The Pros and Cons of Using Joomla!®

April 25, 2011

Between HTML, ASP, .NET, PHP and all the other languages we’ve used to create websites, we can certainly create a content management system from scratch. But with the pressure of today’s deadlines and workloads, who has the time? When a client wants a system that they can edit themselves, looks professional or is primarily data-driven, you’ll want to choose a content management system (CMS) like Joomla!® to run the website. It’s faster to build, more reliable in code and can be updated by anyone who has a little time and the desire to learn the basics.

One of my favorite things about Joomla!® is that making changes to an existing page is considerably faster. You just log in to the administration section in a browser window, go to the page you want to edit, type your change in, save it and click “preview” to see the new page. The HTML/FTP alternative: Open your FTP client, find your website, log in, download the most recent version of the file you want to change, refresh your FTP client window, open the file in your HTML editor, find and make the change in the code, save it, refresh your FTP client again, upload the altered file, refresh the Internet browser and check your change. Seems a little tedious, doesn’t it?

The downside to the Joomla!® editor is that it’s “on-the-fly.” In other words, there will be no backup of the file you’re changing and you’re working directly with the live files, so you need to be careful that your change is correct. This can be stressful to new editors, but it’s no big deal after you get used to it. You just have to learn to trust yourself.

Joomla!® also allows for multiple users and different levels of permissions. This way, you are only responsible for what you do. It’s easy to see who’s posting and editing what, and when it was done. All authors and edit times are saved so you have running documentation. With different levels of permissions, a user that is only there to add or edit content can be locked out of certain parts of the website. This allows the developer the confidence that users without full administrative access won’t be able to change the basic structure of the website accidentally. Rebuilding a damaged site is a lot more difficult than building the site in the first place, so this feature is of immense value to any developer. However, there are only a limited number of levels of permissions, which means that you’ll usually end up having to give some users access to parts of the website that you probably won’t want to.

There are many different types of modules, components and plug-ins that can be added to a Joomla!® website: archive lists, logins, subscription forms, shopping carts, catalogs, comments forms, galleries, banner advertising, social networking integration, chat, surveys, blogs, RSS feeds… the list is practically endless. If someone has imagined it, it’s been made for this system.

But sometimes, these add-ons aren’t as user-friendly as they could be, their admin panels confusing, results- varying and documentation unfound. This can be problematic when for instance, a site with a shopping cart needs to go live now and your checkout won’t get past the shipping options because you didn’t enter the correct weight in the admin section.  You ask yourself, “There’s a section to enter the weight? Where?” But there’s no help file to answer your question.

If your goal is to develop a website with a design that consists of many pages that are unique even among themselves and are graphically based, then Joomla!® may not be the way to go. This type of site is fairly easy to accomplish with traditional code, but for Joomla!® it’s an adventure to say the least. Editing an existing template in Joomla!® can be very time-consuming and frustrating because of the sheer amount of code that is created when a Joomla!® template is compiled. Changing a Joomla!® template is a game of hide-and-seek to find where exactly that one little thing that just HAS to be part of the design is so you can change it. A developer can easily spend more time looking for where to change something than they will actually spend making the change.

All in all though, Joomla!® is a step in the right direction. Its ability to name pages with content rich information is an SEO dream. Let’s face it, your site might be AWESOME, but if no one can find it, what good is it?