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Joomla’s Coming of Age

By Adedayo Adeniyi

joomla-3.0.png

You’ve probably heard of, or even used a Content Management System (CMS) in your projects, and as Joomla! is almost ten years old, you may have used it once or twice.

Over the years, there has been a healthy rivalry between the main CMSes in use on the planet: WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla!, and all three have hosts of die-hard fans that would pitch for their favorites over the others any day.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to add to the high pile of subjective CMS comparison posts available on the web.
Instead, I will briefly review all the recent changes in Joomla! that have modernized it for the present day developer – from version 3.0 onwards (currently 3.3).

Changes

Joomla! has made it a major point to brush up their game, and give their loyalists a better product by rewriting the whole system from the ground up to fit current trends and structures. Apart from the ever-present exclamation mark that ensures we all stay excited, there have been a whole lot of changes made in the software. Here are some of the new additions that make Joomla! 3.x tick:

Updates are now a breeze

It used to be a major assignment to keep Joomla! websites up to date. First you had to update the core Joomla! install to the latest version. Wait, I jumped the gun – first you had to check that the extensions you used initially will work with the new Joomla version (apologies – I have gotten tired of the exclamation) beforehand. Then if it says so, you update to the latest, then visit each extension’s developer’s website to get the most current version, and update those as well. One by one. All this on your test site, before you proceed and work on the actual site, if all went well.

That was then.

Now, upgrading to the current version is a breeze – at the touch of a button. Joomla 3 even gives you the window to check if any of the extensions you are using have an update, which you can implement from within the website, also at the click of a button. You are still advised to do the updates first on a test location before going live, but they made life easier by giving you the opportunity to do the updates within a shorter timespan.

J3 is M0b1l3 R34dy!

mobile-ready.jpg

Ok, I got carried away with the numbers a bit there.

The entire front-end and back-end have been overhauled and are now mobile-ready, thanks to the inclusion of the Bootstrap framework and the Joomla Team streamlining the Admin User Experience. It used to be that I needed to get an extension that would allow my clients’ sites to be mobilized, but now, it’s all ready for every kind of device, be it desktop, tablet, or smartphone. According to their site, the site template, admin user interface, and core output are now mobilized and responsive.

User Access Flexibility is on steroids

Users and fans of Joomla had been complaining about the rigidity of user access levels in the system since inception. In fact, some developers took it upon themselves to create extensions to fill that void. From Joomla 2.5, User Access Levels are no longer limited. Users can belong to various Access Groups with different permissions. Fact is, each section of the system, down to articles, and even each extension, can be restricted according to User Access Groups. So if your client is clamoring for access to the back-end, so that they can update their blog section themselves, with Joomla this is now very possible. The Guest User Group is now also included by default.

More Developer-friendly

dev-tools.jpg

Going along with Joomla’s goal to be usable for any web project, they have made the latest version very developer-friendly. To aid smoother development, they have included a current Joomla UI Library that gives you a standardized interface with LESS CSS, JQuery, and Bootstrap support, to aid faster, cleaner and smoother development. They also add the icing on the cake by providing a wealth of retina-optimized icons from IcoMoon.

Joomla is now more Security-conscious

security-265130_640.jpg
Security was a bone of contention to deal with, for Joomla 1.5, as it is for every CMS. Let’s face it – hackers never sleep. Joomla has tried to stay one step ahead by maintaining their list of insecure extensions, and by updating the software to block out detected and reported security loopholes. These security updates are now more frequent, and streamlined with the whole system.

The JED is right under your nose

To get great extensions, all I had to do before was visit the Joomla Extension Directory and search. Joomla 3 brings the directory closer – right in your Extensions Manager within your website. Search, selection and installation are instant.

Joomla now has Smart Search and Tags

magnifying-glass-277063_640.jpg

Joomla 3 now allows users to add tags to their content, increasing the categorization capabilities. Smart search also increases the speed of searching content and retrieving results.

The Joomla Database is more connected

Joomla now lists database errors at the administrator back-end, for review, and even gives the option to fix it. The system also recognizes manual installs, through the “Discover” option, and allows any found ones to be integrated into the system.

Two things I wish they did not change

I wish they had left alone the smooth installation process. Right now, to install a Joomla 3 package on my test server, I have to do it manually, then I have to create a user manually. Not pretty, in my opinion. I miss the 5 minute install process in Joomla 1.5

I also wish they had continued to allow users access to the Joomla 1.5 extension archives, if only for another year. Many websites have not yet migrated successfully to Joomla 3.x, or even Joomla 2.5 for that matter. I have clients that refuse to see the light but insist on my providing support regardless. This is just a personal wish, though.

