Content management systems. There are three giants – WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. But if you are rather a beginner and just setting up a website, Drupal should be off the table, unless you have some solid tech skills or are willing to hire someone to set it up. Drupal is just not very user-friendly and is probably more designed for developers to use. As an individual or a small-to-midsize business owner, with a low budget and low expertise, you will want to avoid Drupal. You will want something that you can set up and manage on your own.
So, the choice is narrowed to two – WordPress and Joomla. Both are great CMS choices, but only you know your needs and skill levels. Let’s take a look at each.
Founded in 2003, WordPress was primarily a blogging platform. Fast forward to the end of 2016, where, now in version 4.0, 27% of all websites are powered by WordPress. This is a large percentage, considering that there are now a huge number of CMS options out there, the two most prominent being WordPress and Joomla, which has about 14% of market share. As of the end of 2016, WordPress powers 76.5 million websites, with another 50,000 added daily.
The Popularity of WordPress
Just why WordPress is the most popular CMS right now is a matter of several factors:
- The Easiest CMS to Install: A lot of web hosting providers now have automated WordPress installations. And it takes about five minutes to create and install a new website.
- Easy to Customize: WordPress has the most themes and plug-ins of any CMS. A lot of designers and developers have created free or very inexpensive tools for users to incorporate to make their sites stunning and competitive with custom-designed ones.
- It is Free: Everything can be free. There are literally tens of thousands of free themes from which to choose, and just as many free plug-ins to get all of the features and elements you could possibly want for a new website. Of course, there are also fee-based plug-ins as a business expands, but they are reasonable and certainly far less than hiring a developer to add those features.
- There is Community Support: Because WordPress is an open-source platform, millions of users contribute to providing support to their fellow users. There are support forums for users to get answers to any issues they may be having, not to mention the actual WordPress site. Looking for specific plug-ins to support what you want to do? No problem. Just access the plug-in site.
- An endless supply of plug-ins for anything you want to do. A huge number are free, and you can find paid plugins (and themes) on In fact, this site has really high-quality themes and bundled plugins, along with support.
Are there drawbacks to WordPress? Of course, there are. It’s not perfect. Probably the biggest drawback is that users cannot make big changes – they are locked out of these. If site owners want to make significant structural changes, they will probably have to have assistance from a designer or developer. However, because of the ease of use, making such changes are not costly.
Here are a few other features that make WordPress so attractive:
- Drag and Drop: You can copy and paste anything from anywhere. For example, suppose you have a deck paint and stain business. You can drop a link to a “how to” YouTube video you want to share, and WordPress will just create the embed object. Suppose you are producing a blog for students on college hacks and a post happens to be on writing services. You want to give them a link to writing services reviews. Just drag and drop it – done and done. Suppose you want to drop in an infographic or other visual – no problem. WordPress is intuitive.
- One-Click Automatic Updates: So many features involve just one click. One of the most important features of any CMS is security, and to have a CMS that is automatically updated is critical. Developers of plugins can release updates and they will show up at the top of a user’s screen for a one-click
- Manage several WordPress sites from one place. If you use Manage WP, you can use one dashboard for them all, including updates, security scans, backups, and analytics.
- Because of WordPress popularity, lots of host providers have direct integration with WordPress and they will often automatically add updates as they are available – after all, they don’t want security on their servers either.
WordPress is an obvious choice for beginners because it is just so intuitive and does so much automatically. Its dashboard is super-simple to use, and there is a huge community of support for any issues. Even so, there is some large companies and organization that use WordPress too. Continued updates and new plug-ins make a WordPress site easier to scale than ever before. When organizations such as NASA still use WordPress, it is clear that the “big boys” can find the functionality they need.
Joomla is a great platform for social networking and e-commerce sites, but it does require just some basic tech skills. It is open-source (and thus free) and has well over 6,000 free themes and plug-ins. It is the second most popular CMS.
Here are some powerful reasons for using Joomla:
- It’s better than WordPress for creating social networks, which can be a great asset for lots of sites. Setting up a social network is very easy with Joomla.
- Joomla is very popular for setting up online stores. These are easy and quick setups, whereas WordPress requires some special customizations (and thus more work).
- While it does require some low-tech understanding, it isn’t much and there is plenty of free support for any issues.
- There is a great help/support site which covers virtually any type of issue a user might have, although it is probably not as comprehensive as that for WordPress.
- It’s free, just like WordPress and Drupal, although hosting is not free as it is with WordPress.
- Changing themes and templates with Joomla is easy, as is scaling.
- Just as with WordPress, Joomla is relatively easy to edit and is compatible with most browsers.
One of the big moves for Joomla has been in the intranet niche. Large organizations have found that they can set up a social networking and/or collaboration platform for their staff to communicate and participate in discussions. E-Bay uses it for its employees; Children’s Hospital of Boston (Harvard’s teaching pediatric hospital) has used Joomla to set up its intranet.
Users of Joomla do love it because it truly can be and do most anything and remain easy to use. There’s lots of flexibility with Joomla.
Making the Choice
As stated earlier, only you know your needs and skills. Think about these general premises:
- If you are looking for a quick start for a small business website or for a blog, and you are a beginner, WordPress is probably your best bet.
- If you want something a bit different than the standard, such as an on-site social network, then Joomla is the better choice. It is probably a strong choice for e-commerce too, although you certainly can have an e-commerce site with WordPress. Joomla just has more flexibility.
The beauty is this: if you choose one and decide later that it was the wrong choice, migration both ways is relatively easy. You will need some expertise to do this, but it is certainly available at not much cost.
There is a third choice, and that is Drupal. But Drupal will require technical expertise that most business owners do not have. Thus, it can be an expensive to set it up. Drupal is probably the best choice for a large enterprise, but developers will definitely be involved.
Many who are in the design and development industry actually recommend WordPress. James George from Creative Beacon, a graphic design site that also operates tutorials for a variety of platforms, says:
“If you can fill out a form and click a few buttons, you can set up and run a WordPress site. Writing articles and placing images in each post is intuitive, and if you need more functionality, there are millions of plugins out there that you can install and have up and run in minutes. WordPress is quick, easy and requires no real knowledge of web design or web development. Even the advanced themes can be set up by a novice if they are good at following instructions. WordPress has my vote by a mile!”