Comparing WordPress to Joomla content managment system

In the past few years many times I've heard that WordPress is the best option to build a website. Quite often it sounded like a dogmatic assertion as it seemed that people who told me this hardly tried any other options. I personally don't share their attitude.

One prominent freelace web designer has gone as far as has written the following sentence in his book:

What software should you use to create your website? I can hear you laughing because there's only one answer: WordPress.

This phrase made me lough, though, for a different reason.

Let's quickly compare some of the capabilities of both packages:

Capability Joomla WordPress
Contact form Yes - basic, but usable No
Built in help Yes - hovering over an option brings a tooltip with its description. Some options do not have this feature. Yes - implemented as an expandable menu
Custom fields Yes - easy and intuitive, no coding required. Yes - cumbersome, unless you can code a custom plugin to make it easy to use.
Load time in the administrative area A bit slower than WP, still usable Slow but usable
Degugging information Can be switched on in the admin. area. The output is neatly shown in an accordion menu below every web page Fiddling with the code required to turn it on, no user friendly output is provided by default.
Web caching Yes No
Here is a short version of my web mastering story that relates to these matters
I've started making websites and publish articles online in about 2008. Back then I wasn't knowledgeable in programming for web, and by sheer chance I've started with a software package named Joomla to quickly set up my websites and start publishing.

It wasn't too complicated and I was satisfied with the capabilities Joomla offered. In fact it was quite advanced back then, here is just a few of the capabilities it had I recall: adding keyword and description meta tags to articles, direct file uploading into custom directory structure, web-page caching.

I also remember that at about that time someone told me about WordPress, something like:

there's a WP package out there, it is not as capable as Joomla, but it's quicker to learn and use, so for some small less-demanding websites, especially ones more oriented toward diary-style text entries it can be a choice.

But I didn't try Wordpress, I continued to use Joomla, as I learnt more about building custom websites using HTML and PHP, I gradually shifted from using it to customly building bespoke applications that better suited for a particluar purpose, another reason for quitting Joomla was the need of constantly updating it to keep it secure.

And only in 2018, I had a direct experience using Wordpress because someone asked me to make a number of modification to their WP website. By this time I've heard that WordPress is not only for smaller website any more and that it's great, and so on...

I was surprised that with the core WordPress I still could not do simple things that near any website with serious intentions would need, like editing content of the meta tags for SEO that I could do 10 years ago in Joomla without installing any extensions, categorizing uploaded files in user defined directory structures, there's no built in caching mechanism to speed up delivering static content.

The problem with relying on third-party plug-ins instead of on integral parts of an application is that, updating the WP itself might change the way these plug-ins suppose to communicate with it (changes in API), some functionality the plugins depend on can be removed from WP over the time preventing them from functioning or worse yet breaking your site if their independent developers do not provide their own updates to address the issue. Off course a developer might be not interesting in continuing doing this anymore and you have to find an alternative solution.

The main administrative page that they call 'Dashboard' with a feed of news stories from the WP team, to me makes it look unprofessional from a 'website for client' point of view.

After becoming more experience in coding for Wordpress I was able to address most of its deficiencies and completely customize the Dashboard. So eventually I've made WordPress work for me, but I had to learn how to code custom plugins for it, and install a bunch of third party ones that slow down loading times, and to fix it I would need to install yet another plugin for caching.

I also was asked to add multi-lingual support to an existing WP powered website. To do this I installed an appropriate third-party plugin that greatly messed up things around and to make it really work I had to spend a great amount of time on that job.

Once the curiosity set in and I started to wonder what would it be like to create a similar website using the new Joomla instead, once I installed it and started to play it quickly became obvious that it beats Wordpress at nearly every corner regarding the functionalities included in the core, has more thoughtful design as a whole system, as well as more appealing and neat look and feel of the administrative area that I found more intuitive to customize.

This page was last updated on October 26, 2020
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