WordPress vs Drupal vs Joomla/Mambo

WordPress vs Drupal vs Joomla/Mambo: An Experienced Web Professsional Perspective

In this fourteen minute interview with Alec Kinnear, Creative Director Foliovision, Alec shares his thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of developing with the three commonly used Content Management (CMS) systems.

A special shout out to Alec for his contribution to the Web professional community and for being the really nice guy that he is.



Alec was kind enough to share the following detail in “his own” words:

Drupal Advantages

Very clean core code.
Good project leadership from Acquia.
Some very good developers available for hire.
Fewer clowns available for hire (you can either code Drupal or you can’t, it’s harder to fake it).
Can be made very server efficient in the right hands (scaleable).

Disadvantages

Less ready made drop-in plugins. You’re going to have to get your hands dirty almost every time.
More imposing default user interface.
Fewer developers.
More expensive developers.

Joomla/Mambo
Advantages

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

Disadvantages

Built-in performance pretty sluggish/clunky.
Horrid built-in URLs.
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.
Fractured community (never healed after Joomla/Mambo split back in 2006).
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.

WordPress
Advantages

Huge community.
Easy to optimise for performance thanks to Donncha O Caoimh and Frederick Townes. Great work guys.
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.
Active leadership from Automattic and founding team. Particular thanks to Mark Jaquith for keeping the community running with less nepotism and more fairness than most collective human endeavour.

Disadvantages

Fairly weak core code (in comparison to Drupal, but not Joomla!) but core getting better every year.
Lots of really crap faker developers in the pool who couldn’t build a working website to save their mother’s life.
Lots of popular but seriously broken plugins which will cripple your website performance forever and make it nearly impossible for you to cleanly upgrade (NextGen Gallery, I’m looking at you but not just you).
Really crappy commercial themes which are heavily marketed but compromise your ability to either upgrade or switch themes and compromise performance for the life of your site.
Weak static page management without adding plugins. Easily fixed with said plugins.
Too fast an upgrade cycle. You have to keep upgrading your site, whether you like it or not, for security reasons. There are no security releases only new versions. Feel the pain for a commercial site with running a full complement of plugins. Corollary: choose your plugins and plugin developers very, very carefully for cleanliness of code and frequency of update.

Conclusion

For a very large commercial project, I can see a justification for choosing Drupal. On a big project, most of your expense will be custom development anyway – everything has to be optimised and integrated – so you don’t much care one way or another about a myriad of plugins which you will probably not use. I still wouldn’t make that trade-off: slightly better core code for a vast pool of community contributed code. But it’s a defensible position.

Joomla/Mambo should die a violent death. We did our first CMS project in Mambo and last year redeveloped a couple of existing sites in Joomla. Our best developers – very platform agnostic – threatened to quit if I accepted anymore Joomla work. Such crappy, convoluted spaghetti code they’d never seen. And these developers have had ample chance to see the worst side of WordPress.

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) or that you are part of an international network standardised on Joomla/Mambo and the mothership discourages anyone from leaving the central platform (our client’s situation). For everyone else, just migrate out and count your blessing that you got your site out alive. Enjoy the fresh air and clean code of WordPress (or Drupal).

WordPress is the platform of choice in my opinion for the small, medium or large business. Whatever holes you can find in WordPress (editorial management process, page management, ecommerce, membership site) are easily solved with high quality plugins.

The cool part about WordPress is that the core is kept clean so that you aren’t forced to load code you don’t need if you want a simple weblog. Thus WordPress can be a weblog, a corporate information site, a membership site, a store or an international news network.

We regularly develop advanced real estate sites in WordPress, maintain a very sophisticated insurance site, have developed elaborate furniture rental systems and develop the most delicious cooking sites as well as gorgeous online literary reviews. Not to mention political, news and law sites. All in WordPress.

