Over the last year I've collected my thoughts on Joomla! the CMS, the project and the community. We've finally all come to the conclusion that Joomla! needs a revamp. The time is ripe to discuss the future. This is a very big subject so I'm going to present this as a series of blog posts. In this first installment we'll talk about Joomla!'s target audience and a unified marketing message to frame our vision.

Before revamping a software product we need to identify the target audience. Who's using it and why? Who do we want to use it and is it really possible? Is the product resonating with the target audience or do we need to change it? In other words we need to identify the target audience and create a unified marketing message.

The best place to start is a focus group. A collection of unbiased outsiders who will test drive our product and give us constructive feedback. This effectively happened last week at Harvard Extension as reported by the instructor, Jen Kramer. The students were not impressed with the balance between the learning curve and the control exerted over the outcome. But the more scathing feedback is this:

Finally, many commented on how much they disliked the community. The community, they concluded, focused too much on the commercial realm. Everything was about making money. There were too many extensions that were paid. There were too many people out for themselves, especially those in positions of leadership.

This hurts. They are telling us that the "something for everyone" marketing message has landed flat on its face. The product is not simple enough for casual users and not good enough for enterprise settings. This makes the –inevitable and in par with competitors'– commercialization look like a thinly veiled attempt in monetizing a bad product.

This feedback makes me think who Joomla! is targeting. It's clearly not the casual user who wants to get something published on the web, fast. These people have no need for the powerful features, they just want to get things done easily. They will choose a self-hosted WordPress site for the perceived simplicity. The irony of writing these words in WordPress' very efficient "focus mode" on my blog doesn't go unnoticed by yours truly. Let's also not forget that the majority of these people are not even CMS users: they are creating content on social media. Casual users crave for the "do not make me thing" approach of WordPress, hosted blogging services and social media.

The barrier to content creation on these platforms is non-existent. You can't compete with that.

Does Joomla! appeal to the enterprise / commercial sector? No and it's not just because a random collection of people at Harvard Extended said so. Joomla! doesn't have a cat's chance in hell of competing with the behemoths that Automattic (WordPress) and Acquia (Drupal) currently are. Just today we've read that Automattic bought WooCommerce, currently the most popular e-commerce software on the Internet.

Chew on that for a minute. WooCommerce is more popular than Magento, a product backed by the 400-pound gorilla called PayPal. WordPress has become a de facto e-commerce behemoth. It should be quite clear that Joomla! doesn't have any realistic chance of competing in that sector.

What about bespoke sites? Does Joomla! appeal to that? Hardly so, I'm afraid. This niche is dominated on one hand by Drupal and on the other hand by established PHP frameworks such as Laravel, Zend Framework and Symfony.

While we were consumed in introversion over leadership structure these rivals have developed a massive corpus of readily available solutions to problems we haven't even imagined.

Not to mention that the overall PHP community has a very negative view for Joomla!. Granted, they still remember Joomla! as it was in 1.0 and even 1.5, i.e. not the compelling development paradigm. But even today, Joomla! 3 is archaic by modern standards.

I can hardly imagine any corporate developer on their right mind messing with JTable and JModelLegacy instead of using Laravel.

This leaves us in the valley smack in the middle of simplicity and enterprise. Historically this was exactly Joomla!'s position as attested by countless comparisons of the "big three" (WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal) and the overall sentiment among the majority of users and developers. Granted, some of you do know of people using Joomla! for simple blogs and complex enterprise sites but these are the exceptions validating the rule.

Let's refocus. How can we market Joomla! to people? Why should they use Joomla! instead of anything else?

Looking for inspiration I stumbled on the blog of Tower, the most popular Git GUI client for Mac OS X. These very smart people, who are not web developers, decided to build their own blogging application. Why? In their words: Using the most popular web software on the planet also means you're using one of the most popular hacking targets.

We've solved this problem years ago and not just because we're the second most popular CMS. Joomla! is one of the most secure CMS out there right out of the box. And it's outright simple to make it airtight.

