Much like the Mac vs. PC debates of a decade ago, the open-source web development community dukes it out over Wordpress vs. Joomla. In terms of sheer numbers of installations, Wordpress enjoys a substantial lead over Joomla and some of the other players in this space. As both users and developers, we completely understand some of the enthusiasm for Wordpress. 

It has long lived up to its promise of ease-of-use, it's design elegance, and a hyper-active developer community that provides a seeming endless number of templates and extensions.

I've deployed both Joomla and Wordpress sites, and my experience has given me some perspective in this debate. Simply put, Wordpress was, is, and remains primarily a blogging platform. Clients that want a site to mainly to disseminate news, observations, and other editorial content should choose it. 

Anyone who sings Wordpress's praises as a complete content management system is probably a coder adept at prying open the hood and making the engine do all kinds of things for which it was never really designed. This, however, does not describe the typical client or designer who simply wants to deploy a fully functioning system without having to monkey with the underlying code. 

Joomla is more of a true content management system. It can do blogging, though not as elegantly as Wordpress. On the other hand, Joomla's extension eco-system makes it — in our opinion — a far superior platform for serving broader types of content — from document archives and multi-media to product catalogs and property listings and more. In our experience, we also find it much easier to customize the structure of Joomla page layouts or add features without tinkering with the source code.

I began deploying Joomla sites at version 1.5, which admittedly had some major work-flow issues. The learning curve for administration was unacceptably steep for most people and training them required patience. However, I preferred Joomla then because of the greater control it gave administrators over their content.

Since then, the Joomla community redoubled its efforts to improve Joomla and they have paid off. Joomla is now at version 3 with 3.1 now just arriving. Here are just a few of the improvements:

  • Vastly improved administration interface — Joomla has finally caught up with Wordpress in this regard. Just scratching the surface, the admin area includes better menu management, article management, and global configuration.
  • Automated updating system — Joomla can now apply its own security updates with a single click and it also allows extensions to do the same.
  • Access Control List — it is now possible to restrict users to very specific parts of the site, for both front and back end access
  • Simplified article categorization — No more Section/Category organization. Instead, you may organize your articles in categories with unlimited subcategories.
  • Access to modules from within the Menu options interface — no more going back and forth between the Menu configuration to the Modules configuration just to make changes and fine tune the settings.
  • Built-in "responsive design" — This allows for better page rendering on mobile devices without the need for a separate mobile-only site.

You will find a great deal more improvements at this link.

If you have a version 1.5 site, I strongly recommend upgrading as the Joomla community no longer supports it. Be advised that the conversion process from version 1.5 to version 3 is not automatic, but is instead a very manual multi-step process. If you think the time has come to upgrade, it might also be a good time to rethink the design and structure of the whole site.