WordPress and Joomla! have quite a bit in common, even though they were developed for different purposes. They are both free software products with many add-ons available, with vocal communities of both supporters and detractors. From a client perspective, however, it’s important to understand what distinguishes them from each other, so you can make the choice that best suits your needs.
WordPress was originally developed as a blogging platform; so, for organizations that want their website to include a blog, it’s perfect right out of the box. There are tons of free “themes” (design templates) and plugins, which usually work pretty well, but can be somewhat inflexible, though that is starting to change. There are also developers who will create a custom theme for you, for a price.
WordPress is a terrific option for small to medium-sized websites that don’t need a lot of interactivity. It’s also perhaps the easiest content management system to learn, which makes in-house editing a real possibility. Because of its relative simplicity, however, it’s not really a good choice for larger, more complex Web sites with a lot of content and the need for various applications to interact with visitors.
Joomla!, on the other hand, was intended to be a full-fledged content manangement system from the get-go. It’s open-source, which means that anyone with programming skills can develop templates and applications that will work within it — and thousands of developers have taken advantage of that. There are Joomla! add-ons to accomplish almost any Web-based task anyone might wish. This means great time and cost savings for clients — instead of having to pay a programmer to develop a custom application, you can download a Joomla! plug-in, configure it, and you’re set to go. There are also many free templates and a good selection of reasonably priced, professionally designed templates to choose from, to give your site a more custom look. You can even commission your own template, though this is a more pricey option.
Joomla! works best for medium- to large-sized sites with lots of content that needs to be organized in a structured way. It’s also a great choice if you need to create user accounts, since it has this capability built in. This level of complexity, however, does come with its downside; the learning curve for managing Joomla! is quite steep, especially for those who are not confident with computers and/or the Internet. This means that developer support will most likely always be necessary for at least some tasks.
Whatever CMS you choose, be sure to upgrade to the newest version as soon as you can, understand any attendant security concerns, and back up your site regularly!