Marketing point: Joomla! is secure

The other important thing about Joomla! is that it's cheaper than its competition when it comes to medium to high complexity websites. WordPress is fine for simple sites but if you want to integrate several advanced features, such as an e-commerce platform, it gets very complicated very fast. This is sort of the point behind Automattic buying WooCommerce, make no mistake about it. Drupal, on the other hand, requires you to write code or install dozens of modules for doing pretty much anything useful. Obviously PHP frameworks require you to write code for everything.

Joomla!, on the other hand can do a lot of very powerful things by just installing and configuring off-the-shelf extensions. The immediate advantage is that a small team, or even an individual, can create a complex solution which would require a significantly larger team and a proportionally higher budget with any other competitive solution.

Marketing point: Joomla! can be used by small shops for building medium to high complexity sites on a budget, using off-the-shelf software components.

Finally, we need to take a look at the identity of the competition. Even though both WordPress and Drupal are nominally community projects they are dominated by for-profit corporations (Automattic and Acquia) which exert indirect but strong control over the product. If nothing else, the CEOs of these two companies are the figure-heads of the respective product. In Drupal they even have a special term: benevolent dictator for life.

Joomla! is, was and hopefully will continue to be a "hippy" product. There is no figurehead. There is no corporate overlord. Joomla!'s core value is the embrace of openness and equality. When the other projects have based their structure on a dictatorship (benevolence of the dictator notwithstanding) Joomla! is –at least nominally– an open, grassroots project.

Marketing point: Joomla! is an open product, developed by and for the community.

TL;DR – The bottom line

Combining all these marketing points you can come up with a powerful, unified marketing message which frames our vision for Joomla! and resonates deeply with its user base.

Joomla! is an open product, developed by and for the community. It is used by end users, site integrators and SMEs to build medium to high complexity, very secure websites on a budget, using off-the-shelf software components they can install, configure and integrate themselves without prior experience with the system or requiring knowledge of PHP, HTML and CSS.

Let's stop claiming that Joomla! is something for everyone. In the wise words of Sir Max Beerbohm "Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best." We don't want a mediocre product which is equally bad for everyone – remember that this was the conclusion of our focus group for the current product. We need to simplify the marketing message and make our vision laser-focused. Remember the tagline of Joomla!'s predecessor Mambo? "Power in simplicity". It's time to reclaim our legacy.

To be continued: Joomla! 4 and Beyond: A vision for the end user.

68 thoughts on “Joomla! 4 and Beyond: Target audience and a unified marketing message”

      1. Friday, 22 May 2015 10:43
        hmm ok not my experience Nic.

        "No. What you describe is step 4. Step 1: we need a site, make a call for offers."

        That was the situation in the 90ies when I doing sites for people in html code and there were 14.4kb modems :) Though I had a leased line 320kb since 1995 my self.

        Today small and medium sized companies, organizations doesn't "need" a site. They already have one and they have experience of what people complain about or like. If you have a terrible Media Manager today - you are out!

        And that is important input if you should change or keep what you have. If people are used to blog private in Wordpress and like it why change it in the company? Thats about productivity measures that top level mgt understand and listening to.

        So before they call the integrator, 9 out of 10 times, people have already decided what publishing CMS you prefer to use and thats how it will be. If you are a specialized Joomla integrator and dont understand why you not get any calls - thats why you dont do any Wordpress, Drupal integrations. The decision is already made. If you try to convince them of Joomla instead you have trouble..

        So they, formal and informal decision makers, will also decide to change or keep the existing web publishing system they already have thats my experience. Even companies I have been working with changed from Joomla to Wordpress just bcs top management want to have an "easier" publishing platform that they have "heard" is "easier", "quicker" and "better" etc than Joomla.

        People now know about Facebook interface and how to publish content, maybe have a blog (Blogger) or use Wordpress format for part of the companies web system and they are influencing how content should be used, communicated, published and written.

        Facebook test every new change and feature 3 months before they make it live to the Facebook community - how many end users test do we do for our community when we introduce new features? Not technical tests... What people need ask want from famouse Media Manager just to mention one...

