Joomla vs WordPress: An Experienced Joomla Developer Responds

In this thirteen minute interview with Chad Windnagle, Senior Web Developer at s-go Consulting, Chad shares his thoughts on previous post regarding the advantages and disadvantages of developing with Joomla and WordPress.

A shout out to Chad for his contribution to the Web professional community and for being the professional that he is.


Chad Windnagle in “his own” words:

After reading much of the misinformation that was posted by Alec, a creative director of the company Foliovision, on a previous Webprofessionals.org blog post,, I felt the need to respond to the factual references regarding Joomla. I intend to do this without addressing Alec’s opinion. Opinions and preferences aren’t something to be contested, but factual information should always be set straight in the record, that’s what I intend to do.

Alec starts his post by addressing “Joomla” as “Joomla/Mambo” – and that’s just the beginning.

To be fair, Alec is right about Joomla and Mambo being related. That relationship ceased to be when Joomla 1.5 was released. The history of the Joomla project is really interesting, and those of us developers using the product who have ‘been around’ know most of it by heart. I’ll quote Wikipedia’s information on it:

“Joomla was the result of a fork of Mambo on August 17, 2005.” 1

Joomla version 1.0 was essentially a renamed version of Mambo. The code base was the same. However with the release of Joomla 1.5, the code core was a total rewrite, with some legacy code in place to help with migration. Joomla 1.5 Beta was released in September 2006, a little more than a year after the Mambo split. 2

So at this point, a post written in 2011, nearly 6 years after the split and 5 years after a total code rewrite, putting Mambo and Joomla in the same sentence is quite insulting to everyone in both projects. They aren’t related, they are different products.

To add to this, Joomla 1.7 is now the latest short term release of Joomla, and it’s a far cry from Mambo, Joomla 1.0, and Joomla 1.5! I notice that while Alec didn’t seem to do his research on Joomla & Mambo, he acknowledged that WordPress is no longer going by the project name ‘b2/cafelog’ either. (WordPress started as b2/cafelog before being forked in 2003) 9

Moving on to the next point of Alec’s post, he addresses some advantages and disadvantages of Joomla. This is something that can get pretty opinionated, an advantage for one person is another developer’s disadvantage. But there’s some serious problems with both of his lists:

Alec’s Advantages:

Good menu system.
Strong static page structure (cf. weblog).
Built-in membership/community features.
Long time on the market.
I’m searching here.

Joomla’s static page structure might be good, but a majority of the time developers use Joomla’s categorical structure for sites. Joomla 1.0 and 1.5 both featured a Section / Category / Content (or article) hierarchy content structure, not much unlike WordPress’s category structure. Joomla 1.6 introduced the category and unlimited subcategory concept as well.

Moving on, Alec talks about built in membership / community features. To this I have to say “what the hell?!”. Joomla does not have built in membership or community features. It has a user manager with some built in user access settings. But it is certainly not a membership system or a community system by any means. To quote Joomla co-founder Brian Teeman:

“Please can you show me Joomla’s built in membership/community features as I’ve been using Joomla for 6 years and 16 days and I’m still to find them.” 3

Now without knowing what Alec’s exact situation was I can’t say that his distribution of Joomla didn’t have some community features that came with it when he installed it, but I can promise anyone who installs Joomla’s core package will not find anything resembling a membership system or a community-centric application.

Alec ends his list of advantages by saying he’s still searching for more advantages. While I could certainly help him out with that, I just want to point out a few of the advantages he boasts about WordPress that he apparently failed to recognize in Joomla:

Huge community.
Easy to theme in a unique way. A WordPress site does not have to look like a WordPress site.
Great plugin architecture.
Plugins for everything.
Lots of great professional developers.
Fast development cycle. Improvements every year.

Huge community. Joomla has a decent sized community. Forum.joomla.org has these statistics: Total posts 2,447,339 | Total topics 575,025 | Total members 512,054 4

I’m not here to compare Joomla’s community to WordPress, they’ve got some great people and I’m happy for them, but to recognize WordPress for it’s community, and not Joomla for it’s community is a clear and rude bias. Joomla has a huge multinational community in many different places, whether it be official channels like Joomla.org, or on some other sites like ataaw.org, nooku.org, mailing lists, twitter, facebook – the community of Joomla is enormous.

Whether or not Joomla is or isn’t easy to theme is subjective, but, does a Joomla site have to look like a Joomla site? Certainly not! To expound on that further, anyone experienced with different web applications can spot ‘tell tail’ signs of applications. One thing I always notice with Joomla is the signup / login module. With wordpress it’s that ever-present Month / Date category filter on the right side of nearly every wordpress site in existence.

