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Interview with Clickingmad Ltd on WordPress & Joomla!

 

Clutch spoke with Clickingmad Ltd's Lead Developer, Production Manager, and Managing Director (pictured), about the comparison between two popular open-sourced website builders, WordPress and Joomla! Learn more about Clickingmad Ltd on their Clutch profile or at clickingmad.com

 

 

Background

Can you provide a brief description of your company, and the role that you play there?

Shaun: Hi, I am the founder and Managing Director of Clickingmad Ltd. We are a website design and website development agency. We’re small with 10 staff but have been trading since February 2000. I have been involved in the web for 23 years.

Steve: I’m production manager. I’ve been with the company for 10 years. I oversee the website production department which includes design and development. I make sure we comply with deadlines and provide the right solution for the client.

Shane: I’m the lead developer. I’ve been with Clickingmad for 9 years. I oversee the technology side of things, make sure that we’re using software correctly, I continuously research new technologies to ensure we are at the leading edge of software to provide to our clients.

I am also Magento qualified.

Challenge

What should people look for in a CMS?

Shaun: I think it depends on the complexities that their website is going to need in the future. In other words, what sort of other things they expect their website to integrate with, what functionality it will need. That should go into the thought process and detailed discussions before choosing the CMS. But also, how much control they want over the structure and layout of the website is also another thing to consider. Different CMS systems offer different levels of editing ability suitable for a client to use.

Solution

When looking at the market as a whole, what are some of the key differentiators among website builder platforms that customers should be aware of?

Shaun: WordPress and Joomla! come out of the same stable as they are both open-source, with relatively open licenses and are available for free download and use by anyone, anywhere. The main difference between them is their target marketplace.

Originally, WordPress was designed to be, and it still is today, a very flexible solution if you want a blog. If you want to have a diarised record of what you’re doing and an easier interface to update your personal information, that’s what it was designed to be; a personal blog.

Joomla!, on the other hand, is a more complicated platform in terms of how it displays itself to the back office user, but has more commercial plug-ins available. It was never designed as blog which then became a CMS it was always a CMS. There the interface isn’t as simple as WordPress, but you are able to do more with it from a development point of view.

Shane: Joomla! Provides more functionality. WordPress will start to fall-down if you ask too much of it. If you need to do bespoke development then Joomla! is a much more forgiving area to work in. Both can be extended for third party plug-ins. But out-of-the-box, in its raw state, Joomla! is better equipped for more complex websites.

Steve: The interfaces and the logic behind that are slightly different, how you integrate or create the content as such. But the bottom line is very much the same. It applies the same idea. It’s just that the delivery is slightly different. Joomla! offers more complex solutions. WordPress is easier to use, I would say, if you’re a novice user.

Shaun: I also think WordPress has a lot of the plug-ins and extensions, but they are mainly written by non-commercial developers, people who work at home, for example, and who are interested in development. Not all plug-ins are written in this way, but many are. Whilst there are a few ‘home made’ in Joomla!, there are not as many.

The difference, from a commercial perspective, if we are installing a plug-in into WordPress that hasn’t been developed in a commercial way, it may not work very well. Because it’s an individual that’s created it, they won’t and can’t offer any backup, or any support, or frankly, any answers to any questions we might have. If it has been commercially developed and you pay for it then you should expect a better product and better support.

A business website is a commercial product and needs to have the backup and resources available to it that are well written and are of good quality. I would rather pay for something knowing it will work and if it doesn’t there is somewhere to go, than keep trying free things and wasting time fixing them or ditching them.

What type of client is an ideal candidate for these platforms?

Shaun: There isn’t one. We’re rebuilding our own website at the moment, and in the process of going through that, I’ve been actually looking closely at the differences between WordPress and Joomla! We have found, through research, that WordPress is often used to display large imagery. You’ll see a lot of websites with big images, media websites, fashion websites, retail websites with large imagery, promoting and displaying things at a certain way. It’s a ‘fashionable’ choice. But large imagery can often make it difficult to navigate in my opinion.

