WordPress v Joomla: Plugins, Extensions, and Customization

By Mark Atkinson
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WordPress v Joomla

Welcome to Part 3 of the most comprehensive WordPress v Joomla analysis on the internet! In this post we’re going to be covering an important area of comparison between these two popular content management systems: the customization of Joomla and WordPress websites.

The Nature of WordPress and Joomla Extensions

When I think of Joomla and WordPress extensions, each one carries significantly different connotations.

WordPress Extensions

The feeling I get with WordPress is that the vast majority of their plugins are created with the implication that you’re running a blog/content website. What I mean by this is that the plugins are created simply to tweak WordPress’ native functionality and optimize your content. This could be in the form of SEO plugins, content syndication, social media integration, etc. They are all there to add value to your content rather than to revolutionize your website.

Joomla Extensions

Joomla, on the other hand, seems to provide extensions of a completely different nature. A lot of components are written to add massive chunks of functionality to your website, rather than just tweak certain areas of functionality. For example, you might use a component to turn your Joomla website into a full e-commerce store, or add an online reservation system.

Don’t get me wrong, there are extensions available that add great functionality to WordPress. Likewise, there are also extensions for Joomla that will just provide certain tweaks to content. I feel, however, that the extensions for each tend to conform to the above generalizations.

The Extension Structure

WordPress and Joomla have significantly different structures when it comes to extensions.

WordPress (over)simplifies everything by grouping all its extensions under the broad term of Plugins. Plugins can be anything from back-end tweaks to full front-end functionality. Simple styling tweaks, SEO optimization extensions, sitemaps, contact forms, new widget types and even full e-commerce functionality will all be called Plugins.

Joomla, however, breaks its extensions down into various categories based on the functionality they provide.

  • Plugins: Plugins tend to be simple feature additions for Joomla which generally affect the front-end output in some way. This could be a typography tweak, adding a Google Map within an article, or even creating an Ajax-enabled contact form within your main body of text.
  • Modules: Modules are basically the Joomla equivalent of WordPress Widgets. They are used to add bits of content around the main content area. This could be used, for example, to add a “Recent Posts” module or a “Social Sharing” module.
  • Components: Components are almost systems in their own right. They are made to extend the core functionality of Joomla, and a component will generally comprise its own set of modules and/or plugins. An example would be Virtuemart, the most well-known e-commerce component for Joomla. Virtuemart is basically an entire system which operates within the Joomla framework. There are modules and plugins available just for Virtuemart.

With WordPress, I feel you’re slightly limited with your options because, as I mentioned above, if you create a WordPress website you are almost expected to be creating a blog/content-driven website.

With Joomla I would go so far as to say that your options are practically endless, except if you’re wanting to run a blog. Blogging is, in my opinion, Joomla’s one major weakness and I would probably turn to WordPress if my site’s main purpose was blogging. Having said that, if you do want to add great blogging functionality to Joomla, check out Easyblog, the only addition I feel adds sufficient blogging functionality to what is otherwise an area that Joomla seems to seriously neglect.

Ease of Installation

This isn’t really a major factor, because both systems make it super-easy to install extensions with back-end upload facilities.

WordPress wins this one though, because it allows you to search for and download plugins from the WordPress Plugin directory directly from the back-end of your WordPress site. With Joomla you need to download the extensions from the Joomla Extensions Directory, save them and then upload and install them using Joomla’s Extension Manager.

WordPress’ Plugin directory integration is definitely a handy time saver here.

Different Languages

I must admit that I don’t have the greatest amount of experience when it comes to different languages because the vast majority of websites I’ve built have been in English. I do know there are options available for WordPress and Joomla in this department.

WordPress is available in a number of different languages and with Joomla you are able to install a language pack.

As for multiple languages on one website, you’ll have to look to extensions to do this for you. WordPress has certain plugins available to allow language switching and multilingual pages. Joomla’s most popular language component is Joomfish, but they only have an alpha version currently available for the latest version of Joomla, so you may need to look elsewhere if you’re trying to go multilingual.

Edit: Joomla! apparently natively supports multilingual websites in version 2.5+.  That would explain Joomfish only being available for previous versions. Missed that one completely when reading the change log!


When deciding between Joomla and WordPress, surveying the extension landscape is generally my first port of call. Identify what functions you need on your website and find out which CMS provides the better extensions to perform those functions.

Once you understand Joomla’s extension structure, it becomes a lot more intuitive than WordPress’ all-inclusive Plugin directory. I prefer to use WordPress for content-driven websites/blogs and Joomla for everything else.

It comes down to personal preference and availability of extensions. If you find the perfect extension for your site’s major function and it’s only available for one CMS, then I would say your choice is practically made for you. All the smaller things can usually be made to work on either CMS.