The danger with WordPress include the overhyped commercial themes which don’t solve your problems but pretend to (I’m looking at you DIYthemes.com and Thesis, WooThemes and ElegantThemes). A related danger are the weak developers and hangers on who have infested the huge WordPress community and enthusiastically give bad advice, whether about SEO or gallery plugins. These clowns will happily break your website for pay or into a defective by design commercial theme. Forewarned is forearmed.

Just like any other serious professional endeavour you need steady hands on deck when you want to take your site to the next level if you want to maintain performance, appearance and compatibility. Once you have substantial traffic or need ecommerce, WordPress is no longer a DIY venture for the non-programmer.

According to Alec, “We personally recommend people start a new site on WordPress.com unless they are developing for an established business. Once you have an audience or a functioning business, self-hosted WordPress is the way to go. Even the sky is not a limit. There are few sites we could not develop better and faster in WordPress.”

27 thoughts on “WordPress vs Drupal vs Joomla/Mambo

  1. TJ Baker

    The mere fact that you’re even mentioning Mambo says volumes about your credibility.

    “Joomla should die a violent death… ” …. and you’re published on a site that claims to be “professional’?

  2. Marcos Peebles

    Sir,
    I stopped persuing your article when I saw “A Mambo/Joomla site looks like Mambo/Joomla, like it or not.” … Please review your facts and also don’t make false statements about Joomla!
    I’d like you to invite me to the funeral of Joomla caused by “violent death”.
    I’m sure you’ll get some more accurate responses but you just made yourself look like a fool.
    Sincerely,
    Marcos Peebles

  3. Paulo Griiettner

    Sorry my friend, but I do not know what is worse … Article biased or your ridiculous conclusion… To be honest, I think you do not know any of the three tools, specially Joomla, in depth to be able to put such an article live … You better learn all the tools first, then write an article for A vs B vs C

  4. Amy Stephen

    Well, not going to lie, most of us Joomla devs could use a good psychiatrist. But – our architecture is decidedly better than it was in Mambo.

    Joomla 1.5 brought an object-oriented application framework, with a MVC pattern for componentts. The events and plugin environment is very powerful. I think most who are knowledgeable tend to agree, Joomla’s strength is in it’s templating. That’s where the architecture really shines and it shows in the ecosystem.

    You are absolutely correct that Joomla URLs suck. That’s where the violent and painful death should take place, “off with the head of the ItemID!”

    There is a lot of innovation going on in the community, as well. Pay attention to nooku and Molajo, two projects working to introduce improvements to the framework. We work on those improvements because we believe in the potential of the framework.

  5. Rafael Santana

    His knowledge of other CMS shames me! It should actually work and learn for yourself other platforms.
    With this, you can write a real review like this: computerworld.com/s/article/9219685/Site_builder_shootout_Drupal_vs._Joomla_vs._WordPress

  6. Bill Cullifer

    All,

    Thank you for your comments. When I conducted this interview, I knew that some strong opinions existed on this topic and that is a good thing. The key to take into account is:

    * this is one Web professionals account and for better or worse its his perspective and I respect that

    * if you would like to post a in depth analysis of a CMS of your choice I am all ears

  7. Cristina

    Was this article written in 2005 when “weblog” was still the preferred term over “blog” and Mambo and Joomla were actually relevant to one another?

  8. Marcos Peebles

    Here is a valid and honest analysis http://t.co/FUIwZLyT
    And actually, Alec Kinnear has a proven history of using joomla reactions to make himself exist, this is the second time this year he is saying the same innacurate things. And please, don’t patronise me about “We don’t make the news we simply report it from the eyes of others” as a web professional you should check at least some facts before allowing people shameless selfpromotion. Sad.

  9. Alec Kinnear

    Marcos, the link above is to a fluffy feel good review by a neophyte. In fact, the topic was probably inspired by my own post.

    What I’ve noticed is the only people to get worked up about my comparison is the Joomla crowd. The WordPress and Drupal people more or less agree with me.

    As do the Joomla refugees (there’s many of us now in WordPress and in Drupal).