Now with all that said, who really cares if you can spot a Joomla site or a wordpress site. Are you ashamed of it or something? Does a site have to be ‘untraceable’ for some reason? Is there an unspoken rule I’m not aware of here?

Plugins for everything – That’s awesome for wordpress. I’m glad that they’re able to meet a lot of different application scenarios. Joomla has plugins (we call them exensions) for ‘everything’ too. Why didn’t that make it onto Alec’s post I’m not sure. But, if there’s something in particular he was looking for from a plugin he couldn’t find, what was it? (And was it available for WordPress?)

“Lots of great professional developers” is again, a pretty subjective advantage, but again, good for wordpress! Joomla also has what I would define as great professional developers too. If Alec is able, he has my personal invite to any Joomla day he’s able to make time to attend. I’m sure after a few beers with some of the very open and welcoming Joomla community he’ll agree that we have great and professional developers also.

A fast development cycle is something that Joomla is pretty behind on, but we are making progress in this area. The project has moved to a Long Term / Short Term release system. The project has planned for short term releases being put out every 6 months and long term releases approximately every 18 months. 5

Alright so now it’s time to look at the disadvantages that Alec has brought up about Joomla. Again, it’s important to remember, opinions are just that, opinions. But there are a few factual items to look at:

Built-in performance pretty sluggish/clunky.
Weak weblog section
Hard to theme. A Mambo/Joomla site looks like Mambo/Joomla, like it or not.
Crappy built-in SEO. Leading SEO plugin belongs to a very peculiar developer and is encrypted (have fun repairing the SEO plugin, we reverse engineered and decrypted it for our site to make our changes even after paying for it).
Nasty, nasty core code. Very difficult to fix broken items
Most good plugins are pay.
Rather mediocre developers. Anyone who likes to code in Joomla/Mambo in 2011 ought to see a psychiatrist.
Developer pricing is all over the map as there are many old-school Mambo/Joomla developers still ought there churning out convoluted future-resistant code quite affordably.

Performance is a never-dying discussion in any circle. But let’s be honest, we don’t know what kind of environment that Alec had installed Joomla in, and it could’ve been a top of the line server with all the perfect settings, or it could have been an overloaded GoDaddy account on a day when Alec’s internet connection was being hit pretty hard. Only Alec can answer this of course, but to cite something as subjective as performance as a disadvantage without saying what environment it’s in is pretty weak.

Weblogging, blogging, is something that WordPress is designed to do, and it does it extremely well. Joomla is designed to manage content (hence why WordPress is a blogging platform and Joomla a CMS platform), it can be used (like WordPress) to do many different things, and blogging is one of them. But Alec is right here, blogging in core Joomla isn’t as plug-and-play as WordPress. However with certain extensions it can be a great blogging platform. Just like WordPress being a great ecommerce platform with the right extensions as Alec talks about in his interview. Fair is fair, here.

I already talked about the appearance of Joomla site’s, and there’s a lot of great Joomla developers building sites that look like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Changing the appearence of any site is a matter of modifying HTML, CSS, and images. If a Joomla site looks like another Joomla site it’s not because Joomla makes it hard to change, it’s because a developer didn’t bother to change it.

SEO was a huge complaint in Joomla 1.0 (or Mambo) from the (“nonexistant”) Joomla community, and the core developers worked hard to improve this in Joomla 1.5, and even more to improve it in Joomla 1.6. Not many expert Joomla developers use the core SEO functions, and Alec admits that he and his team paid for an extension, the ‘leading’ one. I don’t know which one it was, but a quick look at the extensions Joomla directory for the Editor’s pick and the most popular extensions shows that sh404sef is the current ‘leading’ extension. 6, 7

A quick look at sh404sef’s Terms of Service shows one thing: GNU GPL license. (8). What that means is if Alec was using the ‘leading’ extension, and that leading extension was sh404sef, he should have received a GNU GPL extension, freely modifiable under the license’s terms. Reverse engineering doesn’t exist by definition with GPL licensed software because the nature of the license is to encourage exploration in the code, to help to contribute, and I’d like to thank Alec for helping to fix any issues and contributing back to the Joomla project. I hope he let the developers know what he did so they could see what he and his team fixed!