In the next post, we will be covering SEO — the various plugins, capabilities and limitations of both WordPress and Joomla. Make sure you check back next week!



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  • Yannick Gaultier

    Hi Mark,

    Just a factual correction: Joomla! provides multilingual content (ie articles or products in several languages on the same site) out of the box. No extension – such as the one you mentioned, Joomfish, is needed. It was so in earlier versions of Joomla!, but the multilingual system was introduced more than a year and a half ago now.


  • As you stated you dont know much about creating web sites in languages other than English it might have been better if you had missed out on that part of your article.

    With Joomla 2.5 it is perfectly possible to build multilingual web sites without installing any extension other than the relevant language pack.

  • P.S. I’m sure you didnt really mean to claim the url for EasyBlog as your own web design company

  • Great article, great series. I’m a WordPress developer in Brazil and I found that there are not so many multi languages plugins, but I eventually download one that you can at least translate the user interface. I wish all the plugins could offer this feature and I wouldn’t mind if only the backend would be in English, it’s a 50-50 tradeoff.

    Can’t wait for the next articles!

    Adriano Teles
    CFO | CTO
    InkMustache – Design & Web

  • Hey Mark,

    Thanks for sharing and this is a great post! By the way, the url for EasyBlog should be http://stackideas.com :p

  • G.L.Nash

    A crossword clue ; what is “A train lovers paradise in Eboracom” ?
    Sincerely GLN

  • G.L.Nash

    This must have something to do with York and comprises three words

    Thanks GLN

  • Matt Vaughan

    One problem with Joomla modules/plug-ins is that they generally have to be installed through the web interface, because not only do they strew files all over the web root (unlike WordPress plug-ins, which confine themselves to their own folder within wp-content/plugins, and Drupal modules, which similarly go into their own folder in sites/all/modules), they also require some kind of registration in the DB to even be recognized by Joomla.

    So if you are using version control to manage file changes between a dev and production site, for instance, you cannot just install the module on dev and push the files it added to prod and expect Joomla to recognize the module’s existence.

    This also means that a production Joomla site needs to have all its directories writable by the web server in order to install a module.

  • Another great article. I liked your explanation and definitions of the different types of Joomla extensions.

    On the part of Joomla acting as a blog, what is your input of the Zoo blog extension? I thought it was fairly easy to use and integrate.

    • Scott

      Zoo is a component from YOO Theme and is very similar to K2 but lacks many of the functions that K2 natively provides for creating just a blog. If you purchase the Premium Zoo package, it provides templates for things like directories, recipes, movies and some others but I believe it’s 99 euros to purchase.

  • Joomla! 2.5 has multilingual support without the help of extra installed components. There are dozens of languagepacks available. To install and activate extra languages is quite simple to do.

    I love this serie of articles, since I don’t know much about WP. In my ‘narrow vision’, I too thought of WP that it was mainly for blogsites. I will check it out a bit more seriously.

  • You brought up some good points regarding WordPress plugins and the various Joomla extensions.

    I want to add a few of my own observations.

    Directory extensions – these are extensions that you would use to build a business directory, large real estate directory site, etc.

    WordPress has a promising directory plugin called Pods, but otherwise, it is very hard to create large directory sites in WordPress. Joomla has several excellent extensions that can extend the framework to create directories – Mosets Tree, Fabrik, Zoo and Sobi Pro.

    Joomla’s framework architecture is more open and I think it is easier for developers to create custom extensions. For example, you can take Joomla’s ACL component and use it in a custom PHP CMS, whereas you cannot remove WordPress’s ACL or comments and use it in an non-WP project. (Note that there is a separate Joomla Framework Group that is developing components that can be used outside of Joomla.)

    As Brian has already pointed out, Joomla 2.5 has great native support for multilingual sites. It’s possible to create a Joomla site that supports English, French, German, Portuguese, etc. almost right out of the box with the addition of some language files from the Joomla extensions directory. Joomla also provides native support for right-to-left languages like Arabic and Hebrew.

    A suggestion for another article: it would be interesting to see the differences in e-commerce Joomla extensions and WordPress plugins.

    Thanks again for a great series. Looking forward to the next one.

    – – – Wild

    • Thanks once again, Wild.

      Regarding e-commerce extensions/plugins, I’m planning on covering that topic on my own blog.

      The main two contenders, in my eyes, are WooCommerce for WordPress and Virtuemart for Joomla, both of which I’ve had extensive use of over the past few months.

      I look forward to your further comments.


  • Scott

    Seriously Mark,
    “Blogging is, in my opinion, Joomla’s one major weakness and I would probably turn to WordPress if my site’s main purpose was blogging.”

