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Does Joomla! 4 make sense for smaller websites?

If you’re in a hurry, the answer is “no,” but if you would like to know why then keep reading :).

When I began my journey into the CMS world many years ago, my first accidental choice was Mambo, leading me into Joomla. And I have been a Joomla fan until circumstances forced me into using WordPress long enough to get used to it and be able to appreciate the differences.

In August 2021, the stable version of Joomla 4 became available. I had no plans to look into it as the websites using the 3.x version work just fine and are stable.

But as I glanced over the one review article, a couple of keywords jumped at me because they are current pain points with both WordPress and Joomla 3.x: build-in SEO, smart search, lightning-fast, multi-language, and workflows.

Built-in SEO

Search Engine Optimization is such a vital item today that I am surprised it is not included in the core of a framework, and you have to install custom third-party plugins to manage it. Granted, becoming SEO experts may not be the priority for either WordPress or Joomla, but at least the very basics should be covered and leave only the advanced settings to the third-party tools.

So I was excited to see that with Joomla 4, you get built-in SEO capabilities. That being said, I could not find in the demo how exactly they accomplish this and if they enforce it with custom templates. But looking at the generated HTML code, it had all the expected meta tags that would previously require a third-party plugin.

Smart Search

Google has raised the bar way high when it comes to search results. I seldom use the internal search engine that websites provide because they return terrible results compared to simply using Google to search the site.

However, the content creators know much more about the content than Google can know, and with that knowledge, they should be able to provide more relevant search results. 

There is also the challenge of having your website behind a paywall. So a good internal search engine is valuable in some cases.

In the past, I would solve this problem with Elastic Search because neither WordPress nor Joomla would return effective search results.

Lightning Fast

This year has been the year of optimizing my websites for speed. And in this regard, WordPress has been a nightmare to work with. It works well if you install just the core, but as soon as you add plugins to it, it goes downhill really fast. The architecture design decision to load all the plugins all the time continues to plague the performance of WordPress. 

Joomla chooses a different route, and it has a way to only load relevant plugins, which dramatically reduces the potential of doing unnecessary work with every request.

In my experience, the Joomla websites I have created have always been fast and stayed fast, while the WordPress ones would require constant attention to make sure they don’t slow down.

Multi-Language built-in

I have built four multi-language websites so far. I am not very happy with either of them. WordPress has some good plugins for this, but they impact performance, and they don’t always play well with other extensions. Joomla 3 had a multi-language capability, but it left a lot to be desired.

The new multi-language feature in Joomla 4 is better integrated, and you can now associate together translations of the same content, which is important for SEO.

Workflows

Workflows was the most exciting feature to dive into. It is not very friendly to set up or understand, but it is potent, especially for large magazines that require a process to get from an idea to published content. Having a well-defined and enforced workflow always makes things easier.

Is Joomla for you?

If you don’t run a magazine with many content creators, WordPress will be better for you. As much as I like Joomla, WordPress is just much easier to use and get started on your website. And the new block editor set it apart from Joomla, where building custom layouts requires writing code or using a third-party extension.

But if you have a larger team and multi-language content, then Joomla 4 has the potential to speed up your processes and improve quality by using workflows.

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