Joomla! Talks: Talking about Joomla! extensions with top developer Llewellyn van der Merwe

in Uncategorized, Development on 28 Jul 2015 having 0
Llewellyn

From the desire to bring the user's voice to the spotlight, we decided to interview a series of professionals that create websites and Joomla! CMS components. Our first guest is Llewellyn van der Merwe, owner and developer at Vast Development Method.

I encourage you to write comments that could help him and us bring better products and service to developers, business owners, website designers and other fellow joomlers.

So that being said, let’s get started, shall we?

1. Thank you for taking time to be interviewed Llewellyn. Can you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you start developing extensions for Joomla!? Was there a particular reason why you chose Joomla!?

Thank you Alex, it’s a pleasure. Well, it all started in 2008 when I visited the United States. During my visit I met Greg Gorden from Sermonindex.net. He introduced me to Bluehost and Joomla! and there started the online mission. As I see it, the Open Source community has revolutionized the whole software industry to a much more friendly and supportive community. This sharing mindset is, I think, the face of the future, and a road to success in technology. Using our skills to serve each other will always remain the most trusted means of a constructive business model. A method that will build long term relationships worth having. Like the old proverb said: "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold."

2. Very nicely said, I certainly agree with you. What is your experience in Joomla! development? Have you played with any other CMS's (content management systems)?

I have played with a number of other CMS's but found Joomla! as my framework of choice. Joomla! is more than a CMS; it’s a well formed framework that saves you years of programming right out of the box. I would call it the developer's dream tool with which any kind of online project is possible. Yes, I will not deny that there are other PHP CMS's that could be viewed in the same way. It’s just that I like the MVC implementation and the overall object orientated practice that allows for easy development and beautifully lends itself to conventions that allow for group collaboration on an international scale. I like what the Joomla! team has done, and as soon as my own capacity allows, I would like to help take Joomla! to the next frontier.

3. When you started, what did Joomla! lack at that time or what were your mistakes? What advice can you give to Joomla! developers who are just at the beginning of their Joomla! career?

When I started working on Joomla!, they were moving from Joomla! 1.0 to Joomla! 1.5 and it really seemed like they took a major step forward at the time. Today we see that it was just one of many major steps, and for all we know the best is yet to come. At the time I didn’t know anything about programming and so, once, I installed a plugin and it broke the site, but since I knew nothing I thought all was lost and deleted the whole site and built it over from scratch. Now keep in mind that it took me back then four weeks to get the site up and filled with all its content. It was a major setback, but what took me four weeks the first time took me only two weeks the second time around. Later I realized all I had to do is delete the plugin from the plugin folder and remove it from the database and all would have still worked. Man I wanted to kick myself for wasting so much time! Seeing that Joomla! is an Open Source community it will be nearly impossible to prevent this kind of thing from happening. Yet, I would like to encourage more training to upcoming developers, I would tell them go to lynda.com and learn all they can about programming before you start pushing extensions into the market place, since in all honesty, knowing PHP, JavaScript and CSS is still very far away from knowing how to effectively use these languages to build trusted, safe, and useful Joomla! extensions.

4. Yes indeed, we all have our setbacks when we do something for the first time, but learning constantly is the only thing that will bring success. How would you compare yourself to other developers? What difficulties have you encountered?

Well, if I was to compare myself to the team of developers working on the core of Joomla!, I would feel like I am a beginner that still has much to learn and should quietly be grateful that these people are so kind to give all their knowledge away for free. Yet, if I were to compare myself to the normal website developer who knows how to install and build nice websites with Joomla!, I would say I am a PHP developer who not only uses Joomla! but builds components, modules, and plugins for it. In fact I am right now working on a component that can actually build components like the article manager, and I therefore have a fairly good understanding of the Joomla! API.