    Clearly you didn’t bother to look into either the native content manager in Joomla, which can easily be configured into a blog format; or better yet K2 which is a tremendous CCK component for Joomla. K2 replicates WP functionality but on steroids, allowing for inside the post insertion of image galleries, video (via over a dozen video sites like YouTube and Vimeo or served up natively), downloads, custom in content forms, commenting, email/print/adjust font size functions, FB and Twitter likes and shares; and so on and so on.

    Posting tag clouds, latest comments, latest posts by author or category etc. is also native to K2 and can be published into module or content positions.

    So before you go there, explore under the hood just a bit more before you make such erroneous statements.

    • Gilbert

      I agree! Even when core functionality isn’t enough, K2 or a number of other similar components will do the job for free!

    • Thanks for the comment, Scott.

      Unfortunately I don’t agree with your sentiment at all.

      I used K2 for around two years and found it to be an absolute nightmare to work with. It felt bulky, cluttered and any out of the ordinary integration (or even “ordinary” integration with something like DisQus) was a mission of note. I’m even frustrated by the fact that Joomla.org employs K2 for the Joomla! Magazine and each time I submit an article there is always some sort of let-down.

      The native content manager of Joomla also leaves a lot to be desired and falls short in many areas.

      You’re entitled to your opinion, as am I. “Error”, in this case, is subjective. I stand by my statement that Joomla is nowhere near as powerful in the blogging department as WordPress. The only saving grace for Joomla that I have found thus far in the blogging department is EasyBlog.


  • Excellent series…. Thanks!

  • Tony G

    Thanks for the series here.

    I’ve been running a WordPress blog for years now. When I think blogs, I think WordPress. When I think CMS, I think Drupal and Joomla, in that order. What am I missing when I don’t see Joomla as being a solid blog platform, or when I don’t see WordPress as being anything other than a blog platform?

    I’ve seen WordPress being used as a more general purpose website – frankly I’m not impressed. The WP plugins seem to be mostly for extending WP blog functionality, not toward getting it to compete with other “real” CMS packages. This is where I see WP vs Joomla – to me it’s like comparing vegetables and fruit – all edible but usually under different circumstances and therefore not competing.

    And not to restart a battle that’s been fought a hundred times already, but after spending a few years with Drupal too, I and a huge number of other people have found that platform to Now be way more bloated than it should. So I’m looking for a new CMS. I’ve seen Dolphin as the up-n-coming replacement, but it doesn’t seem mature enough. That leaves me looking at Joomla again … and (seriously?) WordPress.

    I need a platform that can interoperate with other software that does specific jobs better. For example, I don’t want my blog to do ECommerce, but I do want my CMS to integrate seamlessly with something like ZenCart. And I’ve never met a forum extension for a CMS that I’ve liked, so I’d like to seamlessly integrate with PHPBB or Simple Machines Forum, or something else that does really well with the one thing that it does.

    So given all of this, I’m going to be going over these articles a few times. It takes a LONG time to get familiar with a new platform. That’s a huge investment, and frankly I don’t have time to make that investment once again and find that it’s been wasted. I’m hoping to see comments from others who have been down this path and found some sort of Nirvana. Maybe this goes beyond the focused scope of these articles – or maybe this is exactly where these articles can/should lead.

    • Dave H

      There’s a “relatively” new forum plugin for WP called Simple Press. New as the latest version is a complete rewrite and completely customizable. simple-press.com if you want to have a look.

      • Hi Tony
        If you are not committed to php then are you aware of Umbraco? It is asp.net but a very good framework, more geared towards a pure web development but for me it is the tool of choice.

  • Freshup

    Hi Mark,

    You can take a look at http://www.advancedcustomfields.com.
    It’s a must have for wordpress advanced developpment.


  • Freshup

    Sitepoint.com for example is a wordpress based website ^^

  • Very interesting comparison series, however it’s a bit like comparing an ocean liner with a sports car, they were designed for and serve completely different purposes. In journalistic terms Joomla is a magazine or newspaper whereas WordPress is paperback or comic-book.

  • I started with Joomla in 2006 and built many sites with it up to v1.6. It was a great package and support was pretty good as well with loads of “free” modules and components.
    I then had to build a few blogs and started to use WordPress which I found easier to use than Joomla. and a simpler approach.
    Now WP has evolved into a much larger platform which can do most of the things previously done with Joomla. However I recently returned to my old Joomla sites and found that the required migration to the latest level from 1.5.x is a nightmare and am probably better to start afresh if I’m going to bother.
    Another difference is that Joomla has now moved onto a more business footing with most of the new Components and Modules requiring purchase with a few simple free ones still available. Yes the platform is still free but now the useful extensions seem to only be available at a price.
    Finally I find that the SEO functions of Joomla are not as good as those provided with WP (or plugins) and this was the final straw for me and I gave up with Joomla in the end.
    I believe that Joomla is still a great platform but it has now moved into the more business world of the professional techies whereas WP is still aimed at the market of the whole range of techies – amateur thro professional.