Conclusion

The Joomla Team have promised to continue cleaning out old code, and improving the database structure with each release. Let’s see if they can deliver on that promise, and remain one of the best CMS choices out there.

Did I miss anything worthy of note? What is the most important addition that has been made to the new and improved Joomla, in your opinion? Let me know in the comments!

  • dojoVader

    I think you should look at ProcessWire the naming convention and the Joomla Module/Theme Development process just feels awkward, use to create components for it and it wasn’t an easy ride. ProcessWire is just simply amazing. But nice article regardless.

    • daydah

      ok @dojovader:disqus I will check ProcessWire out. But Joomla’s Module and Theme development process has also evolved. I think you should take some time to check Joomla 3 again. Thanks.

  • hot_rush

    no, thanks

    • daydah

      Wow. Brief and to the point! You are welcome.

      • hot_rush

        :) thanks

  • Lone_ranger

    Interesting, but many Joomla major upgrades have been a total nightmare for site owners. v1.5 to v2.5 was a disaster that cost many (most) site owners huge $$$ hiring “Joomla experts” to sort it out. Yes, Joomla is technically open source and “free”, but the Joomla developer community seems to wink at this gambit, and they staunchly defend this mess. For obvious reasons. Upgrades are very good for their business. For site owners who have to pay for this fiasco, it’s not so much fun.

    • Fiftyseven

      I would have to agree with you there. Every Joomla version has been a major hassle costing my clients a lot of time and frustration. And now it’s been “rewritten from the ground up”? Ouch.

      • http://hatch.es Jeremy Anderson

        I see your points folks; and as soon as one of us engineer a globally popular Open-Source CMS that is better than Joomla, WordPress, or Drupal then I guess we can all cast those aspersions with that much more sadistic glee. If this stuff was easy then development teams would always do things perfectly the first time. The assertion that Joomla updates are designed to cost site-owners money is going a bit off the rails in my opinion. I don’t think the people donating time and effort to these projects see implicit obsolescence as a design goal, and it insults their efforts to bring the world these very useful and free tools to suggest as much.

        • Lone_ranger

          Jeremy – you miss my point entirely and put words in my mouth that I did not say. I never said “Joomla updates are designed to cost site-owners money”. The cost here is no doubt collateral damage of the process. Many site owners cannot afford the cost of a seasoned Joomla developer and are shocked at the price tag of an “upgrade workout” . The solution…let site owners keep what they have and keep it stable and secure, if the developer community has any sympathy for them. Sorry, but I am on the business owner’s side of this stuff. Frankly, I’d rather see business pay a small fee to get stability and security as clients, rather than celebrate “open source” that is going to tax the living sh*t out of me and give me endless nightmares later if I want to keep it upgraded.

          • daydah

            @Lone_ranger and @Fiftyseven I agree with you about it being a hassle to jump from J1.5 to J2.5 or J3.x, but from J2.5 upwards, the nightmares are over. Upgrade is seamless [other commenters agree]. And believe me when I say you can find “seasoned Joomla developers” all over the world, willing to do it for you at reasonable prices.

          • http://hatch.es Jeremy Anderson

            “but the Joomla developer community seems to wink at this gambit, and they staunchly defend this mess. ” – I didn’t miss your point entirely, and I was not replying only to you @Lone_ranger. I’m on your side with regard to the owners’ right-not-to-be-fleeced for every upgrade, but the quote I pasted above definitely has a rough edge pointed at the Joomla Developer community. You can try to backpedal I guess, but “winking” and “staunchly defend this mess” are all your words, and in this context they clearly imply what I said they assert. I should have used the word “implication”, not “assertion”, which was my mistake.

    • http://www.pbwebdev.com.au/blog/ Peter Bui

      As a community member in Joomla I just like to put in my two cents about the major version updates. Migration from 1.5 -> 2.5 yes that was quite hard and we’ve learnt our lessons. A change that had to happen in order to leave behind legacy code and improve access levels, add in additional ground work code and the way Joomla works in general for the better. All future versions since 1.5 have been click updates unless there are complex components that need to be done manually. We’ve upgrade just about all of our Joomla 2.5 sites to the latest 3.3.6 in an afternoon using third party tools.

      The migrations from 1.5->2.5 are much different to migrations from Drupal6 -> Drupal7 and D7 -> D8 will be an interesting step considering almost everything has changed.

