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Joomla Vs Craft CMS - Which Is Better?

10 min read
Craft CMS Vs Joomla

Choosing the right CMS can be a headache. Both Joomla and Craft CMS boast mighty reputations, but which offers the best combination of features, flexibility and ease of use for your needs? This post cuts through the noise to highlight the key differences between these leading platforms. Gain insight into their strengths and weaknesses to make an informed decision on the ideal CMS for your next project.

With over 8,000 extensions available and the ability to scale sites easily, Joomla is the better choice for building large, complex sites on a budget. Craft's superior flexibility in content modelling and its intuitive interface make it ideal for bespoke publishing sites where usability is critical, despite higher costs.

Joomla Overview

History and Development

Joomla originated as a fork of the Mambo content management system in 2005. The Joomla project emerged due to disagreements within the Mambo community regarding open source contributions. A group of core Mambo developers decided to fork the project and launched Joomla as an independent CMS with an open source model.

Since its launch, Joomla has seen tremendous growth in usage and adoption. It quickly became one of the most popular open source CMS solutions. Joomla 1.0 was released in September 2005 and saw over 1.5 million downloads within the first 6 months. New versions were released steadily, adding features and enhancements. As of 2022, there have been over 93 million Joomla downloads globally. The platform continues to have an active community contributing extensions, templates and support.

Key Features

Joomla provides a robust set of built-in features for managing content and building websites. Some of the key capabilities include:

  • Extensions - Joomla has a library of over 8,000 free and paid extensions that extend its core functionality. There are extensions for e-commerce, forums, galleries, social media integration and more.

  • Templates - Thousands of professional Joomla templates are available for quickly customising the design and layout of your site. Flexible template overrides allow deep-level customizations.

  • User Management - Fine-grained user permissions, user groups, and content access levels allow managing editors/authors/contributors easily.

  • Custom Fields - The flexible custom field manager lets you create custom fields for capturing structured content. Useful for building directories, listings sites etc.

  • Multilingual Sites - Build websites in multiple languages by installing language packs. Automatic content translation is also available.

  • SEO - Built-in metadata fields, URL rewriting, XML sitemaps and popular SEO extensions provide optimization capabilities.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Joomla offers several advantages that make it popular among developers and site owners:

  • Open Source - The open source model fosters innovation through community contributions of extensions, templates and ideas.

  • Ease of Use - The backend interface is intuitive and easy to use for site administrators and content managers.

  • Active Community - As one of the largest CMS communities, resources and support are widely available.

  • Cost - All core features are free to use. Additional costs only apply for premium extensions, templates or customization services.

However, Joomla does have some downsides to consider:

  • Learning Curve - The extensive features can make Joomla harder to learn for non-technical beginners compared to simpler CMS options.

  • Complex Upgrades - Major Joomla version upgrades can be complicated and prone to extension conflicts. Maintaining updated extensions is key.

  • Limited Native SEO - While SEO capabilities exist, they are not as robust as WordPress which is built as an SEO platform.

Overall, Joomla provides a feature-packed CMS solution suitable for all website types. The open source model, huge extension library and active community make it a flexible option. However, the extensive features come at the cost of complexity which can be challenging for novice users.

Craft CMS Overview

History and Development

Craft CMS was created in 2013 by Pixel & Tonic, a web design agency based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They developed Craft to power their own client projects but soon realised it could help many more developers and agencies build better websites.

Since its launch, Craft CMS has been adopted by major global brands like NBC, eBay and Fitbit along with thousands of agencies and developers. It has a reputation for being incredibly flexible while maintaining an intuitive admin interface. Craft enables building complex, bespoke digital experiences on a robust and modern framework.

Craft CMS sees regular updates with new features and improvements. It has a thriving developer ecosystem creating plugins to extend functionality. As of 2022, Craft powers over 500,000 websites globally across various industries. It continues to gain popularity as a more developer-friendly alternative to WordPress.

Key Features

Some of the main features that make Craft CMS flexible and powerful include:

  • Flexible Content Modeling - Craft allows you to completely customise the content structure using custom fields and field groups. This can model any type of content requirements.

  • Intuitive Admin UI - The control panel uses familiar web conventions making it easy for clients to learn and use. Inline editing makes updating content efficient.

  • User Permissions - Grant specific user permissions for different admin levels, sections or sites. Useful for large teams and multi-site setups.

