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A CSS styling sheet to handle the styling of all the objects divs forms etc. and finally the index.php file. There are many other files that may be used in for the template but the above list displays the core files needed when creating a Joomla template. Now to discuss how I would generally start the programming of a template. I begin with the XML file as this is the file that will need to contain the instructions for Joomla to install the file this files can become a stock standard copy and paste for the templates you construct however if there any files that were used in the previous template and not in the new template you will need to remove them from the XML file or you will find a horrible error when you try to install the template in the backend of Joomla.
These types of systems are not only prone to security problems (as users can modify the path argument to retrieve arbitrary files) but are also ineffective for search engine optimization. This particular design does not allow for titles and keyword/description meta-tags to be associated with individual pages. This is because the header portion of the template includes the section within it and only allows for one site-wide title and set of meta-tags. Titles are one of the most important page elements and having one title - unrelated to the actual content retrieved - results in a lower rank in search engines.
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I have seen many websites that consist of a single webpage - about a mile long! It is a bit of a mystery to work with the template file for your Website however when you understand what the scheme of that folder is it makes much more sense. The difficulty with the Template File is that it is outside of your natural order of folders. You have to think logically to start with and you have to stop and take time as you go through the process of setting up the templates and corresponding links. It will do you good service to reflect for hours as your work on your design. There is what I call the saturation period where you see a need and think through the process (or path) for finding the solution. The main issue with template file is that they are away from you logical hierarchy of files and folders. The template folder is remote from the rest of your file system yet it is integrally bound to your order.
The popular web statistics packages AWstats and Webalizer are most affected by this. However this type of templating system is popular and successfully used in the world of e-commerce. In such systems product information is stored in a database and is inserted into the template when a product is requested by its code. This means that both a unique title and a set of meta-tags can be stored alongside the product data (or generated on the fly) and inserted into the global template effectively. The only detrimental effects that remain are the latter mentioned two and are usually an acceptable tradeoff for the increased ease of administration that a database-driven system provides.