While WordPress powers over a quarter of the websites on the internet and is the go-to option for lots of people nowadays, it’s not the only open source content management system out there. There are hundreds of other really powerful and predominantly free pieces of kit to choose from, like Joomla and DotNetNuke (DNN) to name just a few.
Though there are a number of commonalities between the three systems, each one has its own set of strengths and weaknesses that make it better (or worse) suited to deal with certain tasks. So if you’re after a quick review of all three and want some more information about which would be best suited to your organisation, keep on reading.
Ease of Use and Beginner Friendliness
Most people creating and editing their websites are not web developers, designers or programmers. So when it comes to investing in a CMS-based website, ease of use is an important factor for the majority of users.
WordPress is famous for its speedy installation process. All you need is an email address to get started, and you’ll have an operational website within minutes.
Once you’re in, all that’s left to do is get your head around the CMS and start building your website. The user interface is known for being extremely clean cut and instinctive; this is arguably the biggest driver behind the CMS’ rapid growth over recent years and its wide-spread popularity. Adding pages and creating new posts can be done in no time at all, so if you’re looking for an exclusively DIY experience, WordPress might be the way forward for you.
Although Joomla’s installation process may not appear to be as straightforward or as quick as WordPress’, it follows a number of the same or similar steps.
However, when it comes to the user interface, many people find it to be more challenging than WordPress’. Adapting the look and feel of your Joomla site is simple if you are happy with changing some colours and the logo. But beyond that, we feel that beginners might struggle with the CMS’ complicated layout system. There are just too many menus to click on and customise your site, and though this might indicate more power in the system, we think it’s kind of scary for a complete beginner.
While DotNetNuke’s installation process is slightly more complex than those mentioned above and might require the help of someone with a little more experience, once the software is up and running, it’s an absolute piece of cake to get your head around.
Of course you’ll need to find your bearings and have a little bit of practice using the CMS, but once you’ve done so you’ll see just how powerful and seriously flexible the software is.
Unlike WordPress and Joomla which both operate using a dashboard format, DNN uses an on-screen content editor that is much easier to navigate. The interface is extremely intuitive and easy to use, and if you’re familiar with Microsoft Word you’ll have absolutely no problems using the content editor. Even greater tasks like adding a new page and rearranging your website’s structure can be done with ease and in next to no time.
Themes and Add-ons
All three of these popular CMS’ come with free and premium themes and plugins that can work to extend the features and appearance of the software.
WordPress enables its users to customise the look and feel of their websites using a variety of preinstalled themes. At any time, a user can change the appearance of their website by selecting a new theme or adjusting its colour scheme.
When it comes to free themes however, there is somewhat limited choice. So, unless you want your website to look like every other WordPress site in the World, you’ll probably end up purchasing one. Premium themes are available to purchase from third party developers like Studio Press or ThemeLab, and can cost anywhere in the region of £20 and £200.
The real power of WordPress lies in its plugins, of which there are more than 38,000 available for free in the official WordPress plugin directory. In many cases these can eliminate the need for any additional development work, but more powerful, premium plugins can also be purchased from third party developers if needed.
Similarly to WordPress, Joomla comes with some great extensions that will help to manage just about any task, from creating an eCommerce store to managing email.
The quantity of those however is nowhere near as high, which can make finding the perfect template and the perfect extensions a little more challenging.
Just like WordPress and Joomla, DNN comes with thousands of premium “skins” (themes) that are available to purchase from the DNN Store. You’ll also find some free ones out there, although as you might expect these are typically not as impressive as the paid-for alternatives.
Most of the skins that you’ll find in the DNN Store are highly customisable, and will provide you with lots of freedom with your design. However, if you’re not too confident in your own design and customisation capabilities, you could always have a professional put together a custom concept for you.
For any additional functionality you may require, there’s bound to be a module (plugin/extension) to suit (for example, there are currently upwards of 100 image slider modules available to purchase from the DNN Store). The only downside is that DNN modules can be slightly more expensive than WordPress and Joomla plugins, but this is usually reflected in the capability and power of the module.
The security of your CMS isn’t something you shouldn’t take lightly. This is especially true if you are hoping to sell products online or will be gathering personal information about your customers.
Unfortunately, no CMS solution is immune to malicious attacks; every website on the internet is vulnerable to potential security threats. Having said that, some CMS’ are notably more secure than others…
Unfortunately, security is one of WordPress’ biggest downfalls, and is arguably the biggest deterrent from using the software for hundreds of businesses. Despite the fact that it is built on very secure code and often responds quickly to security vulnerabilities, as the most popular CMS in the World it is an extremely attractive target for hackers.
WordPress now powers 26% of all of the websites on the internet. What started as a blogging platform, focused solely on the management and publishing of content, now powers more than 24 million websites across the World. In the last year, 73% of those websites were reported to have known security vulnerabilities that could easily be detected by automated tools, and more than 175,000 of them became the victims of malicious attacks.
Though numerous security mechanisms have been put in place to try to secure its websites against such attacks, as the World’s leading CMS system WordPress will undoubtedly remain a target for hackers for years to come.
Joomla closely follows WordPress as the second most popular CMS system in the World. With ownership of more than 13% of the market, that means it shares many of the same vulnerabilities when it comes to security.
However, unlike WordPress, which has developed a number of automated tools to help protect against malevolent attacks, maintaining a Joomla website and installing updates is left up to the administrator. This is certainly something to be mindful of and developing a robust checking and updating process is essential.
There are however a number of extensions available that can help to back up your Joomla site, and security can be strengthened by following best practice guidelines. For example, if your website enables you to take payment, it is essential to ensure it is SSL certified.
While no CMS is 100% bulletproof, unlike WordPress and Joomla which are PHP based, DNN operates on the .NET framework which means it benefits from the support, security and regular updates of Windows.
The free or “community” version of the software has its own dedicated support team which is constantly on the lookout for bugs and malicious content in the code, but higher level support is available to those who buy into “DNN Professional”.
DNN Professional is designed for organisations and users that have sophisticated security needs, and therefore provides added value by way of constant updates and premium security support.
All three of these content management systems are extremely powerful. They can all be customised to suit your brand’s image and meet the needs of any business who is looking for added functionality. However, as outlined above, none of them are perfect which is why there is no clear “winner”, and the one that you will choose will likely have strengths aligned with the needs of your business and its unique requirements.
What’s your favourite open source CMS? Let us know in the comments below!