Joomla is one of the most popular open-source content management systems in the world. But beneath all the hype, what are its real pros and cons? Let's explore this in detail.
The Pros of Joomla
Joomla is one of the most popular open-source content management systems in the world. But beneath all the hype, what are its real pros and cons?
Let's explore this in detail.
Let's dive right in, starting with all the pros and strong points of Joomla:
PRO #1: Joomla Content Management
I couldn’t possibly write about the pros of Joomla without mentioning its content management capabilities.
For content management, Joomla is clearly a winner amongst the CMS market. Joomla allows for far more native types of content than its closest competitors, in the form of modules, articles, menus, menu items, and more.
So many different types of content can be created, and can be managed in independently segregated parts of the Joomla administration panel.
Additionally, Joomla offers such an abundance of fields for each type of content, which has a variety of different uses. Most of the time, website administrators can even make notes on their content, for reference when they’re back to edit it later.
It’s kind of crazy.
Over the years, Joomla’s got much better with content management, and allows you to display it in a variety of ways.
Of course, you can use articles, tags, modules, or menus — or even choose to use a third-party component to display content differently.
Being able to assign content to different user groups and permissions is also a plus. Additionally, Joomla offers the ability to hide or display certain fields and data on an article-by-article basis.
For example, you may choose to hide the author name on one particular article, and display the last updated date rather than the creation date on another. It’s all rather sophisticated.
PRO #2: Joomla is Great for Beginners
On of Joomla’s greatest selling points, ever since its inception in 2005, is ease of use. Joomla has really nailed this — they’ve been really successful at it.
The CMS boasts the native availability of so many configuration options directly from the visual administration interface, that the vast majority of Joomla users won’t have to touch any code.
After all, you can edit the files of Joomla templates directly from the Joomla administration panel, and also upload images and files directly for pages and posts with a breeze. You don’t even need to use FTP.
And for what it’s worth, if you do need to delve into the code structure, it’s so simple that there’s barely room for error. Joomla’s administration interface is really user-friendly.
While it’s definitely a step up from WordPress’s UI, it’s certainly simple enough for even a beginner to learn.
Truth be told, even after working with Joomla for over ten years, I still can’t remember where everything in the administration panel is.
Of course, that’s never posed much a problem — because everything’s so easy to find. I think this really demonstrates the flexibility of Joomla.
While it’s certainly possible to create intricate, complex websites using the CMS, it’s also perfectly suited to beginners and those of moderate proficiency. I really appreciate being able to trust that a new author I add to my Joomla sites isn’t likely to need much tuition or guidance from me — everything is exactly where it should be.
Extending upon the CMS isn’t difficult either.
Joomla’s administration panel may be simple, but it’s apt at its job. Intricate site configuration options are interchangeable with a couple of clicks, which certainly can’t be said for more complicated content management systems such as Drupal, for example.
Joomla also does a great job of categorizing website elements into different sections in its admin interface.
You know exactly where to change settings for each component you have installed, where to modify the global site settings, where to manage caching and performance, and exactly where to find your list of published articles.
In fact, that leads me onto my next point: filtering!
Joomla’s admin panel provides great filtering functionality, which allows you to sort and filter through content, regardless of how much your site has. This is actually something I struggle with in WordPress and Drupal.
Neither of Joomla’s biggest competitors have seemed to nail content sorting in quite the same way that Joomla does. Since practically everything is filterable and sortable in Joomla, it always feels a little disappointing when I’m required to work with WordPress or Drupal for a day.
Far more than a simple search functionality, Joomla allows administrators to organize and sort through content by all kinds of parameters, and even multiple at once.
PRO #3: Joomla Is Great For SEO
As far back as I can remember, Joomla’s been pretty bad at SEO.
Well, not anymore!
From Joomla 3 onwards, search engine optimization in Joomla took a massive upgrade. Joomla is now better for SEO than WordPress. Yes, you read that correctly. Let me say it again:
Joomla’s native SEO is better than that of its biggest rival, WordPress.
Quite surprising, considering WordPress is a specialist blogging platform.