    The comparison are my impressions and that of our six person development team. It’s meant to help people with a similar approach to coding and web development as ourselves.

    For the record, I did not solicit an interview on this specific topic. It just happens to be what Bill asked me to speak about. If you listen to the interview, I talk a lot about development cycles and larger websites and workflow and ecommerce. I don’t spend a lot of time talking about Joomla specifically.

    I’m sure there is a public who like a somewhat restrictive and highly structured environment and who have limited coding skills of their own who really enjoy Joomla and benefit from the framework. I’m not one of them.

    Bill, I’ve been asking for non-adhominem arguments in defence of Joomla from the beginning. Unfortunately, very few have been submitted.

    It certainly isn’t a controversy free topic, as I see you are finding out.

    BTW, just noticed your spam protection button. If you’d like to lower your server load, you might want to try our FV Antispam instead of WP-SpamFree (which got our reseller hosting account shut down in days of yore).

  10. PABlo Bley

    I must take exception to your article and some of the statements and comparisons. And, no doubt, I need to qualify this by saying that I used to be both a Drupal and WordPress developer. But quite frankly, your article appears to be in a “time-bubble” as far as it’s relevance to the state of the art, and oh-so-real-world of Open Source CMS development.

    The other caveat is obviously also necessary to state, that being that everyone is entitled to opinions and those may be based on specific, individual experiences when contrasting the “Big 3” of CMS development, namely Drupal, Joomla and WordPress.

    But the comparisons between what any developer and/or site owner-operator will experience, and… in the end, the degree of serviceability to the end users and communities that end up partaking of portals that are developed using these systems, is much more specific to certain factoids that I’d like to share.

    #1 Drupal is awesome. It’s also challenging on many different levels, and quite frankly is another whole level up in terms of complexity, costs, and maintenance issues. Without Acquia being involved, and without “Ninja” level developers, Drupal is just not an option for smaller (translation: much less costly) projects. Translation: If you can afford maybe as much as $100K to build, have 6-10 developers available, and willing to spend over a year getting the site ready for the marketplace, AND you don’t have to wish that back-of-the-house UI to the client who still struggles with their tech-savviness… then by all means, Drupal is best. But for me, there is another consideration, which is that every Drupal site I’ve ever built, has been hacked. In the projects I’ve previously used it for, I’ve 100% regretted it after a short time, for a whole list of reasons. So, I’ve pretty much given up on going in that direction, since I can’t afford the consequences.

    I’ve also pretty much had it with WordPress, meaning “not ever again”. I used to use if for personal sites, and I’ve built (literally hundreds) of websites for clients, but as a U.S. based developer, it’s not a marketplace that I relish, being filled with an inordinate amount of problems (some of which you did indeed describe). Aside with how much you are NOT able to do with it (e-commerce & community vortals), I still admire a really good WP site when I see one. Just not for me. And never again for my clients. I’ve inherited way too many poorly designed customized WordPress *problems* that my clients have been sold, that were unsalvageable… that ended up being remade all over again as Joomla sites.

    My experience with this is with hundreds of these sites, not just a few dozen. And there’s also the factor of all of those multitudes of WordPress installs from 2-3 yrs. back. I’m aware of how important WP is to businesses that want ANY kind of website they can get, if that’s all that they are able to do… and the many many users in business who are turned on by what it is.
    However, as an infosec analyst (which I also am), I’m also aware of how something like 70% of all zombie-net grids are formed around improperly setup and non-maintained WP sites that are from 1-3 yrs. old, and have been turned into vectors of malware incursions.

    Finally, I can’t say enough good things about the communities that have grown up around all of these platforms, since Drupal and WordPress are always important if ONLY because of their associated communities. I say this, because I value it for what it represents. My confession: in the first part of my career I was a Microsoft developer… also Java. Need I say more? I am grateful to the entire idea of OpenSource. There now, I’ve said that part.