Alec complains about the core code of Joomla / Mambo being ‘nasty’ and ‘difficult to fix’. Since I’m still not totally sure what Alec was using (there’s a big difference, as we already discussed, between Mambo and Joomla) this could be true, or false. All software has bugs, though. There’s many people in the Joomla community who would agree with Alec, and many others who wouldn’t. That said, whether or not the code is nasty will always have to remain a personal opinion.

The Joomla community is really quite unique, but Alec states that the community is fractured due to the fork. People in the Joomla community are passionate. They love what they’re doing, they are opinionated and they want to see the best for the community. The Joomla community is community lead, there is no single company or owner to tell people what to do or direct the project. When highly opinionated, skilled, and passionate people get together amazing things happen (like the three world renowned, and also free content management systems!), unfortunately sometimes disagreements cannot be resolved. However, its important to appreciate the fact that differences of opinion has lead to some really cool Joomla-centric projects being created. But again, now we’re getting into perspective. The truth is that yes, not everyone in the Joomla community is willing to forgive and forget, but it certainly isn’t the majority of us!

Now here’s something that Alec states as a disadvantage that I’m not at all sure why he thought it was: “Most good extensions are pay”. First of all let’s take a look at the most popular Joomla extensions according to the JED10:

JCE (free)
Community Builder (free)
Jumi (free)
JEvents (free)
AllVideos (free)
Expose Bridge (free)
GTranslate (free)
Phoca Gallery (free)
Sobi2 (free)
AkeebaBackup (free)
Googlemaps Plugin (free)
Joom!Fish(Free)
ChronoForms (free)
JoomlaXplorer (free)
Ozio Gallery (free)
sh404sef (paid)
JCal Pro (paid)

There’s 20 of the most popular extensions on the JED. There’s two that are paid. That’s 10% of what is arguably the good extensions being paid extensions. Most of the ‘good extensions’ on the first page of the JED’s are actually free – 90% of them, to be precise. To top it off I did a quick check on the Joomla extensions directory and found that 5434 extensions of the 8166+ 10 of all the extensions in the JED non-commercial. That’s about 67% of the entire JED being listed as free, non-commercial licensed extensions. A little more arithmetic shows that 2732 actually are commercial (33%).

The point is, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is that Alec is dead wrong when he says that most of the good Joomla extensions are commercial. They most of the extensions, and most of the good ones, are free!

Now Alec starts to say some things that I’d call fighting words: “Rather mediocre developers. Anyone who likes to code in Joomla/Mambo in 2011 ought to see a psychiatrist.” Now, I understand that Alec was just trying to be jovial and good humored, but this sort of comment is really quite offensive to the people who’ve contributed to the project. There’s lots of people who enjoy ‘coding in Joomla’ (not sure about Mambo!). And, a lot of them are senior developers who have either given up jobs or positions at companies to work in Joomla, or have been hired out of the Joomla community to become senior level developers for other companies.

The final point that Alec makes about Joomla is a rather curious one. He states that ‘developer pricing is all over the map’. I didn’t see any sources or research that he provided to back up this point (or any of his other ones, actually) but I suppose this sort of thing might be true. But I highly doubt it’s true for Joomla alone. Developer pricing can vary by experience level, location, economic market standards etc… For any CMS platform, WordPress and Drupal included.

Sources:
1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joomla

2 http://www.joomla.org/announcements/release-news/2017-joomla-15-beta-release-date-announced.html

3 https://webprofessionals.org/wordpress-vs-drupal-vs-joomlamambo/#comment-385

4 http://forum.joomla.org/

5 http://docs.joomla.org/index.php?title=Release_and_support_cycle&oldid=61637

6, 7
http://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/featured
http://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/popular

8 – http://anything-digital.com/tos.html

9 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPress

10 – extensions.joomla.org

Tagged on: ,

17 thoughts on “Joomla vs WordPress: An Experienced Joomla Developer Responds

  1. Ivo

    Complete waste of time to respond to that guy. He is trying to make name in the industry by these statements.
    I am more than sure, he was using 1.0 version of Joomla! (if he had used any) and to respond to someone who makes comparisons of something he is not aware of, is meaningless.

  2. Bill Cullifer

    Ivo,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Candidly, I don’t think the conversation is a waste of time and here’s why:

    • Not everyone practicing in this profession has the years of experience on this topic. For example, students in large numbers are entering in the Web profession and they need to learn from more experienced Web developers regarding the pros and cons. As you know things change rapidly and what may have been the “bees knees” a year ago or even months from now may be yesterday’s news.
    • As you know, time is money. Since both are in short supply, a discussion on the pros and cons and how things work can potentially save budding developers and their customers a ton of time.
    • Lastly, not everyone practicing in the Web profession is a “Web developer” meaning that thousands of designers and business oriented Web professionals are just now cracking their teeth on the development topic and they too can benefit from the discussion. I know that I have.

