talk.  But, I will say this: if you include a space in your file name, it makes a lot of messy code.  Someday, I’ll have to come in and clean up all that code.  This will mean a big paycheck for me and a big dent in your budget.  If I don’t make these changes, your site could crash.  While it pains my wallet to say this, it’s best if we just avoid messy code altogether.

ice cream cone

If you leave a space in the file name, it will automatically get replaced with the characters %20.  Instead, put an underscore where you would normally put a space.  For example, ice cream cone will turn into ice%20cream%20cone.  So use ice_cream_cone instead.

2.  Be descriptive when naming a file

If you use a descriptive file name for your images, you (and I) will always know exactly what the file contains without opening it.  Also, Google appreciates explanatory names too.  It helps people who are searching for images (which might bring more visitors to your site).

pink tulip

A file name like image1549.jpeg means nothing to anyone.  A name like flower.jpeg is better.  In a perfect world though, you would use something even better – like pink_tulip.

3.  Use topic-specific folders for your images

I understand the drama associated with making a blog post.  By the time you get to the inserting photos stage, you just want to be done.  It may be tempting to put all your images in the generic images/stories folder.  True, this could save you a few seconds come posting time.  In the long run though, you’ll just be adding hours to your workload.

Instead, create a new folder for each new topic you introduce.  For example, if you are doing a series on the game of corn toss, put all your images of corn toss boards and beanbags in one folder.  If you include a portrait of each of your contributing authors, create a separate folder for their headshots.

Remember, you are naming a file, so be sure to title your folder corn_toss_images.

That’s it!  If you follow these suggestions, your blog should stay healthy, happy, and productive.  It may seem daunting right now, but you’ll get into a nice routine and soon these things will become routine.


Your Hard Working Website Developer

  • DT

    Yes pasting from Word’s a common one no matter the CMS. Even if it has a Paste From Word button, better to use notepad. You can also look for PureText which is a little tray icon to strip all formatting that’s a wee bit quicker than notepad.

    Lots of others too like not using 500kb images, stick to the fonts provided and many others.

  • Love it! Also love the fact that this letter can be used just as easily for WordPress clients as well.

  • WordPress actually handles perfectly pasting from Word. I don’t know why Joomla doesn’t. As for the client… You can try anything you want on some of them, they’ll never get it or even listen to you! It doesn’t even matter that you send them an email, or if you take the time to build an elaborate tutorial rich with images and videos. They will not give a shit about that! Customers call me all the time saying that their site broke or that it looks ugly. And for some, I even do their work altogether! (for extra money, of course)

    • I have yet to find a back end WYSIWYG editor that imports perfectly out of Word. You can get away with paragraph, bold and italic types of edits in word, but when you start adding images and changing font sizes, your bound for problems.

    • KLMGraphics

      You show me one online editor that can paste from word and not make a mess and I will eat my hat! FACT!!!! You cannot paste from word to a web editor without introducing a world of a mess to your web page.

      • Mainly because a word document is not the same thing as a web page – there will always be a compromise when trying to convert from one to another. What we need is a proper web editor (note: *not* a WYSIWYG editor, because the web is not WYSIWYG), which is ‘nicer’ to use than Word (or Google docs, or …) in the first place, so people don’t feel the need to write in Word, then copy+paste.

  • Ran

    I have one:
    “Dear client – please, please do not try to update/upgrade the system or plugins on your own! Even if you see a link asking you to update – DON’T. Instead – just pick up the phone and call me.”

    (I had to provide a WordPress admin access to one of my clients. He insisted. Then he updated.)

    • LOL… so true. I also made the mistake of providing a client with editor but not admin privileges, then recorded a tutorial using my own account. Immediately he said “my screen doesn’t look like yours”. Modifying an open source CMS in such a way so that it’s update proof, is always a challenge.

  • I own a Joomla development firm so I will say I just loved it. This is actually a good idea to let the client know.. But you know what, some clients(we can say them clients from HELL) dont understand and tell us “Why? Why we need to contact you for anything? This is a CMS and we suppose to do everything that we want on ourselves”. How should we respond this type of clients? OR better to don’t let them know anything about upgrades OR editing issues?

    • For most of our clients we strongly encourage them to pay us for what we call “webmaster hosting” which essentially acts like a retainer. We provide up to an hour of support each month for the flat rate, which is a lot less than our hourly rate. Since most clients don’t actually contact us as often as they think they will, it makes for a nice stream of recurring revenue. Having a reliable flow of cash is important for us. Managing the occasional extreme client is a small price to pay.

    • You should respond immediately with:

      Yes, a CMS allows you to make a variety of updates and changes easily and quickly, and we encourage that. Our job is to keep your site in tip-top shape, so you get the best search engine response and best customer experience, which will translate into sales for your company. We want to help you succeed on the internet, and these simple adjustments provide a measurable improvement.

      Feel free to copy & paste into an e-mail template!

  • I’m a DIY guy, and I agree completely. These are great tips regardless of CMS platform. Now I have to make a few minor changes to my own site, but with good purpose.

    Site design & layout is just as important (or more so) than the company’s office space, and the clients need to be equally concerned. “It’s just a web site” doesn’t cut it. This is your digital presence, working 24/7/365. You need to get it right, and keep it right.

    My pet peeve is finding the right balance. I want my web site to be very easy to use and convey my message simply but effectively. I also don’t want it to look cheap, cheesy, or bodged together. Luckily I can make changes quickly, and usually they are minor, and I’m happy to learn as I go.