Joomla!, on the other hand, whilst you can display images very large on there, most of the things that you would get to download for Joomla!, or ones that have been created from a bespoke position, do not use large imagery except maybe in the header. WordPress will use them all the way down the page and will end up with very long pages from the top to the bottom. And Joomla! will be, shall we say, one-and-a-half pages of A4-length from top to bottom.

That’s the average sort of size you might come across. In answering the question, individuals with websites would use WordPress. Smaller companies will use WordPress and those who are starting out will use WordPress. The reason is WordPress is, normally cheaper than Joomla!. You’re talking about a cost-benefit exercise and how much money they have to spend. Of course, also, there are many more, less expensive WordPress developers than there are Joomla! developers.

Unfortunately, it is easy to pretend you’re a developer just by having installed a few WordPress websites and getting away with it. If you want to make it do something a bit unusual, that’s when people start to struggle. Joomla!, on the other hand, it’s already in that area, it is already software that you do need to know what you’re doing in order to install it. It’s harder to actually install a Joomla! site than it is a WordPress. Only a little bit harder, but enough to put off people who aren’t experienced in using software and installing content management systems. Joomla!, therefore, is more applicable to commercial development companies, because it’s slightly more difficult to use. Commercial developers target larger better-paying clients so need choices when offering CMS systems.

The main point I’d like to make is that WordPress is perceived as being a cheaper environment than Joomla! is. It’s not always the case, but quite often.

Who should possibly avoid these platforms?

Shaun: I don’t think avoidance is necessary, because they might suit the client. We develop both. We probably develop 70% Joomla! and 30% WordPress. Although, WordPress is increasing in our development percentage because the clients have often seen a WordPress, either the front or the back office, and says, “I want one of those.” We will talk to them about the actual suitability, and if it does suit them, then we will give them what they want. If it doesn’t, then we would advise them to go for something different.

Share the importance of technical coding knowledge when building a website.

Shaun: All website development should ideally be done by skilled software engineers. To improve the quality of what is online, experts should be building websites.

Having said that, without free to use platforms then the internet would not be as ‘popular’ as it is today.

Shane: That boils down to what a client is actually trying to do and how much control they would like. Obviously, if they want a lot of control, then something with more capable like Joomla! would be necessary over WordPress. However, WordPress, is much easier out-of-the-box to work with. If you are going down the more complex route with either platform, potentially you would need at least some understanding of at least HTML.

Steve: If we talk about our own client base, they don’t necessarily have any technical knowledge or only a very basic understanding. Hence, they employ us as their digital agency, partner, and trusted adviser. Really, we are the bridge between the system and the end product for the user. We are the knowledge base and their technical partner.

Shaun: We have certain clients who have internal design capability more than development. We have certain clients with developers in-house as well who will find it easier, theoretically, to be able to use WordPress than Joomla!. I say theoretically, because if you want WordPress to do some simple things, there are plenty of plug-ins that can help. The installation of a plug-in into WordPress is simple. Normally, getting it working is simple. With Joomla!, it’s a little bit more complicated. You’re going to need more skills with Joomla! in-house. But, the reality is this, we do not expect any of our clients to have development skills in-house. That’s what we are here for.

In terms of the portability of both of those systems, you will need to find an opensource developer to look after you if your relationship with your agency goes down, or the agency goes down, or changes their business model. If you need to find another supplier for development, you will easily find one in either platform. You will definitely find them easier in WordPress if your demands are relatively easy to deal with. There are thousands all over the world. We don’t expect our clients to have any technical ability other than wanting to and being inspired to update their websites with their own content changes.

What cost factors should clients keep in mind when considering these tools?

