Joomla Review

One of the most robust, stable, secure, feature-rich CMSs on the market

What is our primary use case?

I have many primary use cases, but Joomla is one of the best CMS systems out there. With over 8000 extensions that instantly add shopping carts, help desks, firewalls, blogs, forums, etc. Most other CMS systems just can't compete or keep up.

How has it helped my organization?

It follows the Microsoft development model, whereas the communication to developers for upcoming changes, vulnerabilities, and new features is very robust. Developers often know ahead of time that their extensions will break and are ready with new versions before Joomla releases an update or upgrade. Other CMS platforms (no names) wish they had this robust developer network, and because they do not, those websites break a lot, which is unacceptable. A customer will not care if the site you built is broken because you recommended a cruddy, substandard CMS that is really just a blog underneath.

What is most valuable?

Security, ease of updates, and upgrades with the built in J! installer tied into the JED. Large number of turnkey extensions, CCKs, and extension development well, extensions, so you can build your own (i.e., Zoo and K2) applications like help desks, carts, comment systems, blogs, and so on. 

On the front-end, it is all about the template with Joomla, or a template framework which will allow you to build your layouts and page theme(s) on-the-fly (more like how Drupal works). Naturally, because Joomla is so robust with extensions, you can also lock down a J! site easily with application and port level firewalls and other security extensions to easily bolt it down. These can also push notifications to the admin of the site when incorrect logins occur, or there are too many bad passwords (possible brute force attack), so you can react, block the IP address, or the whole IP subnet if you want, then respond almost effortlessly to attacks. 

Overall, the speed in which you can take a CMS and make it a full-blown shopping cart with analytics tracking, SEO, user accounts, security, and ease of use through a robust framework of modules and plugins to enhance and promote-related content is about as turnkey as it gets with Joomla.

I like to tell people to think of Joomla like a bare bones PC that you just bought. That PC has an operating system like Windows, but nothing else: no word processor, no bookkeeping, no browser, and no apps to do much of anything.

With it, you get the core basics: Web pages, user logins if desired, basic form creation, templates for loo, layout, and some content modules, which are fairly empty and certainly not able to say, "be a shopping cart" or a helpdesk with just Joomla installed. You can build it like any extension developer can, but now you are not just building websites. Like that PC, if you are building apps in Visual Studio or some other IDE, you are not just a PC user, but your "regular" users will want to install something on the site to extend it with features to do more. Joomla is a bare PC that needs to be extended by hand or with ready to go extensions. Over 8000 of them to choose from alone from the JED (Joomla Extension Directory).

What needs improvement?

I would like to see more back-end admin power pulled into the front-end, therefore the admins will not have to use the back-end as much, especially for the menu manager, user manager, etc. versus using third-party extensions to achieve this. As it is today, it often ends up introducing some potentially serious security concerns. 

When I turn over a Joomla site, editing content is easy for most folks (i.e., changing the Contact Us or About Us pages). However, when it comes time for them to edit menus and navigation to add a new page or article into the menu somewhere, it starts to get a little complex for many users to build these menu items, especially when there are multiple menus being used in different positions.

I also would like to see the same sorting and attributes available through the web browser on the JED (sorting by free or commercial license, sort by rating, popularity, etc.) within the back-end Joomla Web Installer when browsing extensions.

I would also like to see the Joomla security bulletins pulled into the admin back-end with better publishing of known extension issues, especially for ones we have installed. Therefore, if we do not have them installed, we never see those bulletins. If we do, then pertinent messages showing up like "there are X number of extension updates available" can pushed upfront and center like updates and security notice usually are.

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

  • Drupal
  • Hand-written code
  • IIS-based sites with superpages plus even more manual coding. Yuck.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Joomla is open source, therefore free. Only hosting, the time to build it along with the training time is your startup cost. Ongoing, it will save your organization potentially tens of thousands of dollars, especially for a larger site that has a shopping cart and DB integration to internal systems, like accounting and inventory with web orders, seamlessly transferring from website to internal systems, etc.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated other solutions very extensively. When a website is desired to be turned over to the client so they can take the reigns of development and updating, Joomla is one of the best out there with its robust ACLs and group-based roles and administration. When set up properly, entire menu systems and sections of a site can be fully secured from the public eye with minimal effort. Other CMS platforms have very basic user management and group administration, leaving a lot to be desired, especially when you come from a powerful platform like Joomla and understand it. It would not be the same if you tried to achieve similar effects with WordPress. 

What other advice do I have?

With a fairly small learning curve for the end user who wants the basics, Joomla is one of the most robust, stable, secure, feature-rich CMSs on the market. Its awards and accolades alone are impressive, never mind the robustness of the finished product and site.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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