5. What RSJoomla! extensions do you use?

Even though I can build components and know Joomla!'s API well enough to almost do anything, there are still some third party extensions I like to use. They form part of my toolbox if you will. I am sure you will be happy to know that some of those are from RSJoomla!. They have an extension called RSFirewall! that simply takes care of so many things to protect your website, that I can't think of not using it. Then they have the RSForm!Pro extension that really is like the king of forms, absolutely excellent and highly recommended. I have used all RSJoomla!’s extensions some time or another and found them all to be very professional, trustworthy, and safe.

6. Yes, I am really happy to hear that. I have also heard that you developed some plugins for RSJoomla!’s extensions. What kind of plugins are they and what do they do?

Since I find RSForm!Pro such a handy tool I have developed a few plugins for it. The extension can already handle user registration for your website and therefore it can extend the fields for registration to anything you like. The down side was to update those fields in the user profile after registration in one page was very hard to achieve, and so my first plugin, called RSForm! Profile, was build for RSForm!Pro to actually link the RSForm!Pro to the Joomla! default user profile page so that when a user has registered they can later update the submitted fields in their default user Joomla! profile page. Nice and easy since it all happened on the same page where they update their email and password, no confusion. I also created the same integration plugin for RSMembership! called RSMembership Profile, so that your member registration fields can be updated on the same page as the normal Joomla! user profile page, again making it easier to consolidate the user experience into simplicity.

Then for the PHP developers I build a plugin called RSForm! Advance PHP that increases the ability to customize the RSForm!Pro behavior even beyond the already amazing options available. This plugin gives you, as developer, the access to 11 events that are triggered as the form is used on the front of the website. What is more is that you can then hide this customized PHP code from other back-end users by targeted groups who alone will have access to the code, making it safer and more elegant. Since RSForm!Pro offers so much I developed a component called CODEBOX, that combined with RSForm!Pro allows for quick little custom components to be build if you have a good grip on PHP and know how to make use of Joomla!'s API framework.

7. What are you currently working on? Are there extensions that you have developed and are not available in JED? Would you make them available?

I am now working on a project called Component Builder that allows for advanced Joomla! Components to be build in a fraction of the time. As you may know there are multiple extensions already available to do this but none of them gives you, as the programmer, the ability to truly build complex extensions beyond the normal. So my actual goal is to develop a tool that will allow you to scale up the complexity without restraint. The tool already includes tags, categories and permissioned access per view, per item, and per field with all the available Joomla! standard form field types and custom field integration between views and other components, and much more can easily be added to any component it builds, not to mention the database relationship structures and extremely versatile frontend display structures.

In-fact I have already build three very advanced components as tests and find that this component will possibly have a profound impact on Component development in the future. To give you an idea, the application is also a normal Joomla! component and is already able to build itself and in fact can build the default Joomla! Content Manager and much more. I am not sure when I will make this available to the JED index and even if I should, there are a number of stockholders who feel that we should use this extension as our own in-house advantage, but I would really like to see what could happen if we place the code base on github and simply add it to the community. That will be very exciting. For now I have financial responsibilities that may cause a delay in this process.

8. What extensions do you think users need but have not yet been created?

No comment, lol! I'll be building those soon.

9. What is your most loved Joomla! project?

The one I am working on right now, I mean the component builder. I really enjoy working on it since it gives me the options to dream beyond my own little world.

10. How would you say Joomla! changed over time? Could you talk a little about how you see the Joomla! CMS evolve over the next years?

Joomla! is becoming one the most secure and stable CMS's in the world that requires virtually no programming knowledge to build fantastic and extremely easy to use websites that can easily integrate with other systems and infrastructures. If they simply continue on this course the framework will inevitably become an even more prominent tool for innovation, giving everyone the power to impact their community.

11. Any message or suggestion for the Joomla! lovers out there?

Joomla! has far more to offer than most of us are aware of, dig in!

It certainly has a lot to offer, thank you again Llewellyn for the interview; that was Llewellyn van der Merwe from Vast Development Method.

If you have any questions for us, feel free to include them below and we will answer shortly. And don’t forget to stay tuned for more insight from your fellow Joomla! extension users and developers!



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