        We can learn a lot from what Facebook and others doing and focus where Joomla have most complains and fix that. And this is about understand what priority of function UX is and not about code...
  1. Thursday, 21 May 2015 14:30
    Thanks Nicholas for this great post. As working both with Joomla! and Wordpress as site builder and trainer for users-administrators (mainly SMEs), I noticed (but of course, I guess it's something well known) that the most difficult part to Joomla!'s acceptability is its media manager. Nowadays, people are used on social networks to post very simply images, videos, documents just uploading from hard drive or sharing a link. Quite complicated to explain that you first have to upload it on media manager, then to choose the right media in article by 'Insert image' at the bottom of text editor, and not with 'image' button of text editor, furthermore with very poor image settings available. Or to type {youtube}codeofthevideo{/youtube} to actually see video (this one is not even an in-house Joomla! functionality). Same 'illogical' stuff to link part of a text to another article. Of course, there are many very good third party extensions (text editors, media managers, ...) to achieve it more easely, but out of the box media management is hugely responsible of the image of non-user-friendly Joomla!.
    1. Thursday, 21 May 2015 14:33
      Absolutely correct. The Media Manager in Joomla! is a decade overdue for a major rewrite. Everyone in the right mind have been using JCE's media manager instead. But let's face it, Joomla! is a Content</em> Management System, it <em>does need a good Media Manager.

      I think I should put it as the first point in my next post in this series. It was going to be further down the list but since it's the one thing everyone is talking about I guess it guarantees the out-of-sequence mention right upfront.
  2. Thursday, 21 May 2015 16:49
    I can't say that I agree that the best place to start is with a focus group. Marketers have discovered that focus groups are notoriously unreliable.
    I can't get to Jen Kramer's original reporting but...
    I doubt that this group was unbiased. I don't think you can find anybody that hasn't heard or doesn't believe the common wisdom that Wordpress is the easiest and best CMS, no matter how erroneous that statement is.
    Community is a lousy marketing point. If there are benefits to community, those might be marketing points.
    I've noticed that in the Wordpress community, there are many that are vociferously outspoken against Joomla. In the Joomla community, we tend to be more fair minded. Maybe we are too fair. Let's claim our strengths, which we have many.
    Joomla has been awful at PR and evangelizing its strengths. Joomla has better technology that WP, and has for years. But how does that translate into benfits for corporations, organizations, web publishers, and web contributors?
    About that focus group. Had they been shown the WP article submission screen, and a Joomla front end article submission screen, their 'ease of use' perceptions would be different.
    Had they been asked to add metadescriptions to articles, and make sure that caching is working, then they would have had different perceptions.
    Had they been asked to rearrange the presentation of the articles (list, blog, etc), change the postion of a module/widget, or make sure that an article expires and unpublishes at the end of the week, their perceptions would be different.
    Had they been required to make a structured post type (CCK) their perception would be different.
    Sure, it's a lot easier to fly a kite than it is to fly an airplane. Try hauling passengers coast to coast in a hang glider and you see how simple can get complicated and disastrous really quickly.
    We have several markets.
    Business owners and decision makers.
    Site developers
    Extension developers
    Contributors / maintainers
    The joomla.org web site needs to quickly get each of them to appropriate resources for making decisions and getting what information they need. Right now, joomla.org does a lousy job of advertising benefits in the header.
    So, what does each market need most?
    1. Thursday, 21 May 2015 16:58
      Forget the focus group. Let's think about a few tasks that the end user –the people who are tasked with the upkeep of the site's content– want to perform.

      Write content. Joomla!'s screen is crowded. WordPress? When you start typing the first few words it automatically switches to a distraction free environment.

      Paste a picture. In Joomla! you have to first go to the Media Manager. Upload. Go back to your article. Click on the correct media insertion button (because we have two, kill me now!). Find the image you uploaded. Does it look right? No? Delete, re-insert. WordPress: drag'n'drop.

      Paste an embedded YouTube video or Tweet. No can do without 3PD plugins and clumsy plugin codes. WordPress: Go to YouTube, copy link, paste it in WordPress and magically it's embedded.

      Link to other content. In Joomla! you have to use the correct button because somehow having two link buttons makes sense. In WordPress the unified link dialog guides you through.

