A bit of background is in order. In 2004 I became principal in a startup organization that required a web presence. We initially worked with a full services marketing company and they developed a straight html site for us. After a couple of years we decided to redesign the site and in an effort to keep expenses down we worked with a free lancer who also used html. Though he was quite competent and came at a reduced rate, minor site changes or updates were tedious and often fell short of what we were hoping for. In 2008, one of my partners suggested that we redevelop the site using a content management system (CMS). After investigating several platforms we settled on Joomla. Our experience was so positive with that effort that MTS began offering Joomla development services to other organizations. Since 2009 we have developed over 200 sites for a wide variety of organizations.
There are certainly a number of CMS solutions to choose from. The small ones generally have a limited community of users and developers and require third party software to run on top to accomplish anything meaningful. There are paid for CMS solutions which can be very expensive and require an expensive staff of developers. There are three big open source CMS solutions – Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla.
Drupal is more of a framework with a basic CMS and has a steep learning curve with experienced developers required to roll out and maintain a site. While complex problems can be solved with Drupal, it is not a solution for the inexperienced. WordPress started as a blogging platform and is extremely popular because of its ease of use. This is true as long as you are working with a content-oriented site. Once you expand a WordPress site to use it for anything besides content, be prepared for special themes which are required for the proper use of e-commerce applications, merge tags, pages which are not really pages, plugins which override the core to do anything heavy and a solution which will require extensive maintenance to keep working and stay secure. The framework is dated and uses PHP constructs which have long been obsolete. While a number of experienced developers use WordPress, a large group of inexperienced developers have produced sites and plugins which are security risks to say the least.
If you look at the three – WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, Joomla sits in the middle. It is a bit more challenging to grasp than WordPress while not nearly as difficult as Drupal. You can craft extremely complicated solutions with Joomla and there are a number of third party extensions which reduce the need for custom coding. There is a vibrant community of Joomla developers and strong community support. A non-developer can pretty easily get a site up and running and an experienced developer can do some amazing things with Joomla. Joomla also sits on top of a fairly modern PHP framework.
From our perspective Joomla is the best compromise for those who need a more than a basic website presence which is secure and can be expanded to perform the more complicated tasks that generally crop up as a business’s requirements change.