  • Nice article with some great points. I had the same sentiment when I decided to go with WordPress for our site. Thanks for sharing!

  • Hozzaconners

    Hi Mark,
    Regarding Blogging in Joomla, I was just having a hunt around to see what options were available when I came across “WordPress blog for Joomla” by “CorePHP”. Is it possible that this could be so well integrated into Joomla that you actually get the best of both worlds? Would be interested in your (or others) thoughts…
    Cheers for a great, up to date and relevant series!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I used WordPress for Joomla by CorePHP for the last year or so on my own website. I must admit that I was not very happy. I felt it was bloated and messy to work with, as one might expect when trying to perform an integration like that.

      I feel you’re much better off looking at EasyBlog, or if you must, Zoo from YooTheme.

      WP for Joomla can work, but I think there are better alternatives.


  • Dennnis

    One again your article shows a pretty shallow understanding of WordPress. WordPress plugins offer a lot more than just to “tweak” native functionality. WordPress indeed started as a blogging platform but has made giant strides and has grown into a full fledged CMS of its own. Anybody that calls WordPress merely a blogging platform is clearly quite ignorant. Check out the showcase themes on the popular theme/framework providers like Genesis, App Themes, Woo Themes etc and see some the fantastic and creative “non-blog” websites that have been created. WordPress can be used to create fully functional e-commerce sites, directory sites, recruitment sites etc with plugins. Do a proper research before making these assertions. I’m beginning to have doubts about a series that started with high expectations. The articles are showing a lack of subject matter knowledge and poor research on the part of the author.

    • Hi Dennis,

      Thanks for reading and commenting once again.

      I did mention that WordPress is capable of doing just about everything, but again, my opinion is that it excels in content curation. Believe me, I have many a site running with Genesis, WooThemes and other influences. I think that WooCommerce is one of the best e-commerce extensions available, period.

      As stated, though, I still feel that the overall use of WordPress trends towards blogging and content.

      Through your comments, I get the impression that you are perhaps not familiar with Joomla and are viewing my comments from a WordPress user’s perspective.

      My objective is merely to compare both systems in terms of their best uses overall. There will always be exceptions to the rule and reasons to use WordPress for something more advanced. In giving readers a general overview of the two CMSs, I stand by my statements.

      Thanks again, Dennis.

      – Mark

  • Brandon Martin

    I think that the author’s distinction about extensions/plugins on the two platforms is useful for understanding the different development communities or cultures of development.

    On Joomla, it’s not uncommon for developers to use Joomla as a foundation to build something that resembles a separate php script. I haven’t taken a look in around two years, but my guess is that you’ll find jobs boards, quibids clones, reddit clones, e-commerce vehicles, social media solutions, etc. These very ambitious projects are often a reflection of the fact that Joomla’s community includes no small number of premium or commercial developers. I have no problem with people trying to make money, but the Joomla community long ago became noticeably more commercial than WordPress, which tends to publicly insist on GPL enforcement. The most important thing to remember about most of these Joomla extensions is that they are rarely without major bugs and shortcomings. I’ve seen a number of Joomla-zealots finally turn their backs on their faith after selling websites to clients based on these extensions and then sitting through sessions of client fury. Major aspects of the Joomla ecosystem simply do not work well enough for commercial use with clients. If you think about it, that only makes sense. Typically, these major plugin projects, which sell for $35 – $100s of dollars, are typically developed by one or two guys, but are often more complex and ambitious than the underlying CMS, which is developed by numerous seriously awesome core contributors and hundreds of others. The unreliability and cost of the Joomla ecosystem is probably the primary reason Joomla sucks for people who want to use it in environments where it is going to be pushed.

    Also, I think the author is correct that Joomla extensions are aimed more at people constructing traditional CMS sites. Joomla was a CMS from the start and is designed for much more flexible taxonomic classification of content with less hacking by the developer, but the reality is that the kind of sites I build are often less than a thousand content objects and WordPress’ post/page/custom-post/custom-field system is sufficient. For more advanced content manipulation on WordPress, some less technically-inclined developers use the excellent Types and Views plugins or PODS, but really, there just aren’t too many client sites that need really advanced content classification. If the site objectives are that far from the beaten path, I’d probably avoid building it on a CMS and use a PHP framework or RoR. I think Drupal is a headache of complexity, but friends of mine use WordPress for simple, stable, sites that just work and Drupal for more complex sites. The real question these days is there any reason to use Joomla; it’s not nearly as easy to theme as WordPress, the backend is nice and aesthetically-pleasing, but too heavy and clients still need a manual, and Joomla websites tend to flake and break whether because of overly-ambitious, poorly-coded themes or because Joomla itself just isn’t solid and massaging it beyond what is possible in the back-end means dealing with a beast of complexity with poor documentation.