Over recent years, it’s become increasingly harder for websites to achieve good Google ranking results. Of course, this has to do with Google’s great algorithm updates, which are to improve user experience and the discovery of good content.
As we all know, however, a website’s content alone is not the only factor to SEO success. On-page search engine optimization has become increasingly important as years have gone by. And the great news for Joomla users (yay, me!) is that the CMS now has the best native optimization for search of any of its competing content management systems.
There’s never been a time better than now to jump onboard the Joomla bandwagon. Joomla’s frontend rendering has been completely rewritten to support 100% valid semantic HTML markup.
This is not only visible in Joomla’s SEO performance, but also in regards to field inputs such as in the native forms in Joomla: contact, login, registration, etc.
Enhanced search engine optimization means better crawl-ability by Google, Yahoo and Bing, lifting a huge weight off site owners and developers to make manual alterations to Joomla’s page rendering.
Articles are rendered following current best practices for SEO, and so are other pages as well. Joomla’s SEO optimization even extends to modules and menu items. It’s all quite cool.
Personally, I have been loving the new optimization for search in the latest versions of Joomla. Ultimately, it means I can focus one-hundred percent of my attention on building and developing websites with Joomla, without having to spare a thought with regards to the CMS’s native rendering, as far as SEO is concerned, at least.
This awesome change to the way Joomla manages and renders content on the front-end means that Joomla websites should be showing up higher in search results than those built with WordPress, or even Drupal, and I’m very excited about that… *wink*
I’d be willing to bet that many people in the web development space don’t yet realize how adept Joomla now is when it comes to SEO.
The Joomla development team haven’t exactly been the most proactive at advertising it. But I’m excited and hopeful that in due course, more developers and website owners will become informed and take note of Joomla’s superior capability when it comes to search engine optimization.
Google search results are becoming more and more competitive by the day, and quite honestly, it’s never been more important to reside in that top-10 spot. Hopefully, with Joomla, you’ll now see a greater return on your investment given the dramatic improvements the project has made to SEO.
PRO #4: Joomla Has Caching & Performance Mechanisms
One of the CMS’s greatest strengths is its performance management. Natively, Joomla ships with a plethora of solutions to enhance the performance of websites and integrate complex optimization techniques. Some of these can be configured as early as the initial Joomla installation process — that’s a testament to just how much attention Joomla pays to the performance of its sites.
And of course, as we all know, website performance in 2019 is a big thing. Arguably, performance is one of the most important aspects of any website’s success.
The Joomla CMS comes pre-packaged with complex caching tools, enabling site administrators to maintain order and optimization of caching mechanisms for both the front-end and the administration areas of the site. Not only this, but the CMS is capable of displaying exactly which items are cached directly from the visual administration interface.
This is something that not even Drupal natively provides. Additionally, Joomla offers developers and website administrators the option to purge caches (and expired caches) directly from the administration panel. Having used a variety of content management systems in my time, I’ll definitely hand this one to Joomla.
It has the most resourceful built-in caching mechanisms of any of the popular open-source content management systems.
And whatsmore, Joomla’s caching abilities really are quite intricate. You can delve into a surprisingly detailed level of customization, even down to the user’s personal browser caching of a website.
The CMS provides an incredible power of caching tools within the CMS. Moreover, there are additional plugins, which also ship natively with Joomla, which you’ll find disabled upon installation.
These enable an even deeper level of performance and optimization tuning for experienced Joomla administrators and developers. It’s all quite impressive, really.
Of course, it doesn’t end there. There are so many great extensions available from the Joomla extension directory (and elsewhere) that provide an even greater level of caching and performance optimization, beyond Joomla’s native capabilities.
In most cases, they probably won’t be needed (since the CMS is so good at doing this itself), but if you’re in need of CDN integration or more aggressive compression, there are plenty of impressive solutions. I’ve used quite a few of them, in fact! Here are some of my top recommendations, personally:
PRO #5: Joomla is More Popular Than WordPress
WordPress is the most-popular CMS, used for over 75 million websites worldwide. It’s the most common website building solution. That must speak for something, right?
Sure, it does. It speaks for great marketing.
