Joomla vs. Drupal

I just read a terribly biased "Open source CMS shootout". Since I use Joomla quite a bit, and have dabbled with Drupal 7, I thought I'd chime in here at Geek Gumbo from a little bit more of a Joomla perspective.

The ITWorld article makes a number of valid points, and a couple of commentators definitely add invaluable notes. They also make some wildly sweeping claims (these are never a good idea); and clearly contacted Drupal-centric developers for input. Some of my favorite bits:

  • One interviewee notes that Joomla has a steeper learning curve, a second states that Joomla is more intuitive to use than Drupal, and a third notes that Joomla is better if you want something easier. Not sure what I should take from this.
  • It is stated that Drupal is not good for small/medium sites, and also that, "Drupal is good for sites that require interactivity." (I guess only the large sites require interactivity? I hope this was taken out of context.)
  • "The hosting company may not support PHP 5 [so use old Joomla or new Drupal]". Except that Drupal 7 requires PHP 5, and what hosting companies are still only supporting PHP 4? Come on.
  • Some of the companies who provided feedback: "We've been developing websites using Drupal (exclusively) for over five years." "A small boutique agency that has standardized in Drupal". "a Drupal based web development company". Don't worry though, they spoke with Joomla co-founder Mitch Pirtle. He is quoted detailing the fact that Joomla usually has more options in the extension market, thanks for your expert insight Mitch, I wish they had given you a meaningful quote.

Enough with the negative. ITWorld started at a deficit by polling a strangely Drupal-centric group of developers, but CMS comparison is no easy task, and I'm sure a lot of those quotes were pulled slightly out of context. So, with a few more points about Joomla this time:


Joomla is a mediocre framework with an over-bearing CMS laid on top. Think: more CMS, less framework. As a result:

  • Extension creation is more convoluted (this includes templates).
  • Performance will tend to be slower (although not substantially for small/medium traffic sites, but the benchmarks will almost always fall in favor of Drupal, and Joomla definitely has a performance ceiling).
  • Non-technical individuals can administer a Joomla site with small amounts of training.


Drupal is a mediocre CMS with an over-bearing framework underneath. Think: more framework, less CMS. As a result:

  • Extension creation is more straight-forward.
  • Performance will tend to be faster (and performance issues will tend to be the developer's fault, not Drupal's).
  • Non-technical individuals can rarely be trusted to successfully administer a Drupal site. Note, that I said administer, as opposed to simply making content updates. Anyone can update content with a little training (in either Joomla or Drupal. Moving modules about and changing the look and feel of a site in Drupal is not something I would trust to a non-technical person.

At a high-level, that's all that matters. When I am selecting one, or the other, for a project, it comes down to this, "Choose Your Own Adventure" exercise:

1. Will the client maintain the site?
Yes (Goto 2) or No, they want a maintenance contract (Goto 6)

2. Does the client have a dedicated web developer(s)?
Yes (Goto 3) or No (Goto 4)

3. Does the client's web developer have experience with Drupal, Joomla, both, or neither?
Drupal (Goto 5) or Joomla (Goto 4) or both (Goto 6) or neither (Goto 4)

4. Joomla - it's far easier to get a non-technical administrator up and running with Joomla. Unless there are a vast number of functionalities for which custom extensions are required, the minimized training effort alone is worth using Joomla in this case.

5. Drupal - any extensions you require will be much easier to develop, and your client's web developer will be more comfortable in a CMS with which they are familiar.

6. Use whichever CMS is the best fit for the team. Keep in mind the trade-offs in development: More custom PHP effort in Drupal, and more figuring out the admin interface in Joomla. Be sure to remember the aptitude of the final site administrator, as well as future extensibility requirements for the site.

If custom extensions will be necessary, remember that we said Joomla extensions can be more difficult to create - particularly for PHP devs who are new to Joomla.

That's it. That's how I decide, but remember my disclosure as a more Joomla-centric developer, than the bulk of those quoted in the ITWorld article, that inspired this. Hopefully, I stayed a little closer to the middle of the road, but it is my article, and I probably just slanted it the other direction.


Joomla vs. Drupal — 11 Comments

  1. According to my view on Joomla is best CMS because it is fantastic web system choice for just about any Joomla business web site design that should get a powerful interesting web website for interacting with a customer group.

  2. I’m totally biased towards Drupal, but 3 years ago when I was deciding which CMS to create sites with, I tossed up between Joomla and Drupal and chose Drupal. I was not new to web design, but found the theming/templating system in Joomla to be a nightmare. Eventually I gave up and moved on to Drupal. There was a steep learning curve there, obviously, but I found it easier than dealing with Joomla. 

    • I definitely agree that Drupal templates are much more straight-forward to an experienced developer than templating efforts are in Joomla. That is absolutely something to keep in mind when selecting a CMS. On the other side of that argument, after initial development is completed most site administrators should not need to edit their templates – at which point the CMS ease that Joomla offers (particularly to non-technical users) can be helpful.

      Great point for consideration, thanks for highlighting this.

  3. Thanks, long developer new to both of these products and it is good to read along the footsteps before me.   There are three types of development projects in my experience: hard and harder and project failed.  My goal is always to avoid the third.

  4. Well said … the real question would be who of all the open CMS and CMS alike develpoers is going to continue the “easy way” extending and updating their work to make it worth follow them in the long run. Investing time again to learn a new environment is not always an option not to mention the moving process from one platform to another ..

    • @Askanoulis – You make a great point, there is nothing quite as frustrating as devoting a lot of time and energy to a utility, only to find that utility deprecated. I feel confident that both Joomla and Drupal will continue to be well-supported and receive regular updates.

      I do have concerns about backwards compatibility and 3rd party extension/module support as a result of such compatibility.

    • We use Joomla and our clients love it. WordPress is great for blogging but I would say that Drupal is a great for building custom applications.