Why Joomla?

If it's your job to assess Content Management Systems for your organisation or if you're building a site for yourself there's a lot you need to consider. The biggest decision of all is the choice of platform. The aim of this post is to demonstrate why Joomla could be the best choice for you.

Invariably, the choice of CMS for most will come down to Drupal, Wordpress or Joomla. I'll start by saying that Joomla is no better or any worse than Wordpress or Drupal. Each are different platforms for different markets. What you choose should be based on your requirements and what fits your organisation best.


I'll hit this topic first because in most of the comparisons you read they generally come to the conclusion that one CMS is better because it has a larger market share and so many thousands of plugins and templates available compared to the others. And that this some how equates to quality.

In terms of popularity, Joomla has lost a lot of ground over the past few years.

On one hand we have Wordpress. It's well known for it's ease of use out-of-the-box. Wordpress was originally designed as a blogging tool, and bloggers are great at telling stories and evangelising the things they like. Given that blogs make up the majority of the internet, Wordpress has turned into a steamroller powered by it's own popularity.

On the other hand we have Drupal. Designed for enterprise level applications. It's not as user friendly out of the box and usually requires a professional hand to get set up and configured. It's a great CMS for developers to build sophisticated applications so it's perfect for Government agencies, large news sites, larger not-for-profits and the like who have dedicated staff to support it. 

Joomla sits in the middle ground between the super simple Wordpress and the developer focussed Drupal. Joomla is not the most popular but it's a perfect fit for firms that need all the basics plus some advanced (or custom built) functionality on a small budget. In particular, Joomla is a perfect fit for non-profits and small business.

Here's the proof you need

In 2014, the Australian Government announced the decision to rebuild all their 400+ websites using Open Source technology. They released a public Statement of Requirements and carried out their own independent evaluation of Open Source Content Management Systems.  It's the most detailed CMS evaluation I've seen. The evaluation considered many factors like:

  • Metadata
  • Multi-site functionality
  • User management
  • Search
  • Performance
  • Usability
  • Security
  • Analytics and Reporting
  • Digital Asset Management
  • Forms
  • Available modules
  • Extendibility
  • Community support
  • and many more. Download the PDF for a full rundown.

Each criteria was given a ranking and weighted based on it's importance.

Out of a shortlist of 18 Open Source CMS's, Drupal was placed 1st with a score of 91. Joomla came in 5th with a score of 86. Wordpress 9th with a score of 77.

The initial statement of requirements and evaluation document is available to download from here. It's interesting reading.

What does this mean for Joomla?

Joomla isn't specifically designed to be sophisticated enterprise-level Government software (Indeed, it can be tailored to those requirements). Joomla is designed to strike the middle ground between ease of use and complexity of features.

Coming in only 5 points behind the winner in an evaluation for a dedicated Government CMS is a testament to the capabilities of Joomla.

The SXSW Showdown

In 2013, at the SXSW Conference in Milwaukee, a showdown was held between 6 major CMS's. A list of requirements was provided and the teams competed in a live site build. Here's the results between the big three.

Total Hours 79.25 57.25 90.5
Hours spent on front end 21.75 15 36.5
HTML Validation No (8 errors) Yes No (8 errors)
CSS Validation No (7 errors) No (1 error) No (21 errors)
Page weight 180K 140K 154K
Lines of custom PHP/JS code 220 30 1,808

Joomla won the showdown convincingly in every criteria. Taking less time, less lines of code and generating a lighter page with less errors than both Wordpress and Drupal.

There's plenty of great articles on the web about it. https://www.google.com.au/?q=SXSW+Web+Content+Management+System+Showdown

Joomla now and into the future

Since the SXSW showdown took place, Joomla has only gotten better. It's more stable than ever and has many features that make it easier to use. 

For developers...

The Joomla CMS is built on top of the Joomla Framework. Just like any other PHP framework it gives developers freedom to build anything they need.

