A Demo and Review of the Joomla! Content Management System (CMS)

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Joomla! Website screenshot by cocoate.com @ Flickr


The third and final content management system that I am test driving this week is Joomla!, a worthy competitior to WordPress and Drupal in the open source software community. Like my demos of WordPress and Drupal, I was able to download a clean copy of the core files to my GoDaddy webhosting account by clicking one button. (My likelihood of continuing with GoDaddy for the beta launch of Library Currents is very likely given the ease of use it has been to set up an account, as well as the cost, which comes to just under $2 per month for the economy plan. I haven’t really seen a paid plan that affordable, and I won’t go with a free webhosting account because my experience with them have been dismal at best. If Library Currents ever launches past beta, a search for another webhost with more bells and whistles might be investigated. For now, I am excited that all demos worked perfectly on GoDaddy!)

Joomla! uses a different nomenclature for its various pieces. Although Joomla! uses plugins in the same fashion as WordPress, it’s widgets are called modules and themes are called templates. Joomla! also uses the word extensions as an umbrella concept to all the templates, plugins or modules. Overall, the Joomla’s CMS platform is similiar in structure to WordPress or Drupal, however it takes customization to a much deeper level … which can be both good and bad, as you will see.

Joomla! Control Panel (Dashboard)

Joomla Control Panel Dashboard

Joomla’s Control Panel is a dashboard that is the pinnacle of design. Statistics are shown at the right, which are helpful to see traffic usage of articles and login information. What I enjoy are the big icons in the main area, which gives easy access to all major areas of the admin panel. The top menu contains additional items included in the icon area as well as some deeper nested categories. What I like is that this admin area fits one screen: no scrolling is required. It makes for a more efficient user experience when you are working. Another perk is that there are templates that can be downloaded specifically for changing the style and layouts of the control panel and admin area, which you cannot find in most other CMS’s.

Dashboard rating: 10

Joomla! Template (Themes)

Joomla! Template Manager

The Joomla! Templates screen is pretty good, but not as complete as WordPress’s Themes manager. Certain parts are more efficient, such as the ability to activate a template by clicking a star. On the other hand, there is no search function to find new templates or automated downloading feature: like Drupal, you must upload a template from your computer or a find a URL to a zipped copy. The unique feature of Joomla’s template area is that the user can alter the php template files or css files right from the Customize Template tab. This is a highly useful feature.

Themes rating: 8

Joomla! Modules (Widgets)

Joomla! Modules Area

The Modules Manager is seems simple at first, but when you start to edit modules for inclusion in the layout of your page, things get more complicated. There are many types of fields to complete, but not all are necessary. There’s even a notes field to add your notes about the plugin. I’m sure there are a lot of developers who would like a plethora of fields, but at some point it gets a bit cluttered. Clean and simple will suffice, such as the WordPress widgets page. There are also superfluous columns, such as Type, where every field is identical to the Title field.

Widgets/Modules rating: 7

Joomla! Plug-ins

Joomla! Plugin Manager

The plugin manager is pretty unwieldy and it lost me by including everything but the kitchen sink. In WordPress and Drupal, scripts like those that load content is just a native part of the core files. In Joomla!, it is a plugin. What happens as you make everything modular and customizable is that you start to create long lists of applications that you may never need to access. But on the other hand, you may think you don’t need to access simple scripts until the day comes when you are grateful you could actually access them without delving into PHP code. In the meantime, wading through lists of plugins to find the one you really want becomes a new pastime (sarcasm). I think I’m torn here between liking the fact that everything becomes customizable and not liking the fact that my daily work becomes tedious. I have to give this an average score.

Plugin rating: 7

Joomla! Article Post Editor

Joomla! Article Post Editor

The Joomla! Post editor has many more options available to configure on every article than do WordPress and Drupal post editors. There is a WYSIWYG interface, and below this editor are more options for article permissions, such as the user groups who can edit it and who can delete it. I think that this post editor is above average, but not the best design. Simplicity is the best option, especially when creating new articles. Wading through several drop-down menus of options is great for developing a unique style and format, but, again, could be tedious.

Content editor rating: 8

Joomla! overall score: 40/50

Scores so far: WordPress 46, Drupal 41, Drupal Gardens 46. Joomla! 40

WordPress and Drupal Gardens are tied in the race to choose a content management system for Library Currents! How will these scores change with more testing and analysis next week? 

Next up: Testing some cool WordPress Themes and Plugins

Series Navigation<< How does Drupal rate as a Web 2.0 blog software tool?Cool Plugins & Themes for a WordPress Library Blog and Resource Directory >>

Mickel is an MLIS and the creator of Library Currents. His inspiration for the blog was the SJSU course "The Hyperlinked Library" taught by Dr. Michael Stephens, a course that is also a worldwide MOOC. If you wish to contact him, feel free to write to Mickel Paris at librarycurrents1@aol.com.

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