Why Joomla Should the the FIRST CMS You Look Into
Jennifer de Spain | TrustRadius Reviewer
Updated November 26, 2014

Why Joomla Should the the FIRST CMS You Look Into

Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Software Version

Joomla 3

Overall Satisfaction with Joomla!

As the owner of a one-man show web design business, I use Joomla as a proficient way to expedite the process of building a high quality website that can become more feature rich as my clients' needs grow. I use Joomlas on 95% of my website jobs. For a developer/designer like myself, Joomla is a highly functional system that I can use and manipulate via code to give my clients the site they need.

Because the program itself is open source, it has a highly versatile structure allowing for task-specific plugins to be installed. The program and plugins can be easily manipulated via override code, and the Joomla help forum community is so responsive and knowledgeable, Joomla has has solved a number of tricky case by case business problems. Being open source, it is free to download for anyone with an internet connection, and any part of it can be "Frankensteined" into another CMS project. Its versatility allows me to quickly install 3rd-party plugins to create a blog, set up a robust and feature-rich Real Estate Management System, and even configure a fully functional social network community. These plugins may or may not be exactly how the client wants them to function or look right out of the box, so Joomla provides a well structured system for "overrrides' that allow for detailed customizations of the plugins. In the case that plugins or the default functionality of Joomla do not meet the requirements of the project, the Joomlas help forum community is there to help troubleshoot and even to create plugins with/for you to give you a jump start toward the solution or outright give you the solution to your problem.
  • The relationship between the frontend (visitor side) and the backend (admin side) of the website is well thought through and easy to handle. A visitor may register in the frontend and get special privileges on what they can see and what they can't. Admins can log into the front or the back and manage content, modules, and components on either side. Keeping the frontend and the backend separate gives an advantage to designers and developers, as they can work in the backend on, say, text for a page, save it, and then view it in a different tab as a separately logged in frontend registered user.
  • User group and access management is highly flexible. I had a client who had 7 different levels of members. Some members could have access to pages x, y, and z, some only x and y, and some only x and z. Joomla allowed me to create different user groups and access levels to accommodate this complex member access. Allowing one user to be part of multiple groups was a big part of making the particular membership system work efficiently
  • Joomla manages the content of the site in a database, with different aspects of the content being stored in different tables of the database. The organization of the database is very logical and easy to deal with, in the case that one would need to.
  • The code for the core Joomla system extremely well documented within the source code and is clean. Any code that it uses to render the content from the database is standard code compliant and does not raise any errors in the browser.
  • The current Joomla version, Joomla 3.x, uses redundant database calls when rendering the pages. When a page is being rendered, a specific file is used to control what shows up on the page. That file calls information from the database, so that the correct text, images, etc. are rendered onto the end page. Currently, unnecessary calls to the database are being made, making the pages load slower than they have in previous versions of Joomla.
  • I wish it was a little easier for clients to be able to manage their own content once the site is finished. It is not very hard to do once you are on the page you are editing, however, getting to that page from the backend is difficult for many novices, because they don't know the relationship between what they are editing and how it ends up on the frontend.
  • While the menu system is extremely logical for designers and developers, it is difficult for clients to set up new menu items or pages on their sites, beyond adding blog posts. To set up a menu, you...
  • Have to add a menu in the "Menu Manager"
  • Go to the "Module Manager" and place the menu into a module spot in the template
  • Create a category in the "Content Manager"
  • Create an article in the "Content Manager" that lives within a category that has already been created
  • Finally, a menu item must be added to the menu from part 1, that calls the article created in part 4.
  • This is highly organized when setting up the site, but is difficult to deal with for users who are not used to the set up.
  • It is free to download and install, so the out of pocket cost to practice with it and set up a simple site for a client is $0. Learning how to use this system and being able to practice with it before messing with it on a client's site was invaluable. There is no limit to what you can do with the system, if you have the time and knowledge to invest in it.
  • Installation of Joomla takes me about 5 minutes, when I use a cPanel for the hosting side. First, I download the latest version of Joomla, I set up my database in Cpanel, upload my newly downloaded Joomla zip file to my host via the "File Manager" in cPanel, extract the zip in the directory of choice, go to the my website url (http://site.blahblahblah.com/joomla, for example), and go through the 2 minute installation process, where it asks for database information (which had just been created), and the user name of the main user of the site.
  • That kind of turnaround is extremely important, because the client wants their site quickly, and you don't want to waste your time trying to get the initial site up in the first place.
  • At that point, the rest of the site depends on the needs of your client. If they only need a simple template, and 5 pages, then you are done within one hour, from the time you download the Joomla zip, to when you present it to your client. If you want to custom create the template, then you can up that to 4-5 hours. Joomla is very fast and very efficient.
  • When something is going wrong with Joomla, it is usually an easy fix. A post into the Joomla help forum is usually answered within 24 hours, with a request for more information, or an answer/suggestion to the problem.
Joomla is much more organized, as far as content, than WordPress and the template customization is much more customizable with Joomla. With WordPress, you have to copy the theme, label it as a child, and configure sometimes over 10 files that make up the theme, plus, you can only have the one theme for the site without use of external plugins. With Joolma, you simple copy the template folder, change the name of the folder and up to 3 files, and then change only ONE file for the actual design aspect. By default, you can have as many templates on your site as you want, and assign different templates to different pages to your heart's content.

Between Drupal and Joomla, the distinction comes down to the plugins and the support. Drupal is a good core system, and can out do Joomla in some ways, such as the speed of the loading time for the page. However, since all Drupal plugins are free, the support is not there, because the developers have very little incentive to help or work on them. the same can be said for the support forums. No incentive and no help. Joomla has a wide range of plugins available, some being free and others costing up to thousands of dollars. With the cost to the third parties, you usually will receive support for the plugin. The help forums are free and no one gets financially compensated for posting, however, they respond within 24 hours, usually, and their responses are helpful. I have used Drupal, but have yet to be able to finish a single site using it, because the plugins fall flat and the support is none existent. Joomla has always been there for me and I have many Joomla sites under my belt.
One thing people must understand about Joomla is that it is completely FREE. No subscriptions at all! Any subscriptions that one would make would be with the third party plugin developers. The Joomla you download is yours forever, and you will be given automatic notifications when an updated version of Joomla is available. That updated version can be installed with ONE click of a button, no charge, no unzipping files, and no big hassles in most cases (unless one of your plugins is only meant for the older version of Joomla, but that is a plugin problem, not a Joomla problem.) Joomla is committed to providing a free solution that is kept up to date and continues to grow with the challenges and new industry standards.
Joomla is well suited for projects that either start out small and will need room to grow, or need to start out as medium to large. It can be a blog, social network, store, real estate system with fully integrated organic MLS (list of houses in the local listed house database), online e-course system, restaurant reservation and take out order system, it can be a hotel reservation system, video chat system, customer service system, RSVP system for events. The list can go on and on. It is hard to imagine something that would not be possible in Joomla.

It should be noted that Joomla is the base for all of these possibilities. Much of the functionality comes from third party plugins that utilize the structure and flexibility of the Joomla core. Many of these plugins cost money, but that depends purely on the plugin and third party developer's pricing policies. Some plugins are free, such as K2 (blogging) and some lower end Real Estate systems.

Overall, Joomla is highly flexible and will provide a great starting place for any sized site one can imagine, whether it is to Frankenstein parts of the core for another project, or to install plugins that enhance the features and build on the Joomla foundation.