When selecting a Content Management System (CMS) for your website there are several to pick from these days including WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and others. To be 100% clear, a content management system allows you to manage the content on your site without knowing a programming language. You simply log in and add or change text, photo or media with more or less easy to use editing tools.
Both WordPress and Joomla are very popular Open Source Content Management Systems (CMS). Each can count at least tens of millions of installations throughout the web. In this article, I’ll consider the strengths and weaknesses of these tools, why one would choose one over the other, and, most importantly how to decide which CMS is right for you.
The WordPress Content Management System is fairly new and often misunderstood. Many business people often think it’s just for blogging and don’t consider it for their next website. But WordPress isn’t just for blogs and it’s an excellent platform to build or rebuild your information-based website. A WordPress website will look the same as any site built in other programming language.
The stellar thing about the WordPress Content Management System is that it is super easy to update. The WordPress tools were designed specifically to make it very easy to post content frequently and that’s obvious when you log onto the WordPress administration panel. The WordPress admin tools are easy to navigate and easy to use. As with just about anything computer related, there are some tricks and gotchas, but for the purpose of creating or updating content on a website, WordPress is very easy to use.
I usually train a client for 30 minutes or less on how to update their site and from then on they are able to login and change text, create links and update photos with ease. With additional training, clients are able to add new pages or blog posts and use relevant keyword phrases for each new blog post. The WordPress Content Management System is a dream come true for the business owner looking to generate traffic online or simply keep their site up to date.
Like Joomla, WordPress is supported by a large and generally helpful developer community. There are hundreds of “plugins” available that allow you to add e-commerce, interactive forms, or pretty much anything else to your site Website. Some of these plugins are free, some are premium; but most of them use a shareware model, where you can install and use the plugin for free, but payment is requested. Beyond that, WordPress is easily extensible with the standard scripting language PHP, so it is reasonably easy for a web developer to custom-program any tools you might need.
Joomla has been around about as long as the WordPress Content Management System, but has always been a dedicated CMS, so has a longer history of use for this purpose. A consequence of this history is both a strength and a weakness. While WordPress started out as a very simple tool for creating very simple sites (blogs) and grew from there, Joomla was designed at the start as a tool for creating any variety of websites. This required a much higher level of complexity and structure so that while Joomla is in some ways more powerful as a CMS, it also tends to be much more complex, which can translate into being harder for the non-technical person to use. That said, Joomla’s own active developer community has created some clever plugins that can make it easier to navigate and use the tools. I have found that clients still find Joomla more difficult to use (especially if you need to do something that requires digging into the default administrative tools).
That developer community also provides the same sort of variety and quality of plugins and modules for Joomla that make it reasonably easy to add special features to a site. Joomla’s more complex design pays off here as well as the plugins can be extended further than with WordPress.
In regards to pre-existing templates (basic website designs that are easy to install and use on a site), there are hundreds or thousands available for both WordPress and Joomla. WordPress templates do tend to have a more traditional design (many of the templates are designed for blog sites), while there is more of a variety of designs available for Joomla sites. Of course, an experienced web professional will be able to use either tool to make a site look like just about anything one would want. Most templates are available for free, or payment requested, but there are many companies that also provide premium templates that may offer a more sophisticated design, special features, or more customization options.
So both Joomla and WordPress are sophisticated, fairly easy-to-use tools that allow the non-technical user to keep their site up to date without having to learn code. Which one is best for what type of user? In our experience, Joomla is best thought of as a sophisticated and powerful tool for web professionals to use when maintaining a website. Joomla’s complexity and structure give the impression of power, and that impression is correct. At the same time WordPress’ strength is its simplicity. What good is a powerful tool if you don’t know how, don’t like, or are afraid to use it. WordPress Content Management System is friendly and forgiving, while Joomla is generally more powerful, but harder to use.
In the end, we recommend WordPress Content Management System to almost all of our clients. I have no doubt that there are website projects that could be accomplished in Joomla that could not be accomplished in WordPress (at least not without significant custom programming), but for the vast majority of sites, WordPress would be easier to install, easier to customize, and easier for the non-technical user to use.
This WordPress vs. Joomla – Which Content Management System is Right for Your Business? article is a collaboration between Internet Marketer Karen Nierlich and Senior Programmer Tod Abbott of Full Orbit Web and Marketing. The firm specializes in WordPress blog websites, full-featured e-commerce sites and internet marketing.