  • Frontend Editing - Edit content directly on the front-end of your site. Provides context for making content changes.

  • Headless Capabilities - Craft can function as a decoupled headless CMS serving content via APIs for use on any device or platform.

  • GraphQL Support - Fetch and manipulate Craft data using GraphQL for building modern applications and customer experiences.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Some of the major advantages of using Craft CMS include:

  • Intuitive Interface - The admin panel and editing experience lowers the learning curve compared to other CMS options.

  • Developer Friendly - Craft offers modern development tools and workflows for building complex sites.

  • Flexible Architecture - The modular approach allows infinite possibilities for modelling content types and structures.

  • Active Ecosystem - An engaged developer community builds plugins and provides support.

However, there are some downsides to evaluate as well:

  • Scaling Limitations - Craft can struggle with large volumes of content or complex workflows. Optimization is required.

  • Cost - Pricing starts at $299 for a single site licence. Additional fees apply for add-ons and enterprise features.

  • Steep Learning Curve - Craft has a steeper ramp-up for non-technical users compared to WordPress.

  • Limited Hosting Options - Craft requires more robust hosting than typical LAMP stacks. Hosting costs may be higher.

Craft provides an incredibly flexible and customizable CMS for developers. It enables crafting bespoke digital experiences with its robust framework and developer-centric approach. However, the flexibility comes at the cost of a steeper learning curve for average users.

Comparing Ease of Use

Administration and Dashboards

Joomla has a very extensive administration area with hundreds of configuration options accessible from the dashboard. This allows tremendous flexibility but also creates complexity. A new user is confronted with many unintuitive menus, modules, components, plugins and extensions to learn.

In contrast, Craft CMS offers a much simpler and user-friendly admin experience. The interface uses recognizable web conventions like drag and drop builders and inline editing. Common publishing tasks are accomplished with only a few clicks rather than being buried deep in technical sub-menus.

For non-technical users who only need to publish and organise content, Craft's admin provides a cleaner and more intuitive control panel. Joomla's learning curve is steeper due to the inherent complexity in managing its modular architecture.

Learning Curves

With no prior experience, Craft CMS generally has a shorter learning curve for non-technical users who need to create and publish content. The admin interface has been designed for simplicity and minimalist workflows. Content editing can be prominently featured rather than buried among configuration options.

Joomla offers tremendous configurability which brings more complexity. New users need to learn Joomla's concepts of menus, modules, components, plugins, templates and extensions before becoming productive. There is a much steeper learning curve relative to Craft's streamlined content management.

For developers and advanced users, Joomla's open nature ensures virtually endless possibilities. But typical content contributors will find Craft simpler to get up to speed on. The learning resources required are much lower compared to Joomla's technical capabilities.

Ongoing Use and Maintenance

Updating and maintaining live content is generally easier with Craft CMS. The intuitive controls and inline editing features allow making quick changes on an ongoing basis. Upgrades are also simplified to one-click automated processes.

Joomla typically requires more technical oversight for ongoing maintenance like upgrades. The multitude of menus and configuration options demand advanced expertise. Active extension management is also required to avoid conflicts and breakage during major version updates.

For users focused exclusively on content contribution, Craft offers a superior authoring and maintenance experience. Joomla sites require dedicated technical resources for long-term management due to the added complexity.

Craft CMS clearly bests Joomla when it comes to intuitive usability for non-developers. Its admin interface and simplified controls lower the learning curve substantially compared to Joomla's modular technical architecture. For advanced users, Joomla provides endless customization at the cost of complexity.

Comparing Features

Types of Sites and Applications

Joomla is an extremely flexible CMS capable of powering all types of websites including blogs, portfolios, e-commerce stores, social networks and more. The extensive features cater to a wide range of use cases.

Craft CMS excels at building customizable sites with flexible content modelling requirements. The intuitive controls provide precision for bespoke site designs and advanced front-end experiences. Craft focuses on in-depth content flexibility versus Joomla's breadth.

For complex web applications with advanced content structures, Craft's focused approach provides precision. Joomla offers a kitchen-sink feature set at the cost of increased complexity. The choice depends on the project's scale and requirements.

Extensions and Add-Ons

One of Joomla's biggest advantages is its vast library of over 8,000 extensions. There are extensions for forums, galleries, forms, e-commerce, social media and more. Advanced functionality can be added with these extensions.