Shaun: We can only answer from our perspective, of course. I think that you’re looking at, with a WordPress website, we’d expect to charge £5,000, that’s $7,500-upwards as a starting price. With a Joomla! website, you’re looking at £9,000, $15,000, but those are just guesses. It all depends on the client, what’s right for them. We obviously, can make both platforms do an awful lot more than what they do out of the tin, and accordingly, the price will rise. There are very, very low-cost providers of WordPress websites, because often they’re cost base is much lower than larger organizations.

We, as a small to medium-sized agency, have a higher cost base than, obviously, an individual, but we also have the support that you can’t get from an individual supplier. I think that’s important to consider when a client is looking for a supplier. If the client has no expectation for the results of his websites and it’s not really that important for their business, and amazingly there are quite a few out there still, then price is the all-important factor. They should go to a free provider or one that if they don’t mind having advertising on. If they want to have something that sets them apart, then their design should be done from a bespoke position. The choice of content management system should be dependent on what results they want to achieve and their choice of developer should reflect their ‘seriousness’ about their own business website.

The key to providing the right solution is really, really good quality communication with clients prior to proposing your solution to them. There needs to be a good understanding of their business needs, a good understanding of their motivations, where their points of pain are, and to try and make sure you’re selecting the right solution for them for their current needs and their future ones.

Features

What are the features or tools of the platform that have most impressed you?

Shaun: In WordPress, there’s a Yoast SEO plug-in. Yoast is a commercial organization that produces some software that goes into WordPress which enables you to improve the quality and simplicity of your writing. It gives you various scores, using a traffic light system, of the readability, the SEO optimization of your content, i.e. how many times you’ve used certain keywords, how many words you’ve actually written, whether you’ve used the keywords in the title, etc. It gives you a nice overview of the quality of your writing if you’re using WordPress.

Steve: In Joomla!, there is an enhanced search capability, which is effectively a smart search, which offers us the ability to basically customize it. You can also extend the functionality, so you can create all sorts of different plug-ins and components. We develop custom plug-ins and custom components, so you’re effectively extending the capability Joomla! has. The enhanced search has a much higher quality of what search results are returned than what you were getting on the normal, run-of-the-mill sort of CMS system. It’s quite a distinguishing feature. It’s called SmartSearch. It’s part of Joomla!’s core. It isn’t used that often, because a lot of people tend to stick to the standard search.

Are there any areas of the CMS that could be added or improved upon?

Shaun: From my position, I’d like a better interface for the WYSIWYG Editor. It uses TinyMCE core code for the HTML editing window which was one that we used about 15 to 20 years ago. It doesn’t seem to be improved that much within the core code of Joomla!. The one in WordPress is much nicer to use, mainly because I think it’s larger on the screen as well. Certainly from a client’s perspective when creating and editing their own content.

With WordPress, though, my criticism of WordPress would be how difficult it is to understand what is happening when you put a plug-in into it because the “easy builders” don’t expect you to know what is going on, it just does it. That’s fine of course as far as it goes. In WordPress, there are several platforms where you could basically drag and drop the layout of your website when building it. You can drag an image here, drop some text there; and it will sort it out for you on the screen. The problem with that is what that does in the background. It does not make it search engine friendly. It’s made it easier for the user to create a website, but it’s actually made it more complicated for Google to read the content and for developers fix any issues, should they arise. That’s my opinion. It’s all very well making something look simple for the user but if it causes a problem for the website, the user should realize that. There’s no such thing as a free lunch – as they say.

Steve: But that goes with the ethos of WordPress, you know, making it nice and user-friendly, but for users who don’t necessarily have all the technical knowledge to understand that, it’s not as straightforward.

Give some insight into SEO and security for websites.

Shaun: There are different aspects to security. There is the security inherent and apparent on a web browser software such as Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, etc. Your connection to the website needs to be secured now using a Secure Socket Layer, SSL, which encrypts the text you input when you’re adding text to a field between yourself and the web server that the website is hosted upon. That makes it more difficult to intercept and decrypt on the way between yourself and the physical web server. All websites should have that now. Google’s been pushing for it for about three years. All our websites we develop, and every single website on our servers is now secured with an SSL as a minimum. We are now moving to HSTS or HTTP Strict Transport Security, this is the next level of web browser security and we will be enabling this on clients sites over the next few months.