    • http://www.babdev.com/ Michael Babker

      Past upgrades (1.0 to 1.5 and 1.5 to 2.5) were indeed very painful, and they did a lot to chase people away from Joomla. There’s no trying to deny that or create some sort of positive spin on that message. From my perspective (as someone who started with Joomla when 1.6 was the hot new thing), it feels like upgrades were an after thought in the development process. Gone are those days.

      Upgrading from 2.5 to 3.3 is a much simpler process, and depending on your site’s complexity, could be done in an afternoon without any third party tools. The largest pain point for many today is in the templating changes from adopting Bootstrap as our standard in 3.0. The other seems to be extensions that have yet to update for 3.x (which in truth, requires a minimal set of updates; most basic-to-intermediate extensions could truthfully work from 2.5.6 up to today on a single code base and programmatically add support for newer features in newer releases). Third party tools will always make migrations complex, there’s just no accounting for every possible scenario without adopting a WordPress style approach with the code.

      It sounds like you might not have used Joomla in some time (or you’re still running on 1.5 or 2.5 and haven’t used 3.x). I’d encourage you to take a fresh look, you might be surprised what you find.

    • http://freshwebservices.blogspot.com/ freshwebservices

      Major CMS upgrades are painful & Joomla 1.5 -> 2.5 was no exception, but 2.5 -> 3 has been easy in my experience. I’ve also had experience of upgrading Drupal and that’s been no picnic either – upgrading to D8 will be interesting, to say the least. I’ve also worked with commercial CMS and believe me, their upgrades have made Joomla’s a walk in the park.
      So, Joomla! is not alone – almost all major CMS upgrades cause pain & cost money – and I don’t think anyone winked a this “gambit”. It just a fact of life if you want your CMS to evolve and improve.

      • daydah

        Thanks @freshwebservices:disqus, you hit the nail on the head.

        • http://freshwebservices.blogspot.com/ freshwebservices

          You’re welcome! And thanks for the article too.

  • http://briancmartin.com/ Brian

    Not sure what you meant by using 1.5 plugins, that is over 6 or 7 years old. We use Joomla 3 in all our projects and we love it. It’s much more extensible and programmable than wordpress and has many free frameworks available. Im sure WordPress has it’s pros as it’s used by 50% over the web but Joomla has it’s place.

    • Ray Lawlor

      WordPress has wordpress.com as well as wordpress.org…

      I personally think that is the main reason WP has gotten so popular… It allowed people to quickly set up a blog, then when things got bigger they were able to migrate to the wordpress CMS.

  • http://www.pbwebdev.com.au/blog/ Peter Bui

    Thanks for the great article Adedayo. Good to see more Joomla related articles on SitePoint. Let me share this with the rest of the Joomla! Community.

    • daydah

      Thanks @astroboysoup:disqus. Honored.

  • http://jessicadunbar.com/ Jessica Dunbar

    Great article! I love the feature highlights. I always like to mention Joomla provides a built-in or native ability to manage multilingual web sites. Other CMS’s have poor multilingual features.

    • daydah

      That is a valid point! Must have missed that. Thanks @jessicadunbar:disqus

    • http://www.pepperstreet.de/ pepperstreet

      Agree, actually THE feature that keeps me in line… so far.

  • Guest

    Nice article there !

    However I did not quite get the last point related to manual installation and manually creating a user ?

    As I see it the Joomla 3x install is much faster now..it now let’s you choose the admin username yourself that defaulting to a preset one..that’s actually good security wise..

    Overall.. Yes .. Joomla has come a long way till now .. And the features that have come in from the 3x series are pretty awesome..

    In fact as i like to put it; with nested categories, tags, versioning, smart search its more CMS than it ever was before !!

    Plus cool features like Install from web, responsiveness out of the box, a solid MVC structure, one click updates for core and extensions, the unified configuration make it a very powerful contender..

    Coming to updates.. Yes that’s been a pain till now.. But hard I’m sure that the decision to go for migrations vs upgrades must have been a tough one back then.. And strategic long term and visionary decisions are not ever easy !

    Its paved the way for Joomla to have a solid code base, led to the birth of the Joomla framework and set Joomla on the path to have the greatest base out there for serious devevelopment..

    Its not very different than what Drupals doing now with drupal 8 albeit they are writing it on an existing framework called symphony.. And the drupal 6-7-8 migration process will be a migration.

