The answer depends on who you're talking to. It also depends on exactly what performance / functionality / traits you are looking for.
So how did we arrive at the decision to focus on Joomla as our CMS of choice?
When we sat down to choose a primary CMS, we didn't start by listing all the systems available. We started with a list of what we wanted the system to be able to do.
Remé is in charge of programming and technical issues in our business; he's our resident techie. He “makes things work.”
I'm in charge of marketing. As such, I need to be able to translate geek-speak into something normal people can actually understand and show them how it can be useful to them. I'm not a techie. I can help myself pretty well when I have to but I'd much rather be writing and talking to people than being stuck in lines of code.
So we each came at the question of which system is best from a different angle:
Remé wanted to be able to manipulate the code and rewrite/tweak/add-on to/subtract from the system as he felt necessary. Generally he wanted the kind of control techies thrive on. He also didn't want a system that wasn't scaleable - part of our aim with the websites we build is to allow people to start small and then grow their website as big as their business needs it to be.
I wanted a system that would allow our clients to focus on using their websites for sales and marketing as opposed to getting it to work at all in the first place. The majority of people that come to us and want a website built for them have no desire to become programmers. They want to be able to update their sites themselves (add content and images, change banners/advertising, update their events calendars etc) without being faced with the foreign languages of code. So I wanted a system that is easy to use, especially for people who've never dealt with websites before.
Looking back, our selection process was very thorough and very effective. At the time, however, it caused some serious stress and my mom's words just before we got married were never far from the top of my mind: “When you're married you might think of murder often but divorce – never!”
It worked like this: Remé would evaluate a system and if he felt it had potential, he'd install it on our development server and tell me to “test it” by seeing if it was something I'd be happy to use when working on our own website. No instructions, no help.
Some of the systems I faced in those weeks of testing had me literally crying in frustration. I remember storming off to choir one night furious with Remé because he'd just told me “You can do this. You can figure it out,” after I'd spent the entire day trying to puzzle out how one of these things was supposed to work and still had nothing to show for my efforts. (Singing in Latin tends to take your mind off anything else though, so by the time I got home I was actually quite chuffed that he had so much faith in me!)
Eventually, we settled on two main contenders: Drupal and Joomla. So we decided to build one website with Drupal and another with Joomla.
Once they'd both been installed and setup, we started adding content etc. I was happily making progress with my Joomla site but Remé started muttering and becoming increasingly grumpy with his Drupal one.
As our techie, he'd set them both up. But now, as a techie, he had to face the system like a new user just wanting to add and update info etc – and he wasn't finding it very user-friendly. This was precisely the experience we didn't want our clients to have!
We switched over. It wasn't long before the roles were reversed: I was swearing at Drupal and Remé was humming away on Joomla... DONG! Competition over. Joomla won.
Joomla remains our CMS of choice at the moment. That doesn't mean we stop looking at and evaluating other systems though. If a different system is better for a particular job then that's the one we'll use.
What about Joomla's learning curve?
Folks who've never had anything to do with websites before actually seem to find it a lot easier (especially with a bit of training from us ) than those who have built websites in the past – especially those who started building sites from scratch with hand coding each time. Why?
Well, the everyday user interface for Joomla is largely focused on the the aspects needed for updating and editing a website – i.e. the content side of the site. Seeing as it's the info a site offers that plays the biggest role in convincing a visitor to do whatever it is you have planned for him, it makes sense to make the focus of the website system the handling of content.
A CMS system makes it easy for a user to just focus on managing the content of a website – without being confronted by code and technical bits and pieces – because the content is basically kept in it's own little container (part of the database behind the whole site).
People who don't have a programming and website building background tend not to have a preconceived idea of how a website system “should” work and so they don't find it strange to think about their info first and foremost.
Their focus is on working with the info (content) on their websites and Joomla makes it easy for them to do this. People who want to use a website for marketing and sales purposes are going to spend most of their time in this content part of the system and they largely aren't bothered by the more system focused aspects available.
Many techie type folk, however, are still used to the days when the code and content were mashed together and to change anything in your content, you had to wade through the actual code itself.
For many web designers/developers, building a website is still largely focused only on the techie aspects needed to setup a website. Content was something to be added somewhere during the process but it wasn't the main focus of the exercise.
With Joomla though, if you don't have content, you don't have pages at all. What gets displayed is an empty website shell. Which, when you come to think of it, is about right.
There's a lot of info on how the various aspects of Joomla work but the one thing we did find was that an good introduction to the logic behind Joomla's structuring of content is a bit hard to find. Not a problem for our clients though, because our training explains it all. Once you've snapped the logic, you're going to wonder why everyone doesn't do it like that...
If you'd like to know more about why we use Joomla as a preference, see Our Top 4 Reasons for Building Websites with Joomla.
At the end of the day, Joomla makes our clients happy as they can update their sites themselves easily, it makes Remé happy as he can do all the things techies love to do and it makes me happy because it's a system I enjoy introducing to people because I know it can help them market their businesses effectively.
If you'd like a website you can run yourself, talk to us today: