WordPress v Joomla: Support and Community

By Mark Atkinson
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WordPress v Joomla

Let’s face it, an open-source content management system without a thorough user base, support system and community is destined for failure.  We are comparing two giants in the CMS game here, so we already know they must be doing many things right in these departments. In this part of our series, we’re going to be covering exactly what Joomla and WordPress have to offer when it comes to the support community.

WordPress.org  v Joomla.org

What more apt place could there be to begin a post on support and communities than with the “homes” of each CMS? All the documentation, forums and community engagement for WordPress and Joomla stem from their websites.

Each CMS seems to have a very different approach when it comes to their websites. WordPress has opted for a minimalistic approach, whereas Joomla seems to have put a lot of effort into its design and functionality.

After its recent design update, I have to say that the Joomla website is much more appealing and user-friendly than WordPress.org, which comes across as bland and doesn’t seem to have any focus or direction.

Personally, I feel that WordPress is resting on its laurels. The people behind Joomla, on the other hand, seems to realise they are the underdogs and are making a conscious effort to grow the community and support base for their CMS through their website and various components thereof.

Support Base and Community

When it comes to an open-source system, support is crucial. Both WordPress and Joomla have adequate documentation, so I’m not going to be focusing on that area. The main focus of the support base should be the CMS’ community support. There are a couple areas to look at within the broader topic of the support community.

Support Forums

Whenever I’m looking for support for a specific problem, my first port of call tends to be the support forum. A forum can give you a good indication of how active and supportive the community is. WordPress and Joomla both have very active support forums.

Again, however, I feel that Joomla does a far better job with its forum than WordPress. As someone who participates on both forums, I have seen more involvement and engagement from the community on the Joomla forums. WordPress comes across as being very bland, with the forum being almost something of an afterthought.

Joomla makes use of the popular forum component, phpBB, to run its forum. It rewards members for active participation through ranking systems. As a result, Joomla professionals seem to be far more willing to go out of their way to help someone else who happens to be in a spot of bother.

I have had a couple questions posted on the WordPress.org forum go unanswered, whereas every question I’ve ever posted on the Joomla support forum has been answered beyond my expectations. I think that says something for the Joomla community.

Resource Directories

Sometimes you just don’t want to develop your CMS site yourself. Sometimes you get stuck with something and need a professional to assist you. Both WordPress and Joomla have solutions for this.

WordPress has something called WordPress Jobs; it allows you to post problems/jobs which professionals can then take on.

Joomla offers a slightly different solution in the form of the Joomla Resource Directory. The resource directory allows professionals to create listings for themselves or their businesses. You can then find a professional in your area and contact them directly to assist you with your problem.

I like Joomla’s resource directory because your listing will only be approved if you are an active participant in the Joomla community — either on the forum, the Joomla Magazine or any other Joomla community initiative. This does wonders for making the support community a better one for all.

As far as the WordPress Jobs board is concerned, I find myself just using freelancer sites like Elance instead.

Other Initiatives

WordPress and Joomla both have a few other initiatives which help in the support and community departments.

WordPress has a nifty initiative going called WordPress.tv — basically a video blog/directory which showcases tutorials and news from the world of WordPress.

Joomla really goes all out with its community-enhancing initiatives. The two that I think are great are the Joomla Magazine and Joomla Connect. The Joomla Magazine is published as both an online and print publication which showcases all the greatest Joomla news and stories. The people behind it invite anybody who is willing and able to write articles, share their experiences and potentially be published in the magazine.

Joomla Connect proves it cares about improving its community. Joomla Connect aims to bring together news from all around the world, in a number of different languages. I believe it’s extremely important to realise that as one of the most popular content management systems around, your user base extends far beyond the US and the UK. People in many different countries, speaking hundreds of different languages, will be using your system. By including them in the community it gains so much more diversity and experience and generally leads to a much happier, more engaged user base.

Joomla also has an online store where you can buy Joomla merchandise. I’m not sure this is vital, but some people may think it’s pretty cool.

I tried to look for more initiatives by WordPress, but to be quite honest, I couldn’t find anything else worth commenting on.


I think it’s quite obvious which CMS does a better job in the community department here. Joomla compensates for its considerably smaller user base by making sure it is creating a truly awesome, engaged community. Joomla’s website is more polished and it actively encourages participation in its many community outlets.

To be quite frank, before writing this post, I thought that the two CMS giants would be more evenly matched in this department. After doing a few hours of extra research, however, I can conclusively state that WordPress isn’t doing enough when it comes to the community. Perhaps the viewpoint at WordPress is that it doesn’t need to, since it already has such a good reputation.