Craft has a smaller collection of purpose-built plugins and modules. Rather than a wide ecosystem, they are designed specifically for common needs like SEO, performance and integrations. The quality over quantity approach ensures better experiences.

While Joomla has far more choice, Craft's curated approach means the plugins are optimised for its framework. Joomla's open ecosystem results in some outdated and unsupported extensions.

Design and Templating

Many Joomla templates have outdated front-end markup and styling. The older codebase makes it difficult to achieve modern, responsive designs without workarounds. Joomla isn't optimised for current web design trends.

Craft provides a modern templating engine with Twig and flexible templates optimised for any device. It embraces the latest web design practices and supports features like CSS frameworks and JavaScript enhancements out-of-the-box.

For creating the best front-end experience and UI, Craft's natively mobile-friendly and minimalist templates set it apart from Joomla's legacy code constraints. Twig templating unlocks many possibilities absent in Joomla.

Joomla caters to a wider spectrum of use cases but can be overkill for niche needs. Craft provides a streamlined toolbox better suited for customizable sites valuing flexible content architecture. The modern templates and curated plugins also give Craft the upper hand for polished user experiences.

Comparing Performance

Page Speed and Response Times

Out of the box, Joomla produces slightly faster page load speeds compared to Craft CMS. The lightweight core and optimised database queries enable quick response times. With caching and other performance tweaks, Joomla sites can load pages rapidly.

However, Craft CMS is quite lightweight and nimble as well. The modern codebase and decoupled nature prevent bloated pages. With its frontend-focused approach, Craft keeps the backend slim and responsive. For content-heavy sites, Joomla has a slight edge but typical Craft sites hold up well.

Scalability and Traffic

A major advantage of Joomla is scalability. The platform can handle huge content volumes and high traffic loads well. There are enterprise level extensions providing advanced caching, cloud support, and optimisation to scale massively.

Craft CMS starts to encounter issues when managing tens of thousands of content items or heavy traffic. The customised content approach makes it harder to optimise for large scales. Extra work is required to boost Craft's performance for enterprise scenarios.

For large news sites, e-commerce stores and communities, Joomla is better equipped to scale thanks to its enterprise-ready extensions ecosystem. Craft offers outstanding flexibility but needs to optimise for traffic to rival Joomla's robust scalability.

Hosting Requirements

Joomla can work well on typical LAMP stack hosting with Apache and MySQL databases. The lightweight core and compatibility with budget hosts make hosting affordable. Caching and other performance tweaks may be needed for additional optimizations.

Craft CMS requires more robust hosting to operate smoothly. Apache or Nginx with PHP 7.4 and MySQL 5.5 or higher is recommended. For optimal performance, Craft also supports PostgreSQL databases. Overall, Craft necessitates more capable hosting environments relative to Joomla.

Joomla offers better out-of-the-box performance and scalability making it well-suited for high traffic websites. However, with optimisations, Craft can reach respectable speeds and support larger workloads. The additional hosting requirements also make Craft costlier for enterprise-level deployments.

Comparing Pricing and Licensing

Licence Costs

One of Joomla's biggest advantages is its free open source core licence. All the main CMS features are available at no cost without restrictions. Only premium add-ons, extensions or support incur fees.

Craft CMS pricing utilises a paid licence model starting at $299 for a single site. To unlock additional sites and advanced features, Plus and Pro licences are $799 and $999 respectively. There is no free tier.

For organisations on a tight budget, Joomla provides a full-featured CMS without mandatory licensing costs. Craft's pricing can deter small teams or projects even though the platform itself offers excellent value.

Add-ons and Support Pricing

While Joomla is free, many add-ons and extensions come at a cost, typically ranging from $20 - $200 depending on capability. This allows customising functionality at reasonable rates. Support fees vary by provider.

Craft add-ons are also paid - $39 to $129 for popular plugins. It also has mandatory annual support fees of $199 to $399 depending on licence tier. These recurring costs cover updates/upgrades and customer support access.

Both platforms incur add-on costs, but Craft's mandatory support fees guarantee routine updates and assistance. Joomla extensions may lack support or updates after purchase.

Long-Term Cost Considerations

For long-term use, Joomla incurs lower costs with one-time extension purchases versus Craft's yearly support fees. However, upgrade issues may require more developer/troubleshooting effort offsetting potential savings.

