WordPress v Joomla: Plugins, Extensions, and Customization

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!

Conclusion

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!