SilverStripe vs. Joomla!: Which CMS is Right For Your Website?

What to consider when choosing your open source content management system

There are dozens, if not hundreds of content management system (CMS) options to support a website. They all have their pros and cons for different organizational needs, goals, and stakeholders. Just because a platform choice works for one scenario, doesn’t mean it will be adequate for another. As a SilverStripe CMS Professional Partner, Bluehouse Group faces this scenario every time we suggest a solution to our clients. That’s why we’ve decided to take a look at one of SilverStripe's top competitors, Joomla! CMS. The SilverStripe vs Joomla! debate is a common one, so let’s explore the similarities and differences.

Joomla! is a CMS option that Bluehouse Group doesn’t use. It’s significantly more popular than SilverStripe, ranking third in CMS distribution across the top one million most-trafficked sites.

SilverStripe and Joomla! share a handful of similarities

  • Both platforms are coded in PHP;
  • Both are open-source CMS frameworks, the code powering them is publicly available and modifiable by the communities that use them;
  • Both can access and include a variety of plugins, modules, and extensions;
  • Both are billed as more customizable alternatives to the most popular CMS on the market, WordPress.

However, despite these similarities, it’s clear the two platforms are fundamentally different and have been designed to address distinct scenarios. While both are content management systems, SilverStripe and Joomla! represent different philosophies about how a CMS should function.

Like WordPress, Joomla! is oriented toward content authors. Part of the appeal of Joomla! is that, with its one-click install and extensive plugin and templates libraries, a non-technical user can create a decent-looking site without coding a lick. A user can pull in plugins, extensions, and templates from the CMS backend and end up with something that approximates what they set out to create.

SilverStripe, by contrast, doesn’t empower content authors in the same way. You aren’t going to get very far with SilverStripe if you don’t have a handle on PHP coding. It leaves the content to the non-technical users, and the development of the site to developers and designers. By doing so, the framework empowers developers, who can easily extend and customize the framework to provide exactly the type of experience desired by a client. Here at Bluehouse Group, this flexibility has allowed us to create full-blown web applications that have a CMS backend, something that would be very hard to achieve in Joomla!

As mentioned before, both frameworks have a variety of extensions available to them. In Joomla!, these extensions are proprietary and can be included in the site by users in the CMS backend. SilverStripe modules are, like the framework itself, open-source and free, but they must be included at the code level. This means that clients often have to rely on a developer to include a piece of functionality they want to add to the CMS, which seems inconvenient.

Why do we prefer SilverStripe’s module paradigm to that of Joomla?

Again, it comes down to customization. SilverStripe’s modules are often extensible in the same way the core framework is. This is important because, often, a module or extension will only get you 90% of the functionality you desire. When a module is open-source and extensible, a crafty developer can customize the module to give you that extra 10% and fully meet a requirement.

When a module is proprietary, it’s not as easy to alter the code and produce the same functionality. We find that our clients are often willing to forgo on-demand plugins and modules in favor of tailored functionality that exactly fits their needs.

If it wasn’t clear, here at Bluehouse Group, we’ve embraced the SilverStripe CMS platform. As a web agency that prides ourselves on taking on projects with complex requirements and delivering highly customized products that tightly fit those requirements, SilverStripe simply provides a level of customization that other frameworks, Joomla included, can’t match. Rarely do we find ourselves fighting against the framework, even when building highly custom features. This allows us to quickly turn around complex sites with an easy-to-maintain CMS backend.

Bluehouse Group has decades of experience determining which technologies are right for the job by first identifying business requirements, then finding the right technological fit. If you need help deciding which CMS is right for your next website project, let us help.