Can Joomla Be Used to Build a Social Networking Website?

We are getting an increasing number of requests from clients asking us to build a social networking website (à la Facebook – but on a smaller scale), with Joomla. Here’s how the first conversation between us and these clients goes:

“Hello, my name is John Smith, and I was thinking you might be able to help me.”

“Hi John – how we may help you?”

“I would like to build a social networking website with Joomla since I’m comfortable with this CMS – do you think it’s possible?”

“It’s certainly possible John!”

And then the conversation continues and we discuss the nature of the website (what will the website be about), the target audience, the cost to develop the website, and the time it takes to develop it…

So, how do we build a social networking website from scratch for our clients?

Well, the process consists of the below steps:

Step 1 – Find the right environment for the website

A social networking website powered by Joomla must have the right (hosting) environment. In other words, it must have access to a lot of physical resources on the server hosting it (social websites tend to grow exponentially when they succeed), it must be able to connect to MySQL, it must be powered by the right web server, and it must enjoy a lot of bandwidth. (We have discussed Joomla’s ideal environment before – see here.)

Step 2 – Install Joomla

Once we know where the Joomla website will be hosted, we start the installation process. Our super-fast Joomla installation process consists of the following steps:

  • Downloading the latest version of Joomla (we currently use Joomla 2.5 and we’re avoiding Joomla 3.0 because of stability issues)
  • Uploading the zip file containing Joomla (that we just downloaded) to the hosting server using cPanel’s File Manager

  • Extracting the zip file (using the Extract tool in cPanel’s File Manager) that was just uploaded a directory called testwebsite right under the location where the Joomla website will eventually reside

  • Creating the database using the MySQL Databases tool in cPanel

  • Creating a database user and give that user access to the database created in the previous step

  • Configuring Joomla by going to (this is where Joomla asks you which language to use, which database to connect to, what will be the name of the website, and what will be the password of the main super user)

After installing Joomla, we are ready to move to the next step, which is choosing a template.

Step 3 – Choose a template for the Joomla website

Once Joomla’s installation is done – a quick and important question arises: “How will the website look like?”

A template defines how a website looks and there are plenty of free and commercial Joomla templates out there. The free ones are good but not great, but the commercial ones are usually very beautiful and give the website a professional and expensive look.

Many clients are able to find a free or commercial Joomla template that fits their needs. But some clients are much more selective, or need an exclusive look and feel for their website, and that’s why we connect them with a designer (Note: We have no designers working for us – which means that we cannot be held accountable for their work, even if we’re the ones connecting them with our clients. Our clients are always free to go with a designer of their choice) who will be able to help them. These clients then communicate with the designer directly, who develops the template based on their needs, and eventually sends the template to us.

Once we have the template, all we need to do is to install it through Joomla’s backend, which is quite an easy and smooth task (unless, of course, there are some errors in the template’s manifest file).

Step 4 – Install JomSocial

JomSocial, for those who do not know, is a commercial extension that will integrate all the functions of a fully fledged social networking website with Joomla.

In order to install JomSocial, all one needs is to download it (after paying for it) from the JED (the Joomla Extensions Directory), and then install it from Joomla’s backend.

Now, after JomSocial is installed, then the client might ask the designer to make some modifications to the template to accommodate JomSocial. This is especially the case when the designer has no idea how the website will look like once JomSocial is installed.

It’s unbelievable that this small and easy step is what makes a Joomla website a social networking website – don’t you agree? That’s saying something about the power and the versatility of Joomla!

Step 5 – Modify JomSocial to accommodate the needs of our client

Many clients have specific features to implement on their new website – and that’s why standard features won’t cut it for them. This is where our job gets very exciting as our clients will ask us to implement their vision of their new social networking website into JomSocial! What we do is we either modify JomSocial’s core and/or develop new extensions that will work in harmony with JomSocial to complement that vision!

Step 6 – Test the website

Once all the pieces are in place, we start the testing. There are two types of testing:

  1. Technical testing

    “Technical testing” is done on our end and its aim is to unveil bugs (such as MySQL errors, blank pages, 404 errors, internal server errors, etc…) All bugs are fixed on the spot in this type of testing.

  2. Business logic testing

    “Business logic testing” is done on the client’s end to ensure that all the functionality is there and that the website is doing what it should. In short, “Business logic testing” is checking whether the business logic requested by the client is all there, is not broken, and is fulfilling the agreed-on specifications. At the end of “Business logic testing”, our clients will send us a report containing all the issues that they faced for us to address.

Needless to say, we retest the whole website after fixing technical bugs or logical bugs because a fix might have an undesirable effect on other areas of the website.

Step 7 – Move the website to production

When all the testing is done and when our client gives us the go-ahead, we move the website to production. The move to production consists of physically moving the website from the testwebsite directory to the root directory. This means that the website’s URL, at this point, will be instead of And that’s it! We’re done!

So, is the process of building a social website from scratch in Joomla hard? We don’t think so – but we don’t think it’s easy either. It’s better to ask for help If you’re trying to build your own social networking website with Joomla – and where better to find that help than right here, at itoctopus? Just contact us and we’ll help you build your own social networking website with Joomla in record time and for a reasonable fee. By the way, our biggest achievement is to have our clients thrilled with the end result. Try us!

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