      All these can only be fixed if you install JCE. Granted, Joomla! + JCE beats WordPress any day of the week, as long as you don't mind Joomla!'s complicated menu creation process. How many first time users ever heard of JCE? This drives them away.

      There are more things that everyone despises in Joomla!, even us developing it and with it. Give me about 3-4 hours and I'll publish a new post about that.
      1. Thursday, 21 May 2015 17:37
        Absolutely! Reminds me that about a decade ago, in Joomla! 1.0.x (jeez! feel old!), there was a tab 'create a link in menu' in articles, so you didn't had to go to menu management to create link. As I remember (sorry, I can't test, all my old J! 1.0.x websites are archived), it was only to add a first level menu item, but maybe it would be useful to have a look at history to perform the future...
        1. Thursday, 21 May 2015 17:42
          You are correct, there was this option. For some reason it was removed from Joomla! 1.5. Maybe it should come back, similar to how WP deals with Pages.
        2. Thursday, 21 May 2015 17:59
          Write content. Joomla!’s screen is crowded. WordPress? When you start typing the first few words it automatically switches to a distraction free environment.

          I would hate that. Didn't really care for all the tabs with the Bootstrap upgrade. I felt that made for more 'hunting' while earlier version had things like meta-descriptions and publication control right there. I understand that compromises needed to be made, but this is one of those changes that made Joomla backend imperfect for both desktop and tablet.

          Paste a picture. In Joomla! you have to first go to the Media Manager. Upload. Go back to your article. Click on the correct media insertion button (because we have two, kill me now!). Find the image you uploaded. Does it look right? No? Delete, re-insert. WordPress: drag’n’drop.

          I agree, but this doesn't affect me that much because I rely on jce editor. I understand that a new media manager is on the way. But hey, don't you work with multple tabs in your browser? Or multiple browser windows?

          Adding articles to menu would be great without having to add a plugin.

          Being able to get to a page using SEF url without having to add that page to a hidden menu would also be great.

          So I must concede that there are some 'out of the box' usability issues with Joomla. There are 'out of the box' issues with WP &amp; D too. We need to fix our issues, and champion our strengths to those that would benefit from them.

          Joomla is still the most complete, secure, easily extendable, and technically advanced general purpose CMS.
  3. Thursday, 21 May 2015 18:07
    that made Joomla backend imperfect for both desktop and tablet.
    Actually, it made Joomla! more usable on a tablet. Take that from someone who's been mostly using Joomla! 1.5 through 3.4 on the 10" screen of an iPad to manage all his sites. There is a tab overload, I'll give you that. In Joomla! 1.5 to 2.5 there was a slider overload. The only difference is that more options were added... and I have a solution for that in the blog post I'll write today :D
    I rely on jce editor.
    Thank you, that was exactly my point. The core experience of content creation sucks so damn hard that we all have to rely on JCE and other 3PD WYSIWYG editors. Newcomers have no idea these things exist!
    Adding articles to menu would be great without having to add a plugin.
    Being able to get to a page using SEF url without having to add that page to a hidden menu would also be great.
    Amen squared. Routing and menu items should be decoupled. Dammit, people, stop giving away all the points I want to make in today's post :D
    So I must concede that there are some ‘out of the box’ usability issues with Joomla. There are ‘out of the box’ issues with WP & D too. We need to fix our issues, and champion our strengths to those that would benefit from them.
    That. Anyone who's left Joomla! for WP or D has seen that the pasture isn't really greener there. It's the same shade of yellow, they're just better at spray-painting it green when they shoot it for the brochure. I firmly believe that Joomla! can have BOTH a compelling product AND good marketing, leading to an increase in its market share. There, I spelled it out :)
    1. Thursday, 21 May 2015 21:45
      "Anyone who’s left Joomla! for WP or D has seen that the pasture isn’t really greener there"

      What happens is users get frustrated by some aspect of the site that is not related to the platform - usually, it about lack of visitors, sales and leads. This is not a Joomla problem, this is a SEO and marketing issue.

      Then, out of this frustration the user jumps to another platform and what happens is the process of re-building a site focuses or re-focuses the users attention on the issues that were causing the lack of sales.

