Joomla vs. Drupal — A Comprehensive Comparison - Ongoing Support

By Justin Kerr
March 15, 2014

Table of Contents

Ongoing Support

Dynamic, CMS-powered websites need care and feeding, and both Drupal and Joomla require ongoing support and maintenance to update software, add features, hunt down bugs and assist site managers. Due to the nature of the CMS software and resulting websites, ongoing support can vary tremendously between Drupal and Joomla sites.

Drupal iconDrupal

By its nature, Drupal sites are custom-built to implement specific interfaces: The Drupal developer decides which Content Types, Fields and related controls to make accessible to users and content managers, and then develops the specific ways in which content is to be entered, stored and displayed. So, content managers typically only see the interfaces and options relevant to their specific usage, and this is ideally simplified and streamlined as much as possible to aid production. This custom approach mitigates problems related to producing content, but it requires Drupal developer involvement for even minor interface changes and site layout adjustments, much less site structural overhaul or enhancements to interactive features.

According to both convention and necessity, a Drupal site must commonly drag along the original developer to provide support and enable ongoing maintenance. Because of the complexity of Drupal sites, the range of implementation options and developer styles, and Drupal’s many Modules and distros, only the original developer may truly understand what’s going on. Coordinated hand-off of a well-documented Drupal site is certainly possible, but poor code commenting and sparse documentation tend to be the norm. Much of the time, a new Drupal developer will find it takes less time to build anew than trying to decipher the previous developer’s work.

Joomla iconJoomla

Joomla offers a good deal of flexibility for support options because of its setup, its structure and the consistency between different Joomla installations. Content producers have the ability to enter and edit content through both simplified front end interfaces, and the control panel-laden back end of the site. Inside the back end administrator, Joomla exposes many control panel-based settings that allow for things like reordering content, adjusting navigation and controlling front-end display options (in addition to the common task of producing content within a WYSIWYG editor).

Some knowledge is required to employ these controls, but they are generally very accessible to any back end user who wants to use them, and whose account has the permissions to do so. Depending on what the website’s content producers and managers want to take on, support may surround only producing content, or it may include helping with use of the back-end Joomla interface to adjust display options.

Because of Joomla’s standardized approach to management interfaces, coding conventions and structures, and site architecture, it’s relatively easy to hand off a Joomla site from one developer to another. The new developer may discover areas where cleanup is needed, but this is commonly accomplished through adjusting settings in Joomla’s back-end administrator interface.

Dollar sign iconCost Conclusions

For general content production and site usage, Drupal sites may take less effort to support, given that only the necessary controls and options are exposed to the end user, and the Drupal site is built to accommodate its specific use cases. However, any changes to the Drupal site’s structure, features, interfaces and functionality can require significant development work, in addition to an intimate knowledge of how the site was built, something only the original developer may know.

In contrast, Joomla sites are easy to hand off between developers due to its standardized approach and interfaces. Also, Joomla’s exposure of accessible controls makes it possible to train site managers to gradually take on more command over site construction, layout and content appearance. Supporting usage of these options may come at a higher initial cost, but this delivers more potential control to site managers, which could reduce longer term support costs in some scenarios.

Generally, supporting a Drupal site costs more (and engenders a higher billable hourly rate) than supporting Joomla sites because of the greater technical knowledge required, vendor lock-in with the original developer, and Drupal’s market position as a solution that focuses on larger, more expensive web development projects.