I recently had the task of creating a website using Joomla. Knowing very little about it going into the project, these are my impressions about how usable it is for a first time user looking for a simple CMS.
Installing Joomla was a piece of cake. I downloaded it, I uploaded the files (okay this part took awhile) and visited the install file. Make sure that you CHMOD
any directories that the instructions tell you too, so that the installation goes smoothly. Just follow the instructions on screen... and it's running, no problem here! When I installed it, I choose to have the sample content in place.
Adding content was a little weird to be honest. Not that it was hard, but it was very unfamiliar. First you choose to add content. You get a little WYSIWYG editor, and you fill in the information for your page. I learned the hard way that by default it logs you out of the admin seemingly very quickly so if you have a lot of content to write, make sure you save the text somewhere, or when you go to save it you'll get the login screen and it will mysteriously vanish. Once your content is added, save it. But you've only just started building the page really. Next you have to head over to the Module Manager. From here you choose what modules you want to have on the page. Let's say you have a poll that's on all of your pages. You can edit the poll to also include this page. Or, you can create a new module to only be used on this page. Every piece of content you want on the page, you have to add via a module.
Now, if the page was part of a menu category, then it would inherit all of the modules assigned to that category.
I understand this was all meant to give you the flexibility to customize each page how you want, but honestly, at least as someone new to Joomla, it just seems like a pain.
Changing The Style
The internet seems to be littered with websites full of free (and paid) Joomla templates. From the template manager I had no problem switching between them. I did find that a lot of the templates were from an older version of Joomla and required me to turn on legacy mode to use them. The amount of flexibility I was able to get out of each template varied a lot. Some templates had lots of options and others had very few.
Is Joomla easy to use? Well... once you figure out the basics I would say it's pretty easy. It's figuring it out at the beginning that might give you trouble. Would I recommend it? I guess it depends what you're looking for. I think you could probably build a pretty decent website using Joomla but it would never be my first choice.
Want to know what other people think, or share your opinion? Joomla Reader Response.
EDIT: Since originally reviewing Joomla I have had a chance to use it more regularly, and have since given it another star. Yes, there are things about it that I would like changed, but generally speaking... I like Joomla. It get's the job done, it looks nice, and it's easy to use.