I’m Joomla about WordPress

This is a story of commitment and disappointment, all with Joomla. This is also going to be a story about relief and respect, all with WordPress. This is another story, although personal if not professional, about which one sucks and the other one rocks! TL; DR? According to Urban Dictionary entry I’m not so Joomla about Joomla!

When it comes to comparing two things, the old saying of comparing apples to oranges is the most common pitfall one might fall into. However, I think I have seen enough similarities and differences with Joomla and WordPress so I can say that apples and oranges smell good, are juicy, are both fruit etc. So what differs them?

This ain’t a scientific classification

So, when it comes to classifying apples and oranges we can refer to scientific methods, family, genus and all that stuff. How do you classify software then?

  • Ease of use
    • Interface
    • Installation
  • Cost
  • Documentation
    • Community Driven
    • Developer Driven
  • Dependencies
    • Other Technologies
    • User Input

Cost is definitely an item we’ll skip since both are free and available with most hosting setups. Indeed, I installed many copies of both of them in different folders to test stuff until I was ready to launch.

In terms of dependencies, both require PHP and need basic definition of database name, username, password and all that installation requirements that are common to most CMS.

Documentation plays a few different roles depending on where  you are at with the product. As far as installation goes hosting scripts take care of the heavy lifting for you. So, I’ll focus on the documentation or the help you’ll need after you start using the product.

What struck me with Joomla?

After having done fifteen years of web design and development I must say the nerd in me pushed me in Joomla direction. Why? Because I already knew WordPress was more popular. It was so popular that your average Joe could use it. Surely, if average Joe did WordPress I shouldn’t succumb to his level. So I was ready at that point through hardship and many swear words I could reach Nerdvana by trying something more difficult, better, faster, holier than WordPress!

My need for a CMS started when I knew I was going to attend Stage Select Gaming Expo. I was going to get my business cards done and I needed a website to showcase my 15 years of work as well as my interests and hobbies. I had already had my personal site done in Flash in 2007. The content was only about portfolio items, well, needless to say it wasn’t accessible from mobile devices. Although it was old and it needed a facelift, my main reason was to share my stuff that doesn’t fit a portfolio concept.

While I’m at describing my needs let me also mention that I came across these two words and I pondered a bit : CMS vs Blog. So, Joomla is a CMS and WordPress is a Blog. Ok, I want to organize my content and create different layouts for different sections for my website because I don’t want my portfolio items look like an article but then when I want to share my opinions I just want to type in stuff like you know in an article like this one. This was one of the main reasons why I chose Joomla over WordPress. The fact that I could pick different themes or layouts for different categories whereas categories are somewhat transparent in WordPress. Pages in WordPress looks more like Categories in Joomla.

To themify or not to themify

This was the question early on with how I wanted to present my content. The first thing I did after I installed Joomla was to look for a decent and free theme that has ample space to show big pictures and text content. I didn’t want to do anything like giant background pictures with very little text distributed here and there like you are putting salt and pepper on your dinner.

During my search, the themes I liked weren’t free and the ones that were free were too simple or not responsive. Then, I came across Rocket Theme. I must have skipped the responsive option in their filter menu because my first pick was their Quasar theme. However, until I figured out I needed a responsive theme I had already spent many frustrating hours with Joomla. It was a good learning experience and I figured I’d have to do similar things if I put my hands on a theme I liked anyway. So, it wasn’t that much of a waste of time but it was actually the early signs of why I’d leave Joomla later.

To summarize, I’d say the module logic was new to me. The fact that you are managing different modules, plugins and components on one page was kind of new to me.

Ignore me while you can

What’s typical with ignorant people is that they don’t know what they don’t know. Sure, we are all there at one level or another but at least there is a degree to it and most people will be willing to change where they stand. Slowly but surely, when you realize how much you still don’t know you are not out of woods yet but you are in a better shape for lack of a better term. It’s been pretty much like this for me. I was quick at dismissing WordPress and little did I know, or not, that Joomla wasn’t better.

