As far as the CMS world goes, Joomla is part of the furniture.
Launched in 2001, Joomla is used by 3.3 percent of all the websites using a CMS — which translates into a market share of 7.1 percent. By those figures, Joomla is the world’s second most popular CMS behind WordPress.
In an attempt to nurture that market share, Joomla.com was unveiled in 2015 as a way for users to deploy instances of Joomla in the cloud, for free and at speed.
First things first, let’s take a look at how Joomla.com differs from self-hosted Joomla.
Unlike the self-hosted version of Joomla, Joomla.com is hosted for free, is ready to use in a matter of seconds and gets automatic updates. The functionality of the core CMS isn’t limited, but only a small range of templates and extensions is available.
Furthermore, Joomla.com users can’t edit template files, and mailing functionality is limited. There’s also no support for super users, and storage is limited to 200MB.
The Joomla.com website does a good job of outlining these differences, but other than saying the product can be “online in seconds [and] easy to customize,” it doesn’t really engage a specific target market.
I didn’t feel like it was talking to the beginners dabbling in building websites, nor did it feel like Joomla.com was for seasoned developers looking to deploy Joomla quickly and cheaply. It felt like it was meant for both — or worse yet — neither.
Getting Started with Joomla.com
Signing up for Joomla.com is easily done from the homepage. I typed in my email, a password and the name of my site (you get a free sub-domain with every instance of Joomla.com) to get started.
After signing up, I was taken to the Joomla.com admin dashboard, which serves up an introductory video and gives you an overview of your active sites. From the same interface, you can create new sites, upgrade your plan, change user-details and visit the support center.
But most importantly, you can access the control panel of any one of your existing sites — which is what I did next.
The Core Features of Joomla.com
Like its self-hosted older brother, Joomla.com empowers users to create ‘Articles’ which are essentially front-end pages.
Creating and modifying those articles is straightforward, and there are a number of menus that afford you extended control over a page. For example, you can schedule the publication of articles, and set permissions for individual articles — so only authorized users can edit it.
Articles can also be categorized and added to menus with ease.
However, I did notice that whenever I was editing an article, the navigation bar across the top of the page would become inactive. Even the Joomla logo was no longer a link. Thus, I couldn’t move on to other areas of my control panel with any speed, and the only way back to the main menu was the ‘Close’ button.
The Joomla.com media manager on the other hand, is robust. Images and gifs can be placed in folders, and then viewed in either a list or thumbnail view. However, you only have 200MB of free space, so you’ll have to ration those images and gifs out wisely.
Further functionality includes component management, which enables you to create banners, configure news feeds and set up redirects.
To its credit, Joomla.com allows you to easily access some pretty advanced settings, too. For example, you can configure things like:
- An offline mode with a front-facing message
- Cookie settings
- SEO friendly URLs
- Cache settings
The Verdict on Joomla.com
To put it bluntly, Joomla.com is uninspiring from a developer’s perspective and uninviting from a beginner’s perspective.
I expected the platform to be Joomla’s way of reaching out to a community of people who weren’t technical enough to handle a traditional deployment of Joomla. Or, failing that, I expected it to be a SaaS version of Joomla that would afford the user the same flexibility of the self-hosted instance, with all the benefits of a hosted solution.
But instead, it feels like Joomla tried to cover both bases — and ended up covering neither.
In terms of challenging the likes of WordPress.com, Wix or Squarespace in the website builder space, Joomla just isn’t friendly enough for the newbie webmaster.
As for appealing to the developer community, I can’t imagine 200MB of storage and restrictions on template editing will do anything except frustrate sophisticated users.
The Bottom Line
To wrap this up, Joomla.com gives you a quick and easy taste of what Joomla can do, making it an ideal playground for experimenting before you take the plunge with self-hosted Joomla. But that’s pretty much all it’s good for.