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Why can’t we be friends? Joomla versus Drupal

Mar 19, 2007  |  by Darrell Houle

I've had more than a few conversations recently about which CMS is better. From the Joomla camp I hear, "Joomla is easier. Joomla has a great user interface." From its competitor I hear, "Drupal is more flexible and it has tagging." It's the Pepsi versus Coke debate for open source CMSes. Okay, that's overstating a bit, but you get the idea. There are sizable camps backing each CMS. I've come in true Canadian style to mediate this debate. So, Drupalers put down your bats. Joomla programmers slip your brass knuckles back into your pockets. I've come to acknowlege the boons and busts of each of your CMSes.

Joomla

Thumbs up:

  • Easy deployment
  • More intuitive administration user interface
  • Editing content is simple
  • Lots of polished modules for things like calendars, polls, etc.
  • Easy addition of modules
  • Versioning is available
  • Large community of developers (more than Drupal) for helping with setup and development
  • Multi-lingual

Thumbs down:

  • 1 installation of the software gives you 1 website
  • Categories can only go two levels deep
  • Limited roles and permission allowances
  • Modules cost you money
  • URLs are not search engine friendly (there is a purchaseable module)
  • Out-of-the-box blogging functionality is mediocre

Overall, I find that Joomla is an excellent CMS for basic to complex websites. The blogging feature is not highly developed, nor is the capacity to multi-purpose your content in different areas of the site due to the rigid filing structure it requires. It has a large user base where the websites seem to be more personal, small business, and non-community-building sites. This last point isn't a cut against Joomla, but only serves to show that it's mostly being used as a CMS and not for building a participative website.

The modules were well designed and integrated nicely with the system. My only problem came when I wanted to update a module. The upgrade made my application fail and all attempts to revert back to the previous module were stymied. It also bugged me that essential modules like the search engine friendly feature had to be purchased.

Drupal

Thumbs up:

  • Easy deployment
  • Editing tabs integrated into actual pages
  • Editing content is simple as well
  • Very flexible in its configuration
  • Modules are plentiful, free, and suitable for non-profits
  • Versioning is available
  • Many high profile sites use Drupal (e.g.: MTV UK, BBC, the Onion, Nasa, Greenpeace UK, Kleercut )
  • Multiple levels of categories allowed along with easily integrated tagging system
  • Human readable URLs which are search engine friendly
  • 1 installation allows you to create and manage mulitiple websites (very handy when creating campaign sites)
  • Highly configurable user permissions handling

Thumbs down:

  • Administration area is clunky, but it's getting better with each version
  • Terminology in the administration can be cryptic
  • Adding a visual theme to Drupal can be time consuming
  • Support for the free modules can be frustrating

Overall, I find Drupal an excellent CMS for organizations looking for a community building CMS. I found some very high profile organizations using Drupal, plus I liked the flexibility of categorizing your pages whereever and being able to fine tune the permissions for each role (i.e.: Administrator, Editor, Contributor, Authenticated user, and Anonymous).

Many non-profit organizations and developers are working on and adding to the modules which are free. Yes, they're free, but not without a cost; I loaded a module and needed support in getting it configured. I tapped into the user group for this module and after a few days got the answer. I can't comment on how responsive the Joomla development community is, but this point is probably a matter of using an open source product rather than a matter of using Drupal.

Another annoyance is the administration area's user interface for Drupal 4.7 and earlier versions. As stated, it's a bit clunky and cryptic with terminology like 'books' and 'nodes' and 'taxonomy.' Fortuantely, Drupal 5.1 is a huge step towards cleaning up the administration area's layout. Now, they just need to fix the cryptic terminology.

So, which CMS will I take side with? The Canadian answer is that each have their own advantages depending on the type of site you're building. If it's a community building site where you want more participative tools integrated, then it's Drupal. If your organization is looking for a CMS to merely manage the pages and content on your website, I'd suggest Joomla.

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