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Open Source Usability — Joomla! Vs. WordPress 240

An anonymous reader writes "PlayingWithWire profiles two open source tools for Web development, comparing Joomla! and WordPress through the lens of usability. The article has apparently upset a few people at the Joomla! forum, but it does bring up a good point. Many open source projects are developed by engineers for engineers — should they focus more on usability? PlayingWithWire makes a bold analogy: 'If Joomla! is Linux, then WordPress is Mac OS X. WordPress might offer only 90% of the features of Joomla!, but in most cases WordPress is both easier to use and faster to get up and running.'" The article repeatedly stresses that blogging platform WordPress and CMS harness Joomla! occupy different levels of the content hierarchy. How fair is it to twit Joomla! on usability?
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Open Source Usability — Joomla! Vs. WordPress

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  • Quite fair (Score:5, Informative)

    by rallymatte ( 707679 ) * on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @06:31AM (#27049303)
    I'm a Linux Systems Admin. I write php code quite often, I know several other script languages and I know the basics of CSS.
    I managed to install Joomla quite easily, but I must say that once it was installed, it was really hard to use. Modules wouldn't install properly and simple things were really hard to accomplish, like being able to upload files etc.
    It was also really hard to brand the page, we wanted our company look of the page. Took a good while before we got to something that only looked ok.
    Maybe I'm being harsh as this was a few versions back. But still...
  • by gravos ( 912628 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @06:42AM (#27049347) Homepage
    Different software appeals to different people. I like linux because it gives me flexibility. You like MacOS X because it is easy to use. I like Wordpress because it is simple. You like Joomla because it is adaptable.

    You know what? That's fine. One-size-fits-all is not a relevant concept when it comes to software. Diversity is a good thing, and we should encourage it, not worry about it.
  • by randomsearch ( 1207102 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @07:11AM (#27049471) Journal

    Hi All,

    If anyone is looking at Joomla etc. right now and trying to decide on which CMS to use, please take my advice:

    If you're a competent programmer, appreciate good design, know PHP to some extent, etc. then use *Drupal*. It has taken me 6 painful months to learn how frustrating the other systems can be if you already have these skills.

    Joomla et. al seem to be designed for people without a strong technical background. Drupal is a tool that speeds up the process of building sites for technical literate designers without constraining them too much.


  • in our office... (Score:3, Informative)

    by powerspike ( 729889 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @07:30AM (#27049545)
    When we start building a site (for anything), the first question is - is it going to be run by tech staff or admin staff, if it's admin staff, it's wordpress, trying to teach admin staff about front page featured, order etc, their eyes just glaze over.

    Been able to just tell them to "click on new post, put it in, and click on publish" makes life so much easier...
  • Joomla! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @07:41AM (#27049581)

    I run about 3 sites with Joomla!

    I totally agree that Joomla! has its weaknesses ...
    The biggest problem of which is the modules/components/etc that are not core to Joomla! tend to 'suck'.

    However ... despite this working with Joomla! ... especially 1.5.x is really a piece of cake. Not knowing css or php ... I learned how to write my own template in about 30 min, my own component in about the same ... and I have produced some very functional professional sites.

    Anyways ... I have heard the Joomla! bashing lately and it's a little much. I think anyone using Joomla! will be extremely happy with it!

  • Re:Quite fair (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @08:06AM (#27049707)

    I develop with Joomla daily, and you do certainly need skills in PHP to be able to get it work - a non-programmer would be unable to get the most out of the package and modules. Saying that I've only been developing PHP for 6 years, and it took me about three days to be able to work and build complex e-commerce solutions with Joomla. I was able to create good sites for customers after a couple of days and didn't experience the probelms you mentioned.

    In terms of usability it is quite poor though. In previous jobs I've had to present clients with several CMSs (open source and propriatary) and they never once chose Joomla.

    I've come to like the flexibility and massive choice offered by Joomla, but think you should use the best tool for the job, and Joomla is simply overkill for the majority of sites we develop, and it is overly complex and badly designed in terms of usability for simple sites.

  • Re:not a question (Score:3, Informative)

    by BlackPignouf ( 1017012 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:11AM (#27050025)

    vimtutor is actually pretty good.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:34AM (#27050187)

    Like one of the commenters said, it is comparing apples with oranges - Wordpress is for blogging, so blogs are easier to produce. Joomla if a general CMS system, capable of more, but slightly harder to use if you just want a blog.