    But then there’s Joomla. And now, I have to stop myself from turning this into a rant or encyclopedia of praise. But here’s the comparisons. Since 2006 I’ve been building sites with Joomla. In 2007, I started using component extensions like Community Builder, SOBI, AEC, Virtuemart, Fireboard, and more, and I had a lot of rough stuff to go through. But that was back then. And we survived, and got better at doing what we needed to do. And those BIG extension developers (like the above), were there for me, and enabled the creation of multiple award-winning, #1 in their vertical, community platforms that were robust and scaled, and went live in cycles that were UNDER 30 days from new domain to launch, and were able to be priced like $5K, $10K, $15K for sites that had 10,000 – 25,0000 subscribed members. And I got to know my fellow Joomla community members, and I started saying “what if” and began to use CCKs like K2 and ZOO, and went on from there to create entirely new kinds of online community portals that had never been possible up to that point… so granting that I know exactly what kind of problems that you would experience with Joomla and it’s extensions, I feel no need to defend it beyond this.

    And lest I fail to mention something else that’s important, I’d like to point out that for every option you might have to use with Drupal or WP to extend functionality, there’s like 5-6 times the options in terms of Joomla Extensions. True, not all of value, and as all CMS have their weaknesses as well as strengths… I can just point to the results that I’ve obtained with Joomla, because I LIKE to use Joomla.

    I have now built hundreds of Joomla websites, quickly, at much lower cost (passed on to the clients)… and what’s more I’ve only ever lost 2 of those to hackers.

    And of utmost significance, is beyond my own opinions… which is that 100% of our client sites are easy to use and understand for their owner/operators. That is what Joomla is best at. Not perfect, but nowhere near the “greater-of-evils” that you seem to think it is and portray to your readers. It’s what works, and we fans of Joomla are likely to show up on your radar screen as some of the most successful models of something in the middle of all things… which is a quest for the most usable platform for as many MORE sites as we can get built. And there will be millions of those too. I’m counting on being a Joomla user for some time to come. The only way I’d ever switch is if someone ever managed to out-Joomla Joomla.

    • PABlo Bley •
    Techno-vangelist
    Director of Emerging Technologies and Creative Practices
    The 3rd Party Media Alliance Group
    http://www.the3rdpartymediaalliancegroup.org

  11. Bill Cullifer

    Alec,

    Thank you for your response. I have contacted most of not all of those responding to our interview with an invitation to respond. At this point, it doesn’t look like I have any takers. That said, its still early.

    As you know, I asked you for your opinion and you shared it with me based on your own experience and the experience of your team and I thank you for that. Overall, your comparison was to the point, from the heart and very professional.

    Candidly, I personally resent the name calling that I’ve received for posting your thoughts and observations on the various CMS technologies that you have experienced. By nature, its purpose is educational and that is the way that we intended it.

    As much as I appreciate and respect the loyalty that some in the Joomla community seem to have, they like you should respect the rights of others to express their opinion.

    Thanks again.

  12. Paulo Griiettner

    Hello Bill… respect the opinion of others fine, but to say that the Joomla CMS should die… this is far way than opinion.. this is an attack to something he does not know in depth. Plus… the subject of the article is wrong, because it was not a fair comparison of the three most used CMS in the entire world. He was clear on his interview, that he only worked with Joomla, because some organization asked him to… so… he and his crew has other preferences… people were used to work with other CMS and this is fine… If someone comes to me and ask me to do a job using WP or Drupal, I would try to convince than to switch to Joomla, but would never say that the other CMS must die or they are terrible.