WordPress is actually headed up by a corporate (that means commercial) team, and quite seemingly, they have a great marketing team.
But did you know that once-upon-a-time, Joomla was actually more popular than its biggest rival, whose name begins with a big W and ends with a little s? (hint… WordPress)
Yep, you read that right. Joomla was once boasted more total live installations than WordPress did at the time. Now that’s saying something, since Joomla is 100% volunteer-run, and doesn’t have commercial funding, marketing, or even development behind it.
All development of the CMS is actually fueled by volunteers.
While this is, of course, great news for the open-source community, it’s unfortunately something that lead to the very apparent overtake in marketing that was fueled by the introduction and development of WordPress as a content management system.
Technically speaking, WordPress isn’t a content management system, but rather a blogging tool with a gross amount of plugins and third-party extensions (which all create additional website bloat - a recipe for a complete mess if you’re using shared hosting, specifically).
Joomla is, of course, still famous. In many areas of the world, it’s still in fact the most-used content management system. In fact, Joomla has great uptake in Asia right now, did you know? That’s how loved the CMS is, from different regions all over the globe!
I personally think that this speaks volumes. The fact that a CMS can have such a global impact cross-continent is really impressive. I don’t think I’ve seen the same with either WordPress or Drupal, in fact. Joomla really excels in this regard.
With this in mind, it’s important to remember that Joomla comes from really strong roots, and it claimed its fame for good reason. The CMS did, and still does, meet the needs for such a broad spectrum of different sites, including those of some of the world’s best known organizations.
PRO #6: Joomla Is Great For E-commerce
We’re all familiar with WooCommerce. Or at least, what it is and the principle behind it (if you don’t, please tell me which rock you’re living under!).
WooCommerce is the main player when it comes to extending the capabilities of WordPress into e-commerce. WooCommerce provides reasonably good e-commerce functionality to WordPress, which doesn’t have its own native support for an online store.
Joomla doesn’t natively support e-commerce stores either. But something most WordPress/WooCommerce users don’t know, is that Joomla’s rival e-commerce solutions pack in so much more power.
Anyone who knows Joomla will have heard of VirtueMart, and probably even used it. With experience of e-commerce solutions in WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, I can say with confidence that Joomla’s e-commerce solutions are certainly superior to its counterparts. Sure, VirtueMart may not be as simple (and easy to use) as WooCommerce, and I’m the first to admit that.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that VirtueMart is darn hard! But from another angle… it’s also very powerful. I suppose that’s the price you pay for power and flexibility.
VirtueMart is a beast of an extension, and provides the kind of e-commerce solution that any commercial online brand might be looking for.
I’d say, in many ways, it stands a pretty good fight even against commerce-specific solutions like Shopify. With so many years behind its development, VirtueMart is mature and well thought-through.
Of course, there is also the added bonus that the developers of the VirtueMart project also make available various versions of the software, available and supported simultaneously, in case your site runs a slightly older version of Joomla, and you aren’t yet ready to make the upgrade.
But VirtueMart is just one of the bountiful commerce extensions available for Joomla. Another popular one is HikaShop (which, you guessed it, I’ve also used).
HikaShop is a great VirtueMart alternative, offering much of the same functionality, with additional benefits here and there. Personally, I find HikaShop much easier to use.
In fact, these e-commerce plugins are so loved by the Joomla community that they each have their own ecosystem built directly around them. There are numerous extendable plugins for both VirtueMart and HikaShop, which bring in even more structure, functionality, and flexibility far beyond that of the native extensions.
There’s really nothing that you can’t achieve with careful planning and the correct selection and use of either VirtueMart or HikaShop, or indeed any of their additional extensions.
Of course, these aren’t the only great players in Joomla e-commerce. There are indeed many others, but these two are by-far the most popular. You can check out some further e-commerce extensions for Joomla here: https://extensions.joomla.org/category/e-commerce/
PRO #7: Joomla Extensions Are Great
The availability of premium extensions in the Joomla ecosystem is simply great.
In fact, Joomla has some of the most resourceful, well developed extensions of all the popular content management systems.
