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Review: "Joomla!, An Open Source CMS For The Rest of Us"
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Updated September 30, 2015

Review: "Joomla!, An Open Source CMS For The Rest of Us"

Score 10 out of 101
Vetted Review
Reseller
Review Source

Software Version
2.5x and 3.2x
Modules Used
Joomla Content Editor (JED), Akeebabackup, SH404SEF, RSForm Pro, VirtueMart, Tienda, RSEvents Pro, DJCatalog, HikaShop, RedShop, Advanced Administrator, RSSEO, RSGallery, JoomlaGallery, HWMediaShare, EasyBlog, EasyDiscussion, JomSocial, RokGallery, RokSprocket, JoomFish, GTranslate

Overall Satisfaction with Joomla!

I am a freelance web designer and content strategist who uses Joomla! as my platform of choice to implement websites for small businesses and non-profits. These websites run the gamut from brochures, landing pages, e-commerce storefronts, to major information portals. Joomla! and its extensions handles all aspects of each of these types of sites.
  • Joomla! is a content management system based on a database so it creates web pages dynamically based on a single editor and keywords. This allows users to update the site themselves and let Joomla create the pages from their input in a familiar environment.
  • Joomla! is Open Source software managed by a non-profit organization called Open Source Matters. Because it's free under the GNU GPL license, there are millions of programmers worldwide working on the platform honing it and maintaining it. Open Source also means that there is a strong community of approximately 8 million users who cooperatively share this free software platform.
  • Joomla! is modular. You only use what you need for your particular project. Joomla! has an extremely strong value-added software community providing add-ons for security, editing, forms, newsletters, storefronts, payment gateways, SEO, and so forth.
  • Joomla! is currently split into a framework and kernel and because it is Open Source, programmers are using Joomla!'s framework to build enterprise-level content management systems and cloud-based systems such as Nooku. Joomla! complies with most standard modern software protocols and runs on LINUX/Apache/MySQL/PHP so it is highly secure and easy to set up.
  • Joomla!'s organization consists of a front-end and a backend (called the Administrator). The Administrator area is meant to be intuitive but falls short because of the complexity of its structure -- areas where you perform work. There is a strong learning curve to get used to modules, plug-ins, and components plus articles and categories and how they work together.
  • Joomla! has a rigid structure that allows only certain types of pages, namely blogs and lists of articles based on how you classify subjects. Everything in Joomla! is an article. You have to know content strategy to add appropriate keywords to ensure that your articles show up on the appropriate pages either with others tagged similarly, or by themselves. Navigation is based upon these keywords as well. You need to design the site before you jump in and add articles.
  • Joomla! is built using PHP and runs on an Apache server. As such, it is not totally secure from malicious attacks at the server level. Extra care has to be taken to set up passwords, roles, and permissions to ensure that spammers and hackers cannot touch the database or Administrator.
  • Joomla! is not meant to handle more than a medium- to small-sized website with up to one million concurrent users. It can be placed on the Cloud, such as Amazon Web Services, where instances of the platform can take more users, but it is not enterprise-level software.
  • Joomla! allows users to update the website without programming knowledge. This increases the efficiency of a team and allows the website to be updated on a timely basis, increasing its marketability.
  • Joomla!'s ability to integrate fully with social media leads to faster lead conversion because you bring Facebook and Twitter and other social media into the website in a modular fashion, centralizing access by visitors.
  • Joomla! is a platform that can be used to create many different types of websites, from simple brochures to complex portals with secure areas of access. This versatility saves companies money because the platform is free and only the add-ons cost and that cost is relatively minor (under $500 for a complex site and less for a simpler site).
WordPress is not a content management system in that it is based upon the concept of blogging where articles are displayed in a linear fashion based on their date of publication. You can make WordPress a CMS through hard work and twisting its navigation system and widgets to fit multiple pages other purposes than blogging, but if you want a medium-sized website for millions of concurrent users, Joomla! is much more versatile and easier to setup and use. WordPress is good for small projects but it also has fewer add-ons (called plug-ins) and they require some coding to work. Joomla! is more fleshed out and usable "out of the box."

Drupal is a programmer platform with modules that require coding to fit together into a very flexible array of purposes. It is meant for larger projects but its aesthetics are lacking and you need to get in and code HTML and CSS to customize its look and layout. Joomla!'s community has created thousands of easily-customizable themes to change the look and feel of a website, or you can create a custom theme based on solid frameworks that provide an underlying HTML and CSS structure as well as the ability to customize using the Administrator vs. programming. I choose Joomla! over Drupal even for larger endeavors because it is easier to develop and has a larger user community and more add-ons.
Content Author / Administrator
In order to work with Joomla! you have to feel comfortable with software that is in perpetual beta testing. Joomla! is Open Source meaning that its programmers are volunteers and its maintenance is based on community support. You become part of that community of users when you use the platform. The various vendors create add-ons that cost for annual subscriptions for their support and updates. In fact, you also have to be comfortable with the idea that you don't own any of the software, rather you are leasing it under the Open Source license from these vendors who offer varying levels of help.

