WordPress v Joomla: The Winner

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We’ve made it! Over the past five weeks we have taken an in-depth look at the two most popular content management systems currently available. We have critically analyzed both WordPress and Joomla in a number of different departments. We have discovered the strengths and weaknesses of each system and figured out that neither one of them does everything perfectly.

Today, I’m going to summarise the conclusions we’ve reached each week in this series and provide some final thoughts on the CMS war.

Part 1: Introduction and Content Structures

In week one, I provided an introduction to each CMS and explained the current state of affairs. The conclusion reached was that WordPress is the most popular CMS if we go by current statistics, although Joomla is a couple of years younger than its counterpart.

We established that WordPress is slightly more user-friendly and entails less of a learning curve if you’re a web newbie.

I also suggested that WordPress may be your best choice if you’re starting a blog/content-driven site, whereas Joomla may be better for static or corporate sites and things like intranets, with eBay being a prime exponent of that.

Part 2: Templates and Themes

Week two’s discussion revolved around templating for WordPress & Joomla. We established that there is no real difference in difficulty levels when it comes to developing custom templates/themes for either system.  We also discussed the fact that WordPress themes are generally designed with a specific purpose in mind; usually content curation/blogging. Joomla templates seem to be designed to be a lot more versatile.

I feel that WordPress is more for minimalistic design, whereas Joomla offers quite a lot of versatility and freedom when it comes to design.

There is no clear winner here — if you find a template/theme that suits you, go for it. Design is subjective.

Part 3: Plugins, Extensions and Customization

In week 3 we talked about the sorts of extensions available for each CMS.

We discussed the fact that there is a different extension structure for each. Joomla’s structure is more intuitive than WordPress’ once you get the hang of it.

Again, it boils down to the purpose of your website. I’ve found that most WordPress plugins are developed specifically for blog-type websites, whereas Joomla extensions have a much wider variety. If you find the perfect extension to underpin the core functionality of your website, then you should probably be using whichever CMS that extension was developed for.

Part 4: Search Engine Optimization

In this analysis, we compared WordPress and Joomla in terms of SEO competence. There is no hiding from the fact that WordPress is substantially better for SEO than Joomla. While Joomla isn’t horrible in the SEO department, it can be a bit of a hassle to get 100% right.

WordPress’ real SEO power comes from the excellent array of plugins available to make your life easier. It is a definite winner here, but Joomla isn’t that bad that you should completely avoid it on the basis of SEO alone.

Part 5: Support and Community

In week 5 we found, somewhat surprisingly, that — in comparison with Joomla — WordPress lacks a lot of community-building initiative. Its website is bland (they might call it minimalistic) and seems to rest on the fact that WordPress is already the most popular CMS around.

Joomla, on the other hand, really is trying to foster its community. The website is really attractive and intuitive, it has a number of great initiatives on the go and its support forum is phenomenal.

And the Winner Is…

I have been contemplating this decision for a long time.  Not just while I’ve been writing this series, but for all the years I’ve been designing websites.

The truth is, I just can’t find enough evidence to conclusively name one CMS a comprehensive winner. I think that both systems are good for certain purposes and this thought seems to be reiterated every time I begin planning a site design. I never know as soon as I take on a client whether the site will be done in WordPress or Joomla — I have to take all the above factors into consideration (particularly the available extensions in relation to the purpose of the website) before I can make a decision.

The purpose of this series is to give you clear insight into the capabilities, advantages and drawbacks of each CMS. I would like you to walk away with enough insight and understanding to make a truly informed decision on what the best CMS for your website is.

As a general rule of thumb, when I’m developing a site that relies heavily on content — something like a blog/content curation website or a news website — I will generally look to WordPress. For just about everything else (usually more complex sites) I tend to use Joomla.

I guess this matches the purpose of WordPress, which is to provide a platform for the easy publishing and distribution of content.

Whichever CMS you decide to use, you are going to need to spend a bit of time learning the ins and outs of the system, especially if you’re going to attempt developing it yourself.  Yes, WordPress is a little more intuitive than Joomla, but the “complexity” of Joomla allows it to be a much more versatile system.

The fact is it comes down to personal preference. It’s a subjective decision and this is the reason why the WordPress v Joomla debate will continue. Decide which system suits your purpose and go for it.

Which CMS is your favourite? Why? If you have any questions or you think I’ve missed something important, please bring it up in the comments.  You can also connect with me on Facebook or Twitter — I love feedback!

If you enjoyed reading this post, you’ll love Learnable; the place to learn fresh skills and techniques from the masters. Members get instant access to all of SitePoint’s ebooks and interactive online courses, like The Beginner’s Guide to Web Design with WordPress.

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Mark AtkinsonMark Atkinson
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Mark runs a design studio in Durban, South Africa. He is a web designer and branding expert for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Connect with Mark on Google+.

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