A common request for our web development services goes something like this: "I already have a (static or custom PHP) site, can you just add feature x to it for me?" These potential customers are usually a little taken aback when we say "we'd be happy to redo your site in Joomla and add feature x in the process".

The usual response is "why does Abivia want to go to the trouble of moving my site to the Joomla Content Management System when I just need this one simple enhancement? You're just trying to turn this into a bigger job!" In fact we're usually trying to turn the project into a smaller job, but we admit the reasons aren't that obvious.

The purpose of this paper is to explain why at Abivia we think a CMS like Joomla should be used for almost every site.

This table compares several aspects of each approach:


With Joomla Non-Joomla

Expense (just for the feature)

Usually lower. Depends on whether or not a good component already exists for this feature. Odds are very high that there is an existing extension that implements all or most of what you need.

  • Existing Extension: the cost is usually low to reasonable. Often it's free and typically no more than a few hundred dollars. Some additional costs may be involved in customizing the extension. There may be several components available that perform similar functions, but the rating and feedback system in the Joomla Extensions Directory is a significant aid in selecting good candidates.
  • Custom Extension: since the extension can leverage the Joomla framework, the cost of development is lower than for fully custom code.

Usually higher. Depends on the availability of existing code. There may be open source or commercial code available that implements the feature.

  • Open Source Code exists: The quality of the code needs to be evaluated. Since the developer isn't working in an established framework, the body of code to be evaluated is larger, and coding standards are more variable. This both increases the effort required and increases the chances that no alternative will meet quality standards.
  • Commercial Code Exists: There is no way to evaluate the quality of the code, and the cost of the package is typically far higher than an open source equivalent. Frequently there are ongoing costs for product updates and support.
  • Custom Development: Significantly more expensive than commercial solutions. Even though the quality of custom code can be very high, limited distribution of the code means that there is limited review of the code. This can result in persistent bugs and security vulnerabilities.

Expense (conversion to Joomla)

Usually Reasonable. There are two aspects to conversion, the template, and "porting" content to Joomla.

For the template:

  • If the precise details of your site's existing design are essential to the business, then a custom template may be required. Although this circumstance is rare, it may be the one case where the non-Joomla alternative is the only option.
  • If the design of the site is dated or otherwise undesirable, then this is a great opportunity to update the site at a reasonable cost. There are hundreds of low cost commercial templates available, and they can easily be customized to make your site unique.
For content, this is the fundamental benefit of the Joomla Content Management System. Once content has been loaded into the Joomla database, it is easy to update, to add new content, and to present existing content in new ways.

None.

Integration

Simple. The extension installs using the Joomla administrator interface. Some customization of the template and CSS may be required.

Variable. The integration cost can be low to very high. Depending on the code, the feature may be incorporated by a simple link, or it may require that every page on the site needs to be modified to incorporate the change.

Maintenance

Simple. Although it is important to maintain a Joomla site by installing update releases as they become available, this is not a difficult process. If you don't want the bother of maintaining your installation, consider a managed hosting plan.

Variable. If non-custom software is used, then the site administrator needs to monitor the original developers for information on updates and install them as they become available. If commercial software is used, then ongoing support fees may also be required.

If a custom solution is used, then there may be no maintenance activity whatsoever, which means bugs and security vulnerabilities may never be addressed. If there is maintenance, the cost will be significant.

Search Impact

Positive to Moderate. Abivia will implement search engine friendly URLs and URL redirection to maintain or improve search engine results.

Moderate to Negative. Depending on the code, it may not be possible to improve the friendliness of site URLs. It may also be required to modify every URL in the site, which requires a manual URL redirection map.

Flexibility

Excellent. Now that the site runs Joomla, it is easier to maintain, to add new features, and to add and maintain content. The site is now driven by a powerful system designed to give owners more control over their site. Most importantly the cost of adding more features is now far lower than with the custom site.

Unchanged. Everything you like or dislike about your existing site is still there, and the next change or feature will be just as difficult as this one.

Support

Extensive. Not only does Abivia offer full support, but there is a huge community of Joomla professionals available. This ensures that the services we offer to you are always competitive.

Limited.

  • If the feature is open source, the level of support depends on the size of the community. You may be dealing with anything from a widely supported product to something that has been abandoned by the developers.
  • If the feature is commercial, then there is only a single source of support. You are effectively held hostage to their demands.
  • In custom development, only the original developer has the expertise to efficiently maintain the feature.

This table demonstrates that the total life cycle cost of a Joomla implementation is more likely to be similar or lower than the cost of a custom implementation. Even if the cost is slightly higher, moving a site to Joomla has significant advantages. Sometimes Joomla doesn't make sense, and in those relatively infrequent cases where the cost is higher than the benefits, then we'll work with the existing site.

The benefits of a Joomla site from Abivia can include:

  • A more flexible site. Add new capabilities and features to your site in minutes.
  • Ease of adding features and content, which gives you more control.
  • Improved security.
  • Template based design gives you the ability to update your site's appearance without a complete reimplementation.
  • Improved search engine friendliness and improved search results.
  • No vendor lock-in. Always be confident that you're getting great value from Abivia.

We think these far outweigh the drawbacks:

  • A need to apply maintenance releases.
  • A one-time effort of making sure your current search engine results are maintained.

Conclusion: a Joomla site from Abivia is almost always the better choice.

Hopefully we've made a strong case for Joomla, and demonstrated why we think is one of the best choices for building any web site.