    I recognize the great job other communities are doing and they are all learning with each other. That’s the way should be… we are all Open Source and are leaning one from another. But when someone comes and say that some community must die, he is simply throwing away all the efforts made by the community, volunteers, to make a better product. Besides that… I have my serious doubt if this guy or someone from his crew, ever participate or contributed to WP or Drupal Communities… Because he would never say such thing…

    Hope I made my point clear…

  13. Bill Cullifer

    Yes Pualo you made your points clear and I appreciate you taking the time to make your case. I’ve received news that a Joomla developer is preparing a formal response and when its done I’ll post that here. As an FYI, I recently conducted an interview of a Drupal developer and I’ll pots his interview as well. As I said, I respect your passion for the topic and I appreciate the civil and professional level response. Clearly, all of us benefit from the discussion and we can I suppose at some point we can agree to disagree and shake hands.

  14. Amy Stephen

    Alec Kinnear said “What I’ve noticed is the only people to get worked up about my comparison is the Joomla crowd. The WordPress and Drupal people more or less agree with me.”

    Hey Alec –

    Maybe read back thru your comments on the advantages and disadvantages of Joomla and see if you think your word choice was inflammatory. It’s easy to talk smack but it’s far more difficult to clearly articulate points (agree on the URLs, for example, but I beg to differ on the level of talent in our developer community or our code quality.)

    I also think it’s presumptuous to speak for WordPress and Drupal people. That’s an example of sweeping generalizations the many find upsetting.

    Joomla is far from perfect. That’s why we continue to work.

  15. Brian Teeman

    Hi Bill

    As I said to Alec the first time that he wrote this post back in April. 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.

    Brian Teeman
    Co-founder Joomla!

  16. Bill Cullifer

    Hello Brian,

    Thanks for weighing in. As I may have mentioned in an earlier comment thread, someone from the Joomla developer community has agreed to an interview and I’ll be conducting that soon. I also think that it’s worth noting that the subsequent emails that I have received are constructive in nature and highly professional. I very much appreciate the general tone of this discussion. Thanks to all for that.

  17. Bill Cullifer

    Clarie,

    Thank you for commenting. I am not sure what you mean.

    To put my position into context, I post a number of interviews around a variety of topics of potential interest to Web professionals. It’s not nor will it ever be my goal to degrade anyone, any product or service while doing so. It’s not the mission of the organization and simply put its not something we want to get into here. That said, I am open to publishing a range of ideas and opinions as long as its clear that the opinions are just that and in no way represent my own or organizational views. At the end of the day, it is my interest in helping the aspiring, the practicing and those that teach Web professional topics by interviewing those that want to share knowledge with those that want to learn. If you have an opinion on the topic please feel free to weigh in.

    Bill

  18. Bill Cullifer

    PABlo Bley,

    Thank you for taking the time to let us know your thoughts on the topic. For the record, I read your response word for word and I don’t think that you either “ranted or communicated encyclopedia of praise” but rather made a compelling case for why you like Joomla. Thank you for your in depth response and for weighing in. Well done.

    Bill

  19. Nick Balestra

    If you look at Alec website portfolio: http://foliovision.com/about/clients there are 100 website created, all in WordPress, no sign of Drupal, no sign of Joomla. How can this be an expert of the 3 system acknowledgeable to make a good comparison with con/pro. all the rest is not even worth discussing on such basis.

  20. Emerson Rocha Luiz

    Reading this article, seemed to me that you suffered from developers of extensions that were not concerned with quality code. And at that point I agree with you: Joomla 1.5 allowed a legacy (and crap) code. And by allowing this, not many developers have rewrite they extensions.

    However, when re-reading this article, just to be really sure,it seemed that your company was forced to maintain websites with extensions coded trash (the “Anyone who likes to code in Joomla/Mambo in 2011 ought to see a psychiatrist.” part). And judging by your complaints, your company has not implemented the version of Joomla 1.6,( or even Joomla 1.5), which no longer support legacy in the other claims that are not focused on the extension developers has been resolved.

    I ask you:

    1) in the Drupal CMS claim that you are required to write code frequently, why you do not do the same with Joomla? This is because there was already some extent, even if was crap code, ready to use, and that would later cause problems?

