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At least twice a week I'm posed the question "Why use Joomla!?" Ok, really that's the follow up question to "Do you develop WordPress sites?" While the correct answer is that I use the technology most appropriate to the task, it is true that more times than not, I use Joomla!.
What is Joomla!?
"Joomla! is an award-winning content management system (CMS), which enables you to build Web sites and powerful online applications. Many aspects, including its ease-of-use and extensibility, have made Joomla! the most popular Web site software available. Best of all, Joomla! is an open source solution that is freely available to everyone." - joomla.org
How I Found Joomla!
I've been in technology since 1995, a long time. In a former life I worked on enterprise level client-server systems. While my actual job titles and responsibilities changed over the years my primary role was to work with end-users to understand their needs, translate them into a plan for development, develop and then train the end-users on how to use their new system. I carried those skills into my volunteer work. The organization I volunteered with wanted to improve their online presence by building out a website. However, they needed to be able to handle updates internally. I thought a CMS might work.
With a background in end-user applications, I have the ability to code in many technologies as well as pick up new technologies fairly quickly. I've developed sites in HTML, HTML5, Pascal (anyone remember this language?), C, C++, PHP, and more. In moments when the geek in me takes over, it is not uncommon for me to sit down and bang out a site, code module or something just to see if I can. That's great for keeping an understanding for how things work. It also led me down a path of wanting others to be able to update/control their online presence more easily. That's where CMS comes in. Leveraging my experience to develop and train end-users on enterprise level systems, I wanted something that those without an internal team, lacking in time, or just didn't know/want to know how to code. I searched for options and tried many, finally landing on Joomla!
Beginning with Joomla 1.7
When I started several years ago, Joomla! 1.7 was the latest version. I built out a pretty robust site without assistance and was pleased. So was my volunteer client. What I liked most is that I could update it from anywhere at anytime. Coming from enterprise systems where this was not an option, I thought this was great. I added PayPal, forms, and other features to the site. Then I showed my end-user how to add articles, and they loved it. From there they went from a 1 page website to a 40+ page website of quality content. They began to ask about more features. I looked around and found the Joomla! community of developers, implementers and enthusiasts. They were so passionate about this software, I found myself drawn in and eager to learn more.
Joomla! vs. Everything Else
I told you earlier how I wanted to find something that end-users could use. When I looked at the CMS options for what my then volunteer client wanted to do, Joomla! was the best option. It enabled them to create content easily. I could set up where that content flowed to on the site to keep the look-and-feel consistent. The best part, the functionality could be extended as they dreamed up new content and features to add to their website.
That was how I felt back then and I still feel the same way today. As I continue to research other CMS options to ensure my clients are using the most appropriate system for their particular use and requirements, in most cases, Joomla! is the best fit.
For awhile I had a few sites that were in HTML (then HTML5) and PHP. For the HTML/HTML5 sites they were primarily brochure sites that have grown and moved into Joomla!. You may be aware that PHP is the server side language that many CMS platforms are built on. This was another draw for me into the CMS world. Way back at the beginning of this post, I told you in a prior life I worked on enterprise client-server systems. Effectively, a CMS is a client-server system with the CMS platform being the "client" and in this case PHP being the "server". After making this connection this put me firmly within those CMS platforms that have a PHP backend, of which there are many.
I'm asked continually about WordPress and occasionally about Drupal. I've built sites in both. I like WordPress for brochure sites and those who are primarily/solely blogging. When we go beyond those usages things become complicated. WordPress enthusiasts will disagree and that's okay. For me, due to the inconsistency with how you interact with the widgets and such, I find it unnecessarily difficult beyond the two types I've listed. This may change in the future as one of my favorite frameworks, Gantry5, has a WordPress version that I've been told may help me get passed this.
I have less experience with Drupal, only a handful of my clients are using it. Drupal is great at handling sites with a large number of transactions or catalogs. I also found that Drupal reminded me of .Net and ColdFusion (if you use this, I'd like to hear about it).
But how did all of this get me to Joomla!?
I began to talk with my clients about their long-term goals. I assessed the type of site/site content they would need to go along with those goals. For many that stretched beyond a simple brochure site or blog. Their site needed to grow with them. For me, a Joomla! site does this the easiest. The consistency by which components and modules interact, makes it easy to create workflows for self-maintaining clients. Creating new content can be as easy as creating an article. Need something that's not quite out of the box, creating overrides through the admin panel makes this easy. The strong community support means that I have many people to consult when I have questions.
Joomla! for Everything?
Nothing works for all people, all of the time. However, for me, Joomla! works the majority of the time. I learn new things about it everyday and enjoy sharing the new things I've learned with my clients and the people in my Joomla! community. Through Joomla! User Group Chicago North (JUGCN) and JoomlaDay Chicago, I get to share and interact with Joomlers far and wide. It's a great proving ground for understanding the many uses for Joomla!.
I'd love to hear about your Joomla! experience. If you aren't using Joomla! and wonder if it would be a fit for you, let's talk.