      It is not the new platform, it is thinking about the website again, re-structuring content, layout and many small things that will make the site better. But of course the new platform will be praised as being better than Joomla as result, rather than what really was the catalyst for re-evaluating their business.
  4. Thursday, 21 May 2015 19:35
    Actually, it made Joomla! more usable on a tablet.
    I don't consider a tablet to be a productivity tool. It is a content consumption tool. So I don't see the point of making Joomla administration tablet friendly at the expense of traditional PC / MAC interface.
    I tried to revert to the older administrator template (2.5 version) when Joomla first went to Bootstrap in administrator area. That broke things, so I couldn't do it.
    All in all, though, it's way better than WP. I was baffled me for a while at how to add a custom html widget in WP. And I was astounded that there was no editor on that feature. That's one of the reasons why I contend that WP is not yet a complete CMS.
    1. Thursday, 21 May 2015 20:13
      This is the wrong approach. There are many people who utilize mobile devices to manage their sites. Out on the road - open up your phone or your iPad. Out on the beach and want to write up some content for your site - get your your iPad.

      I never use myself as a use case anymore - you have to listen to your audience.
      1. Friday, 22 May 2015 03:37
        @Steve Pignataro - can you see your phone or ipad screen in the sunlight? I don't have one digital device that is worth a damn at the beach.

        @Nicholas - So if you had whipped out an ipad at your dinner to fix a web site problem, that would have made the date go better?

        Really, stop the nonsense. Some of these examples are just wishful thinking. I can't even read my email on my tablet in the daylight. I can barely dial my phone in the daylight. That speaks to bad design and inappropriate expectations of technology.

        I barely use the web on my phone because 4g is so damn slow. My time is too important to waste it trying to administer a web site on a tablet or phone.

        If I am within range of wifi, I'll use a netbook or chromebook, as they are cheap, ultra-portable, and more effective than a tablet.

        But with Joomla, a content management system, we shouldn't be designing it to work in situations that are ridiculous. And that goes to your earlier point, Nicholas. Joomla can't be all things to all people. Certainly we shouldn't have the administrative back end pandering to edge cases.
        1. Friday, 22 May 2015 09:41
          It was actually the iPhone that saved my date a few months ago. I was early and I got an email telling me that downloads of the latest release (I had released it an hour ago before leaving home) were just impossible. True, they were. Using my iPhone and J! 3's responsive back-end I fixed that 2 minutes before my date showed up. Otherwise I'd have to just call her to bail on her –not a great impression on a second date, right?– and drive 40' back to my home. So yeah, you may not believe me but the responsive back-end DID save my ass. Not to mention the countless times I replied to support tickets from my iPad while at the beach. Pro tip: just go under the shade of a darned tree to see the screen. Don't be the idiot trying to read the screen of his device in the sun. Using polarized sunglasses also helps – as long as you don't mind colors showing a bit like an acid trip when you tilt your head. Please take this advice from the guy who lives a 15' drive from the beach and is there pretty much every other morning 11am to 2pm from mid June to mid September. You were saying?

          As for 4G being so slow, you have to be ducking kidding me, right? Welcome to Greece. My "fast" ADSL in the office is 13Mbps download / 1Mbps upload. My home ADSL is 3.8Mbps down / 0.7MBps up. 3G in this area (we have no 4G where I live) is 11Mbps down / 5Mbps up. If I want to upload something fast I have to switch to 3G. When I'm visiting my mom's place where the ADSL barely syncs at 3Mbps and delivers far less I do switch to 4G which gives me a good 30+ Mbps download even on a bad day.