    That's not quite right; Wordpress can be used as a CMS and has sufficient capabilities for most use cases I encountered. Also, there is a directory of plugins that allow to easily add capabilities that go beyond text editing. If, in addition, you know PHP, then its really straightforward to extend Wordpress yourself--there is plenty of well-written and up-to-date documentation.

    So I think a comparision restricted to this aspect does make sense. In my opinion, Joomla being a "general CMS system" is no excuse for that fact that it is rather hard to set up a simple website.

  • Re:Try TYPO3 (Score:3, Informative)

    by oliderid ( 710055 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:36AM (#27050217) Journal

    I do and on a daily basis. When you go back to Joomla! and the like, you suddenly feel like it is quite simple :-). I can't imagine the reaction of this guy in front of it :-)

    Some of the problems of Typo3 is its legacy. Typo3 has been created in the nineties if I remind well at a time where Object oriented PHP programming wasn't possible.

    Typo3 developers used a pseudo object oriented framework heavily based on hash tables. Which is truly ugly but well it works. If you've got a real Object oriented background, you feel sick in front of it. The real problem is that they kept this approach until today and when you read their developers mailing list, most have no desire to change it.

    Another problem is really ridiculous but well the real problem is its repetition : naming convention. All "core api" classes have funny names. Imagine simple System.Console would become in typo3 Sys.csl a writeln would become wtln

    Why? Don't ask. Maybe they want to look smart, I don't know.

    If they can make an abreviation (let's say saving just one letter), they will! It could as stupid as objc witch is object or more important stuff like pi wich is plugin, and all. While reading their code, you can't understand it, you need google and dozens of different sources simply to understand what this variable or object stands for. They might save one nanosecond while typing it but newbies lose hours (and most leave the environement entirely).

    Another problem is their fragmented documentations. Their documentation are heavily based on their abbreviations. Extremely important stuff like TCA...Means err nothing until you found another documentation describing this abbreviation. It is really frustrating.

    They are also keen at "creating" new name for things you know for years...And it becomes even more frustrating to a point that you can understand the inner logic behind it.

    Typoscript has been "designed" by a non developer IMHO. I feel like he thought that he could play with syntax as much as he wish. And you end up with a "configuration language" using = or < with a total different meaning than in any other computer languages.

    So the learning curve is extremely important (and they seem proud of that fact...Again don't ask). A large part of your technical experiences will be useless in front of typo3. These are the cons, I found a lot of "pros" that counterbalance them. Its extreme flexibility is the first. The second is that there are a lot of companies requiring it (in Europe at least) and very few developers ready to spend hours in this messy environment :-). I make now a good part of my revenues out of it.

  • Wordpress (Score:3, Informative)

    by MazzThePianoman ( 996530 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:49AM (#27050343) Homepage

    I looked at both Joomla! and Drupal but settled on Wordpress as a basis for setting up some freelance web development jobs. It was much easier to build a custom template from scratch by backwards engineering the default and customizing everything.

    And for those who think it is only for blogs needs to look around a little. For example [] is Wordpress.

  • Re:not a question (Score:4, Informative)

    by DaleGlass ( 1068434 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:51AM (#27050361) Homepage

    Does anybody honestly think that the traditional Unix filesystem heirarchy makes an ounce of sense in 2009?


    In Linux you install things with a package manager. This means that for 99% of users, it doesn't matter whether it's called /usr or /Programs, they're not going to go there anyway. You're not going to install things in Linux in drag and drop style by dropping stuff into /Programs, because it's most likely not writable by normal users (never used Gobo though), and because the vast majority of applications are dynamically linked and won't work without the dependencies in place.

    This just seems a pointless waste of time. As a sysadmin, this sort of thing means I have to learn where everything on this system is, and when something breaks it'll take extra effort to fix.I much prefer consistency, so this won't be the distro I'll be going with. The existence of a kernel module to keep compatibility is annoying and limiting. And this won't end there, I'm sure some other distro will think that it should be /Applications instead of /Programs. I'd rather stay with the normal layout, thanks.

    As an user, everything outside of /home might as well not exist, so it doesn't matter what they call it, I don't care or notice any benefit from it. So it's a waste of time as well. Also it doesn't really make anything more intuitive, it simply moves things around. /System/Settings/passwd isn't any more intuitive than /etc/passwd: It's still the same file, with the same weird formatting and editing requirements (keeping shadow in sync)

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:54AM (#27050387)

    Well, at least the summary is complete and utter rubbish. The article is slashdotted, but from what I can extract from the comments, the author doesn't know what he's talking about.