While the upfront cost is higher, Craft's support fees bring guaranteed upgrades, trouble-free updates and assistance when needed. The ecosystem also remains current longer relative to some outdated Joomla extensions.

Evaluating the total cost of ownership over 3-5 years, Joomla with paid extensions and support can match or exceed Craft's recurring fees. The savings from an open source CMS require technical resources for maintenance.

Joomla offers a lower barrier to entry but at the cost of mandatory technical management. Craft's support fees provide worry-free updates and assistance that offset long-term costs through reliability. For organisations with constrained budgets, Joomla remains an appealing option if technical expertise is available.

Ideal Use Cases

Small Business Sites

For small business sites like blogs, brochures, and basic e-commerce stores, Joomla provides an easy way to create professional sites on a budget. The free core, wide range of extensions and low hosting costs accommodate modest needs.

However, Craft's user-friendly admin and built-in Commerce plugin also make it suitable for small sites wanting greater customization ability. The lower learning curve offsets the higher licensing fees for some startups.

In cost-sensitive scenarios, Joomla gives entrepreneurs robust functionality at zero cost. For small teams valuing usability over complex features, Craft fills the need despite higher pricing.

Enterprise Level Sites

Joomla is well-equipped to power large corporate websites, universities, online communities and complex web applications. The enterprise-level extensions, scalability and active community provide confidence for mission-critical sites.

Craft CMS can work for larger sites but may not handle enormous content volumes as smoothly. Extra effort is required to optimise Craft for heavy traffic and large datasets. Large organisations may encounter scaling limitations.

When enterprise-grade performance, backups and security are needed, Joomla's maturity makes it a safer choice. For large organisations without massive amounts of content to manage, Craft remains an option.

Custom Publishing and Marketing Sites

Craft CMS outshines Joomla when advanced, custom content modelling is required such as marketing sites, catalogues, and publications. Craft gives full control to tailor flexible, structured content.

While Joomla is extremely extensible, Craft's cleaner approach to managing custom content architectures makes it purpose-built for sites needing configurable user experiences. The learning curve trade-off provides superior content flexibility.

For one-of-a-kind sites requiring both content structure precision and user experience polish, Craft's specialised toolbox delivers on both fronts. Joomla can also get the job done but requires more complex extension integration.

Joomla accommodates a wide spectrum of use cases with its Swiss Army knife approach. Craft's tailored features make it ideal for customised sites needing ultimate content flexibility and user experience polish. The requirements determine which CMS matches a project's needs best.

FAQ and Key Takeaways

Answering Common Questions

Which is easier to use for beginners?

Craft CMS has a more beginner-friendly admin interface and shorter learning curve compared to Joomla's steeper ramp-up.

Which offers more features and extensions?

Joomla has a much wider range of over 8,000 extensions available. Craft takes a focused, quality over quantity approach.

Which is more suitable for customised sites?

Craft excels at flexible content modelling for bespoke publishing and marketing sites. Joomla can also handle these with more configuration.

Which scales better for enterprise sites?

Joomla is purpose-built for large websites and web apps needing serious performance and scalability.

Which has cheaper licensing costs?

Joomla's core is open source and free. Craft uses a paid licensing model starting at $299 per site.

Which has a larger user community?

Joomla has one of the largest CMS communities. Craft is newer but also has an engaged following.

Core Differences Summary

To recap the detailed comparison:

  • Joomla is the more mature platform with tons of extensions but a steeper learning curve. Craft is simpler to use but has limitations at large scale.

  • Joomla can build any type of website. Craft focuses on custom publishing sites with flexible content models.

  • Joomla likely incurs lower long-term costs but requires more technical resources. Craft has higher recurring fees for guaranteed support.

  • Joomla better handles enterprise-level sites needing serious performance and scalability. Craft excels at customised sites needing bespoke content architecture.

  • For non-technical users, Craft provides a more intuitive admin interface. Joomla gives developers endless extensibility.

  • Joomla has a wider selection of templates and extensions. Craft offers better out-of-the-box design and templating.

In essence, Joomla is a toolbox suited for any website at scale. Craft provides tailored elegance for content-focused sites valuing flexibility and user experience. The ideal option depends on the needs at hand.

Shape April 2022 HR 202
Andy Golpys
- Author

Andy has scaled multiple businesses and is a big believer in Craft CMS as a tool that benefits both Designer, Developer and Client. 

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