Playing With Wire » usability The Internet Startup Blog Wed, 20 Jul 2011 18:45:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Open Source and usability: Joomla vs. WordPress Sun, 01 Mar 2009 21:50:05 +0000 ‘If Joomla! is Linux, then WordPress is Mac OS X. WordPress might offer only 90% of the features of Joomla!, but in most cases WordPress is both easier to use and faster to get up and running.’

Over the course of the last few years, I’ve been in charge of putting up a number of websites for various companies, often as favors for friends. In most cases, I’ve ended up using one out of two solutions: Joomla! and WordPress. While both of these projects have evolved greatly over the last few years, they are vastly different. Joomla! has always been intended as a ‘fit-all-your-possible-needs’-kind of CMS solution, while WordPress was developed as a blog with CMS capabilities. Recently WordPress has opened up to allow its users to set up a site with static-only material (with the option of a blog-page), without having to hack the code. Hence it’s one step closer to being a direct competitor to Joomla!.

Joomla!’s Control Panel
WordPress’ Dashboard

I will probably step on a few peoples feelings here, but I will argue that Joomla! is an example of a poorly managed open source project and that WordPress is a very successfully managed one. Certainly I don’t mean that Joomla! is a useless piece of junk, but that the lead developers have quite a bit to learn from WordPress. The main thing that Joomla! is vastly behind on is usability. While it is true that Joomla! 1.5 is a step in the right direction, it is still light years behind WordPress. Let me illustrate with two examples of common tasks.

Example 1: Create a blog-post with an image


  1. From the ‘Control Panel,’ click ‘Add New Article.’
  2. There are two image buttons. If you use the wrong one, you won’t be able to upload an image (as you will only browse the existing images). You must use the one below the text field.
  3. Select a ‘Title,’ the right ‘Section’, and then the right ‘Category.’
  4. Write the content and save.


  1. Select QuickPress in the Dashboard.
  2. Click on the image icon and upload the image.
  3. Select title, write your content and press publish.
‘Add New Article’ in Joomla!
‘QuickPress’ in WordPress

Example 2: Create a static page accessible from the menu


  1. From the ‘Control Panel,’ click ‘Add New Article.’
  2. Select a ‘Title,’ the right ‘Section’, and then the right ‘Category.’
  3. Write the content and save it.
  4. From the top-menu, select ‘Menu’ and ‘Main Menu’ (assuming you want to add it to the main menu.)
  5. Click ‘New.’
  6. Select ‘Internal link,’ and ‘Articles,’ and then finally ‘Article Layout.’
  7. Fill in the title of the object as well as the parent item.
  8. In the column to the right, you now need to browse your list of articles and select the desired article.
  9. Press ‘Save.’


  1. From the Dashboard, click ‘Pages.’
  2. Select ‘Add New.’
  3. Fill in the title and contents.
  4. Select the parent item (if other than root.)
  5. Click ‘Publish.’
‘Add New Article’ in Joomla!
‘Add New Page’ in WordPress

Let’s step back for a minute and imagine the following scenario: you’re in charge of putting up a website for a company. They might want to put up about 10 or so pages with various information. According to my experience this is a pretty common situation. You can do this with either Joomla! or WordPress – both are fully capable of delivering this. Assuming you’re going to buy a template to solve the design issue, it will probably take you about an hour with either of the software to get to the first draft (assuming you’ve been working with them in the past.) So far so good. This is where they start to differ. With WordPress you’re pretty much done by now. However, with Joomla!, you’ll probably have to spend another hour or two just trying to re-organize the different modules to fit the template you bought (in many cases, just to get the basics to work.) Next you will end up spending even more time trying to figure out how to re-organize the different menus. You need to link up a particular document to a particular menu-entry (as illustrated above.) If you want a blog-feed, you need to set up a dedicated section or category (I still don’t really know the difference between the two.) Moreover, you need to select the ‘style’ of blog you want.

‘New menu item’
in Joomla!
‘Modules’ in Joomla!

Let’s say you managed to figure all of that out and that you got the site ready. Now it’s time to hand over the site to the customer. There will obviously be some training involved, and here’s another crucial difference between Joomla! and WordPress. Training someone to learn WordPress takes (in my experience) less than 30 minutes, and they truly understand it. Training someone to use Joomla! takes at least an hour, and they still don’t really understand it.

Again, I’m not saying that Joomla! is useless, it’s that WordPress is a more intuitive piece of software. Let me throw an analogy out there that will probably help you better understand my point. If Joomla! is Linux, then WordPress is Mac OS X. WordPress might offer only 90% of the features of Joomla!, but in most cases WordPress is both easier to use and faster to get up and running. I use and love Linux, it just doesn’t have that elegant touch to Mac OS X does.

To Joomla!’s defense, there are at least two scenarios I can think of where Joomla! is a better fit than WordPress. The first one would be eCommerce. If you install VirtueMart on Joomla! you can be up running with an eCommerce site pretty quickly. However, the problem is that it does not feel like it is a part of Joomla!, but rather as a 3rd party module that works in Joomla! (which is pretty much what it is.) The second one would be a site where you need to have multiple levels of permissions (ie. an extranet). WordPress only offers three levels of permission (public, private, and password protected), while Joomla! is much more flexible.

