The Internet and its users have evolved at a breathtaking pace in the last 10 years. The latest generation has skipped the PC as means of connecting and jumped directly to smartphones.
Smartphones are changing the way people connect. Emerging markets like India and China are bringing complete new users to the internet. Internet giants like Facebook and Google are realigning to serve this ‘Next Billion’ with projects like internet.org and Project Loon.
The coming years promise to bring more exciting times and even faster change with the Internet becoming ubiquitous the world over in both urban and rural populations and the Internet of Things bringing even more variables and its own challenges and opportunities.
It's much easier to connect to the internet now than ever before
Few years ago there was Dial up. Broadband came later and was easier but now with Wifi and cellular data connectivity, it's super simple to connect. You don't need to be geek anymore to connect.
The volume of non technical, non super savvy users on the Internet is increasing
From the farmer in a rural village to a working mom in a city, users connecting to the internet are much less tech savvy than ever before. These are users that do not, and should not need to understand technology.
With the volume of new users getting on the internet increasing everyday, it is evident that the internet now has more of these end users than geeks. Based on this, it's very much logical to assume that these new users are not as tech saavy or technical than the earlier generation of internet adopters.
Change has happened, is happening and will keep happening. Change is the only constant.
Change for the CMS World
We are also seeing a change in the world of Websites, Content management systems and Website builder tools. There is a clear shift of 'End Users' preferring SAAS (Software as a Service) ready to use solutions. When i say end users, I'm not talking about site builders, integrators or developers. These are business owners, freelancers and all such end users looking for a fast, easy and cheap way to get their business online.
The shift in this trend is clearly visible if you see Google trends for CMSs in general as well as comparisons in popular open source CMSs.
Please note that Google Trends is not the most accurate tool to make major inferences on
but simply shows search volumes which is not necessarily always indicative
Wordpress sees a huge upward trend fuelled by the fact that it is the easiest of the CMSs for the end users we described above to use. However You will see that it has also suffered a major drop. The drop is so big that it's likely a correction in the algorithm. But some of it can possibly be attributed to the growing popularity of even simpler systems like Wix or the fact that for some smaller businesses, a Google Business Page or a Facebook page just makes more sense !
Joomla! is of course affected by this even more and the migration situations in older versions will have fuelled a further drop.
Drupal as you will see, never grew at the rates Wordpress or Joomla! grew and its target markets were always developers and solution providers. So the comparative impact on Drupal is lesser.
So bottom line is if you want to serve a bigger market today, your focus will need to be towards end ‘consumers’ who are looking for easy and simple to use solutions. These users are OK with less flexibility but need a solution that can fit their basic needs which is supported well and doesn't need them to do to technical stuff.
Even with all its simplicity Wordpress who is positioned much closer to the ‘Consumer Market’ is feeling the pressure for SAAS website building services.
Where should Joomla! go from here ?
Joomla is one of the better engineered systems in the PHP Open Source space. Yes, now it's 2016 and it needs to evolve … but what we have is good enough to work with now. While we should on one side keep looking at the future and evolve at the same time we should also best leverage what we have now and reach out to wider markets.
A good MVC architecture and extensibility via extensions makes it one of the best tools out there to build everything from enterprise websites to Ecommerce and Social platforms to full bespoke custom systems.
A lot of this can be achieved by knowledgeable system integrators as well as entry level developers in many cases without writing any custom complex code. If you are a developer/consultant comfortable with OOPS PHP and MVC your possibilities are endless.
Where Joomla! goes from here and how it should adapts will completely depend on what kind of users it would like to serve as its ‘first order’ customers. I believe Joomla has always been more successful serving System integrators, Site builders, Extension developers and consulting companies rather than trying to go to ‘end users’ directly.
Joomla as a platform is too generic to go to direct end users. It needs enhancements and enrichment towards ‘Specific end user needs’ to become effective in their context. Extensions add a lot of features and context to the user of Joomla. System integrators & sitebuilders as well as consultants play a big role in making Joomla ‘ready’ for various needs for the end users.
Who do you think are Joomla’s first order customers? Does focussing on them rather than reaching out to end users directly make sense to you?
Distributed distributions to take Joomla to the masses?
Specific purpose can go a long way in marketing and positioning a product. Not only that it also gives development a clear goal creating a product that's focussed on solving a certain of problems. The user interface also evolves with a more specific goal in mind improving usability by a huge degree.
In case of Joomla distributions could be the key to make this happen. While Joomla is more generic, Distributions created for specific use cases like e-Commerce, Blogging, Marketing Automation, Intranets, Elearning, CRM & customer support portals etc. could take the product closer to the end user’s looking to solve specific problems.
With a distribution the freedom to have a more focussed admin template and user experience, features geared towards a specific purpose make it much more ready for end users than a generic system.
While the core team keeps focusing on the framework and the CMS to provide a strong base for end user applications like these, a 3rd party ecosystem evolving around these in the form of ‘Distributed Distributions’ of Joomla can bring us greater coverage in end users.
Joomla will keep evolving to the needs of the internet and have what I like to call a ‘Joomla as Joomla Market’. But it's time now that we start to explore the ‘Joomla as something else’ Market as well. All users at the end of the day are Joomla users!
What do you think? Can this be the way forward? Do comment and let me know your thoughts!