    Bill

  3. Steve Gorney

    Chad took the time to post a well thought out and professional rebuttal to a nonsensical blog post by someone who really did not know what they were talking about. I applaud him for this and his taking the high road approach. It would have been easy to take shots at Alec.

  4. Mike

    As a Joomla developer, thank you for setting the record straight!

    Here’s what I feel. Anyone who calls himself a professional developer (in the CMS-sphere) and then proceeds to write a strongly opinionated article about the “pros and cons” of different CMSs, you can be sure that he has a personal agenda/bias. A professional developer should know and understand – very well – that every piece of software shares the same yardstick for advantages and problems. What’s good/bad in one CMS is also what’s good/bad in another. The only “comparison” articles that have any sort of value are the ones that educate the audience on which platform is suitable for what kind of website. The kind that just spew a whole lot of personal opinions (and contain outright misinformation, like the pairing of Joomla/Mambo) are worthless, disingenuous, and are dime a dozen.

  5. KeithX

    “Community Builder” isn’t really free. Last time I checked, they withhold the full docs & strip features unless you pay. What I got for free was practically useless.

  6. Amy Stephen

    Awesome job, Chad. I appreciate how you let folks know that the Joomla community uses a lot of different software and that we support open source software, in general.

    Bill – thanks for your kind words about the Joomla community and for this interview with Chad. I wish everyone was as positive (and smart!) as he is!

    Cheers!

  7. Ivo

    Hi Bill,
    I consider it as waste of time and efforts as the previous post is far away from the truth. It doesn’t help anyone, as it is full of incorrect statements.
    So, if there should be a discussion: Does this have this and does this have that, well, it probably should be an article by someone who had used both.
    The previous blog post was not from a person who used both (or at least not the latest versions for sure).
    I can write tons of things that are not done very well in Joomla!, another tons of things that are not done very well in WordPress, as I use both frequently (i.e. daily). I can’t state that for Drupal, as I don’t use it for several reasons, even I test it with each major new version.
    But to give the stage to someone, who is not into the things to start flames is not a good move 🙂
    It’s like stating “BMW is a bad car”. Why? “I drove one few years ago, it was produced in 1982 and didn’t have air conditioning.” It’s the same…

  8. Bill Cullifer

    Thanks Amy. Clearly, the Joomla Community has a number of supporters and loyal at that. I respect that.

    Bill

  9. Reese

    I went back and read the entirety of the original article and without being a butt and nitpick what was written, I think the most important statement made about “Joomla/Mambo” in it is “The only justification for a site in Joomla/Mambo is that it’s legacy (i.e. you already did a lot of custom development on it six years ago and don’t have the budget to migrate)” which clearly shows that he was comparing to Joomla 1.0. And that a serious faux pas in this fast paced day and age. Just my two shiny American coins worth.

  10. Alec Kinnear

    Hi Guys,

    I don’t need or want to make a name for myself. Foliovision is a successful marketing and web development company with all our hours sold out two months in advance. I shared my impressions of Joomla in a year where we did lots of work in Drupal and WordPress and some work in Joomla. My impressions are my own impressions. I’d like to like Joomla, I would. But no one on our team among the programmers likes the structure and code in Joomla. Our CSS team doesn’t like working with Joomla either as it’s much more difficult to remove the visual signature.

    The server we were working on for our Joomla projects was not GoDaddy or another third tier host. It’s much easier to get high performance out of WordPress with limited hardware than Joomla. WP Super Cache is simple and very reliable to configure.

    Glad to hear that SEO has been improved. The encrypted SEO extension I was referring to was SEF. On the other hand, I imagine our free SEO extension for Wordpres FV Simpler SEO is more powerful and easier to use than anything on Joomla.

    KeithX: thanks for point out the limitations of the “free” Community Builder. Kind of goes with my point about much of the good Joomla code being pay. I actually don’t have a large problem with pay code: we pay for lots and lots of software at Foliovision. I do have a problem with encrypted code and difficult authorisation schemes though and “free” crippleware.

    Chad, WordPress is no longer weblog software and Joomla is not for structured content management only. They are both PHP/MySQL CMS and in direct competition. Joomla’s weakness as a weblog tool is important. Fortunately, WordPress’s weaknesses have been addressed in this area and it’s easy to manage a large structured site.

