CMS Shootout: DotNetNuke vs. Joomla vs. WordPress

Posted by Paul Lefebvre on Jan 1, 2009 in Software Development | 9 comments

CMS Shootout: DotNetNuke vs. Joomla vs. WordPress

A question was asked on LinkedIn regarding these three CMS systems. Although I answered it there, I thought a longer post was warranted.

DotNetNuke

I probably have the most experience using DotNetNuke. I’ve built several sites using DotNetNuke, I’ve installed it on my own servers and have even attempted to build a module for it.

DotNetNuke (DNN) is incredibly powerful, but it’s also easy to use (once it’s installed). The best thing about DNN is that the administration of the site is completely integrated into the site itself. You can be viewing a page, click a button to edit it and have the change online immediately. With both Joomla and WordPress you’ll have to go to a separate Admin area to do that.

DNN has a wide variety of free and commercial modules available for it. Frankly, whenever I needed to do something that wasn’t built it, I found a module already existed.

There is a significant downside to DNN, though: it requires Windows. DNN is built using the .NET framework and it must be hosted on a Windows server. It also uses SQL Server, which also obviously require Windows. This may not be a problem for internal use, after all pretty much every company has a Windows server running somewhere. And you can use the free versions of SQL Server. But if you want to host your CMS elsewhere, you’ll have fewer options than you would with Joomla or WordPress. Most (all?) of the low-cost hosting services use Linux. There are some low-cost providers that host DNN (such as WebHost4Life), but I’ve found their performance to be terrible.

By far the best DNN hosting provider that I’ve worked with is PowerDNN, but they are expensive (plans start at $20/month and go up from there).

The other downside is that DNN sites seem to work best in Internet Explorer. That has been improving lately, but I’ve still run across some things that just don’t work right in Firefox or Safari.

Joomla!

The ARBP members site is built using Joomla. I didn’t do a lot of work on this, but I feel I worked with it enough to get a good understanding of it.

Joomla is written in PHP and uses MySQL, so it works on Linux. It’s often included with low-cost hosting packages such as FatCow or BlueHost.

Joomla websites can look really nice, but I found that the administration of them takes a little getting use to. You need to go to a completely separate area to administer the web site and things don’t seem to be as organized as they could be.

But overall, I’m impressed with the new versions of Joomla and will be investigating it more in 2009.

WordPress

This blog run ons WordPress (not the hosted WordPress.com) as does RBDevZone. Originally, RBDevZone was actually built using DNN (running on WebHost4Life). But I found the performance to be so bad, that I had to come up with another solution. I first investigated Joomla, but at the time it was incredibly slow and I found it too difficult to use. So I ended up switching to WordPress. This worked out well since RBDevZone has since evolved into more of a blog about all things REALbasic and no longer needed a true CMS.

WordPress is fast (it’s written in PHP and uses MySQL). It’s easy to use. It’s also pretty easy to customize themes and even the code. But it’s hardly a CMS. If you truly need a CMS, I would not recommend it. But I think it makes a great blogging engine.

Which to Use?

All things considered, I still prefer to use DotNetNuke. It’s CMS capabilities are not matched by the other two. Joomla has improved a lot in the last year or so and I have high hopes for it. After all, I’m a cross-platform developer so I don’t like choosing a CMS solution that really works best on Windows.

I don’t consider WordPress to be a CMS engine. If your CMS needs are light then maybe you can get away with it, but it’s really for blogs.

9 Responses to “CMS Shootout: DotNetNuke vs. Joomla vs. WordPress”

  1. I would argue that having a separate admin area is safer and more secure than having it integrated. You can, however, set Joomla up so that you can enter into the admin area directly from the main site.

    Joomla’s main weakness, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t have good security groupings. You have public, registered, publisher or administrator security levels. There are several 3rd party modules available that overcome this shortcoming however.

  2. There was a new release for DotNetNuke (5.0) on Christmas 2008. The 5.0 release was in the works for most of the year, and contains big improvements in terms of skinning and default layouts. This fixes most of the problems with the previous default table layouts, IE-only CSS and non-compliant html. Of course, a talented designer could get great sites with any 4.x version of DNN because the skinning engine is so flexible. However, as most people start with the default skin and modify from there, this latest release will ensure that simple sites start from a much better base.

  3. @Bob: Separate admin area may be safer, but it is not easier (at least for me). The security groupings in DNN are very flexible. You can create any time of groups you want and assign sections of a page to be visible only to specific groups.

    @Bruce: I haven’t yet tried DNN 5.0, but improvements to the layouts/skins is most welcome. Modifying skins in DNN was a major hassle.

  4. Paul, could you explain “Modifying skins in DNN was a major hassle” a bit? To me DNN skinning does not seem to be to difficult, but I’m biased ;-)

  5. @Timo: It was a hassle for me, at least compared to editing WordPress themes. I found the whole table-based design of the DNN skins I’ve used to be tedious to work with. Plus you had to then Zip it all up and upload back to the site (using the Admin tool) after each change.

  6. @Paul. Thanks. It seems a lot of people think you must use Tables with DNN skinning, but that’s not true. I think the reason is that the old default skin that came with DNN was a very bad example (full of tables). In fact anything you can do in HTML / CSS can be used in a DNN skin, there are almost no limitations.
    I agree the way though the admin interface is a bit of a hassle, the easiest way to update the skin in DNN is to FTP the new files.

  7. I use Googling more about Joomla/Drupal, DNN – One common concern I noticed is SEO in DNN is not so easy & also read ” The core DNN Search has not matured yet – but this can be used with 3rd party modules.” on DNN forums ? Any idea paul , is this true ?

  8. Not to be a fanboy, but I’m fairly impressed with how far you can take WordPress. Last fall I finished a humanitarian web site with WordPress, using a custom template that uses categories, tags and page parents for dynamic navigation. It worked out pretty well, if I do say so myself:
    http://www.globalaid.net/

  9. @Nathan: I’m inclined to agree. Though my experience with DNN is far less than WP, there’s a few things about DNN that cross me as blatantly sloppy (thinking of URL structure, support documentation, etc).

    That said, it looks like there’s a lot of helpful guts in DNN, I’m just having a hard time with the whole being forced to a specific platform.

    For what it’s worth, anything you say uses Linux because of PHP/MySQL/Apache.. Well, it should run fine on Windows with the WAMP tool. I think there’s a Mac port of WAMP/LAMP in the works too, not certain there though.