Both WordPress and Joomla have their advantages, but neither are the best in all situations. One of the main advantages has to be the initial cost; they can give their users a lot of website relatively quickly, needing less expertise, and can therefore often work out cheaper than a bespoke build.
However, due to the issues associated with maintaining them the cost-advantage isn’t always there and they can even end up costing more in the long term.
As WordPress and Joomla are ‘jack of all trades’ when it comes to website platforms they are often bloated with files. This means that where a bespoke website may call perhaps 20 files, a Joomla or WordPress website may call hundreds, which makes things slow and uses more disk space. Similarly the databases are often inefficient making things slow, and when joining them together the problem is amplified.
Yes these files can be merged, and the database lookups streamlined, but this is where the extra costs come in, and any developer doing this would be one step behind by investing time to try and make a WordPress or Joomla site run like a custom built one.
The solution to this is fairly obvious, get a better server and/or use different underlying software to run the website. This of course means higher running costs, especially if working with a website with lots of WordPress plugins or Joomla modules. Alternative you could leave the website to run slower, but long page load times will put off users and cost you custom, and therefore money.
As WordPress and Joomla are open source, anyone can see the generic files that contain the programming code. This means that vulnerabilities are found and regular updates and security patches are released. These are free, and typically install with a click of a button, but do take a few minutes of work every month which is likely billable time. Of course you can do this yourself, but from time to time these standard updates mean that your updated core system will not be compatible with your design (theme) or functionality (plugins and modules), meaning that your website can break. Fixing these incompatibilities can be a massive task.
Then of course there are the issues with themes, plugins (on WordPress) and modules (on Joomla). These give you additional functionality ‘out of the box’ and is why many people like them, and these usually fall in to two types; paid-for and free.
The paid-for themes, plugins and modules are often more stable, but they not only charge you initially, but they often charge you for ongoing support and updates, again another hidden cost. If you opt for the free versions, or don’t subscribe to the ongoing costs then yes there are no apparent costs, but this also means that you’ll not get the updates, and it’s more likely that when you update WordPress or Joomla everything will break. You really have little choice but to keep everything updated and pay the price.
You may opt not to update WordPress/Joomla and any plugins/modules and themes. That solves the issue, right? Well not really, it’s all well and good initially and is why many website designers leave things this way, but then as your system becomes out of date it suddenly becomes very vulnerable to hackers. Imagine a burglar who had a key that fitted multiple door locks, and could, at a glance, look at all houses in a city and see which houses it would fit; well this how vulnerable an out of date WordPress or Joomla system is, and is why so may get hacked. I’m sure you can guess by now that, the cost of un-hacking and securing a website can be huge and seldom comes with a guarantee.
A final hidden cost is in the future development; WordPress and Joomla plugins and modules do give you a lot of functionality, but this functionality is essentially restricted to whatever the developers have coded. Yes they can be modified, but this will break future updates which we know is a bad idea, or they can be coded from scratch. Essentially WordPress and Joomla give you a lot of website quickly, and are expandable to a point, but not really future-proof. A bespoke system can be modified with time, but a WordPress or Joomla equivalent isn’t necessarily the best choice if it is a website that will ‘evolve’ with a business.
We’re not saying not to use WordPress or Joomla, in fact we’ve recently worked on and built websites using both. What we are saying is to be very careful not to restrict yourself to either platform (or any other one) without fully understanding the short and long term implications of each. Just because they may be cheaper to build initially, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be paying less in the long run, or that there will be no nasty surprises.
The problem is that a lot of WordPress and Joomla web developers don’t tell their clients about these hidden costs, they send them down a path that many regret at a later stage.
This is why we are a ‘whole-of-market’ web agency and will consider any platform and, a lot of the time, write them bespoke. We don’t believe in shoe-horning people in to any system, but would rather show them various options on the market and them choose themselves. Of course if you want a WordPress or Joomla website then we’ll happily make one, but if you’re unsure, then we’ll offer advice as to which is best and why.
We are website designers we are Webbed Feet UK.