Joomla! vs. WordPress, Why I Made the Switch

wordpress-vs-joomlaA little over three years ago I made the switch from the Nucleus CMS to the Joomla CMS. At the time my main motivations for making the switch were the slowness of the Nucleus development cycle, and my desire to use a system that was easier to update and to make information easier to find.

For the last few years Joomla! has served me well and I have used the framework as the backend for a number of commercial and private websites. At the end of April I decided to launch a new blog site, www.SloArch.com, and started looking for the easiest way to get a blog up and running. My tech mentor Leo Laporte has been touting SquareSpace.com for a few weeks. I checked out their site, which is amazing, but I didn’t like the idea of paying a monthly fee and I wasn’t planning on giving up my web hosting account with SiteGround, so I looked primarily at solutions that I could host myself.

I had taken a look at WordPress three years ago and I decided to take another look (I also checked out Nucleus, still not impressed).

Wow, WordPress has grown up in the last three years. Bottom line, I used WordPress on SloArch.com for a month and new I had to port this site over. So, for the last 5 days, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Okay, this is why you are here, you don’t care about all that history.

Joomla vs. WordPress

1. Post Editing:

This was probably my biggest frustration with Joomla is the lack of an integrated tag system and the ability to add posts to multiple categories. Since the purpose of this site is really to be a blog, tagging and multiple categories have been something I’ve wanted to add for some time.

WordPress also has a great autosave feature as well as keeping a history of past article versions. I havn’t had a need to go back to a previous version, but the autosave feature has saved me a couple times already. With Joomla! I typically edited my text in an external editor because I was afraid of browser crashes, etc. If you don’t edit site content that often or your posts are usually short then this probably isn’t important.

Joomla! and WordPress both have great WYSIWYG editors and Joomla! has a number of editors that you can use.

Winner: WordPress

2. Plugin System

Joomla 1.5 made big improvements to the plugin system for the CMS. You can now install plugins, modules, components, and templates all through the same interface. Manual installation with WordPress is a bit more complicated, themes need to be uploaded via ftp; plugins and widgets can also be uploaded or installed through the admin interface.

Finding addons for Joomla is a lot easier than with WordPress. Joomla!’s extension directory allows for very easy searching of over 4,400 extensions in a very granular way, you can search by licence, free/non-free, and by extension type. The extensions are also grouped into well organized categories.

WordPress in contrast, has over 5,400 plugins that are organized only by user defined tags. While in theory this sounds great, the tags aren’t as specific or as well assigned as Joomla!’s categories.

Both WordPress and Joomla! have good user rating and comment systems.

The big advantage of WordPress over Joomla! is the ability to search for and install plugins directly from within the administrator console. It is very easy to try out different plugins quickly and all of the plugins are transferred and installed on your site without having to visit the developers webpage or downloading anything to your local machine.

Winner: WordPress

3. Templating

Having templated many Joomla! websites and only two WordPress sites I probably can’t be considered an expert in WordPress templates, however from my experience I have found WordPress’ templating system to be very convuluded. Joomla! templates are contained in one index.php file that then references supporting images, css, javascript, etc. Joomla! also allows for overriding any of the content templates for any of the view types. The biggest strength of Joomla! is it’s module system. The template can define an infinite number of positions for content, usually these are a left column, main content area, right column, header, footer, banner, and maybe a debug position. The user of the template only uses those module positions that they want and this can vary from page to page. Ont index.php file defines all of that!

WordPress on the other hand uses a theme system that applies a template to each page/view type. For example, the index.php file is the default view, but if you want to have a page that has two columns, and one that has one column, these would be two separate templates, index.php, single_column.php. Each view type, archive, category, search, single article, all have their own templates. This is in contrast to Joomla! which uses one template and components to define how the content is displayed.

I personally find Joomla! much easier to modify. If you are a person who just uses out of the box templates then you might find WordPress easier. If you want to move things around and customize your site then you will probably find Joomla! easier.

Winner: Joomla!

4. Software Updates

This was a big reason I switched to WordPress for this site, Joomla! can’t even compete with the ease of updating WordPress. WordPress allows for in place updates of plugins and with the Automatic Upgrade Plugin you can do an in place upgrade of the WordPress installation as well. Friendly alerts tell you when things need upgrading.

Joomla! currently has no upgrade system. Upgrade are handled by manually overwriting files via ftp.

Winner: WordPress

5. Initial Setup

Installation of both Joomla! and WordPress are about the same. Copy some files, set up some basic parameters and you’re ready to go.

Winner: Tie

Final Thoughts

I still think that Joomla! is the best opensource CMS out there. Version 1.5 was a huge improvement and the developer team is working hard to keep Joomla! on the leading edge. What it came down to for me was ease of use. I’m not modifying my template every day (historically I’ve done it every three years) and Joomla! is overkill for a simple blog. WordPress is lacking in some areas as well, creating custom RSS feeds, and having extreme control over content display are two area, but WordPress doesn’t market itself as a CMS, it’s a blogging platform. I will continue to use Joomla! for my corporate sites, but for a simple blog WordPress will be my choice.