One of the biggest pros to using premium extensions is the fact that developers are so devoted to them. And they remain devoted to them.
I’ve been using several Joomla extensions for over ten years, and development for them is still going strong! Just take a look at the likes of JomSocial, Virtuemart, and HikaShop.
These are all great premium Joomla extensions that do exactly what they say on the tin. And with time and maturity, they’ve only got better.
It’s definitely worth the additional investment for integration of a few premium extensions. Oftentimes, they’ll significantly reduce time wastage and cost in futile attempts to reinvent the wheel.
Luckily, Joomla extensions allow overrides, in much the same way that templates do, which means that you can modify the styling and behavior of even the best of extensions. This is great, since it’s so possible to customize the extensions to your site’s requirements, no matter how precise they may be.
Joomla has, historically, been one of the biggest players in terms of the breadth of its premium extension population.
As far as I’m concerned, Joomla is home to some of the best premium extensions available anywhere on the web.
I’ve worked with many content management systems, and I can say with confidence that some of the most-popular premium extensions for Joomla are more capable than feature-rich than for any competing CMS, even the likes of WordPress.
Sure, WordPress has its gems, but from my personal experience of over ten years working with Joomla, and over twenty years in web development overall, Joomla definitely takes the cake here.
Some of Joomla’s premium extensions are so advanced that competing content management systems don’t even have a poor alternative; they have literally no alternative.
This is really a testament to just how well-developed and mature the Joomla ecosystem has become since its first release, way back in 2005.
So many developers and technology businesses have devoted their expertise to Joomla — and it shows. They continue to dedicate large portions of their budget, team, and development experience to Joomla, which as an independent CMS, is now nearly fifteen years old.
PRO #8: Premium Joomla Templates
Joomla’s premium template market is clearly outstanding. Compared to popular competitor Drupal’s, Joomla most certainly boasts a far-superior collection of premium templates available online.
The number of vendors of premium Joomla templates is growing year by year, as more online theming vendors try to establish their stake in the competitive market.
This is only a good thing for Joomla developers and website owners. It provides a refreshing catalog of Joomla templates, available across the globe, for a variety of industries and business-types.
Today, you can find Joomla templates that are suited to nearly any industry — whether popular or incredibly niche. This is undoubtably one of Joomla’s strongest selling points, as many of the themes for popular rival WordPress, are also available for Joomla, as completely re-written versions capable of supporting Joomla’s increased needs and requirements.
Most premium themes are certainly worth the investment, since they slash the previous costs that would be associated with hiring a bespoke front-end web developer to skin a Joomla site. Since there are thousands of premium templates to choose from, you aren’t short for choice, and that’s great news if you’re seeking a theme from particular vendors or template outlets.
Many independent Joomla template stores also offer membership clubs, which is a popular technique within the Joomla ecosystem, and allows web developers and agencies alike the access to a large catalog of templates, which they can use interchangeably for multiple clients.
Unlike Drupal, one of Joomla’s closest competitors, Joomla’s premium template availability is prepared to suit the needs of a much broader spectrum of website types and demands. Of course, premium templates come with premium features, which means that Joomla’s functionality is further enhanced.
Sites built with premium templates tend to provide a lot more, in terms of technology used, and innovative tools available to developers and site owners. Often, premium Joomla templates ship with pre-packed page builders and premium extensions, which provides even more value for money.
And of course, as Joomla is open-source and so extendable, premium templates can be modified and revised by the purchaser to suit the site’s specific needs. All this without having to invest the time and money in building a new template for Joomla from scratch, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
Well, success in terms of achieving a quick turnaround and launch time, anyway. Price-wise, templates seem to be quite modest, too. And that’s always a good thing. You can check out some great premium Joomla templates here: https://createdbycocoon.com/joomla-templates
PRO #9: Joomla Installation & Setup Is Easy
One of the great things about Joomla is its installation and easy setup process.
It’s a little lengthier than WordPress’s installation, but personally, I like that.
With Joomla, you get the opportunity to set up and configure the site’s long-term settings a little better, before you’ve even deployed the site.