The other thing very important to mention is making sure your software is kept up to date. Not just the core software, but also the plug-in and the extension software because it’s around the backend of these plug-ins and extensions that vulnerabilities can be exploited.

Steve: That goes for the local software as well, whatever is installed on the computer. Microsoft Windows installation, browser software. Keeping all software up to date will help mitigate some of the risks in keeping your own business website secure. That also goes for the web server. If you’re in control of your own web server, as other agencies would be and maybe the larger clients, they need to ensure that all the patches and up-to-date versions of the various software that makes up a server are up to the latest, viable standard of use, not necessarily betas but certainly ones that are viable and have been tested for commercial use. Keeping software up to date is an ongoing process which needs to be considered all the time by any website owner. A lot of that is done by the agencies, unfortunately a lot of agencies don’t bother but they really should.

From an SEO perspective, it’s all about how you write the content. Any agency worth its salt will develop websites that are structurally sound and have the ability for Google and other databases to index and record the content. Content being structured in the correct way, using correct site maps, using the tools that Google and other search engines provide, in terms of XML feeds to understand what’s in the content.

SEO is a big subject and it’s one of the first services that Clickingmad provided, but you can’t just touch upon it. It’s a whole thing in itself. It is a much bigger subject and often more important than CMS systems. Perhaps we should discuss that in detail in another interview?

Anything else you want to mention?

Shaun: I would like to mention that the size of a page in physical kilobytes is something which a lot of web designers or web developers tend to forget about. Speed is of the essence of website delivery. It always has been, actually. You could argue that it’s less so today because of the speeds of access and speeds of computing. But what’s happened is, because speeds of access have increased, the capability of our interfaces with websites and web servers has increased, people have given carte blanche to increase the sizes of the website pages with very, very large imagery, complex coding, video and other multimedia that are running on the site. That’s all embedded into a single webpage which results in several hundred kilobytes of data that has to be loaded, in most cases, before the website page will display. That’s unacceptable and should be considered by every developer but often is not. We regularly have to rebuild clients websites when they have been developed elsewhere and they have come to us, for say, SEO services.

If a client realizes that their websites should be developed so that it runs quicker, they will want it so. There are many tools to test the speeds. Google Speed Test is a good one. You should put your images onto content delivery networks, which keeps them away from your web server and only delivers them on demand. You can keep your complexity of your website pages down to a minimum. There are all sorts of things you can do that will help speed up the website page. That, for me, is one of the big things at the moment. The quicker your website, the more likely it is Google will index it and provide it as a result. That’s just fact. It’s worthwhile everybody realizing that.

Steve: Development practices have changed in recent years with speed being of the essence. We’re kind of going back to where we started all those years ago. Obviously starting with the mobile layout of the websites being responsive. Now, there is another aspect added to it which is effectively looking at progressive enhancement rather than building websites for desktops and then scaling it down. We are now looking at mobile-first development, obviously, making sure that the websites load fast on mobile and handheld devices. AMP, meaning Accelerated Mobile Pages is a term that is used by Google and others and is designed to help provide much quicker websites. It starts with the layout and structure of the mobile website and you work ‘upwards’ from there. Then as the screen sizes get bigger, we are able to serve more content, more enhancements, more features, etc.

Overview

Functionality and Features

Shaun: It depends on what you’re trying to do. That affects the score.

Steve: I would give the following scores;

Joomla! - 4.5. It offers a lot more in terms of being able to do future developments. The code base is bigger in layman’s terms and it offers a lot more going forward.

WordPress - 3.5. For exactly the same reasons, but it’s built for end users or DIYs. The end user is able to put the website together, not necessarily needing all the bells and whistles.