    The key trick to managing a larger site is to put the editing function in the front end. I.e. if you are logged in to the site, every page should have an edit button. That way you don’t have to navigate around the back end to edit your static content.

    About the car analogy: I’ve had BMW’s and I’ve had Mercedes. What I can tell you for certain is that the BMW was more fun to drive but spent five times as much time in service as the Mercedes. So general impressions of cars can be useful as well.

    On the other hand, if there were no other cars in the world (I own five bikes now and no cars so it doesn’t apply to me personally anymore), a BMW is a lot better than no car. And that’s about how I feel about Joomla. If there were no other PHP/MySQL content management system, Joomla would be a lot better than going back to static sites. In the meantime, we don’t like working with Joomla and honestly can’t recommend it to someone new in web development.

    Maybe that will change and there will eventually be a Joomla rewrite which makes the code transparent and modular.

  11. Bill Cullifer

    Thank you Alec. I appreciate you weighing in and for being the good sport that you are. At the end of the day, it’s clear that developers will self-select resources that they prefer for their tool-kit and are the most comfortable with. Like your point of view, it’s their prerogative and I respect that.

    As you said in the interview, it’s a great time to be a Web professional. Thank god for the resources that we have today. I don’t know about you, but it is insane to keep up with the rapid and often frantic pace at times.

    Fourteen years ago, when I started the Webprofessionals.org association, I knew that this profession would prosper and at the same time grow more complex over time. Fortunately, with the type of passion demonstrated here via this discussion we’re not alone. Community is a good thing and I appreciate your perspective and the perspective of the others as well. Additionally, I also respect and greatly appreciate the level of professionalism demonstrated by the many that weighed in.

    Onward!

  12. Brian Teeman

    “The key trick to managing a larger site is to put the editing function in the front end. I.e. if you are logged in to the site, every page should have an edit button. That way you don’t have to navigate around the back end to edit your static content.”

    That’s exactly right and that’s something that Joomla has and has had since the very beginning 😉

  13. Brian Peat

    Ah, I remember that post. I joined in at the original post on his main site:
    http://foliovision.com/2011/04/02/drupal-vs-joomla-mambo-vs-wordpress

    I still think it’s like Alec wandered into some alternate reality. Very SELDOM do I see wordpress sites that don’t have that signature side bar. It was really only after companies like RocketTheme started making WP themes that people were able to break out into being able to put widgets in multiple places and on specific pages. It took WP till version 3 to get a decent menu system. The first WP site I ever built had to have LOADS of plugins to make it work as flexibly as Joomla could and I had to research and research how to “hack” the menu to link to things it wasn’t designed to link to.

    Joomla, on the other hand, has an amazingly flexible templating system. Create any number of module positions and put them wherever you want them. I don’t have a lot of experience in making custom themes, but I’ve been working on one that was built for my company in 1.5 and it’s been a breeze to use a mix of new hard coded positions and the {loadposition name} function to load modules EXACTLY where I want them, pixel for pixel. It’s like blank canvas that’s only limited by CSS. How anyone can complain about that I have no idea.

    And as far as end user experience. I have clients who have had a hard time grasping the admin of Joomla (though RT’s Mission Control can help with that)…but I’ve also had clients get lost in the WP sliding menu system (thank goodness someone actually makes a top drop menu plugin for WP so nothing is buried). Most users can’t remember where anything is in WP and they have to go digging and looking into every spot-then they email me with “where was that again?” So while the WP admin LOOKS spiffy, it still needs a good overhaul in the organization department.

  14. Custom IDX Guru

    I am glad someone finally set the record straight. I am so sick of hearing things about how wordpress is so much better than Joomla and vice versa. The bottom line build in the CMS that you are most comfortable. They all have there pros and cons but the end result will be a great web site based on a solid CMS.

  15. Denis Collis

    I develop in both WordPress and Joomla. I started, before the fork, with Mambo, and then Joomla. I groaned when a client asked for WordPress, which at the time was nothing more than a puny blogging app. But now I must agree that both have astounding capabilities. I must also add that each is converging on the other’s strengths, and it becomes more and more difficult to choose which will be better suited to carry your website.

    I don’t want to compare the applications themselves, but rather the support and development structure around them. By way of demonstration, go to the official websites and explore the resources: documentation, extending (Joomla extensions/WP plugns), support and presentation (templates & themes). In this department WordPress trumps Joomla convincingly!

    I now groan when a client asks for Joomla when WordPress can do the job!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software