What I really like about Joomla’s installation process is how many options it provides. It’s really, really feature rich. Not only can you tailor all your long-term configuration settings directly during the installation process, but the steps and progress is made so clearly visible at each step. It’s also blazing fast, which is something I can’t say for Joomla’s competition, having worked extensively with them all.
I personally love being able to define the site’s configuration according to the project’s specifications and requirements before I’ve even logged in for the first time.
In fact, it’s great that I can get that all out of the way, before anything else. Joomla’s installation process is also great at highlighting server settings and incompatibilities right down to each configurable option. If the server doesn’t support something at the time of installation, you can still proceed, and enable that later in your server configuration panel, with your web host, or in php.ini. Which is great.
It lets you get set up in no time, regardless of which Apache modules are enabled. Joomla seems to just be able to work around the server configuration, letting you start up your environment and get straight in.
One of the other things I really like about Joomla, is that if the installation fails, it explains exactly what went wrong, and offers a simple alternative to completing the final installation steps directly via FTP. Incorrect read and write permissions?
Not a problem for Joomla, it just provides the contents of the configuration file, according to the configurable settings you specified, which you can just paste straight into the configuration file in the root directory. It’s really easy.
In fact, I’ve had to use this method a few times, in situations where I’ve neglected to manually configure the server configuration correctly, but Joomla seems to be able to spot it and proceed with the installation irrespective; simply pointing out to me what’s wrong (in simple terms), with a single-step copy and paste solution to complete the installation process.
But something I appreciate even more, is Joomla’s ability to deploy the site either with dummy content, or without. And that’s something that I find insanely helpful. My preferences change depending on the nature of the project I’m working on, and there are times where I just need a plain, simple Joomla installation without any dummy content or demo material.
Conversely, there are also times where I appreciate the extra push that Joomla can natively provide, by selecting which dummy content and configurations I wish to deploy.
In fact, here at Cocoon, all our Joomla templates utilize a dummy content model, which allows you to install a new Joomla installation complete with the theme and all the demo content pre-deployed; essentially creating a site that’s ready to go, regardless of your Joomla skill-level. Sometimes that’s not what you want, and of course, we offer a quick manual installation option for users who fit this profile too, especially if they just want to skip the demo content and install the template directly into an existing Joomla site.
But all in all, it’s the principle that really counts for something. The features are there if you need them, and that’s something I really appreciate from Joomla.
PRO #10: Joomla Has One-click Updates & Upgrades
Website maintenance is indeed one of the greatest struggles and commitments for both website administrators and developers alike.
It’s one of those activities that feels like a chore, and unfortunately for CMS users, it’s something that they’ll always have to face. With the complexities and innovation in technology that content management systems have seen, and indeed the web in general, maintaining an up-to-date installation is imperative.
This is particularly the case for CMS based sites, such as yours (since you’re running Joomla).
Historically, Joomla updates were quite a cumbersome ordeal that haunted the community, hanging over the arched backs and edgy shoulders of site owners who ran Joomla sites. Particularly for agencies and freelance web developers, maintaining a portfolio of client websites during those all-so-critical update moments posed a significant, and time-consuming challenge.
For years, Joomla’s go-to update method involved quite hefty (and subsequently, lengthy) FTP upload and file replacement processes. Quite impressively, though, Joomla has now developed a solution that enables sites to bypass this resource-intensive upgrade process, which is still prevalent in many alternative content management systems.
Joomla now utilizes a one-click update solution. And yes, it’s exactly what it says on the tin. In fact, I’d say it works even better than it sounds.
One-click updates are one of those urban legends, as far as I’ve experienced in my twenty plus years as a web developer, maintenance professional, and site administrator.
They’re almost always too good to be true. In fact, I was so invested in this mindset, that I didn’t even try Joomla’s one-click update functionality when it was first release.
I completely dismissed it, as one of those urban legends, uttering under my breath ‘it’s a trap’, ‘it’s too good to be true’.
‘Of course one-click updates won’t work. And if it does, my site will break.’