    Which is why today I feel that with Joomla -assuming your developer follows the Joomla MVC correctly , you will find that code, structure and how extensions are used is way more understandable and predictable as compared to WordPress or drupal..

    Finally as per the new development strategy and roadmap announced by Joomla leadership a few months ago, painful migration are not something you will have to worry about for a long time.

    Joomla 3x is the version for your sites and apps to be on now.. And upgrades will be one click and smooth for a long time to come..

    See more here
    http://developer.joomla.org/cms/development-strategy.html

    http://developer.joomla.org/cms/roadmap.html

    The only reason they are not saying forever is that tech evolves at a blistering pace and sometimes change is needed or you’ll get left behind.. That being said backward compatibility is now one of the focus areas in devp strategy ..

    Parth Lawate
    CEO Techjoomla

  • http://techjoomla.com/ Techjoomla

    Nice Article !

    However I did not quite get the last point related to manual installation and manually creating a user ?

    As I see it the Joomla 3x install is much faster now..it now let’s you choose the admin username yourself that defaulting to a preset one..that’s actually good security wise..

    Overall.. Yes .. Joomla has come a long way till now .. And the features that have come in from the 3x series are pretty awesome..

    In fact as i like to put it; with nested categories, tags, versioning, smart search its more CMS than it ever was before !!

    Plus cool features like Install from web, responsiveness out of the box, a solid MVC structure, one click updates for core and extensions, the unified configuration make it a very powerful contender..

    Coming to updates.. Yes that’s been a pain till now.. But hard I’m sure that the decision to go for migrations vs upgrades must have been a tough one back then.. And strategic long term and visionary decisions are not ever easy !

    Its paved the way for Joomla to have a solid code base, led to the birth of the Joomla framework and set Joomla on the path to have the greatest base out there for serious devevelopment..

    Its not very different than what Drupals doing now with drupal 8 albeit they are writing it on an existing framework called symphony.. And the drupal 6-7-8 migration process will be a migration.

    Which is why today I feel that with Joomla -assuming your developer follows the Joomla MVC correctly , you will find that code, structure and how extensions are used is way more understandable and predictable as compared to WordPress or drupal..

    Finally as per the new development strategy and roadmap announced by Joomla leadership a few months ago, painful migration are not something you will have to worry about for a long time.

    Joomla 3x is the version for your sites and apps to be on now.. And upgrades will be one click and smooth for a long time to come..

    See more here
    http://developer.joomla.org/cms/development-strategy.html

    http://developer.joomla.org/cms/roadmap.html

    The only reason they are not saying forever is that tech evolves at a blistering pace and sometimes change is needed or you’ll get left behind.. That being said backward compatibility is now one of the focus areas in devp strategy ..

    Parth Lawate
    CEO Techjoomla

  • TEMITAYO AKEEM

    Hey, first I’m challenged to see a fellow Nigeria get featured on sitepoint. On the the other hand, I am very happy we can boast of emerging and passionate developers. Good work Dayo and although I’m not a fan of Joomla, I do WordPress or work with Laravel if WordPress isn’t capable of the project. Good job and I’ll like to know you. you can fish me out on twitter @Goldnetonline

    • daydah

      Hi @goldnetonline:disqus Up Nigeria! Lol. I may tackle you on Laravel one of these days. Will definitely “fish you out”. Thanks for stopping by.

  • daydah

    Thanks everyone for all the comments. I’m glad to know that a lot of people have been patient with Joomla’s developers and are willing to come to its defense. It is my belief that every software must grow to remain useful and relevant. Joomla just exemplifies that.

  • daydah

    @techjoomla:disqus It must have been a personal issue I was facing – I just could not install J3.x smoothly, on my WAMP and on my online server. I had to resort to both techniques to make things work. Perhaps I should search more for a permanent solution, as this may not be Joomla’s fault.
    Loev the features you mentioned too – thanks for stopping by!

    • http://techjoomla.com/ Techjoomla

      I guess :) As installations have only improved since the 1.5 days ! Do let me know if it was a specific issue that maybe we or the community could help with !

  • http://www.phoca.cz Jan

    +1

  • Hayden Young

    You raised a very valid point regarding Joomla being rebuilt from the ground up (in particular the framework library). It is important for the Joomla naysayers (and we see some of them here in the comments) to understand that in order to make Joomla easier to use and more robust, this painful step had to be made. Joomla has had to weather a lot of criticism over problems that many other CMSes have not experienced but I think taking on the rewrite pain early will begin to invalidate many of the criticisms we have been (and continue to see) levelled at Joomla.