The more I wanted to tweak my site so it would look half decent, the more difficulties I came across. For example, what’s with the user friendly URLs? Why do I need to install plugins and modules? All that configuration and fuss that comes with these plugins so I can have a decent URL structure.

Maybe the easiest part was to install a Twitter plugin. A Github plugin followed Twitter so there was actually some progress made but I wanted to show different categories in a nice menu at top. Unfortunately, the theme I chose wasn’t flexible enough to align the menu to the right when my logo, actually just the text with my name, was aligned to the left. There was always something misaligned or overlapping each other. When things looked decent enough for me, iPad didn’t like it. Normally, I’d easily say fuck off to Apple but this wasn’t actually the final straw for me.

Final Countdown or Shutdown

It was a day before the Expo so I needed my website running fast and reliable but there has been this nagging feeling inside me that kept crying out loud : Why is everything such a fuss with this thing? Can’t I just do WordPress and swallow the shame of having spent 3 weeks with this?

So, Friday 5pm, less than a day before I attend the event. I took a final look at my Joomla site. The portfolio items I had put had pagination but I had never clicked them. Everything, as far as pages or individual articles, was working fine if you visited them directly from menus or links. However, once on the main portfolio category, clicking on older posts link or travelling to other pages via the pagination part simply didn’t work.

I quickly figured that this shit doesn’t work because I installed an SEO URL plugin. Well, I needed that so the URL doesn’t like you are hacking the website. C’mon guys! I mean I get that Joomla is flexible and all that other jazz about how cool your shit is but no wonder why people choose WordPress over Joomla.

5:15pm. After 15 minutes of frustration and confirming many discrepancies with what I want to do and what’s actually going on, I noticed maintaining my Joomla site was going to require many creative swear words. Actually, the important word in the last statement is maintenance. I don’t want to pick up slack. I just want to type stuff. So, I finally made up my mind and said it : “Fuck this shit!”

Press my words WordPress, I’m all yours

That night, after I reached home, I moved my Joomla setup to a subfolder so I can keep the data since I had written over 40 articles, most of it portfolio entries. I quickly installed WordPress in the root and started pouring the content from Joomla site. I looked for a way to migrate the data and I quickly referred to my last swear words. It was just not worth it. I had to manually enter it.

The admin interface in WordPress is actually pretty friendly. Stuff runs quickly. There was actually a noticeable delay in both the client and admin sites with Joomla, big improvement in WordPress. I can’t know for sure at this point if the site grows bigger what the situation will be but what the heck! I needed the site now.

I hastily looked for a plugin that can display pictures in a nice slideshow format for each portfolio item/post. The whole operation was actually so seamless I was able to upload all the content and be done with it before midnight. In under 5 hours I was able to replicate all the effort I had accomplished in  the previous three weeks with Joomla. What was missing with my WordPress site? Twitter and Github plugins so I basically gave up on those since it was not crucial with the next day event. I think if I had spent another half an hour I’d have had something in that department as well.

Final thoughts

When I first planned this article I was hoping to remember all the details and differences between two products. However, life got in the way. Also, the longer it took to finish the more painful it became to finish it since remembering all that unpleasant details with Joomla didn’t look pleasant either. So, I kind of cut this article short.

To summarize, I’ll just say that if someone like me who

  • doesn’t escape from challenges
  • wants to try new things
  • prefers flexibility even with hard labor, if worth it, over convenience

says that Joomla is not worth the trouble, maybe at least for your personal website, but WordPress just simply works then maybe there is some merit to why people are picking convenience over configuration.

I’ve never been the kind of person who picked up or bought things because it’s said that it is the best thing since sliced bread or people go crazy about it. I simply don’t do it because of that. If  there is too much hype I usually approach it with a grain of salt but I’ve been wrong a few times. This is definitely one of those cases. I should have done my homework and swallow my pride about “knowing better”. Or, I guess, I should have known better eh Joomla?

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