Boy, was I wrong! After hesitantly attempting it for the first time, after the admittedly time-consuming process of creating 5 or so backups of both the Joomla files and the database, just in case it completely failed (because, you know, technology), I was pleasantly surprised to see my site updated to the latest version of Joomla, all in under ten-or-something seconds.
I refreshed, and then refreshed again. I hadn’t needed to enter FTP details into the Joomla administration panel. It all felt a little too good to be true.
I cleared my cookies, cache, browser history — heck, I even reset the browser and tried again. Not only did the Joomla backend (administration panel) continue to work, but the frontend of the site looked and worked exactly the same.
I just no longer saw the intrusive ‘Update Available’ message at the top of the Joomla administration interface. The third-party extensions I had installed continued to function as normal, and my premium Joomla template still looked great (maybe a little shinier than before, or maybe that’s just me).
Personally, I can confirm: Joomla’s one-click updates really work. And they work really, really well.
PRO #11: Joomla Has Advanced User & Permissions Management
One of Joomla’s greatest features, and becoming especially prevalent in more mature in each version since Joomla 1.5, is its user and group management and permissions.
Joomla has awesome user management capabilities. In fact, I’d say that Joomla’s user permissions management is the best in any open-source CMS or website building tool I have ever tried!
And trust me, as far as I’m concerned, this says a lot. I’ve worked with nearly all content management systems on the market, both proprietary and open-source. Joomla not only allows brilliant flexibility regarding single user management, but also with groups. In fact, the CMS ships with quite a few user groups and permission configurations immediately upon installation, completely out-the-box.
This is great for both beginners and those seasoned with the CMS. But that’s not it. Joomla allows for such an intricate level of control for user groups, with practically every single piece of content.
Articles, menu items, and modules can all be configured on a user-permission basis, allowing website administrators to dictate exactly which user permissions are required to access particular content, no matter what it is.
In this regard, Joomla actually provides user management functionality far superior to any of its counterparts, including the two other most popular open-source content management systems: WordPress and Drupal. Neither of these CMS’s natively ship with such an intricate level of configuration possibilities that Joomla does.
In fact, it’s been this way for years. Joomla has always excelled in this area. The user permissions are so intricate, that you can actually allow specific user groups access to administrate certain areas of the website, while restricting exactly what they can modify, add or remove.
With Joomla 3, you can also grant specific roles the ability to administrate portions of the site directly from the front-end, without providing them access to the all-important backend Joomla administration panel.
This is great for complex websites, and those who have multiple departments or teams managing different areas of the website.
I have to admit, Joomla particularly excels in the area of user management and group permissions. And as far as I’m concerned, it does this job a lot better than its competitors, particularly well.
And whatsmore, this functionality is natively included in the CMS, and requires very limited knowledge or technical expertise — #winning!
Okay, so we've covered all of Joomla's greatest advantages above.
Now, let's get straight in with the cons, addressing them in-depth, one by one:
CON #1: Joomla Is More Complex Than WordPress
As we all know, WordPress has built the foundation of its bulletproof reputation on its ease of use.
With WordPress, one of the biggest pros is just how simple it is to create and publish your content. But unfortunately for WordPress users, this simplicity also extends deep beyond the surface level functionality of the CMS. Joomla is, admittedly, more complex than WordPress.
Creating content, modifying the site structure, and performing most other maintenance and development tasks require a greater level of expertise in Joomla. But the difference isn’t overwhelming, at least in my opinion.
There are still certain tasks that Joomla accomplishes far easier than WordPress, but I’m going to admit that they are on more of an extendable, development level. As far as the user interface, variety of configuration options, and general website management goes, Joomla does indeed require a greater level of knowledge, understanding, and willingness to learn, when compared to native WordPress.
It’s not necessarily a weak point, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind, particularly if you aren’t proficient in the CMS.
CON #2: Backwards Compatibility
Things with Joomla really changed after version 1.5. This was perhaps when Joomla was at its prime. In versions subsequent to 1.5, beginning with 1.6, Joomla quickly began to move away from its backwards-compatibility as a priority.
If you know anything about backwards compatibility, you’ll know just how important it is for maintaining the integrity of your website, whilst also remaining up to date with the latest technologies and version updates.
