WordPress or Joomla?

Working in digital marketing it’s my business to have a good working knowledge of HTML, the code used to create Web pages, however website design is steeped in mystery.

To me DIY website design represents an endless task of choosing a content management system (CMS), page layout, colour scheme, function buttons, add-ons, plug-ins and so on.

It makes me feel like a legless swan stranded in a river. Desperately I splash towards the security of the bank all the while inching closer to the horror of the weir.

Terrifying.

I’ve used WordPress a lot over the years and find it pretty easy to navigate. Familiarity was what prompted my initial decision to host my business website on WordPress.

However, just before building, I attended a very useful networking function. During the speed networking segment, think speed dating, I was introduced to a software engineer with twenty years’ industry experience.

“Try Joomla”, he advised. “Its templates are far better than WordPress so it’s technically more efficient, it has thousands of plug-ins and it’s incredibly flexible. You can also integrate any designs from any format without reducing the quality.”

Expert praise like this is pretty convincing, so I thought I’d give Joomla a trial.

Joomla, introduced in 2005 and WordPress introduced in 2003, are both template-based management systems. Templates are crucial as they determine the layout, theme and appearance of your website. Personalisation is possible with thousands of add-ons and plug-ins provided. To date WordPress has 21, 077 plug-ins and Joomla has 10050 extensions.

Getting Underway

Installation was easy for both. With WordPress (Version 3.4.1), this was unsurprising considering its: “Famous 5-Minute Install” marketing spiel.

The famous 5-minute install.

Joomla (Version 1.7) took a bit longer, but once I was in it gave step-by-step instructions on how to set it up. It also gave me the option of installing two ready-made sites to learn or convert features from as I built my own site. Very helpful.

Joomla’s Control Panel.

The administrative controls of both platforms were easy to use. Joomla’s were clearly laid out with graphic icons and WordPress’ had lots of tabs on the top and left panel that were easy to find and explore.

WordPress’ Control Panel.

Using Extensions

Both of them, as I mentioned, have loads of cool extensions. Virtuemart, free shopping cart software, is the third most used open source solution for eCommerce sites and made specifically for Joomla.

WordPress has an excellent alternative in Eshop. Eshop is easy to install, allows consumers to browse happily through products and business owners can download and upload products easily.

WordPress also has extensive social networking apps. For instance Sharebar, a box positioned on the left of blog posts that contains buttons to popular social networking sites. Similarly, Joomla offers the free Social Bookmarking Genius. It allows you to create social bookmarking buttons on your website so users can bookmark, share, like or recommend interesting content to popular social media sites like Reddit.

Both sites also have great comment box plug-ins. The Disqus Comment System is popular on WordPress. It takes a couple of seconds to install and it’s really simple to figure out. The free version includes spam tools, social integration and user profiles.

Joomla’s most popular comment extension is JComments. It’s free, easy to install and user-friendly. Functions include allowing users to leave comments under any published content and change the viewing style. It has loads of settings and you don’t need to modify it.

Lastly, I checked out SEO capabilities for both platforms. WordPress is slightly better for beginners as it has a built in SEO system that immediately brings published content to the search engines attention. Joomla is not SEO friendly but installing extensions such as SEF patch and Open SEF and turning on search engine friendly URL’s will do the job. I did have to do some online researchbefore I could do this though!

Final Decision

WordPress is a cinch for beginners, which is understandable as it was originally created as a blogging platform targeted at users with a range of technical abilities. Joomla, introduced solely as a CMS is more difficult. When I tried to upload a banner ad on Joomla I couldn’t work out how to do it until I enlisted outside help but with WordPress it was simple. I followed the instructions on the page and hey presto the banner appeared.

However Joomla’s selling point is that web developers can customise nearly any module application or extension which WordPress doesn’t.

For a beginner this doesn’t matter but for an experienced user this may very well be the deal-breaker

Both have a great support service and forum and both have free and paid for versions.

Having done some research I found that Joomla is meant to be slightly more than WordPress in installation and maintenance costs.

This doesn’t matter to me. It’s possible to get great free applications for both and sometimes it’s worth paying a bit more to get the service you require.

Both excellent platforms, arguably the best of their kind on the market and I drew obvious conclusions. A beginner should stick with WordPress, it’s straightforward and you can create a clean-cut website very easily. For the experienced user, who wants to customise his or her website or build personal apps, I’d recommend Joomla. It has the building capabilities to satisfy the most parched of technological needs.

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