Comparison Joomla! CMS ExtensionsMeasure twice and cut once!

This is good advice for building a Joomla Portal especially when comparing components.

Comparing Joomla! CMS extensions can be a real challenge and very time consuming but it is an essential step in the development process. You are going to want to make sure you choose the right components for the right job and make sure that they will be easy to support for the long haul. If you do not this can drive your (or your clients) support costs through the roof and leave you and your customers very frustrated.

The evaluation criteria I use are rather simple.

  • How do the features match the particular needs of the clients’ portal?
  • Who is the development team and what is their track record for longevity of support for the particular type of component?
  • Is this commercially supported by a professional team or a single guy that may become unavailable in the future?
  • Is the development team accessible and responsive?
  • What are other folks saying about the features, ease of use stability of the extension?
  • What are the technical skills of the site administrators and how easy will it be for them to maintain?

I may ask a few other questions but this covers the highest priorities in my process. Sometime this can be easily done in your head by viewing the web sites and reviewing feature lists once you have a clear understanding of your requirements and the expectations of your end users. However for more complicated extensions it may be a good idea to extract the feature list into a simple spreadsheet to see how the two systems compare. It may sound like a bit of an exercise, and yes it is, but if you have to communicate to a group of stakeholders it is a useful one.

Comparison case study:

One recent Joomla Extension comparison I made was for subscriptions management. Most of our installations use a combination of ecommerce which we have become the most familiar with the Virtuemart shopping cart extensions. However, the Virtuemart shopping cart system does not support subscriptions out of the box.  For subscriptions we have mostly used AEC Subscriptions but this does not integrate very easily with Virtuemart. To offset this they have implemented a way of offering ecommerce via a shopping cart configuration directly in the AEC Subscriptions extension. While AEC Subscriptions has very good tutorials on their web site for subscribers this is still rather complicated for the average user to implement.

The OSE Membership Solution is a great alternative since it seems to be a bit more user friendly to configure and it integrates with the Virtuemart Shopping Cart system via a plug-in. They also have several other plug-ins and companion extensions that further enhance related capabilities for security and access level control. In this case both AEC Subscriptions and OSE Membership have robust features and can offer significant value to your Joomla! CMS.  

However, if you do not take the time to make a valid comparison and review how they will map to the needs of your portal, the end users and the folks that will be managing the intended site, you could end up going down a road the either costs more than it should or will add frustration to the experience at many levels.