Some frequently asked questions on our web design and development services

 

Joomla vs Wordpress

OK, let's be clear from the outset. We don't have anything against Wordpress. Far from it - we routinely use Wordpress for many sites, both as Wordpress proper, and using the Wordpress for Joomla extension, so if your preference (or if it's the better system for the job) is Wordpress, that's fine with us!

But if we're not 'against' Wordpress, why our preference for Joomla?

Partly history, and partly because we believe Joomla has a number of advantages over Wordpress as a CMS. When we started out using Open Source software for websites back in 2004, Wordpress didn't exist. The two main CMS systems at that time were Drupal and Mambo.  For a variety of reasons we chose Mambo then, and when Mambo forked into Joomla, Joomla became our 'tool of choice'.

When Wordpress did emerge, it was primarily as a blogging platform (as it still is at its heart), and it was a while before it expanded into the system it has become now.

Now we might offend some Wordpress afficionados when we say that the primary conceptual distinction between Joomla and Wordpress is that Wordpress was primarily designed as a blogging platform, which developers subsequently expanded with plugin functionality, whereas Joomla was created from the outset as an advanced CMS framework designed to be expanded through the use of 3rd party components.

This gives Joomla a number of advantages over Wordpress, two in particular:

  • multi-level category management, making it easier to structure and manage content, particularly on larger sites
  • the ability to create a multilevel hierachy of private or restricted content (including 3rd party plugin components) using the built-in ACL functionality

Consequently, in our view Joomla remains one of the most flexible, powerful and user friendly CMS systems available, and unless you particularly need the superb blogging functionality of Wordpress, Joomla remains our first choice CMS system.

 

Why Open Source and Why Joomla?

Before we can answer "Why Joomla?" we have to first answer the question "Why Open Source?". Our background is in consultancy, and as consultants we would advise any of our clients to be cautious of buying a site created using bespoke CMS software developed by their proposed web developer, mostly for reasons relating to the undesirability of being "locked-in", issues of system security, and ongoing support.

Back in 2004 when we decided to go down the road of designing content managed web sites we were faced with the decision of whether to develop our own system (rather contrary to the advice we'd been dispensing!), or use an off the shelf system.

We quickly decided that "off the shelf" was the best way to go, and once that decision was taken, Open Source was the obvious choice, as the open source ethos is to make the source code open and available to allow integration and customisation, an important factor in being able to create customised web sites.

Once that decision was taken we reviewed and tested several of the leading systems, quickly coming to a short list of two: Drupal and Mambo. We finally chose Mambo as our system of choice, as we felt it more user friendly and easier for the average web site owner to understand and manage.

In 2005, Joomla was spun off out of the Mambo project. We also shifted allegiance to Joomla because we felt that of the two, the Joomla team had the better ideas for future development, something since borne out by the plethora of awards won by Joomla since its first release.

Obviously we were not alone in our assessment, as since 2007 some 50 Million copies of the Joomla system have been downloaded

So what are the other key reasons that make Joomla so good?

Ease of use

The Joomla back office interface is clean and simple to use. It uses simple form based pages to add and edit content, which makes it really easy to maintain your content without the need for any knowledge of HTML or web programming.

Expandability

Joomla was designed from the outset as a framework that would allow specialised add-in components to be plugged in to expand the core functionality. This includes everything from highly functional e-commerce stores, to news managers, community building systems, forums, events management, document management - currently over 2,600 plug-ins and growing!

Reliability and Security

As an Open Source project, Joomla is supported by a global network of developers. Any bugs or security issues that come to light are very quickly identified, analysed and patched, usually within a day - much quicker than most proprietory software.

Support Community

Again the advantages of Open Source come to the fore. The Joomla support forums have over 250,000 registered users and over 1.5 Million posts. That's an awfully large help resource!

Low Cost

We've left this until last - traditionally sales people talk about cost last, because they like to show you all the benefits before they shock you with the price tag ... but with Joomla we have to tell people about the benefits first so they don't discount the quality ... because the core Joomla system doesn't cost a thing!

When you commission a Joomla web site from us you are buying our time and expertise in creating the design and the templates, and deploying and configuring your site. You aren't paying for the core Joomla system itself.

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

Content Management Systems (CMS) like Joomla and Wordpress have now become the tools of choice for creating and maintaining websites. So what exactly is a CMS, and how does it work?

Old style "Conventional" websites stored each page as single HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) document, complete with content and formatting, in a similar manner to a word processing program.

Modifying those pages usually required some knowledge of an HTML editing program, and/or some understanding of HTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and the ability to upload amended files to the web server. This often made anything more than very basic editing quite difficult for the uninitiated.

The rise of Content Management Systems transformed this, making it easy for non-technical website owners and editors to manage their site content.

A CMS is a software package which runs on the web server, providing a browser based interface for you to easily add and update the content of the site.

Although the final output is in HTML, same as those old conventional website, the process of generating it is different. Instead of single 'standalone' pages, the layout and formatting of the page is applied using standard templates (or themes), populated 'on demand' when a user visits a page.

A CMS has many benefits:

  • by storing text in a database it becomes much easier to add and edit content, allowing your site to grow as needed
  • it helps you organise content into a logical structure, allowing you to move it around and re-organise it as it grows without having to rebuild individual HTML pages
  • provides more control over your content: when, how, and to whom it is delivered.
  • you don't need to call on the support of your web developer to make basic changes as content can be easily managed through a simple web-based interface
  • Splitting the layout and formatting from the content makes it relatively easy to update the entire look of a site without the task of changing individual pages: change the template and the new styling is automatically applied across the entire site.

A CMS system also normally provides a framework to support and integrate more advanced functionality through additional plug-in components like e-commerce, document management, support forums, etc. into the site

If all this sounds complicated, it need not be - a good CMS provides a straightforward interface that is simple for inexperienced users to understand and use without any need to know about how the data is being processed in the background.

Some are better than others in this respect, and one of our main criteria in selecting the Joomla CMS as our first choice is its very simple and easy-to-use administration interface, which can also be configured for cater for administrators of differing levels of knowledge and experience.