It's well supported and incredibly capable. For developers, the framework is a fully MVC structured codebase and more features are being added constantly 

Joomla is also enterprise-ready. Some features:

  • It supports multiple databases.
  • It's multi-lingual out of the box.
  • Provides granular user access controls.
  • Supports two factor authentication, LDAP, open directory.
  • Server side caching.
  • Version Control.
  • Multi-level categorisation and tagging.

For users and administrators...

Here's some of the reasons why Joomla powers around 3% of the web and many large organisations and governments have chosen Joomla as thier CMS of choice.

Mobile ready

Joomla is the only CMS out of the big 3 that is mobile ready. Both the front end and backend are fully responsive so you can manage your site from your mobile or tablet.

Bootstrap and JQuery Frameworks are included in the core.

Front-end editing

Since Joomla 2.5, front-end editing of articles has been a feature. Since Joomla 3.4 this has been extended to modules. This means that anyone with the relevant access levels can now submit, publish and edit content and modules in the front end without the need to navigate the admin area.

One-click updates

The main complaint you'll read about Joomla is that it's hard to update. This is no longer the case and hasn't been for a number of years now.

Joomla and installed extensions can be updated very easily from within the admin area. Any site built in Joomla 3.4 can expect a one click upgrade to Joomla 3.5 when it's released. Similarly, a one click update will be offered to Joomla 4 when it becomes available. Joomla will support previous major versions for a minimum of 18 months beyond the release of a new major version.

Install from web

The official Joomla Extension Directory serves over 7000 extensions (Check the resources page for a list of the best extensions). Most of these can be installed directly via the Joomla administrator without the need to visit an external site. Administrators can assess extensions, read reviews and install new extensions with a few clicks.

Granular user access controls

Joomla has predefined access levels that would suit most implementations. I've featured a rundown on the default access levels here. Administrators have the ability to fine tune user access by creating new user groups and access permissions.

Search Engine Optimisation

In version 3.3, Joomla introduced Microdata to the core output - the first major CMS to do so. There's more information here. https://docs.joomla.org/Microdata.

Another feature was recently implemented to help when duplicate URL's exist, like when a post exists in a category list and a direct menu item.  Joomla will include a canonical URL tag in the source letting Google know that any ranking is to be applied to just one URL.

And, of course, you can control all your metadata like keywords, descriptions and page titles.

If that's not enough the Joomla Extensions Directory features hundreds of extensions in the Search and Indexing category.

Page Speed

I lot of work has been done in this area. Joomla 3.4 loads faster than previous versions with some implementations loading 2.5 seconds faster. http://www.joomla.org/3/joomla-3-4-faqs

The Production Leadership Team has committed to developing a lighter core by "de-coupling" lesser used components which makes for a lighter and faster website. The Weblinks component was the first to go. It's now a core-supported extension that's not included automatically. More extensions have been slated for de-coupling. See the Joomla roadmap.

Also, see this article How I got my website to load in 1.29 seconds.

Who's using Joomla?

Linux.com https://www.linux.com/

MTV Greece http://www.mtvgreece.gr/

The World Health Organisation has several sites.

The United Nations has several sites

High Court of Australia http://www.hcourt.gov.au/

Governement of Western Australia

Governments around the world. Here's a map of over 3000 government websites around the world using Joomla.


In conclusion

Choosing a CMS platform is a huge decision that will impact your organisation for years to come. With any system you choose, the cost of implementation and customisation will be far greater than any other expense like hosting or licensing costs.  Joomla strikes a middle ground between ease of use and complexity while providing a framework that makes customisation easy for developers.

For budget conscious organisations, particularly small to medium sized businesses and non-profits, Joomla is the perfect fit.

John PitchersSince 2005, I've supported my family working from home building Joomla sites for paying clients.

If you're a first-time Joomla user, or building a freelance career of your own, I'm sharing everything I've learned one post at a time.

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