My first experience of Joomla! leaves me thinking that …
I understand that Joomla! is a much larger framework than WordPress and caters for a vast array of potential uses that the individual CMS user may never need. But all this extra functionality results in levels of complexity that impede a smooth workflow; it seems that the concept of usability has been tuned out in the march towards a chef d’oeuvre of engineering interwoven with multiple layers of options.
Extension type confusion
Both WordPress and Joomla! rely on open-source development of extensions but in Joomla! this results in an inextricable sprawl. The first confusion I have to deal with is the different extension types — modules, plugins and components; why do I have to spend time learning semantic distinctions rather than getting the job done? Accessing each extension type necessitates clicking on a different menu item, and if you don’t know which semantic your extension falls under you end up searching through all of them. Modules and plugins are each accessed through a ‘Manager’ whereas ‘components’ are managerless and listed not on the ‘Extensions’ menu but out on their own under a separate button.
Out-of-date Joomla! extensions
My next gripe is the extensions repository which is accessed through an external website (and is not confined by the Joomla! semantics of module, plugin and component). Why are so many of the listed extensions out-of-date and unmaintained with descriptions in broken English and studded with broken links? Open source should not mean low usability or disorganisation. The final hurdle is having to download these extensions onto my computer, unzip them on occasion and then upload them into my Joomla! installation.
Layers of complexity
Next on my list of grievances is the astonishing number of steps involved in the creation of a single article. First write your article and assign it to a ‘section’ and ‘category’; I would have expected that where a menu already exists the new article would be added automatically and there would be nothing left to do, but no. At this point you need to find the appropriate menu in order to add the new item name and link it to the new article; if you don’t have an existing menu then you have to go through the process of creating one, link the article to it and then go to the ‘module manager’ to activate the corresponding module.
You have to explain all this when you hand over to your client.
Navigating through the administration interface requires less intuition more the ability to concentrate. The button you’re looking for could be where you least expect to find it.
Presumably they’ve applied a width of 100% and though this may not demand a great journey on devices as wide as a hand, who uses Joomla! on a phone?
And another thing — when I click on ‘preview’ in WordPress I get a web preview of the article in a new tab, whereas in Joomla! I get a pop-up with a view of the text.
Does Joomla! offer great advantages that I’ve failed to glimpse? Maybe version 1.6 has ushered in a new ethos? Or have I just scratched the surface of deeper usability issues…?
Update 08 May 2011: I get a full html preview in Joomla! now. Well, full apart from the title, and WordPress does it better by showing the article in the context of the whole page. I’ve no idea what setting I changed but the usability has been transformed into merely mediocre.