‘Global Configuration’
in Joomla!
‘General Settings’
in WordPress

Joomla! is not doomed. It just has a long way to go when it comes to usability. WordPress has really been developed by the KISS-principle, while Joomla! appears to have been developed to solve every problem on Earth (by engineers, for engineers). Going back to the two problems I mentioned above, where Joomla! beats WordPress. I think it would actually be less of a challenge to add support for eCommerce and more permission levels to WordPress, than it would be to improve the usability in Joomla! to reach WordPress’ level.

Just as a side note, a quick line-count on the latest versions of both software reveals that Joomla 1.5.9 has 350,975 lines of codes, while WordPress 2.7.1 has a mere 159,682 (might not be completely accurate, but that’s what ‘wc -l’ said). Hence, even if WordPress only offers 70% of the features of Joomla!, which I am pretty sure it does, their code is written much more efficiently.

]]> 102
‘Most Web-sites Failing Disabled’ Tue, 05 Dec 2006 13:37:00 +0000 While browsing the news today I found an interesting article on BBC. The article talks about web-standards and how most web-sites fails to follow them. The result of this is that all these web-sites block out all their disabled users who need alternative browsers.

As you might have read in our article ‘Why Your Site Should be Multi-platform,’ we strongly support the usage of web-standards in order to not block out any users. There are standards set by the W3C on what HTML should look like, but sadly enough, these are not widely obeyed. Microsoft has, mainly due to a dominant position of Internet Explorer, been able to abuse their position and ignore the rules. Hence, many (unskilled) web-developers today only build their web-sites for Internet Explorer, and ignore the standards.

However, with the increased popularity of FireFox, many companies are starting to realize that they’re actually loosing business by not having a compatible website.

The web-sites surveyed revealed that:

  • 93% failed to provide adequate text descriptions for graphics
  • 73% relied on JavaScript for important functionality
  • 78% used colours with poor contrast, causing issues for those with colour blindness
  • 98% did not follow industry web standards for the programming code
  • 97% did not allow people to alter or resize pages
  • 89% offered poor page navigation
  • 87% used pop-ups causing problems for those using screen magnification software

Not only do these web-sites discriminate against disabled people, but, from of a business point-of-view, they probably loose plenty of potential sales.

How can a disabled person purchase something from a web-shop when they can’t browse it?

How can can a disabled person find information about a product or service on a website that fails to support their browser?

Is your/your company’s web-site following the web-standards? The W3C Validator will give you the answer.

Read the entire BBC-article here.

]]> 0
Why Your Site Should be Multi-platform Mon, 16 Oct 2006 13:37:00 +0000 For a long time most websites were essentially designed for Windows users running Internet Explorer. The simple argument was, ‘well, that’s what most of our customers run.’

That simple argument is not very effective anymore. With the strong growth of the Linux and Mac platform, more and more users are surfing the web using Firefox or Safari on a non-Windows platform. When the number of visitors using a non-Windows platform starts to climb up to 10% or even 25% of your visitors, it becomes hard to pretend they don’t exist.

People are inventive though and they come up with new arguments for making their pages Internet Explorer only. Maybe they’ll say their business is a Windows shop. Or that it’s too expensive to write for more than one browser, considering the returns.

Whenever you find yourself thinking along those paths, look no further for the counter arguments. Here are the top three reasons for why your website should be multi-platform.

Reason 1: You’re not Windows Compatible

Huh? Isn’t that exactly what you are if you’re running a Windows only website?

No! It turns out that if your website only works for the main Windows web browser – Internet Explorer – it does not work for many, or even most, Windows browsers! Many Windows users today use Firefox, Opera or other browsers. Some Windows users can’t even use Internet Explorer. If you have a disability you might go for an alternative browser which gives you more assistance than Internet Explorer does.

If you make your webpage multi-platform it will be much more likely to work in alternative Windows browsers as well.

Reason 2: You Might Hinder Decision Makers and Affluent Visitors

An example is Mac users. A couple of years ago Nielsen/Netratings released a study showing that Mac users on average have a higher income and better education than Windows-users. Even the popular publication Wired brought up this fact in an article. If you’re running a website to make money, reaching out to the people with the most money is kind of a no brainer. (Obviously, if you’re running a website to lose money this becomes a bit less relevant.)

Some websites might say, ‘Well we sell Windows software, so those visitors don’t help us any.’ Think again. A company manager might run a Mac but still be in charge of an office with a hundred Windows machines. A system administrator might be surfing from her Gentoo Linux machine, but she is the one in charge of installing thousands of machines at the end of the day.

Reason 3: You Look Better

It is very rare to find a professional web site which is not multi-platform today. Just check out sites like, YouTube or even Yahoo!.

Small startups use multi-platform webpages to demonstrate their technological provess and willingness to work with all people. Big corporations know better than to turn away any customers since their competition will be more than glad to accept their customers in their place.

Even if your website is not for a technical startup or a big corporation, that kind of website is exactly the crowd you want your website to hang with. You want to be up there with the great and modern or with the successfull and stable. You don’t want to be the company with the fringe Internet-Explorer-only-with-blinking-text-and-repeating-backgrounds website.


At the end of the day it’s just way too easy to make a multi-platform webpage so you might as well. If you’re the one actually building the website, the easiest way is to follow standards. This blog points out why that’s a good idea: Web Standards and Why You Should Care.

If you’re not the designer, spend the extra time to find a webdesigner who’s actually worth his or her salt. Either way, ditch Interner Explorer and jump on the people friendly Web 2.0 train. It’s the train to the future.

]]> 2