Thursday, May 29, 2008

Considering Joomla

Need to retool our corporate website - and a contractor recommended Joomla as a solution. Joomla is an Open Source Content Management System (CMS) written in PHP and will run on a variety of environments.

My first impression is that Joomla is very nice - slick - I play around on the demo site. So I, naturally, want to give it a try on my own box and am surprised that such a large project does not have a package in Ubuntu or Debian. Five minutes in and already a red-flag. Looking a little deeper, I see the reason for no Debian package is that there is an issue with the Joomla license not being 'free' ("perhaps they should stop calling themselves Open Source then?") - and unresolveable since 02 Sep 2005 (I never tried the home grown package here). Bigger red flag at this point. I go to the Joomla site directly and install from source - within 10 minutes I'm up and configuring my site. Nice. My biggest issue with the install is that the 1.5 tar.bz2 package did not create a top level subfolder, but extracted to my current folder - what the hell, I haven't seen that in years... (I started to think the Joomla developers, or maintainers, are MS Windows users... reinforced later, throughout my review of the tool).

Through my usage of Joomla it quickly became apparent that the use of the tool would greatly enhance the visual aspect of our corporate site while also changing how we use our site (which may be a good thing). This is a CMS after all. Yet I didn't want our site to look 'like a Joomla site' - if you get my meaning. We use version control heavily as well as relying on our development process - use of Joomla would break both of these from my initial perspective. We also have a requirement that we scale our site horizontally - and I am unsure if Joomla would support this fully.

It really comes down to using the tool as a CMS - which is more an aspect of how our corporation wants to work rather than a consideration of Joomla or not. If we are and we can live with the reduction of process and the comfort of version control - then it looks like a fine tool.

I recommend that our contractor not deliver to us a 'Joomla solution' but an open standard XHTML, CSS with visual prototypes and optional wireframes. In this way, it won't matter if we choose Joomla or another solution - but get the design aspects that we are paying for.

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