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WordPress vs. Joomla — A Perspective

By Daniel Threlfall April 16, 2013 Articles and Editorials  Comments

WordPress vs Joomla

You're about to witness a showdown between the world's two most popular open-source CMSs — WordPress and Joomla. The WordPress vs. Joomla question is kind of like a high school rivalry. Or maybe, it's like the old Mac vs. PC debate. Thankfully, the discussion below is civil. My perspective claims WordPress as the winner.


In my roles as site editor and SEO consultant, I've used both WordPress and Joomla. Working at an agency provided opportunity to collaborate with designers, network admins, developers, and coders on the various advantages and disadvantages of respective CMSs. This article admits that CMS is a context-dependent choice, but advances the merits of WordPress as opposed to Joomla.

Your CMS — Your Choice

I picked WordPress for a variety of reasons outlined below. You may prefer Joomla. That's fine, and we're not going to call you names. Joomla and Wordpress are both fine CMSs. Joomla may actually be better for you. Different users have different needs, and different CMSs serve those different needs.

Thus, with that disclaimer firmly in place, here are the reasons why I prefer WordPress over Joomla.

Popularity

I'm a believer in the "safety in numbers" of CMSs. If there are millions of people using something, there's probably something good going on. WordPress and Joomla are the world's most-used CMSs. However, WordPress is far more popular than Joomla. WordPress was founded in 2003, and Joomla in 2005. Over that time, WordPress's growth has exponentially exceeded Joomla's, owning a whopping 55.1% of the market share, as opposed to Joomla's 8.8%. Furthermore, when WordPress receives a vote of confidence from some of the most intelligent developers I know, I have a greater appreciation of its capability and longevity. Of course, merely because something is popular doesn't make it the best. Granted. However, we're going to consider another factor below that flows directly from the popularity issue.

Community and Support

If you're doing regular work on a site, you'll probably need some help at some point. Both Joomla and WordPress have loyal tribes offering plenty of support for those who need it. One distinguishing factor of the WordPress tribe, however, is its sheer size. If you have a WordPress question and you can Google, you'll probably find answers to your question on a forum, site, or blog of a WordPress devotee.

User Interface

WordPress has a much cleaner, slicker UI than Joomla. You can't judge a CMS by its looks alone, but there is something to be said for a CMS that is intuitive, flexible, and even beautiful. For website agencies, handing over to the client the reigns of a WordPress site is something that takes an hour or two of coaching. Handing over the reigns of a Joomla site may take a bit more coaching, a few more desperate calls from the client, and a longer learning curve. The difference lies in the user interface. Of course, WordPress doesn't have the same drag-and-drop kind of ease as something like Weebly. However, as powerful CMSs go, WordPress is as pretty as they come.

Plugins and Extensions

Plugins, or "extensions" as the Joomla moniker goes, can help to power up a site or to implement bits of complex code without the hard work of complex coding. At present, Joomla has over 6,000 extensions from the Joomla Extension Directory. Developers offer many more that are not hosted on the Extension Directory. WordPress Plugins number approximately 24,000. Although numbers don't decide the power of plugins, it is evident from our experience that WordPress plugins possess a few advantages over Joomla plugins:

  • Easier to setup and install on the site
  • Wider selection and plugin browsing ability
  • Greater capability and power of plugins

Simplicity

Setup and configuration is simple on a WordPress site. Right out of the box, it delivers a robust CMS experience. Joomla, on the other hand, takes a bit of setup and adjustment. One CMS Critic reader who is the site manager of a large site commented, "Joomla is a hell when it comes to modify and template it." A significant amount of Joomla configuration is necessary, including a specific server architecture, is necessary to make things shipshape. Starting a WordPress site, particularly if using the free hosted version, takes a couple minutes. Sure, you'll have to make some sweeping changes to the bland 2013 theme, but that's also a relatively easy affair. And, by the way, "simplicity" doesn't denote lack of power. See  the discussion on"power" below for more on this incendiary topic.

SEO

Because my field of expertise is in SEO, I've done significant research and consulting for agencies using both WordPress and Joomla. Onsite optimization of a Joomla site is a headache compared to the ease of a WordPress site. It is an accepted fact that Joomla is not an SEO-friendly CMS. There are, to be fair, Joomla extensions that make it far more successful for search optimization. Suffice it to say that WordPress is the superior CMS for easy and effective SEO. This is a crucial issue, due to the all-important nature of search.

Cost

Due in part, to the lighter developmental workload, WordPress is less expensive than its counterpart. In our recent survey of notable features of the top five CMSs, I provided estimates of the setup and ongoing monthly costs of popular open-source CMSs. Here is the recap:

  • Joomla:  $2,400 - 20,000 setup; $500 ongoing monthly.
  • WordPress: $1,000 - $15,000 setup; $250 ongoing monthly

Obviously, there's a difference in those two numbers, even if the numbers are widely rounded out.

Power

I've put this at the bottom of my list, because it needs a bit of a disclaimer. I'm not claiming that WordPress is the most powerful CMS on the market. I merely want to defend against its naysayers. Castigations of WordPress usually begin with an assault on its allegedly diminutive "blogging" platform. Let's get this settled once and for all:

WordPress is not just for blogs.

I could site examples of really big and powerful WordPress sites (that aren't blogs), but I'll resist. Instead, let's simply accept the fact that WordPress has passed its adolescent period as a blogging platform. It's part of the big leagues now. Sure, you may not be able to build an Amazon.com or an eBay with WordPress, but you can have a thriving e-commerce site with zero problems. And, hey, eBay does use WordPress (even if it is for its blog).

Conclusion

These topics outlined above aren't the ultimate criterion by which to evaluate a CMS. If you are considering a CMS, a thorough understanding of your own needs is in order before you start asking questions of a particular CMS. We've chosen WordPress, and, understandably, use WordPress as the CMS of choice for CMS Critic. As you make your own decision, please check out our in-depth CMS reviews to see if your choice makes the grade.

So that's my perspective. What's yours?

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Tags: open source 115 wordpress 98 joomla! 45

Daniel Threlfall

Daniel Threlfall Author

By Daniel Threlfall - Since it's hard to make a living drinking coffee, I instead write about tech. And I drink coffee. I'm concentrated in web design, good CMSs, SEO, bad CMSs, social media. And I drink a lot of coffee. No cream, no sugar. You can find Daniel on Google+, and Twitter.