    And so we are now seeing competing CMSes suffering from exactly the problems Joomla took steps to address early on, with a particular, alternative CMS suffering from some serious security breaches this year.

    • http://www.pbwebdev.com.au/blog/ Peter Bui

      Thanks for not mentioning names of those other ones Hayden

  • Chiara Aliotta

    Thank you for this post, Adedayo. I read it with lot of enthusiasm! Indeed Joomla! 3.x has introduced many great features. Today, we look back at 1.5 as it is Prehistory! ;) And Joomla! is going to improve even more. I found this CMS great as a designer too! The flexibility Joomla! offers to designers that love different style and layouts made me fall in love of it day by day. I challenge it all the time. It has never disappointed me!

    • daydah

      Thanks – glad you found the article worthy. One of our interns called Joomla! 1.5 the ‘Jurassic Age’. So appropriate. Yes the flexibility is awesome! And now we have the Joomla Framework to mess around with. Tried that yet? I’m about to dig into it myself.

  • formfranska

    Adedayo, thank you for a great article! I’m too lazy to use anything but Akeeba Kickstart to install Joomla and I never had any problem. Have you tried it?

    • daydah

      Thanks – glad you found the article worthy. I absolutely love Akeeba Kickstart myself! But All I use it to do is transfer Joomla sites from one location to the other, which means I have to have had it installed somewhere first. Unless there is a way to use it to do a fresh install?

  • http://www.pbwebdev.com.au/blog/ Peter Bui

    A similar setup should be ready for Joomla in a few weeks I hope.

    • Ray Lawlor

      Don’t get me wrong. I much preferred Joomla’s model of doing things (despite it’s flaws) …

      I am able to sit down with clients and convince them of Joomla’s “Enterprise level” credentials… unsullied by the millions of terrible WordPress blogs that are out there for all to see…

      Honestly, my usual line is “Why join the herd?” … “Why be another ‘me too'”?

      What makes it all the more satisfying is when clients see and use their Joomla 3 site, and they get the feeling that they are behind the wheel of a Ferrari rather than a Ford…

      A lot of my clients are business owners and as such they are entrepreneurial or visionary in their own way… getting a Joomla CMS rather than a WordPress “me too” gives them a sense of “breaking the mould” …

      That’s more important than you’d think. :)

  • Pina

    Great article Daydah, and thanks in particular for the reference the database hang that occurs – this was driving me mad! Joomla 3.1 has made me come back to Joomla, and with templates like Purity you can have a modern-looking attractive, LESS/SASS configurable site in no time. I also find custom template configurations much easier to add in 3.1, the list goes on. I’ve become a big fan of Joomla, after leaving it alone pre 3.1 due to its non-stop hackability. At this stage I’m cautiously optimistic its hackability has been reduced, or at least is going to be better managed.

  • daydah

    Thanks for the comment @Pina. Glad you found it useful. About our ‘mutual problem’ (LoL), @formfranska’s comment just gave me an idea. What if we Akeeba’d (wish that was a word already!) a blank successful Joomla 3.x install, and just Akeeba Kickstarted it everytime we needed to install a fresh site? @techjoomla what do you think of this solution?

    • http://techjoomla.com/ Techjoomla

      Hmm..

      Well frankly i have never had to use Akeeba Kickstart for new installs.. Never really had issues with the normal Joomla installer .. But yeah you could use it i guess :)

  • Legues

    Nice news for Joomla´s!!! fanatics. It seems that the team/community did a great update to the black hole core!!!! :)
    It was a great article… but no thanks!!!! Regarding, to a real problem in a big part of the CMS´s (multilingual support)… IMO MODX it´s one of the most advanced CMS in this aspect… they have a native lexicon support… and you can costumize contexts by language easily…
    What i like in a CMS?? Start my templates in a nice and and empty clean html document. It´s a kind of what i code it´s what i get… i tried a lot of CMS and the only that fills my soul it´s MODX Revolution.

    • daydah

      Thanks for stopping by @Legues. I am surprised though, because Joomla 3 upwards has native multilingual support. And this is not the only update done to Joomla – before Joomla 3, there was Joomla 1.6, 1.7, then 2.5, which indicates there has been a steady upgrade over time. Have you tried Joomla 3 yet? I think you should – from a Joomla ‘fanatic’ lol. Thanks again.

      • Legues

        It passed 7 months from my last comment… and i still with the same opinion!!!! LOL

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