    2) The developers of your company ever really stopped to understand what was happening, and standardize how to program? Let me be more direct: at some point there was interest in doing a decent code?

    3) Imagine the situation: your client has a Joomla! and wants to hire his company, which says an expert in Drupal, to maintain this site. You tell me that this client would pay you more to maintain and update this site to Joomla, or to remake it in Drupal?

    [Sorry for cross post on both sites with this text]

  21. Alec Kinnear

    Hi Pablo,

    Drupal. We agree on Drupal. It’s time consuming and expensive to build up a large Drupal site. No problem with core architecture but Drupal is for organisations with very deep pockets and a substantial tech crew.

    WordPress. Ecommerce: we’ve built lots of great ecommerce sites on WordPress. Have a look at http://stagersssource.ca when you have a chance. For community, we are having a lot of success with bbPress and WordPress together sharing a single login, while using the free s2 Member (we still donated to the proejct as we use the code professionally) to manage paid subscriptions.

    As WordPress is a MySQL driven project with great import and export tools of its own, I have to wonder about the term “unsalvageable”. If you mean sites, which need a complete makeover that happens on every platform. That you chose and were able to take a WordPress project to Joomla shows what a good open source player WordPress is.

    Your principal issue seems to be that many out-of-date and badly maintained WordPress sites are hacked. Any CMS which is left on a not very secure server and without updates is likely to be hacked at some point (you suggested Drupal is hacked even more often).

    The security answers to recap:

    1. Keep your sites on a more tightly controlled server with mod_security.
    2. Keep your sites up to date.

    The advantage with WordPress is that the updates are simple and there’s lots of great help available.

    I think the short answer is that there is no CMS which doesn’t need care and maintenance. The idea that the internet is “free” is about the same as love. “Free love” is a great concept but it doesn’t really work out that way in practice.

    PS. Brian, Pablo’s advocacy post above talks about how great Joomla is for creating community sites.

  22. Paulo Griiettner

    Alec.. you have to admit that you did step on the ball here. You were fine with your opinions on your article, until you mentioned some untrue things about Joomla and ended up aggravating things when you said that Joomla must die. A CMS that holds 2.7% of websites of the world, must have some respect and consideration from your side and I challenge you to try Joomla 1.7 and you will that it is a whole new ball game.

  23. Bill Cullifer

    Thanks Paulo.

    Given that this topic is educational in nature and we are a not for profit, here’s the entire article with an appropriate credit for PCWorld and the author:

    EBay Deploys Joomla for Analytics Portal Says Joab Jackson, IDG News

    Oct 7, 2010 PCWorld.com reported that:

    Bypassing a number of commercial portal packages, eBay has started using the Joomla open source content management software as a framework to provide its employes with analytic tools, the online auction giant said.

    According to the article in the Oct 7, 2010 PCWorld.com

    The Joomla Web framework will be used to stage a set of internal analysis tools for the company’s 16,400 employees. The company claims that it runs the largest commercial data warehouse in the world, and this software will provide a base for a set of eBay-built extensions to analyze some of this data.

    “eBay has always made it a key priority to encourage employees to collaborate and drive business innovation,” said Bob Page, eBay analytics platform vice president, in a statement. “We are working with the open source community to elevate insightful ideas and innovations across our company, from our greatest resources, our employees.”

    Employees will also be able to start discussions and create documents within the analytics tool.

    Joomla is an open source portal and content management system, one with ease-of-use features that makes it ideal for smaller organizations with little IT support, said Ryan Ozimek, president of Open Source Matters, a not-for-profit organization coordinating Joomla project.

    Departments within Citibank, General Electric, Harvard University, the International House of Pancakes, and MTV all use Joomla. Large organizations are increasingly contributing to the project as well, Ozimek said. For instance, Microsoft has contributed code, which is licensed under the GPL, in order to have it work with the company’s SQL Server software.

    Gartner has estimated that the market for Web content management systems will grow to over US$1 billion business next year.

    Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab’s e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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