I teach journalism students to use both Joomla! and WordPress. I spend more time on WordPress as my general feeling is that WordPress has improved over the years while Joomla! has stagnated somewhat. Two years ago Web Designer magazine commissioned me to write a feature about Joomla!. It was part of a series of articles on popular content management systems (CMS) and other writers covered Drupal, SquareSpace and WordPress.
A survey of web agencies
As part of my research, I needed to find web development agencies in the UK that were using Joomla! Many agencies (and I contacted a lot) had switched to WordPress complaining that Joomla! was weaker on SEO and had security vulnerabilities. In most cases they didn’t actually hate Joomla! – most would go back to it if they or a client thought it was suitable for a project they were working on. However, these days WordPress is number one in open source CMS. Research seems to suggest that Joomla! is number two globally, although be it very far behind.
Research from W3Techs gives Joomla a global marketshare of around 10% (July 2013)
Ease of use
The art to understanding Joomla! is simply to get your head around the way content is organised – articles belong in sections and categories (sub-sections). These are broadly what WordPress users understand as posts, pages, and categories. I tend to think that from a organisational perspective Joomla! provides more levels and a better hierarchy (but that view is considered controversial by some). Pages in WordPress really are a bit limiting.
Joomla is certainly easier to understand than Drupal, but it’s harder than WordPress which has a modern and well thought out interface. Joomla could do with a makeover. If certain buttons were just moved things would be easier.
However, I still believe that despite its faults, Joomla! and Drupal are much better for large news sites where you have masses of content and a large number of people (users) contributing content. Its User Manager and Article Manager sections are very good.
Best for news sites
WordPress seems to be improving on every release and getting much easier to use on news sites, however, it may just be me, but I still feel out of the box WordPress looks like it is designed for blogs (which of course is it roots). To convert a site that looks like a blog to something newsy you have to get your head around how menus work. I appreciate WordPress has an unrivaled number of plugins and themes which can make your site look more newsy and most are available for free. The online community of Joomla users is very strong, but WordPress is larger. If you are teaching a CMS, there are plenty of books about Joomla!. But there are more written about WordPress.
The killer blow – SEO
While Joomla is currently down, it’s certainly not out. There is plenty of potential for a revival with the help of its strong online community. Joomla! fans are dedicated bunch and it has so much potential. Someone could start by setting up Joomla.com to provide a very simple free hosted version. That would get people into using it like they do at WordPress.com.