It’s been a few days since my last blog post but it’s because I was hammering away at a new client’s website. il Destino Salon and Spa in Port Moody (the new site will be up shortly) is a fantastic business for you spa aficionados out there. And it was a fun project because it involved deconstructing an old flash site for a fresh rebuild using a cms (Joomla) that the owner could use to update content. The specific needs of this client required me to dig a bit into some of the media related extensions that Joomla has to offer. Here I share my discovery that, despite the large variety of free extensions, few extensions stack up to my standards.

My goal was finding an image gallery plugin that was easy to use, aesthetically pleasing and was not totally flash based (which is bad because search engines don’t like flash pages or elements). I was initially under the impression that this would be an easy task because there are literally hundreds of image, photo, media, whatever extensions on www.joomla.org. To my surprise, it’s not that simple. Or at least it’s not that simple with the expectations that I walked in with.

Speaking of simple, the first extensions that I tried was one that I’ve used before – Joomlaworks’ Simple Image Gallery. I was impressed with how easy it was to setup a gallery (it is appropriately named). You simply dump all your image files into a folder within the /images/stories directory of our Joomla install. Then you turn on the Simple Image Galleries plugin and add a {gallery}/foldername{/gallery}syntax in the plugin does the rest. This is only good for those who want the gallery within a content item. It was great until I uncovered a javascript conflict with my template (I think it was something to do with mootools) that was causing the built-in Split Menu to behave oddly. I noticed that there was a paid version of this extension for 12euros but wasn’t ready to buy just yet…yeah, I love the free stuff.

My next candidate was GK Tools’ Photoslide. This is a top-notch extension and I’m blown away with the quality of the extension given that it is free. It looks really slick and the back-end is super intuitive. I’ve used it in the past and it is great for creating a set of frontpage images that link to articles within the site. So it’s no exactly a pure image gallery which is why I didn’t think it would apply here.

I skimmed many other extensions but my last install test was RocketWerx’s RokSlideshow. I am a big fan of Rockettheme’s Templates so I had to exercise my brand loyalty and give them a shot. I can’t say enough good things about the quality of the templates that Rockettheme builds…but this extension didn’t make the grade for me. It was very limited in it’s feature set and was not as easy to configure as I would have liked. I like being able to throw a quick plugin syntax into my content and that’s it. But this extension requires an extra step of publishing the module to a position and then using the loadposition syntax to get it to appear in the content item. Again, I like easy and quick extensions which is critical for low-cost deployment of small-business websites so an extra step bothers me. I will give them some credit because as a pure slideshow module it does the job. But I need more.

So, after all was said and done, I turned my attention back to Joomlaworks. I paid the 12euros and got the pro version. While crossing my fingers and knocking on wood, I installed the pro plugin and was hoping and praying that I wouldn’t have to resolve the same javascript conflict. Having read the forums I saw that they had addresses the issue so I was hopeful…and I was not disappointed. The pro extension adds just a touch more functionality but still retained the level of simplicity that I like. And not only did I like it, but my client loved the classy looking image gallery that this extension outputs. OK, I need a massage…