Joomla 3.0 - should I upgrade?

On September 27, 2012 the Joomla project released the much-anticipated 3.0 version of the CMS.

Although many additions and improvements have been made, the most significant change in this build is the adoption of the Bootstrap framework from Twitter.

Twitter Bootstrap instantly adds mobile responsiveness to Joomla — the ability to adjust the layout of the web site based on the size of the screen — making it one of the first open-source content management systems to become mobile-ready.

While Bootstrap adds enormous and clear benefits for site builders, add-on developers can also build their extensions using the Bootstrap elements baked into Joomla. This reduces development time and improves standards and usability for consumers.

Given the rise and popularity of mobile and responsive web site design, you might be tempted to upgrade a previous Joomla version to Joomla 3.0.

However, you must consider a number of factors to decide if Joomla 3.0 is right for you.

Understanding release cycles

The Joomla project releases a major version of it’s software approximately every 2.5 years.

At the start of this 2.5 year block, an early version of the software is released with new features and changes that break backwards compatibility to previous versions of Joomla. This first release is designated X.0 (i.e. Joomla 3.0) and is supported with maintenance releases for about 6 months.

The second release is designated X.1 (i.e. Joomla 3.1), typically contains new features and is also supported for about 6 months. Ideally, this version would retain compatibility with the X.0 version in the same release cycle.

The third and final release is designated X.5 (i.e. Joomla 3.5). This release is supported for 18 months and becomes the major version of this release cycle.

Not surprisingly, Joomla 3.0 and 3.1 (as well as 4.0/4.1, 5.0/5.1, etc...) are targeted primarily towards developers and testers.

Even if you consider yourself an early adopter, using the short term releases in production environments can result in unexpected issues, especially security vulnerabilities.

For example, a low-level security issue has already been patched with the release of Joomla 3.0.1 just 12 days after the official Joomla 3.0 launch.

In general, the chance of these issues arising drops as the the release cycle progresses.

Joomla Release Cycle

Can my current Joomla version be upgraded easily?

Another factor to consider is whether or not your current site can be upgraded easily. Simply put, the older your existing site, the harder it will be to upgrade.

For example, Joomla 2.5 sites can be migrated to Joomla 3.0 using the built-in Joomla upgrade mechanism that you are accustomed to. However, this currently supports only the core Joomla extensions. If you have third-party templates, you’ll most like need to migrate/update them manually after upgrading Joomla itself.

For older versions of Joomla — especially Joomla 1.5 and earlier — the upgrade path to Joomla 3.0 will require third-party migration tools such as JUpgrade. For small sites, many site builders are choosing to manually move the content rather than struggle with third-party tools.

Are my extensions Joomla 3.0 compatible?

Most extensions are not yet Joomla 3.0 ready, but like Anything Digital many vendors are working on Joomla 3.0-compatible versions. Before considering a Joomla upgrade to 3.0, ensure that all your add-ons — including the the templates I mentioned above — are Joomla 3.0-ready.

Should I upgrade to Joomla 3.0

In general, we recommend that you do NOT upgrade to Joomla 3.0. In our opinion, X.0 releases requires a lot more testing before they are suitable for production environments.

However, if you are prepared to handle potential security vulnerabilities or data loss, and you are a very experienced site builder with access to professional PHP developers, you might consider performing a Joomla upgrade in a development environment that does not impact your existing production site.

Under these circumstances, you can test the upgrade process in a controlled fashion and patch any issues that arise.

You can also test your upgraded site for security holes or other bugs that might affect the operation of your site.

Remember, Joomla 2.5 is currently in long term support through December 2013 and is still the preferred version of Joomla to use for production sites.

In addition, a number of Bootstrap-ready templates — such as Joostrap — are currently available for Joomla 2.5 so there should be no immediate need for most end users to upgrade to Joomla 3.0. 

Last modified on Oct172012
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