          Do you realize that I'm doing what I'm doing with Internet speeds that you consider to be pretty much a stalled connection? When I started developing JoomlaPack in '06 all we had was dial-up 44.8Kbps. And the connection reset every time someone picked up the phone or bumped on the coffee table where one of the two sets was placed on. I was duct taping the receivers before connecting to the Internet... Until 2009 my Internet connection was 768Kbps down / 384Kbps up. That was "fast". Around 2009 I got an upgrade to 2Mbps/512Kbps. Yippee! That's what I used to start my business BTW, this dead bloody slow connection. Late 2010 I got an upgrade to a whooping 4Mbps/768Kbps and in 2011 it maxed out at 5Mbps/768Kbps. When I moved in 2012 I finally got a sync speed over 10Mbps for the first time in my life. VDSL is still in beta in this country and with nobody having any money to invest I guess it will remain forever. So I'm stuck with 13Mbps – unless it rains and my connection drops 2Mbps because the damned junction boxes on the phone poles were water proof 20 years ago when first installed, now not so much. And you have the nerve to tell me that 4G is SLOW? Meh...
        2. Friday, 22 May 2015 16:16
          Not going to lie - but I have used and managed sites on my iphone with no problem. And yes I can use my phone just fine in the sun. But this isn't the point - we are not the target audience (yes we manage joomla and all) but in actuality our clients are the target audience. What tools are they using? Are they on the go a lot? Do they want ease of use? Obviously if mobile isn't something that you think about - then you haven't been paying attention for the past 5+ years.

          Mobile is more important than you think it is. And you justifying differently is just a shocking statement.
    2. Thursday, 21 May 2015 21:15
      Of course, you (and me neither) don't use a tablet to build a Joomla! website. But think about your client, the site owner : he wants to add or adjust content wherever he wants, during a meeting, in the train (lot of people work on train travel), at a conference... and more likely in this cases with a tablet than with a laptop. And more of this, he, your client, never add custom html. He asks you for that ;-)
    3. Thursday, 21 May 2015 21:29
      Tablets have long stopped being content consumption devices.

      Before the advent of the iPad I had to carry around a laptop with me wherever I went. Having an on-line business means that you may get an emergency (people can't pay, download broken, urgent support request, ...) anytime. A laptop and a 3G WiFi dongle + backup batteries were always in my bag which I always carried with me.

      With the iPad I no longer had to do that. Back in Joomla! 1.x and 2.5 it was really damn hard to work in the backend. Everything I had to do required pinching, swiping and trying to remember where the hell I was on the page. With Joomla! 3 my experience is so much smoother. But not having to carry a laptop while knowing I'm not going to painfully regret it* has been liberating.

      [*] Back in 2010 crap hit the fan while I was having dinner with my girlfriend and I had no laptop with me. We had to break dinner short and rush to my home where I could fix the site. She was definitely NOT impressed. Nor was she impressed with her geek boyfriend carrying a laptop bag everywhere from that point onwards.
      1. Friday, 22 May 2015 02:03
        minor interaction does not make tablets efficient content production devices. I am using a tablet now. It is painfully slow and error prone. I've had to make two (now four) error corrections already.
        I'm not convinced that Joomla needs to be responsive on the back end, and am certain that it has adversely affected efficiency.
        But hey, a bad is a gas ( fad is a fad) so everyone has to do it, dam the consequences. Welcome to the flat age s.
        1. Friday, 22 May 2015 09:26
          Just because you suck at using something you own doesn't mean that everyone else owning it sucks at using it just the same.

          Also, I firmly believe that Joomla! 3's back-end has made things simpler.

          Joomla! 2.5: 9 fields at the top left of the page, a TINY editor area that's hidden below the fold(!!!), 5 very long sliders at the right hand page, scroll all the way to the bottom to find the scary-looking "Article permissions". This page screams "BORDER CONTROL. HAVE YOUR PAPERS READY. VIOLATORS WILL BE EXECUTED." It certainly doesn't invite me to write content in the 10-line-high, narrow editor area.

          Joomla! 3: Two fields at the top, title and alias. A HUGE content area right on my face, inviting me to write profuse amounts of content. Basic controls on my right. Oh, and the sliders have now become much easier to access tabs above the editor area. Even better, the super ultra long slider content is now presented in two columns, requiring me to scroll less.
  5. Friday, 22 May 2015 11:03
    We and Joomla are competing against many specialized cloud solutions today where our target groups have different publishing options that are smart, quick, easy to use and set up.

    Question for small business companies for Joomla to answer: why should I bother to set up Joomla as a publishing web system when I can create my own web site in 5 minutes for free 30 days and then pay 29 USD per quarter?

    One example: http://www.n.nu/ etc

    50.000 Joomla customers disappeared..? and analysis...