Shaun: I would say WordPress is 4. Whilst it is aimed at an individual and somebody with limited skill can build it, that’s a big thing, actually. From a development point of view, it’s an issue because the simplicity causes issues. It makes it more complicated to actually work with it if you’re trying to make it do something clever. Just because its easy doesn’t make it good.

The fact that WordPress has opened so many more doors to people having an interface and interaction with the Internet itself, that I think gives it that extra half a point from me. It’s widened the whole business of content management systems. Without WordPress, we’d still be on Mambo, we’d still be way back. WordPress has dragged it forward and made it more common now for many more people to actually do things online in a more complex way than ever before. Name me one other platform that’s done that. There isn’t one really: the Drupals, the Magentos, and all the other .NETs, and ASP platforms we’ve all had to deal with over the years. We know that the ones we’ve chosen are the best in terms of their market size, and WordPress has been the one that’s pushed that envelope.

Ease of Use and Implementation

Shane: It depends who’s implementing it and who’s using it.

WordPress - 4.5 for ease of use. Ease of implementation - 3 especially if you’re trying to get complex. If you’re trying to keep it really simple and just using a few plug-ins, it’s fine, it’s easy, it’s pretty good in fact, but if you’re trying to make it more complex and do more, you run into quite a few conflicts, so then it becomes cumbersome.

Joomla! – 4 for ease of use. There’s additional functionality and complexity. It gets it’s a bit more difficult. However, the core stuff is still pretty much the same.

4.5 for Joomla! - Ease of implementation. From a development point of view, it is a much more mature code base which makes it a lot nicer to work with from a development point of view.

Support

Shaun: WordPress - 3. Joomla! - 4.5. There isn’t any for the actual original developers of either platform, because WordPress and Joomla! are both opensource. You rely on a community of developers who are either individuals or employed by others to respond to community requests and issues that are raised. The only way you could argue that there is some support are for those that write commercial plug-ins and extensions for both platforms.

The people behind both platforms are very skilled developers, putting a lot of time, man-hours, and a lot of effort into each platform. But hey do it for free, so you cant expect any support from them. The only support you will get – as a developer, is from the folks who develop the plug-in’s for both systems. You will pay for these plug-ins so you can expect some level of support. But you don’t pay much, so don’t expect much.

If you buy a WordPress or a Joomla! from us, you will get support from us, not from WordPress or Joomla!. We can’t really give the platforms a support score, because it’s only up to the people who are involved in the community of developers that provide it, and then only to their normal commercial customers.

Willing to Recommend for DIY

Shaun: 1. I’m not going to recommend Joomla! to DIY. You need a bit more than your average Joe on the street knows, in my opinion. But WordPress would be OK for DIY because everything is there, ready for you; not for a commercial website, but a basic WordPress installation. It’s perfect for that.

Steve: I would agree with that.

Shane: For DIY, WordPress is definitely better.

Overall

Shaun: WordPress - 4. It’s because of that user interface that makes it really easy for the clients to look after. And without WordPress the Internet would be about 20% smaller!

Joomla! - 4.5. From a development point of view, there is more structure to it. There’s a more obvious way that it’s put together and there are easier ways to integrate it into other platforms and integrate other software. There are more commercial businesses writing code for Joomla! therefore better-quality software is available for it. And remember, we are a commercial organization so we have to ensure that we are reselling a solution to someone is going to work.

Expert quote
"The size of a page in physical kilobytes is something which a lot of web designers or web developers tend to forget about. Speed is of the essence of website delivery. It always has been, actually. You could argue that it’s less so today because of the speeds of access and speeds of computing. But what’s happened is, because speeds of access have increased, the capability of our interfaces with websites and web servers has increased, people have given carte blanche to increase the sizes of the website pages with very, very large imagery, complex coding, video and other multimedia that are running on the site. That’s all embedded into a single webpage which results in several hundred kilobytes of data that has to be loaded, in most cases, before the website page will display. That’s unacceptable and should be considered by every developer but often is not. We regularly have to rebuild clients websites when they have been developed elsewhere and they have come to us, for say, SEO services.