Joomla’s goals after 1.5 were to periodically phase out old deprecated code from the content management system, but this move came with the unfortunate issue of causing breaking changes between newer and older Joomla versions.
In such instances, while the integrity of the site’s contents was maintained, templates and extensions were at an increased risk of not working after a major Joomla upgrade. This isn’t the best news for Joomla developers and website owners running the CMS.
It means that with each major update to the Joomla, the compatibility of all installed extensions and templates must be verified prior to performing the upgrade.
Since Joomla upgrades sometimes include patches for security vulnerabilities, it’s often important to update to the latest version release, in order to safeguard your site against these loopholes that attackers could potentially use to penetrate the site.
The biggest problem this poses is that not all extensions and templates will be up-to-date and ready for the latest Joomla version upgrade, and upgrading could subsequently result in a broken Joomla website. Over recent years, Joomla has improved in this regard, with no severe breaking changes occurring in any version of Joomla 3.
However, it’s important to note that with the impending release of Joomla 4, many templates and extensions present the risk of incompatibility.
In cases such as this, Joomla developers and site administrators are wholly reliant on the developers of these extensions, in order that they’re able to upgrade and retain the integrity of their site.
Hopefully, Joomla 4 won’t cause the kind of breaking changes that were seen in Joomla’s massive overhaul of 1.5 into version 2.5. That was one heck of an upgrade, as the CMS was practically rewritten from the ground-up.
CON #3: Stuck Between WordPress & Drupal
One of Joomla’s recent challenges has been to do with differentiating itself.
WordPress is known as the do-it-yourself solution for site admins who don’t have extensive coding or development experience.
With WordPress, you can create a good looking and reasonably functional website without possessing much development skill — due to the plethora of extensions and themes available in the WordPress ecosystem today. The case is much the same with Drupal, but the other way around. Drupal is an incredibly powerful open-source CMS targeted to experts and enterprise-level clients.
Today, Joomla falls somewhere in between the two. And that’s where its biggest issue lies.
From a marketing standpoint, the public doesn’t hold a strong opinion of Joomla, much due to the fact that it doesn’t possess the polar-opposite selling points that distinguish WordPress and Drupal.
WordPress is easy, and Drupal is for professionals. Joomla can, in many ways, be described as a mix of the two.
The reason this is so challenging is that the majority of website owners are on two distinct ends of the spectrum: inexperienced, or very experienced. Joomla does indeed satisfy a need — that midway point.
And while there are a large number of developers who hover around this midway point in terms of knowledge and expertise, it’s not a strong differentiating factor in the ways that ‘ease’ or ‘expert’ are.
This asset of Joomla seems to persist in most areas of the CMS. Whether related to the user interface or back-end development, Joomla presents itself as a little more advanced than WordPress, but not quite as powerful and extendable as Drupal. Taking a look at Joomla’s administration interface, for example, it provides a lot more flexibility than its popular rival WordPress.
But compared to Drupal, it’s not nearly as powerful and resourceful. And once you begin to delve into the backend code that Joomla provides, the same can be seen.
While much of Drupal’s backend can’t be understood by many entry-level developers, WordPress’s is almost too easy. And this firmly positions Joomla as a midpoint solution between the two.
As one of the most used open-source content management systems, Joomla fits neatly in the middle.
But that middle ground is also a dangerous territory, since many users aren’t quite so sure whether that’s where they fit in.
Since Joomla’s closest competitors are so easily distinguishable, it’s likely that Joomla has a harder time differentiating itself because of this.
It’s not inherently a bad thing that Joomla sits in the middle; in fact it’s quite positive. It provides a comfortable environment for mid-way developers and site administrators alike; those who are looking for a solution more powerful than WordPress, but not quite so resourceful as Drupal.
The challenge for Joomla manifests itself far more as a marketing and public perception problem, rather than a legitimate weakness with the CMS itself.
CON #4: Free Joomla Extensions
Joomla’s official directory of extensions boasts an impressive number of nearly 8000.
Well, it would be impressive.
If it wasn’t for the fact that Drupal boasts over 42,000 free extensions (referred to as modules in Drupal) in its own directory. And as for WordPress, there are over 54,000 plugins available, just via their official site.
Clearly, Joomla’s roster of 8000 extensions is no longer quite so impressive.
Whatsmore, the unfortunate fact is that many of the free extensions available for Joomla aren’t kept nearly as up-to-date as the ones competing content management systems provide.
Having worked with Joomla for so many years, this is something I can definitely attest to.
If you’re aiming to build a fairly complex website with Joomla, you’ll almost undoubtably be in for a ride with a number of premium extensions.
In all my time as a web developer, I think I’ve only managed to complete one Joomla website with 100% free extensions.
Let me say that again: for most of my time working with Joomla, I’ve had to rely on premium extensions.
This definitely comes with its positives, but is no doubt a drawback too.
In some ways, it’s a good thing, as you can be pretty certain that the developers of these premium extensions are devoted to the ongoing development a fair bit.
Oftentimes, the developers are very responsive, providing fixes for bugs or issues with the extension, and pushing regular updates and new features.
By the time you’ve finished with your website, though, your pocket may have felt a bit of a beating. This can, in part, be blamed on the premium-centric ecosystem that has been built around Joomla.
Let me paint a clearer picture.
Drupal, one of Joomla’s closest relatives, has been highly successful at building an open-source, volunteer-driven community around it.
The vast majority of themes and extensions available for Drupal are both open-source, and free.
In fact, it’s quite rare that Drupal sites will utilize a premium extension (referred to as modules).
As for WordPress, its ecosystem is a little different, in that there is a large prevalence of “lite” vs “full” versions of many plugins.
These plugins offer a lite taster version, with a premium version available if users demand a little more flexibility. But this is slightly different than for Joomla. For some reason, the CMS has long held on to its ideology of a premium ecosystem for website extendability.
Like it or not, the cost for developing an initial Joomla site is a little higher than its counterparts, if you aren’t factoring in the cost of labor and expertise (in which case, Drupal far exceeds the cost of Joomla, though rightly so).
CON #5: Free Joomla Templates
Though Joomla is an open-source CMS, and run 100% by volunteers, one of its pitfalls is its availability of free templates.
Unfortunately for some, the vast majority of reasonably functional, good looking website templates for Joomla are only available from premium vendors.
In fairness, there is an abundance of premium templates for Joomla, many of which look absolutely stunning. In fact, Cocoon produces some of the highest-quality premium Joomla templates.
The problem for Joomla site owners, however, is that there is admittedly a lack of open-source, free templates for Joomla, especially of quality. The templates that Joomla ships with by default, namely Protostar and Beez, are absolutely awful. Protostar, which is Joomla’s default integration of Bootstrap, is a prime example of distasteful Bootstrap integration.
I’ve worked with the Protostar template quite a number of times, and it causes me more pain and difficulty than any other Bootstrap implementation I’ve ever worked with.
At Cocoon, we actually get around this by manually implementing Bootstrap into our Joomla templates in our own way, rather than relying on Protostar’s default implementation.
It’s really challenging to work with. And don’t even get me started on Beez! But fair enough; these are Joomla’s default templates. And nobody runs a Joomla site using its pre-packaged templates.
However, even outside of Joomla’s default template offerings, the number of free templates for the CMS is limited. Not only that, but the majority of free templates that are on offer are just plain bad!
It’s a shame, but as we’ve learned, this is part and parcel of the Joomla ecosystem: it’s built on premium-quality templates and extensions, and these come with a price.
While the Joomla CMS is free, extending it in a way that is both pretty and professional is a significant challenge when attempted for free. Particularly for non-technical website administrators.
To extend Joomla effectively on your own, you’ll need to possess some skill with both front and backend PHP development.
In this post, I’ve discussed both the greatest pros, and the deepest cons of using Joomla as your content management system.
The CMS remains a strong competitor in the content management market, and with time has matured into a flexible, full-scale solution, for websites of all sizes.
So, over to you.
Will you be using Joomla for your next digital project? And if so, why? — Let us know in the comments!