When you’re looking to set up a small business website, there are a ton of options—and choices—you have to make. There are some options that give you convenience at the expense of customization, and others that may be less plug-and-play but give you total control over your site in exchange. The right choice largely depends on what your needs are—whether you’re building an ecommerce business, blog, or online portfolio—as well as your comfort level with getting into the finer elements of managing things like site content and design.
If you fall into the camp where digging into the metaphorical wiring makes the most sense for your business, you’ll need to figure out what content management system (or CMS) is the best fit for your needs. Making the right choice means doing your homework—there are tons of contenders for the best CMS for small business websites, and Joomla is among the most popular options. Finding the Joomla review that can help you decide why the platform is worth the hype, however, is more of a challenge.
There are plenty of Joomla reviews out there, as the platform first debuted in 2005 and has undergone a slew of updates since then. In our Joomla review for 2020, we’ll explain more about the core components of the platform, which includes pricing, features, what most reviews say, as well as Joomla alternatives that might be worth considering.
What Is Joomla?
Joomla is a free, open-source content management system that users can install on their business website in order to keep track of web page content, draft new content and pages, and make updates as necessary to existing pages on their site. Because it’s an open-source platform, a Joomla website costs nothing on its own—although there will be other costs associated with creating your business website, such as hosting.
Basically, Joomla serves as a central hub for you to control the content across your site, as well as the main place where you make changes to existing and new pages. Everything on the back-end of your site gets managed through this system.
Since Joomla is free, there’s no pricing to consider. You may need to pay for certain add-ons and plugins developed by third parties, of course, but the underlying platform comes without any fees. That also makes it a strong contender for small business owners on a budget.
- Price: One of the biggest advantages that Joomla has is its price tag. The open-source CMS is completely free—both for individuals and businesses. There are no hidden costs or tiered services that can make it harder to build and maintain your site the way you see fit or to unlock advanced features.
- Customization: Another perk of the Joomla platform is the robust library of extensions and third-party apps that work with the program. Developers have created a robust catalog of add-on features that can make your Joomla-based website uniquely suited to your needs and that can evolve as you expect your site to do different things. Even without add-ons, because Joomla is an open-source system, those with coding experience can customize it however they like.
- Scalability: Because of its open-source nature, you can truly build your Joomla website into anything you want. This also means the system can grow as your business does. This is especially important for companies that are quickly scaling and don’t want to have to switch to another platform down the road.
- Technical: Building your website from scratch—rather than going with an all-in-one platform like Squarespace or Wix—can be a challenge for relative newcomers to web design and development. Joomla is often considered to be built for those who are comfortable with the advanced elements of creating a site—especially with regard to back-end development. If you’re not sure what that term means, Joomla might not be right for you. Unless you want to learn as you go and have time to spare, that is.
- Installation: Another potential drawback for Joomla is its lack of an installation procedure that lets you get started right away. Many web hosting companies support competitors, like WordPress, that can take much of the manual work out of getting the CMS installed on your website’s back-end. With Joomla, you’re going to have to work things out on your own in most cases.
- Templates: Joomla has plenty of templates available to help you get your site off and running, but they don’t necessarily get top marks for beauty. If you’re comfortable making substantial changes to templates, or are comfortable enough to make your own designs from scratch, this may not be an issue.
With these pros and cons in mind, let’s take a closer look at the features you’ll receive with Joomla.
One of the best things about open-source software is its customization opportunities. Joomla’s no exception, either. The platform has thousands of extensions at your disposal, as well as a variety of free themes and templates to help you design your website. You can customize your CSS and interface so it matches your needs, and take advantage of its SEO-friendly features right out of the box. If you’re wondering whether the Joomla cost is worth the squeeze, in this case it most certainly is.
Third-Party Extensions and Plugins
If you’re looking for features and capabilities beyond what Joomla includes in its standard installation, there are a ton of third-party extensions available that can help propel your website and power must-have features that you want to incorporate now or in the future. There are plugins to help you incorporate photo galleries, social media, analytics and reporting, ecommerce, advertising, and much more. In all, there are 34 different categories of extensions and plugins, meaning you’re likely to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Just because Joomla is open-source and free doesn’t mean there isn’t high-quality support in case you run into a challenge and want to talk to an expert. There are plenty of forums filled with Joomla developers and pros who can help answer questions both big and small. Plus, if you want professional support, there are third-party support providers who can offer dedicated support for differing fees.
Joomla User Reviews
Joomla has a broad (and passionate) userbase. That means there are plenty of opinions out there about what works and what could be improved. Many of the Joomla reviews depend on factors like usability and customization, as Joomla requires more prowess to implement and manage before, during, and after installation.
Most Jooma reviews laud how customizable the platform is. The nature of Joomla is inherently set up to aid in personalization, both in terms of how you manage back-end page administration as well as the kinds of functions you want out of your front-end features too. As far as full-fledged control over your site is concerned, few Joomla competitors let you have such a level of autonomy.
On the other hand, Joomla is also notoriously difficult to set up for the inexperienced. The platform rewards those who are willing to dive in headfirst and learn how to navigate its complexities, but it’s not ideal for people who want to get a site up and running with minimal fuss. If you want a website platform that gives you a “set it and forget it” experience, Joomla isn’t the right option.
Joomla is far from the only game in town, be it paid or free. Many Joomla alternatives offer similar features and customization but are easier to install and change over time. Whether you’re looking for a free option or a paid one, there are plenty of options when it comes to Joomla alternatives. Here are a few worth considering.
WordPress is often mentioned as Joomla’s main competition. The platform began as a tool for publishing and maintaining blogs but expanded into offering a robust CMS that is among the most popular out there. WordPress is also free to install and use, comes with plenty of plugins, and is easy to install with most conventional web hosts. If you’re looking for a solution that gives you customization options and is still easy to implement, WordPress could be a strong Joomla alternative to consider. For more details, check out our complete WordPress review.
Drupal may not get as much attention as WordPress, but it’s also a great option for those who want a Joomla alternative (that’s free to boot). Drupal is a lightweight, customizable CMS that is capable of supporting any number of website types. It’s slightly less intuitive than WordPress in terms of setup for the uninitiated, but it offers similar levels of customizability as WordPress and Joomla—all in a straightforward CMS. And if you’re looking to sell online as well, you can check out Drupal Commerce to build a full ecommerce website.
Unlike Joomla, WordPress, and Drupal, Squarespace is a paid CMS as well as a front-end site development tool. But, as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. Squarespace takes out all of the hassle of installing your own CMS platform, as well as having to dive deep into code in order to make a stunning website. The Squarespace platform includes many of the core capabilities that make Joomla so popular. Plus, you can choose from among visually stunning templates, register your domain within Squarespace itself, and integrate ecommerce solutions without having to do much work at all.
The Bottom Line
Not every CMS is created equally. Some put function over form, while others value simplicity over customizability. Joomla is a great option for those who want or need extensive customizations for their site—it’s free, robust, and comes with a slew of extensions.
On the other hand, it isn’t the easiest CMS in terms of setup and maintenance. Ultimately, the most decisive factor behind the choice to use Joomla or a competitor comes down to determining how willing you are to get your hands dirty. The payoff will likely be worth it—so long as you actually need a more complex solution to accomplish your goals. Otherwise, it may be wise to take a broad approach before committing to this (or other) CMS options.