WordPress vs Joomla? Which is the best CMS?

Which CMS is the best: WordPress vs Joomla? Read as I share a bit of my journey to arrive at my answer, and point out some of my reasons why WordPress wins.

If you’ve every built a website, you probably went through the stage of deciding what CMS or platform to build it on.  There are endless options available, so how do you know which one to pick?

Since I’ve been a website developer for nearly 2 decades and work at a digital agency, I am asked these types of questions a lot.  People come to me for advice when it comes to websites because I spend most of my time building them and working in them.

In this article, I hope to not only express my opinion about which CMS is the best, but also share a bit of my journey to arrive at my answer, and point out some of my reasons.

My Experience with Joomla

I’ve been in the Director of Development at Gate6 Digital Agency for many years.  When I came on board in 2007, we were building our own custom content management admin areas for our clients’ websites.  Some time in 2008 or 2009, we began to switch to using an open source content management system (CMS).

A Search for the Best CMS

We explored and researched many options.  At that time, if we were sticking with a PHP & MySQL based CMS, the 3 best options were WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.  At that time, our thoughts were as follows…

  • WordPress was still in version 2.x so it was still mainly a blogging platform, and hadn’t yet moved into being a full-fledged CMS for any corporate website like it did when it hit version 3.0

  • Drupal didn’t seem to be very user-friendly to me.  While it was obviously very powerful and built for scale, it was a bit confusing to navigate and to understand its structure.  It seems to be designed for developers and was not intuitive for normal users.

  • Joomla seemed to be the best option at the time.  I started by building a website myself in Joomla 1.5 and it was fairly easy, so we moved forward as an agency to focus on building our clients’ websites in Joomla.  From that point on, we built countless websites in Joomla.

Doubts about Joomla

After a couple of years, we started to doubt Joomla and started to look at WordPress in a new light.  Here’s what happened…

  • WordPress 3.0 was release, introducing many new features that pushed it into being a worthy CMS for any website that was very easy to use.
  • Within a year or so, Joomla released version 1.6, then 1.7, then 2.5, all of which were incompatible with Joomla 1.5.  There was no straightforward upgrade path since extensions had to be compatible with one or the other.  If you were to try to upgrade, it was likely that the plugins you were using on 1.5 were not available in 2.5, so you would be starting from scratch.
  • Due to the upgrade issue, many old Joomla sites started getting hacked since they were not getting any updates.
  • Meanwhile, WordPress was exploding in popularity.

Finally, around 2012, we at Gate6 were building most of our clients’ sites in WordPress and we haven’t looked back!

WordPress vs Joomla: Why WordPress is Superior

Over the recent years, we have had many of our older clients come to us for a website redesign & rebuild.  Many of them were on Joomla and we would pitch WordPress to them.  I’ve been asked so many questions regarding WordPress vs Joomla, so I thought I would write out many of my answers here.

Easy to Use

After moving to WordPress, we have heard nothing but positive remarks from developers, project managers and clients.

Among our old clients that were on Joomla and were familiar with it, after moving to WordPress, instead of viewing it as a learning curve, it was a breath of fresh air to have a CMS that was actually really easy to use. My typical client training sessions were cut in half to due to the fact that, in WordPress, everything is pretty self-explanatory.

The Content Editor

Back in the Joomla days, the editor was the bane of my existence.  I even used the JCE extension to try to make the content management experience a bit easier.  But, overall, it was horrible.  I would always be taking support calls from clients who couldn’t figure out how they broke their website or how to fix it.  The Joomla editor was so fragile that you had to be very careful not to copy and paste anything from the web or from a Word document, or it would completely screw up the page due to all of the HTML code that would be behind the scenes.

WordPress is a completely different story.  You can copy and paste from anywhere without a worry.  It’s just smart enough to figure out what you’re pasting and it handles it accordingly.  You can even copy and paste a URL from many supported sources like YouTube and it will create the embed object for you.

Drag & Drop Media

With Joomla, I remember having to train clients on how they have to first go to the Media Manage to upload an image and then go to the article that the image needs to go on, click the “add image” button, find the image that was already uploaded, make a thumbnail copy of that image, embed that, and then create a link on that image to point to the full-size image.  It was a confusing and complicated process that nobody wanted to waste their time doing.

With WordPress, you simply drag and drop your image directly into your post or page and it pops up the Media Library where it shows it uploading your image.  You just pick the size that you want and click the insert button.  That’s it!  So incredibly easy!

One-Click and Automatic Updates

This is probably one of the most important factors of a great CMS.  If you consider everything that goes on these days with security, vulnerabilities and hackers, having a CMS that can automatically update itself when there are critical security patches is a game changer.

Plugin developers can quickly implement updates and release them.  Those updates show up at the top of your screen and you can update them all with one click.

If you find yourself managing multiple WordPress sites, you will probably get a bit overwhelmed with the having to go into each site’s WordPress admin area to update plugins, themes, and even the WordPress core.  That’s why I love using ManageWP, a website that lets you manage all of your WordPress sites from one central dashboard.  You can update everything on all your sites with one single click.  You can even manage all of your comments, monitor analytics, run security scans, and schedule backups.  It’s pretty awesome!

Widespread Adoption and Support

In 2014, there were 18 million new WordPress sites launched.  Now, in 2015, 23% of the total websites in the world are on WordPress.

But, more impressively, if you take out all of the custom built or static sites, and only look at sites using a CMS, WordPress takes of 65% of those.

With the explosion of the popularity of WordPress, everybody is looking at it very closely.  If a security vulnerability is discovered, the word gets out very fast, developers patch their work, updates are made available, email blasts go out, and many web hosting providers actually perform updates automatically to avoid having security issues on their servers.  This kind of support can only happen with a CMS that is as popular as WordPress.

My hosting provider, SiteGround, even has direct integration with WordPress that allow them to offer performance boosts with static caching, dynamic caching, and even MemCache!

Almost all web hosting providers these days offer features that cater to WordPress, and many even offer a WordPress-only, WordPress-optimized hosting plan.

Also, if you are looking for interoperability to integrate with 3rd party services, you can’t go wrong with WordPress.  There’s bound to be a plugin that will offer the integration you are looking for.

Active Plugin & Theme Developer Community

Back in the day, I thought Joomla had a lot of “extensions” and “templates”, but that was just a drop in the bucket compared to the vast plugins and themes available for WordPress.

On top of the seemingly endless list of free plugins and themes available right within the WordPress admin area, there’s also a humongous community of developers who sell their work on ThemeForest.  ThemeForest has become the “go-to” place for really high quality themes that have support for and even bundle in plugins to achieve outstanding functionality that you just can’t get with a free theme.

Do You Use WordPress?

Check out my other blog, WPForTheWin.com, where I share my best WordPress tips and tutorials.

What Do You Think?

Whether you agree or disagree, I would love to hear from you in the comments.  Is WordPress truly the best CMS?  Why or why not?

2 thoughts on “WordPress vs Joomla? Which is the best CMS?

  1. Hi Nathan,

    Nice article. I use Joomla everyday and love it. Personally, I don’t like to get involved in the debate about which is superior. Both, have unique features and excel best in different use cases.

    I totally agree with you, that Joomla dropped the ball during the 1.5 – 2.5 releases. I felt your pain and had the same doubts and issues. (http://joomstore.com.au/blog/joomla-3-5-is-coming-yay-or-not.html)

    There was a mix of short term and long term releases and an insane numbering system where the .5 was the major release. At the same time they committed to releasing a new major version every 18 months requiring a migration.

    How were we supposed to convince clients to invest money in upgrading perfectly functioning sites every 18 months due to an externally imposed schedule. Many agencies and loyal developers couldn’t stick with Joomla for this reason and moved to WordPress.

    Thankfully, that release schedule has been updated and Joomla is committed to maintaining long-term stability and backwards compatibility. The next major version, Joomla 4.x, will probably be release in 2017. Joomla will support version 3.x for 18 months into the version 4 life cycle.

    The Joomla framework has changed dramatically in 3.x and I believe it’s one of the most stable and secure frameworks to build custom functionality on. But, of course, that’s why it’s seen as being more developer focused and less user friendly than WordPress.

    Thanks for the great article and opportunity to comment.


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