    WP does not have '90%' of Joomlas features. That's nonsense.

    I have used, deployed and administrated WP since the b2 days, before it became WP and have been using, deploying, adminstrating and developing Joomla since the Mambo 4 days. And - take it from someone who makes a living on this stuff (and is a member of the Joomla Bugsquad) - both are very sohpisticated webkits!

    WP is basically a Blogging engine. Plain and simple. It's a very pimped out matured blogging engine and is used as the foundation for some very large sites and complex apps - which is totally ok - but it started of as a blogging engine called b2 and all it's workflows are derived from blogging workflows. Which explain it's simplicity and thus its notable ease of use.

    Joomla is a full-blown web-cms. It gives backend controll over what functions the frontend has, it has 7 user groups by default (which you can't change or extend - one of the downsides compared to other systems like Typo3) and basically is a feature behemoth right off the bat compared to WP. The built in editing toolset dwarves that of WP. Contrary to that, Joomla is extremely easy to install and installation plays in the same leage as WP usability wise. I actually find Joomla 1.5 easyer to install than WP 2.7.

    That aside, Joomlas featureset and philosophy required that you sit down and learn it!. WP will have you publishing 5 minutes after installation, while Joomla might take an hour until everything is halfway in place. And you still won't understand half of it. Which is entirely due to the wide range of options Joomla offers, compared to WP.
    Likewise doing nifty things like moving the login and/or search widget aroud the layout to make room for a large bulletin with 3 or 4 clicks of a mouse is simply impossible in WP. With the upside that you don't have to know what Joomla modules and module-positions are.

    I currently use a plugin-pimped WP for my everyday blog (which I share with another blogger) and I use Joomla in 4 different sites, which are all more complex than a online essay site - and both do a very fine job and are very usable. ... Aside from maybe the fact that WPs editor lacks the features I'm used to from Joomlas TinyMCE setup. But for people who'd rather screw up the layout when given to much power this would be a plus. So there's no wonder why WPs editor is slim by default.

    Bottom line: Ignore the rubbish and choose the best tool for the job. Both Joomla and WP are well suited for the prime choice in their field.

  • Re:Quite fair (Score:2, Informative)

    by matthewboh ( 927604 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:00AM (#27050439) Homepage
    I own a business that does computer consulting and I've found that Wordpress is easier to use, easier to administer and easier to train. I also agree that Joomla! does a lot of other things, but I've found it difficult to use, difficult to set up and a little more buggy than Wordpress, so I completely agree with rallymatte's evaluation
  • Re:Quite fair (Score:2, Informative)

    by reashlin ( 1370169 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:05AM (#27050497)
    I use Joomla! quite alot and in my experience once you get your head around how Joomla! views a "page" things are pretty easy. The wealth of the extensions community is both a benefit and a burdon to Joomla!. There are huge numbers of commercial modules etc. for it. Often the "free" ones are so tight in with what the origional developer wanted that they are not of much use to everyone else. Then there are the modules etc. that were coded before the API was even finalised. These are often the more mature products but not using any of the core Joomla! features means they are hard to install etc. Take Docman for example. Because it does not use Joomlas file writing mechanism on install it requires allowing write access to the whole web root for the current vhost. Then you have to lock it back down. Joomla! actually has a workaround for this (using local ftp access) but the "Wordpress" users often can't work this. I actually enjoy using Joomla! as a developer and semi-admin. But I wouldn't just give it to my mum and see what happens.
  • by taliesinangelus ( 655700 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:14AM (#27050569)
    At our company we have found Drupal to be more secure and easier to modify than Joomla. Especially the former. I don't know if Joomla is more popular so it gets hit harder or if Drupal is that much more secure - empirically the evidence just said to us we didn't get attacked as much with an up-to-date Drupal than with up-to-date Joomla.
  • by soliptic ( 665417 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:21AM (#27050643) Journal

    Have you used any adobe programs lately? the UI is an abomination (especially on the Mac!). Check this [] website number sometime. I dropped major cash for Adobe CS3 Master Suite for OS X last year. Major mistake. The UI doesn't look or feel native, is slow, full of quirks, and hard to use.

    I'm lacking mod points atm so I'm going to quote this with my fancy pants +1 karma bonus, because it deserves to be seen. That website is utterly hilarious as well as totally spot on. Even if you don't care in the least about Adobe interfaces, give it a read for the comedy value alone.

