The hidden costs of Joomla for small business and owner-managers


Small business owner: Can you build us a website?

Web developer: Yes.

Small business owner: We want a content management system so we can manage the website ourselves.

Web developer: Good, we provide a variety of CMS (content management) solutions.

Small Business owner: I want Joomla because it’ free.

Web developer groans and wonders whether to take the trouble to explain that Joomla is not free and risk losing the business or take the opportunity to make more money through using Joomla.

An article we read recently by Brian Teeman summed this up the issues so well that we simply quote what he says:

Whilst there is no financial cost to you to download and install joomla there are still financial costs to you.

  1. The cost of learning joomla e.g. training, books, videos, time
  2. The cost of design e.g. templates
  3. The cost of extensions. Joomla by design only includes a limited set of functionality. To extend this functionality may cost you real money
  4. The cost of hosting
  5. The cost of your time building the site
  6. The cost of your time maintaining the site
  7. The cost of support

But these are just direct costs to you when you use Joomla. What about the indirect and hidden costs involved in both creating joomla the code and maintaining joomla the project. Both of these cost someone real hard cash.

Source: Brian Teeman, 2001 (

Of course for most people the hidden cost of the developers working elsewhere to create modules is irrelevant.

But Joomla is not free. Joomla sites often cost a small business far more than using an economic paid content management system with support and updates included.

Joomla is not easy. There are basic ‘one click installs’ but these are not suited to most business needs. Save a few hundred on proper Joomla setups and spend an extra fee thousand on the marketing effort as your website is not as SEO friendly as it should be. Making Joomla work properly for SEO (which is not the same as installing a SEO module) requires a competent programmer, not a designer with a little knowledge of PHP (the language Joomla is written in).

Design can cost, but most web companies using Joomla simply adapt and install a template.

Joomla extensions are a nasty sting in the tail. They often only apply to business, so you see them in hobby or personal sites and try adding them in. Then you discover the expensive paying side of Joomla development.

Maintenance is only an issue if you have tried another CMS. We do not like Joomla as we are used to the user friendliness and speed of use of the Cornish CMS (our preferred CMS). Those we know who switch from Joomla to the Cornish CMS remark how quick and easy it is add and change pages. The ‘quick and easy’ is very important for ongoing maintenance.

Joomla support is not free! We know many businesses who pay significantly more in annual support for their ‘free’ Joomla CMS than they would pay for an annual license (with support) for a product such as Cornish CMS.

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