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Making workflows that work for you

Making workflows that work for you


I like the word workflow. It makes me feel more organised just by saying it. When my work flows I’m happy. In Joomla this form of organisation is a hierarchy that enables a means of moderation so that admins or editors can control content, making sure it doesn’t get published without some form of approval.

When I work on my music website or the one for my business I am both the author and the editor, but when it comes to a team of content creators, an editor or line-manager may need to sign-off the website copy before it’s published.

My interest in Workflow came from a conversation with a client when we’d done a large makeover of their website and they realised there were hundreds of articles floating around after 3 websites had been merged. Some text went back over 10 years and included details about departments and initiatives that had expired even before the pandemic.

Going forward, we would find a way of ensuring that all content that was created was “on message” and had a place to live within the new website structure. Great, let’s use Workflow and then that way we can control when something is published and when it goes live it has been signed-off by the head of that department.

What is Joomla’s Workflow feature?

The workflow function has been available since Joomla 4 and is simple to enable:

Articles > Options > Integrations > Enable Workflow (toggle)

If you then look under Content > Workflows there is one option created called Basic Workflows which in turn contains 1 x stage and 7 x transitions. If this looks confusing, you’re not alone. We spent an hour or two thinking about what to do with this basic workflow and what steps were needed.

There are 2 parts to workflow, Stages and Transitions and between them the article will change in status from draft to published, notify other users who need to approve the content, and restrict user access to certain transitions.

I could go on but this 2021 article Joomla 4: The new Workflow feature by Patrick Johnson goes into much greater detail about how it can work for not just corporate and enterprise customers but even solo bloggers. You could even take a look at the documentation and the tutorial for scenarios for more clues about how to get started.

Use Cases For Workflow

The specific question I was asked by the client was how we could make a workflow that allows for changes not only during creation of content but also when an article is already published. In short the second part is not possible in Joomla but I wanted to think about some ways that it could become more possible.

The initial content creation is simple in that a group of users might be restricted to creating draft content which is then checked and published by another, probably more senior, user.

I’ve also seen a plugin (on another platform) that enables “team collaboration” like you might get on Google Docs, with comments, edit suggestions and email notifications. Does this extend a CMS beyond the scope of adding content? I think this activity is probably best done “off site” so the content is clean, revision-free and there’s less chance of unwanted text appearing in the final version.

On yet another CMS platform I have seen an example where a user can save content revisions to a published article and they appear in a separate tab as “Latest Version” and for Content Moderation functionality in WordPress the Revisions plugin stores changes to published content in a “Revision Queue”.

Joomla has revisions in the guise of Versions but this is an “after the fact” revision meaning we can rollback changes. However, one neat feature is the Compare option where two versions of an article can be checked for differences, meaning an editor can easily see where changes have been made. Clicking Preview will show the article in a more readable format.

On top of this the Admin Module, Latest Articles has an option to show Recently Modified articles first. While not a perfect system for catching unwanted changes, it does make for an easy overview of what has been updated.

So, What Are You Going To Do?

Besides implementing a simple workflow between draft and publication, a method we looked at was saving a copy of the published article, assigning it to an Author and once the text was changed unpublish the older article and re-assign the menu item. We also looked at updating sections of an article which was for a training course in a more dynamic way, using custom fields. Is this clunky? Maybe, but keeping tabs on content and making sure someone is in charge of it and making the right updates to satisfy all departments can’t always be satisfied by a stage or transition update. But you know what? I wish I could make workflows work just for me. In Patrick Jackson’s words: “...create an editorial process to action steps in your publishing process…”

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Tuesday, 23 July 2024

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