    I've got CS3 here (on Win), a new colleague recently started in my team and they don't sell CS3 licenses anymore so they ended up with CS4. I can't show them how to use anything based on my knowledge of CS3, because everything has been changed around for no apparent reason. I can't show them how to use stuff based on an educated guess of how Windows apps usually work, because it looks and works nothing like that. Well, in a lot of ways, they never did behave quite like native Win apps (what with the Mac heritage), but now even less so. And nowhere near native Mac either. It just looks like - bleh. Words fail me really. It's some bizarro dark grey explosion-in-a-flash-factory disaster. It's a total clusterfuck.

  • by jvervloet ( 532924 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:16PM (#27052103) Homepage Journal

    Yes, Linux is a great OS, but it simply doesn't have photoshop or anything that compares to it. GIMP is a clumsy hack and is frankly like Paint in comparison.

    Compared to Photoshop, Gimp might be like Paint, but compared to Paint, Gimp really is like Photoshop :-)

    Gnome, KDE and Explorer have nothing on the frankly revolutionary changes Mac has seamlessly implemented in the last few years. There are a lot of poorly implemented whizbang features like Time Machine's GUI or Safari 4's Top Pages, but there are also features like Spotlight, Expose, the new stacks in the Dock, and Quick Look.

    Maybe you can check out

    Call me back when Linux works with my hardware out of the box

    Call me back when you buy hardware that works with Linux. :-) []

  • by neowolf ( 173735 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:43PM (#27052509)

    I reviewed about a dozen Web CMS systems for a project for my company. We wanted something that we could just release to our content providers and let them submit their content. We didn't want to get heavily invested in the engineering, or have to deal with a lot of background maintenance just to keep it going. Wordpress was far easier to set-up and get our users working, than anything else we tested, including Joomla. Wordpress may not be as flexible and expandable as some of the others, but it also doesn't take nearly as much tweaking and plug-in hunting. It met our needs with only a couple of plug-ins, and was a no-brainer to install. As always- YMMV.

  • by ghetto2ivy ( 1228580 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:02PM (#27052783)
    I used to use Joomla 1.5 for my company site. Then tried doing it over in Drupal and Wordpress. If you have a single maintainer, Wordpress wins hands down on both the easy and extensible ends. If you know any php you can do a lot with Wordpress and the functions are well documented. Its was much easier to customize templates in WP than an Joomla or Drupal. If you just want a site or blog out the box, and cant code to save your life, templates and plugins are easy to use.
  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:27PM (#27053137)

    Create a new entry in Joomla. Where does it live? Does it even exist other than in the db table? Is it a page? No. Is it a blog entry? Maybe, if the system is set up that way. What kind of entry is it? Try explaining the difference to a non-technical user.

    It's a content item. It has enough meta-data to be rendered as a blog entry, if you wish, as it has publishing and 'go offline' dates and tons of other stuff. How it is rendered you can choose once you build a menu item that leads to its category,section or to the item itself. Menu entries carry their rendering options for their targets with them. Confusing at first, but very reasonable once you've understoof the concept.
    If anything the item lives in its section and category.
    If its unpublished, it lives in the space of the unpublished items. If its in the Section "Foo", Category "Bar" it lives in the space of FooBar. ...
    I know that you tread water when in the content overviews at first, but Joomla is that flexible it actually leaves you with little much more than a sophisticated overview of the content objects and their attributes. Which is pretty much. And all you need. If you want to shoehorn your content, make sections and categories. That's what they're there for.

    Choose the category you want. Oh, you need a new section. Forget about making a menu link to the entry and create a new section, then a new category. At this point it's actually easier to delete the original entry and post it again.

    Bingo. Valid point. If you don't know and/or follow the generic Joomla workflow you run into that bump 2 minutes after your first login. However, if you *do* know the workflow and live by it, it's as easy as breathing. Just like in non-trivial programming, where the first thing you do is not writing the concept file but making a versioning repository/project.
    Once you've built your sections and categories this isn't a problem anymore - its actually the typical initial Joomla setup problem. They could actually add the option to add section/categories in the editing/creation view. Using Ajax or something, to do the roundtrip without shedding the actual content item.
    I've had this problem myself. But admit it, it is a minor issue in comparsion.

    Now create a menu item. Which menu? If the site is complicated at all that's a legitimate question. Once you've created the menu item, then go back and find the created entry and attach it to the menu item. Okay, your new page is live. Whew.

    Yet another workflow thing. Not so much of a problem if you know how many levels of abstraction Joomla offers. And yes, building a complex website does require planning ahead. And if you use Joomla to do so, you're best of following their philosophy. That is: Plan your pageflow and your menu display beforehand - that will limit the issue above to deliberately trying out different menu options and renderings.

