We have nothing against WordPress or Blogspot. They are great places to start blogging, and are the best options for those who don’t want to do anything too serious. Anyone looking to build a half-decent website, however, will find these platforms lacking. So was the case with me, when I was asked to build a professional website. Blogspot, of course, was immediately out of the question. As I started comparing CMSs, WordPress didn’t last too long in the race either. It was too restrictive.
After considering various options, those based on PHP as well as .NET, I finalized two: Joomla! and DotNetNuke. All that was left now was to install each of these individually and try to build a basic working website with the following features like video playback, file downloads and chat-box. Another feature needed was template flexibility. I set out installing each of these in turn on a local server.
Of these three, Joomla! seems to be the most widely used. This meant an advantage in terms of online help and the number of add-ons. But I had to install it first.
Installation was a breeze. Everything was automated. All I had to do was unzip the files to a directory, set WAMP Server to online mode and hit the link in my browser. After that I just kept clicking on next. Database creation was handled completely by Joomla! as well.
That was about as long as the euphoria lasted, however. With the installation behind me, I was greeted with this administration panel:
Understanding all the options takes some time. Many of the controls are unintuitive. Even after you get used to the controls, however, they continue to remain frustrating. For example, when you open something to edit, the menu features become unavailable. Even the “back” button the browser doesn’t work. So if you clicked on, say, an article name by mistake, quickly pressing “back” doesn’t work. You have to wait till it loads and click on the “close” option within the panel.
It took more than a little time simply to understand the difference between modules and plug-ins. This was when I realized that Joomla! templates revolved around defining module positions. Getting the correct things in the correct positions involves a lot of playing around.
Once everything was finally set up, I had to look for modules for the features mentioned at the beginning of this post. It was acceptable that anything that wasn’t branded would be a commercial item. However, for test purposes, I stuck to free components. And am I glad! Almost every component turned out to have a bug or two. Installing anything was a nightmare. A bit of hunting around on Google, and it turned out that too many people complained of Joomla! being buggy, requiring changes to the core code for too many things.
Ok, so that wasn’t that impressive then… Moving on to DotNetNuke.
If this worked out, I planned to buy the Professional Edition for $2499 a year. But for test purposes, I went with the free community edition.
If Joomla was a nightmare to use, this was a nightmare to install. It took me the better part of a day to get everything in order. To even start installation, one needs to manually create a database, create a user with owner permissions, but these details in a file, make sure that the permissions for the root folder are properly set, that the correct ASP version is selected, that the settings for “Default Website” in IIS are properly set… The list hasn’t ended yet. Even after all these settings, your task isn’t done. Expect more than a few errors during installation. The worst part is, most of these errors are so cryptic that you don’t know what to do, expect tear out your hair in frustration. It took me three hours to figure out that my ASP .NET version wasn’t up to date. Thanks to the cryptic errors, that could mean one of any number of possibilities. It is clear Joomla! wins by miles in the installation category.
Once the installation was done, however, DotNetNuke (04.05.05) blew me away. Even while I was searching for an Admin panel, like in Joomla!, I realized that everything could be edited from the front-end. You just have to hover over any field and click on the “Edit” button that pops up. Modules can be just dragged around!
There was one problem though. While playing around with things, I set the log-in page to the “Home” page. Then I removed the “Login” module from Home page. Then I logged out. Guess what happened next? I was stuck looking for a way to log in to my own site. There was a “login” link at the top, but it just led me to the “Home” page, with no login module.
After sorting out that minor annoyance, I realized that DotNetNuke could be pretty pricey! While all kinds of modules are available, they are commercial ones, and they charge extra for the source code.
In spite of all its problems, DotNetNuke managed to impress me.
Decision time: Joomla! or DotNetNuke?
For those with a limited budget, money should be the first thing to consider, right? In that case, using any .NET CMS will be a tad more expensive. While decent shared hosting on Apache Servers can be had for around $20/year, .NET shared hosting will set one back by about $60/year.
For those to whom $40 is of little consequence, they might want to consider that Joomla! has free alternatives for more features than DotNetNuke. The latter just takes bits off your bank balance at every stage.
But if money is of not a consideration at all (or if a client will be paying for everything), then DotNetNuke is an impressive option indeed. It provides an amazing amount of control over the website, without having to hack into the source code at every stage, as is the case with Joomla!. However, PHP code is also a lot easier to handle than .NET code, and even outsourcing coding will prove cheaper for Joomla!.
A lot of the choice comes down to individual preference. In the end, you have to choose between a huge community, ease of installation and basic use and easy and cheap availability of components and hosting; to a more flexible layout, easy editing, more professional and secure components and less buggy code.