As someone charged with evaluating Joomla! for your requirements, you want to find out as quickly as possible whether Joomla! is a good fit with your project. How do you evaluate Joomla! to see if it will fit your requirements? There is no one answer to this question, but this page will provide some suggestions.
Quick Technical Evaluation
Joomla! is built using PHP and MySQL, the most widely used web technologies anywhere. Joomla! is of course an open source project, as are PHP and MySQL. The technical design of Joomla! recognises that, although there are great benefits from using a pre-packaged CMS package to build a web site, each web site is different and there is no single approach that will work for everyone.
The solution is to make Joomla! as easy to extend as possible, while providing a rich and reliable core feature set. As discussed earlier, Joomla! can be extended in a number of ways, including with pre-built extensions, custom templates, custom template overrides, and by customising the core programs.
There are several resources that can help you to get a high-level view of the overall capabilities of Joomla!.
Web sites running Joomla
One way to evaluate a CMS package is to look at Web sites that run on it. It is impossible to say exactly how many Web sites run Joomla, but we do know that over 30 million copies of the software have been downloaded since March 2007. Joomla is the world's most popular full-featured Content Management System (CMS) and powers approximately 2.7% of the largest 1,000,000 Web sites in the world. 
Joomla maintains The Joomla! Community Showcase that allows you to look at a number of sites running on Joomla. Obviously, these only represent a tiny fraction of the total number of Joomla sites worldwide.
A simple demonstration site is available for viewing. This site contains a lot of useful information about Joomla features and its community.
If you are evaluating Joomla for a school, university, or non-profit organization, you might want to look at the Schools and Universities forum.
And, of course, don't forget to include all of the Joomla.org sites as examples of what can be done with Joomla, since they of course are all run on our favourite CMS package.
An important feature of Joomla is the ease - by design - with which its core functionality can be increased by installing 'Extensions'. This extensibility is a major strength of Joomla and a large and active third-party developer community has helped create over 9,000 extensions that are currently available, with more being added daily. Most, like Joomla, are Open Source, whilst the others are offered as commercial software. To get an idea of the variety of extensions available, visit the Joomla Extensions Directory(JED). It should also be noted that the JED does not include templates within its catalogue and there are many thousands of these available for free or commercially.
The developer community is just one part of a larger Joomla community. For example, there are over 425,000 active registered users on the various Joomla forums, with over 150 new participants every day. These forums are very active, with over 1,200 posts per day, and they provide a high level of free support to Joomla users. This support is given voluntarily by other community members. To get an idea of the types of questions answered in the forums, visit the Joomla! General Questions forum or the Joomla! General Questions forum.
An important question when evaluating any software package is the quality of support available. In addition to the support forums, Joomla has a large community of skilled Web professionals and consulting organisations who use Joomla to create and maintain a wide variety of Web sites. Take a look at the Professional Services forum to get a view of this community. There are also a growing number of local Joomla user groups.
Independent market studies
A 2009 report by the independent consulting firm water & stone concluded that "Joomla is the Web’s most popular Open Source content management system". Click here to read the complete report.
As part of the evaluation process, you may want to understand in more depth exactly what Joomla! does and how you create a web site in Joomla! There are two aspects to evaluating Joomla!'s functionality. The first is to understand the core functionality that ships with Joomla!. The second is to understand how extensions will be used in your site.
Joomla! Core Functionality
When evaluating Joomla!, it is useful to understand its core functionality. If you are new to web development and CMS software, the Absolute Beginner's Guide to Joomla! is a good place to start. You may also need some help with unfamiliar terminology
If you are more experienced, then you might prefer to try out Joomla! using the Joomla! Demo site. Or you can download and install Joomla! on a local computer, along with the Joomla! sample website. Instructions for this are contained in the Quickstart Guide. (Note that, to install the sample data, just press the "Install Sample Data" button during step 6 of the installation wizard.)
In either case, you can try out the "back end" administrator functions of Joomla! and see how you create menus, pages, articles, and other components of your web site. Everything you see in the sample web site is created with the core functionality of Joomla!.
As discussed earlier, over 9,300 extensions are currently available for Joomla!, with more being added daily. Although sites can be built using only the Joomla! core software, it is likely that you will want to use extensions. Most Joomla! web sites of any size or complexity include a number of extensions, and the identification of the major extensions that you will use to provide important functionality should be part of your evaluation.
Other Joomla! Customisation
Extensions provide pre-packaged solutions that require no programming to use. Another way to extend Joomla! is to customise it. Joomla! is designed to be extended and customised in several different ways.
The appearance of the web site—the colours, graphics, typeface, and so on—are controlled by the site's "template". Joomla! comes with three built-in templates, and there are many templates available as pre-built extensions. If you are familiar with HTML and CSS, it is not difficult to build your own customised template. You can look at Creating a basic Joomla! template Tutorial to get an idea of how templates work.
Since Joomla! is open source, any part of the program can be customised as needed. In addition, Joomla! includes a feature called "Template Overrides" which allow you to create one or more small customised programs that override parts of the standard Joomla! program. These programs work with the Joomla! core programs, and using them does not require modifying any core files. Template overrides allow you to easily customise almost any part of the way in which Joomla! renders a page.
Evaluators should also be aware of how Joomla! handles security issues.
- Joomla Security Checklist
- Security and Performance FAQs
- Top 10 Stupidest Administrator Tricks
- Secure coding guidelines (for developers)
Joomla Security Forums
Joomla Security Feeds