Having said that, I would never advise resting on your laurels. It takes hard work to stay at the top once you get there and you can be pretty sure that your competitors are putting in overtime to try to beat you.

Draw your own conclusions here, though.  If you’re not a community sort of person, this may not even matter to you. You will probably get sufficient answers to your questions from both the WordPress and Joomla support forums … probably.

Who do you think will be crowned the King of Content Management Systems next week? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Matt Vaughan

    Wow, I’ve got to say that my experience is completely the opposite, though I’ve probably built more from-scratch sites with Joomla than WordPress, and had encountered Joomla first.

    The Joomla.org site may appear prettier (in a conventionally bland, corporate, 10-years ago sense that I’m thoroughly sick of by now, though not by any current standards of good design, which oddly the WordPress site is closer to in my opinion), but the WordPress.org site, while spare, actually seems, cleaner and more usable (which is by far the most important thing), and to me is no less attractive.

    Similarly, I find the WordPress forums more helpful, but not nearly as needed in the first place due to the quality of the WordPress Codex and WordPress’ straightforward nature compared to Joomla. (This matches with past observations that WordPress is used about 5x more than Joomla, but only searched for less than twice as much – most people don’t need the online help.)

    Frankly, I’ll have to agree with some commenters on the previous posts (which I’ve only skimmed briefly) – you do come across as a Joomla enthusiast with less familiarity with WordPress and its community.

    From using the “big 3” on a least several sites each, I’ve by now dismissed Joomla as caught between WordPress and Drupal, with no reason to ever choose it over one of the other two, and I also see it is a dying platform – its growth stalled in about 2009 and its market share for new sites has been going downhill ever since (especially in the US).

    • Hi Matt,

      Can you supply any reliable stats supporting your claim that Joomla’s growth has stalled in the US?

      In fact, what I’ve noticed is that many people are migrating from WordPress to Joomla, and not the other way around.

      I agree that Joomla is a much heavier platform than WordPress and that development for Joomla is more complex – but the community is really large and is growing (not to mention that it’s very friendly).

      Don’t get me wrong, I love WordPress, I think it’s lighter and faster than Joomla and I support in my company as well. But I don’t see Joomla, an neither WordPress as dying.

      I have to say that Drupal’s usage is increasing – but not at the expense of the other two.

      • Mathias
      • Omo

        I’m not sure about drawing any conclusions from google trends which Mathias has done below, as it shows drupal in similar decline to joomla and wordpress as having plateaued. Plus, google trends shows php, linux and apache are on the way out as well.

        This report offers a pretty balanced and unbiased view of where the opensource cms market was at last November http://www.waterandstone.com/book/2011-open-source-cms-market-share-report

        Will be interesting to see what effect the Joomla 2.5 release has on this years results. Interestingly they cite concrete5 as the big mover in cms’s with WordPress, Drupal and Joomla in decline if you go on downloads.

  • I see both Mark’s and Matt’s point and agree with you both. I come from a place of spending more time with Joomla than WordPress: http://resources.joomla.org/directory/other-services/consulting/salyris-studios.html but we do work on WordPress sites. As of late, I am suggesting my marketing partner go with WordPress instead of Joomla for many reasons. This is a big switch for me, but the choices in plugins/extensions (WP plugins or J! extensions) is massive, so looking over your clients strategy thoroughly, and then researching the available plugins/extensions, you will begin to figure out which CMS to go with. If know them both very well, it becomes easier to decide which one to choose for which client.

    To get back to your point, yes, Joomla! has the better support forum by far and the community is very quick to assist others when they get frustrated. I feel when Joomla! 3.0 comes out, things will become less “hazy” for those on the fence.

  • Wildscribe

    As a developer who works with both Joomla and WordPress on a daily basis, I agree with Mark that Joomla’s community is helpful. I have had to use the forums on both Joomla.org and WordPress.org and have found that the quality of help usually comes faster on Joomla.org.

    Regarding documentation: The WordPress Codex is clearly the best. It is well-written, complete, and frequently updated. In fact, for open source projects in general, the WordPress Codex ranks among the best documentation. Joomla’s online documentation is often out-dated. Even now that Joomla 2.5 has been out for more than one year, a lot of the documentation on Joomla.org still covers only Joomla 1.5.

