Brian's Blog Homepage
Is Joomla easy or hard?

Ask a Joomla web site builder why they use Joomla and the answer will most likely include "Joomla is easy, anyone can use it and you can have a site online in 5 minutes." But that's not really true.

Saying something is "easy" is a relative statement. Sure, building a web site with Joomla is easier than building a rocket to orbit the earth, but it is definitely not as easy as boiling an egg. Joomla is easy for me, and probably most of you, because you have done your research, read some documentation, watched some tutorials and most importantly have several years of experience.

So when we say "Joomla is easy" what do we really mean and are we setting the expectation for newcomers to Joomla at completely the wrong level?

We've got our marketing wrong!

Joomla is too easy!

We have made Joomla easy enough for people who really don't have a clue what they are doing to build a web site. We give them the impression that they know what they are doing when we all know they really don’t.

More dangerously we offer extensions that let them add code they found on some web site somewhere when they don't have the first idea what the code does or anything about secure coding.

There is so much more to building a web site than registering a domain with godaddy and getting something online that can be viewed in a web browser. We've made it too easy to give people the impression that they can build web sites. Their ability to get something online, and even customise it, convinces them that they are a web site developer.

That's when things get really bad and effects everyone of us and Joomla - they start selling their "skills" as Joomla web site developers!

You'll be online in 5 minutes!

It's a common theme on forums for people to complain how long it really has taken them to build their site.

I hear this all the time, mainly from people new to the web who have big ideas and ambitions but no skills or experience. (Remember we told them it was easy.) They registered a domain, used their hosts control panel to install Joomla and after several months it still doesn't look as good as the web site they dreamed of.

It is slow, looks terrible, no one can find anything on the site and they know it. Our marketing that Joomla is easy has made them feel like incompetent fools.

Joomla is free!

We say Joomla is free but to build a great web site we need a design, a template and probably some additional code and most of that costs money. We shake our heads in dismay when we see freelance web sites offering development and design services from $6 an hour and wonder who would ever use them and why.

When we say "Joomla is free and so easy anyone can do it" we set the bar so low people don't see why anything should ever cost more than a few dollars.

Let's bust the myths

All this shows that it's a myth that "Joomla is easy, anyone can use it and you can have a site online in 5 minutes. We created these myths. When we make statements like this people believe:

  1. With Joomla you can build a professional web site with almost no effort.
  2. Creating an article in Joomla makes you a Web Developer.
  3. Because Joomla is free (plus points 1 and 2 above) then all Joomla services and addons should be free or less than the cost of a MacDonald's Happy Meal.

When what we really mean is:

  1. You can build a professional website with Joomla but doing so requires skill and time.
  2. Knowing how to write an article in Joomla makes you a Content Publisher or Author.
  3. Joomla is free and it was built by people with extremely advanced skill sets. If you expect something of the same quality, made just for you, then you need to pay people with the same or similar skill sets.

Setting the correct level of expectation

So what do we need to do to change these misconceptions and set the correct level of expectation for those new to Joomla?

Joomla is relatively easy

We need to qualify how easy it is by comparing it to alternatives. For example building a complex multi-page web site with "Joomla is easy" compared to building it with Dreamweaver or Notepad++.

I personally believe that Joomla is the best, most robust and flexible tool available for building any type of web site. But that doesn't mean there aren't times when I want to throw my computer out of the window in frustration. Just that there are a lot less times when that happens.

Easy does not mean no effort

We all make a mistake equating something being easy with requiring no effort. The only thing those two words have in common is that in English they both begin with the letter E.

When you see an advert for a new diet claiming "rapid and easy weight loss" it always has some small print to show you that it is not a magical cure and that some effort and dedication are required. Joomla is no different!

Speed of installation doesn't matter

Anyone can click a button and install Joomla. I hazard to guess that you could even train a monkey to do it successfully.

We need to be realistic - the ability to click a button, when you are told to, doesn't make you an expert. I'd even be prepared to suggest that we should make the installation deliberately hard. That way people will realise that they need a certain level of skills to use Joomla.

Joomla is not easy. Learning Joomla is easy.

This is Joomla's true strength. The quantity and quality of resources available to teach you how to build web sites using Joomla are awesome. It really is easy to learn if you take the time and make the effort to do so.

I have provided Joomla training to hundreds of people and I have yet to have a student who cannot learn how to build good quality sites with Joomla.

An architect can not design a house without years of experience and training. A bricklayer can't build the walls for the house without knowing the correct proportions for mixing the mortar and practicing the art of laying the bricks in a straight line. A decorator can not paint the walls without understanding colour combinations to get the correct colour balance.

Joomla is no different - it takes study, experience and practice before you can build great web sites. With Joomla you are not building your web site from scratch you are standing on the shoulders of giants who have provided you with the building blocks.

With Joomla the learning process is easier than alternatives (see I qualified easy again) as you are not starting completely from scratch. You don't "need" to be a php, css, javascript or html coding rockstar, Joomla can handle most of that for you.

Can we make Joomla better?

Most of you reading this will have probably been working with Joomla for a long time. So we really know how to make Joomla sing and dance. We know to achieve A we must do X, then Y followed by C.

To us this makes perfect sense - but does it really? Should it matter if the sun is shining or you are standing on one leg? Do we really need to follow all those steps?

Because we work with Joomla every day and have done for a long time we can become "Joomla blind" and fail to see where we can improve. When you spot a process or procedure that takes too many steps, stop for a moment and see if you can develop an easier path. When we are able to do that we can make Joomla easier than even more alternatives.

Joomla is not easy. But it is once you learn it. And when you do, help other users onto the same path.

This was post was inspired by Morten Rand-Hendriksen

J o o m l a !

Brian Teeman

Brian Teeman

Who is Brian?

As a co-founder of Joomla! and OpenSourceMatters Inc I've never been known to be lacking an opinion or being too afraid to express it.

Despite what some people might think I'm a shy and modest man who doesn't like to blow his own trumpet or boast about achievements.

Where is Brian?