    The system is certainly flexible when it comes to creating a complex site, but for small sites and non-technical users it's both confusing and a lot of work.

    Newsflash: Airplanes are more difficult than tricycles. Film at eleven. :-)
    Right on. If you just want a blog and don't want to learn about Joomla, use WP. Or, for that matter.

    Now you need to change something on one of the pages. Is it a component? Maybe it's a article. Oh, it's a module. No... Give up and call the IT guy.

    The terminology is synthetic and bolted-on at times. And may lack distinctivenes, yes indeed. But in this case it's actually quite easy: Change content? --> Article. Change overall treatment and handling of items in the frontend? --> Component. Programm your own at will - Joomla is a framework too. Want to quickly change position of rendering in layout or add a little widget with custom stuff? Like a permanent comment, custom permanent ad, or something? --> Module. Modules are like teensy side-components in that respect, if you will. Of cource you can have

  • by macurmudgeon ( 900466 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:01PM (#27053691) Homepage

    all your points are valid. *AND* they are not easy concepts for the non-technical user to grasp. The article we're supposedly discussing compares ease of use of Wordpress and Joomla. I've built and trained people on 8 Joomla sites. Without exception I have many more support calls from Joomla users asking how do I do.... Many of them come from just the connection of an entry to the menu that I've outlined.

    I've made step-by-step tutorials. I've created screencasts. I've spend hours upon hours in training. It's not my training style. I teach several computer related subjects through the local community college. I give classes through a MUG. I build and support sites in Wordpress. Joomla is the only system that I use and support that requires this level of repetition.

  • Re:not a question (Score:3, Informative)

    by extrasolar ( 28341 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:05PM (#27053737) Homepage Journal

    Both vi and EMACS seem to have taken the "fuck the users" approach to heart. I suppose I might be of the wrong mindset to operate either application, though the developers could have at the very least taken the time to provide a decent set of documentation for their astonishingly-complex applications.

    How can I take the rest of your comment seriously when you are either trolling or speaking out of ignorance (and is there a difference?). Have you even glanced at the Emacs manual? It is quite thorough. You can read online within emacs, read it on the commandline, order a printed book from the FSF or your favorite publisher, or print out your own copy.

    There are a lot of weaknesses as far as documentation in the GNU/Linux system; Emacs isn't one of them. You can also read the Emacs Lisp and the Introduction to Emacs Lisp manuals when you want to go further in modifying this flexible application.

  • by wiedzmin ( 1269816 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:17PM (#27053899)
    I've been using Joomla for many websites I've setup for myself and others for a few years now and I must admit that while it is easy to install, it is absolutely unusable by an untrained user. The way content sections and categories and modules and components are setup is completely unintuitive. It does make Joomla a very powerful CMS for a web administrator, but it fails completely when it comes to the primary task of CMS - making web content management easy for an average website publisher.
  • Re:in our office... (Score:2, Informative)

    by KevinColyer ( 883316 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @04:23PM (#27055753) Homepage

    This is my experience too. I want to create a site that non-technical users can create content for and manage. I found Wordpress more effective in this regard than Joomla. I'm sure Joomla is good and will consider it for future projects, but for this one where simplicity is king, I have chosen Wordpress.

    What was funny was being told off by another web designer for not choosing Joomla! He certainly didn't grasp the human factor involved in managing the content creation, despite his technical competence (which I am sure is better than mine).

  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @04:24PM (#27055765)

    I've deployed multiple sites on both Wordpress and Joomla. Currently our content portal uses both. Joomla for CMS and then Wordpress for blogging. My problem with both of them is that they take up a bit of time to maintain security updates. They are the favourite platform of script kiddies from Turkey and asian spammers.

    Drupal is arguabely a more powerful platform than either, but you need a technical person to admin the damn thing. Trying to explain the concept of content nodes to the average person who just needs to update pages.

    Recently I came across concrete5 ( It is certainly not a blogging platform. But if you have sites that maybe need updates once a week or month and needs to be maintained by none web people, it is by far the most easy to use, easy to understand CMS I've ever seen. What is lacking is a lot of "features" that will come in time. But if you have a developer, the framework is easy enough to figure out.

  • Re:What is better? (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrbcs ( 737902 ) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @03:03AM (#27061615) []Drupal.

    Lots more modules. Free. Works. I don't like Joomla at all. Everything cool has a big price tag on it.

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.