    It should also be pointed out that of the three major open source CMS’s, Joomla is the only one that does not have a wealthy parent to help pay the bills. Joomla relies almost completely on volunteers for development, and this has is caused it to fall behind the other two.

    The development behind WordPress.org is financed almost entirely by Automattic, a for-profit company that operates several businesses, including WordPress.org. It has several full-time programmers who are being paid by Automattic to write code for WordPress.

    Drupal operates in a similar mode. Development is largely financed by Acquia, a large consulting firm specializing in Drupal. It also operates Drupal Gardens, a large Drupal-only hosting and web application business.

    Joomla does not have any paid programmers. It receives its funding from Google Adsence and advertising on Joomla Extension Directory and donations from user groups, and individuals. Joomla does receive some development support from eBay, but this is limited to features that are being used on eBay’s internal websites. These features are then made open source and added to Joomla core.

    I am not trying to imply that it is good or bad to receive funding from a for-profit parent. It certainly has been good for WordPress as each release has been significantly better than the previous one. Joomla went though a 3-year period with Joomla 1.5 where the only updates were mostly for security, and unlike WordPress, few new features were added.

    Joomla is a few months away from rolling out version 3.0. The new Joomla will use Twitter Bootstrap and has some improvements that should keep developers happy. Still, I think the future of Joomla is going to rely on whether it can hire full-time developers like WordPress and Drupal. It will have to change otherwise I am afraid that will continue to lose market share and another CMS will become number 3.

    • Wildscribe

      Yikes! Typo alert!

      I meant to write “WordPress.org is financed almost entirely by Automattic, a for-profit company that operates several businesses, including WordPress.com.”

  • John P. Bloch

    Since it seems you couldn’t bother to do your due diligence on the WordPress community, allow me to help. I’m thoroughly unfamiliar with Joomla and can’t speak to the quality of its community; but I am intimately familiar wish the WordPress community and would like to share some of my experiences with the community.

    First of all, some of the things about WordPress you missed: WordCamps, WordPress Stack Exchange, WP Candy (a WordPress news site which also publishes both digital and print editions), and the vast network of local WordPress meetup groups that meet worldwide.

    The best example, though, of how awesome the WordPress community is can be seen in something that happened last year. A developer in Florida who worked as a freelancer got in a head-on collision while riding his motorcycle and was hospitalized; he didn’t have insurance and couldn’t work for weeks. Upon finding out, some members of the WP community got a campaign together to raise enough money to get him through his troubles. They reached their goal in 90 minutes.

    • Robert

      You’re missing the fact that this article is about the effort and resources that the 2 **companies** WordPress and Joomla put into, organize for, and make available to, their community.
      Not about what their respective communities do on their own (self-funded, or sponsored).
      You mention these : WordCamps, WordPress Stack Exchange, WP Candy.
      They are all NOT organized, nor sponsored by WordPress. These cannot be credited to WordPress.
      True, the very first WordCamp 2006 was organized by Matt Mullenweg, but the subsequent WordCamps are all community organized.

      About your example of the fundraiser, to sustain your opinion that the WordPress community is awesome, I can only say that it, again, has nothing to do with the efforts of either of the 2 companies, nor is it related to support and community for the 2 products themselves. It doesn’t add anything to this discussion. Nobody is going to pick either product because of a fundraiser organized by the community for a member.
      Also, your fundraiser example, could be interpreted as meaning that such things (the fundraiser) wouldn’t happen in the Joomla (or any other) community.

      Let’s keep focused on the 2 companies WordPress and Joomla.

      • Joomla is not a company. WordPress is.
        Joomla is maintained by volunteers.

  • I cant agree more- I sue both systems extensively – I also believe that WP is good for quick set up, etc but for Joomla is more thorough and comprehensive – I like the simplicity of the installation WP etc But I find Joomla to be the best especially for more formal online publishing concepts

  • Davit

    There’s also: http://wordpress.stackexchange.com/ (for WordPress), which is much better place to ask question and get responses, then support forums, IMHO. And there’s a proposal for Joomla as well, but it doesn’t get proper attention right now, so it might not gather critical mass to become a standalone QA site.

  • nvrau

    While in WP general support or support for plugins, I find the search frustrating. Primarily the lack of an ability to search within the plugin’s support section, the ability to find previous posts within the plugin’s topics. Seems an obvious option in my mind.

    Secondly, while searching within the support forums, if you select a top and use the Back button to review another post, the search results are no longer there (W7P Chrome). You’re left with performing another search or opening all post you wish to review in a new tab/window.