Joomla! is best used for projects that are stand-alone and created by developers who are used to the Open Source LAMP (LINUX/Apache/MySQL/PHP) environment as well as working in the browser rather than an organization structured around an IT department and its software development protocols. You build the site on your computer inside your browser and test it on the Internet. When your users are happy, you move the site to its home on the host server. You can also build the site directly on the host but hide it until it is built, but the bottom line is that Joomla! can be created by a single person or a small team but is not appropriate for an Enterprise organization.

Joomla! requires a hosting service that offers access to their root and provides high priority to the servers, high memory allocation, and the ability to display and upload large files. It is very I/O intensive. Always purchase a business-class hosting service with plenty of storage and bandwidth. Most Joomla! designers (vs. programmers) like to use a host that offers CPanel as its graphical user interface to the server.

Joomla Feature Ratings

WYSIWYG editor
3
Code quality / cleanliness
7
Admin section
10
Page templates
10
Mobile optimization / responsive design
10
Publishing workflow
Not Rated
Content taxonomy
10
SEO support
10
Bulk management
8
Availability / breadth of extensions
10
Community / comment management
10
API
10
Internationalization / multi-language
10
Role-based user permissions
10

Using Joomla!

Users and Roles

1 - Freelance web design and content management representing all business functions since I am a self-employed sole proprietor of a small boutique web design company called Words To Web, Inc.

Support Headcount Required

1 - Writers, editors, web designer, webmaster can be a single person or a Team Lead who manages the content submitted by writers and editors. You need to be proficient at HTML and CSS and understand PHP and Javascript to set up Joomla! but do not need to know programming to update content on an existing website.

Business Processes Supported

  • A client wants a medium-sized brochure or informational website set up for under five million concurrent users.
  • A client wants an e-commerce site with payment gateway with an email newsletter.
  • A client wants a photo portfolio or video portfolio website.
  • A client wishes to sell e-books or other downloadable documents or restrict access using roles and permissions.

Innovative Uses

  • A social networking site for sharing videos of amateur sporting events as well as the capability to comment on them.
  • A convention registration site with payment gateway.
  • A brochure site for an independent movie with video snippets and blog.

Future Planned Uses

  • A full-scale e-commerce solution with multiple payment gateways and easy product management and inventory controls.
  • A Facebook-like social networking site.
  • A secure site for employees to gain information or download forms plus a public area for information and forms such as a medical practice requires.

Likelihood to Renew

10
Joomla! is currently being overhauled at version 3.2 but has many users also running version 2.5.18 which is still maintained by its community of programmers. The shear size of its user base tells me that it will be supported and grow for long years to come. The constant modernizing of the platform and the dedication of its vast add-on community tells me that it will continue to spread as the content management platform of choice for medium-sized projects.

Companies are looking for ways to save money and Joomla!'s Open Source license makes it a strong candidate for websites. It is inexpensive to run and efficiently updated by users. It can be cloned on the Cloud for high numbers of users. A small team can set up a Joomla! site in a week.

Joomla Implementation

Implementation

10
Make sure that PHP.ini is set to at least 60 ms for computer priority, 60MB for maximum downloads and 128MB for uploads. This is the minimum. It is best to run Joomla on a business host if you are using a shared hosting environment so that there are fewer accounts on the server. Make sure you have access to the root on CPanel. Be sure to point the DNS to the host and set up all zones prior to implementation and run your new version in a sub-domain hidden from the live version until you are ready to cut over.

Implementation Details / Implementation Partner

  • Implemented in-house

Implementation Phases

Change Management Lessons

Change management was minimal - Most implementations of Joomla that I've done have been for small businesses or creative organizations where I end up also maintaining the site and serving as content manager and administrator. Thus, no change management was apparent.

Implementation Issues

  • When upgrading and moving Joomla from one host to another, the most difficult part is getting all the extensions upgraded along with the platform.
  • The client has to provide passwords to their domain registrar and their web host in order to perform the work. This can slow down the process.
  • The client has to provide any new content and organization they wish to upgrade and often they are not aware of the new developments within Joomla and must be educated before suggesting features they can add.

Using Joomla

Usability

10
Joomla! 3.x is easily installed either manually or via a script provided by your host. It contains most of the tools needed to begin creating websites right from the start. Those features that it doesn't have are easily installed via links and buttons from the thousands of extensions available in the community.

Usability Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Like to use
Relatively simple
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Well integrated
Consistent
Quick to learn
Convenient
Feel confident using
Familiar
None

Easy Tasks

  • Entering content because the addition of an extension such as Joomla Content Editor (JCE) provides plugins that allow you to edit multimedia as well as manage styles and formats. Most templates come with web fonts that are easy to implement via the Template manager.
  • Adding extensions to enhance functionality is a matter of searching the embedded Joomla Extension Directory or simply installing copies of editors, form managers, photo galleries, social media managers. value-added extensions, CCKs such as K2, multi-person blogging, newsletters, and so forth.
  • Updating software is very easy because Joomla comes with an updater that if supported by the extension, will allow you to perform the update within the platform's backend.

Joomla Reliability

Performance

6
Lately, Joomla! 3.4.4 has slowed down enormously unless I set up PHP.ini with extensive computer priority and memory which my host does not like. I think it can be streamlined especially since Google now gives a ding to slower web loading. I noticed the performance hit when I upgraded to the latest version. I run very few extensions except Akeeba, JCE, anti-spam, RSForm and some sort of photogallery. I mostly use Joomla51 templates.