    My hat is off to you guys who do this professionally. Aside from technical skills, the client interaction (even with easy clients!) has to be a headache.

  • Manfred

    hmm, some things I don’t understand. Maybe because I’m working with MODX. With MODX it’s no problem to make all sections of a site bulletproof for the customers. Also this is the same with ProcessWire, my second favourite CMS. This both tools can be customized for all cases.
    Access to configs, plugins, system etc? No.
    Access to every folder? No, only the needed.
    Using RTE all time, for every input? No, only where needed (then customized).

    That’s developer’s part, to make the site simple and foolproof for the customer.

  • Mike Blaumen

    I have one more alternative:

    Dear Client,

    you did a huge mistake choosing Joomla for your website. The system is so bad that it doesn’t handle pasting from Word, it cannot replace spaces in the file name and it doesn’t resize large images from your 12MPx camera when uploaded.

    By the time you read this, someone has just found another security flaw in Joomla and may be hacking your website. Unfortunately, I can’t upgrade your website with the latest patch because one of the twenty add-ons I used for your site won’t work with the latest version. Also, I had to make several modifications in Joomla core code to make it actually work for your site, so your site isn’t upgradable anyway.

    Please please, next time you decide to save money on a solid commercial CMS, consider the total cost of ownership and don’t make shortsighted decisions. It will make your life and my life much easier.


    Your Website Developer

    • Ha Ha… WordPress certainly is easy. A lot of developers might disagree though.

      • Jurgen

        WordPress easy? Nah… It’s easier than Joomla in some respects, and WP does have its strongpoints, but it fails in usability for nitwit clients. Especially when shortcodes are used. Personally I use WebsiteBAker for 90% of my client sites. It may not be as slick and may not have thosands of addons, but it is surely much easier to use for both designer/coder, and client.

    • ” Also, I had to make several modifications in Joomla core code to make it actually work for your site, so your site isn’t upgradable anyway.”
      Which is why our mantra for Joomla is: “Don’t hack the core, override or extend”

      Another way to say it is:
      If your “solution” to Joomla website development requires a core hack, you haven’t thought it through.

  • Was this post meant as a joke? Because this reads as a basic checklist of reasons never to use Joomla. Sure, every CMS has its problems, and probably always will, but to me it seems instead of giving customers a long document titled “DON’T DO THIS” would be avoided by giving the developer one about Joomla called “DON’T USE THIS”

  • Love it! Could have written it myself ;-)
    You hit every nail on the head.

  • Scott

    You have clients who actual make updates??
    I DREAM of clients making updates!

    Me: “Here’s the site! Have fun! Call me if you have any trouble!”
    …aaaannnnnd that’s the last time the site is ever edited.

    … six months later: “Our site is all out of date! Can you fix it for us?”

    Or the ones who state: “How can I be doing it wrong? It let me do it this way!” :mad:

    Any explanation of semantic markup versus typesetting just annoys them. When you’re dealing with clients who — for the most part — lack the capacity for abstract thought, you will never win.

    • That sounds about right… but we do get a handful of clients who want to take their new toy out for a spin. We’re also pretty adamant about stressing the importance of being active online, so we may be at fault.

  • Did you seriously just advise us to tell clients to set external links to open in new windows? The amount of time I spend trying to get people out of this bad habit, and now you’re suggesting we perpetuate it? I give up …

    I totally agree with the dreaded ‘pasting formatted text’ issue, though :-)

    • We always advise them to set external links to new windows. Internal would be a different story. With browsers using tabs, the new window is not the clutter bug it once was.

    • Jurgen

      Bad habit?? What’s bad about that? IMO it’s the only right and logical thing to do. Just as Jarrod wrote, it would be silly and bad usability to send visitors away from your site. You have to keep them on your (client) site as long as possible.

      • Ryan

        Whether a link should or should not be opened in a new window or tab is not the decision of the developer or site owner – it should be the choice of the visitor.

        If you don’t wish to “loose” visitors, don’t include links to external resources.

        If a visitor does click an external link, if they were really interested in your website, all they have to do is click the Back button. Don’t try to force them to stay on your site.

  • I have stopped using note or word pad because of CR and LB issues.
    I now use Notetab++.
    We do all updates for our clients, they have better things to do. Like running their business.

  • Could you explain how using spaces in filenames is bad and could cause a site to crash?

    • The short answer is because you cannot link to photo name.jpg … CMS systems and browsers are usually pretty good at fixing this with special characters like %20, but depending on how a file is referenced, there are bound to be issues.

  • Siebert

    CMS’s all contain a hidden “job security function”, highly dependent upon client ineptitude. I never imagined I would make so much money doing web site maintenance! Yes, it upsets clients and gets boring after a while. Welcome to the modern age.

  • Jurgen

    There are several JS and jQuery scripts that make external inks open in a new tab or window automatically, so you could remove that one from your list.

  • Ryan

    “When visitors click on a link to an outside source, it should open in a new window. If it opens in the same window, you have made it very easy for readers to leave – and never come back.”

    Very much disagree with this one.

    • Are you kidding? If the average user is surfing around the web, they won’t be able to figure out how to come back and buy your product, not matter how savvy they are about looking through the history.

      • I agree with Ryan – the W3C removed the target attribute from XHTML Strict because it interrupts the standard document flow. Users have a choice to open links in a new browser tab and that choice should remain with the user.

        I’ll admit, It was more of an issue on the bad old days before tabbed browsing, but these days I think most users know how to open a link in a new tab, and if not, they should :)

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