March 12th Information and Tutorials \ Advice I have had more than a few people email me about JomSocial, the new social networking / community component by Azrul. I spent some time installing, using and customizing JomSocial and I've written a full review based on my first-hand experience with it. In case you don't feel like reading this entire review, my final recommendation is to get it. JomSocial is simply the best community and social networking solution available for Joomla, allowing you to quickly create a site like Facebook for your own niche community.
DISCLAIMER: The links to JomSocial are affiliate links. If you purchase JomSocial after following one of the links in this article then I will make a percentage of the sale. I personally think that JomSocial is a great component and I have used it on several websites including JoomlaDigger.com and FellowFishermen.com.
When I initially heard of JomSocial I was interested, but I didn't have an immediate need for a new community component. I had spent enough time piecing together a few Joomla sites using Community Builder and I really wasn't interested in spending that kind of time and hassle on another community website. Community Builder has been the only community solution for Joomla for a long time, and installing and configuring it was a bit of a nightmare. The question has always been "What can I do with Community Builder?" and not "What can Community Builder do for me?"
Well, that has all changed with JomSocial. The Azrul development team has outdone themselves, creating a true "Web 2.0" social networking solution for Joomla that is easy to install and customize. Instead of creating a Joomla website with user profile support, you can now create a website like Facebook, tailored to your own niche community.
I began installing JomSocial like any other Joomla 1.5 component, through the standard installer, but I kept getting a database error. JomSocial has a lot to offer, and it turns out that the 1MB zip file was too much for the shared hosting plan I was using to test out the component. A simple fix though: I unzipped the JomSocial package and uploaded the files to this directory:
Then I installed from directory.
It turns out that JomSocial is extremely flexible and customizable for any community. I was actually surprised several times at how easy it was to configure and set up.
Layout and templates
JomSocial comes with 4 templates already installed. They each have different colors and slightly different layouts, enough to match most websites out there. It would also be very easy to copy one template and change images and CSS to fit any existing layout.
JomSocial comes with several Joomla modules, basically for statistics and updates on community activity. Since JomSocial was built to take up the entire width of your site, these modules should be used on home pages, article pages, or any other section of your site that isn't using JomSocial but you still want to display the community info. Modules install through the Joomla extension installer just like other Joomla extensions.
JomSocial's applications are one of its coolest features. Just like Facebook allows developers to create applications and allows users to use them, JomSocial comes with several standard applications and offers an API for developers to create new ones. The administrator can choose which applications should be installed, as well as which applications are enabled on a user's profile page by default. Users can then browse other applications (like a Wall, Groups, Friend Locations, Latest Photos, Blog Posts, Twitter, etc.) and enable or disable them for their own profile page.
Applications are also installed from the standard Joomla installer, and appear as plugins.
JomSocial is very easy to use. It has a very clear menu hierarchy and is simple to navigate. Anybody who is familiar with Facebook will be able to jump right in and start using JomSocial's more advanced community features, and even non-technical people will be just fine. JomSocial is basically a slightly simplified version of Facebook, ported specifically for your Joomla site.
Room for improvement
JomSocial is a great component, but of course there are a few (and only a few) points of criticism I would like to make.
First I would like to see an option to only allow messages from friends. In the first 24 hours of registering with the JomSocial community I had already received 2 spam messages (sorry "williams", I can't help you recover your millions from the Sierra Leone Diamond Mining Cooperation, and sorry "blessing", I won't be giving you my email address so you can send me your pictures).
Second, I would like to see a reporting feature for profiles and messages. There is a reporting system built in, but I was not able to find a button anywhere to report spammers in messages or profiles, and the official JomSocial documentation on Reporting simply says "Coming soon".
Finally, I would like to see an improved Search functionality. The standard Search box doesn't give any indication as to what you can search for, and after performing a search you'll find that you can only search people. I would assume that most community websites using JomSocial would benefit from having a search that incorporated locations and groups.
I had initially ignored JomSocial because it brought up bad memories of trying to configure a Joomla site with Community Builder. But now, after spending time installing, configuring and using JomSocial, I have several ideas for new community websites that I have begun planning out. I will be using JomSocial to build them. It's ease of use, ease of customization, and developer API for 3rd party applications makes it perfect for what I want to create.
JomSocial is a product that I highly recommend to anybody creating a community website. It's not just a user profile component, it is a full Web 2.0 social networking component, allowing you to create the next Facebook for your niche community.
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