When redesigning or building a new website, picking a content management system (CMS) always requires careful consideration, because your chosen CMS will power your website for years to come and in many cases for the lifetime of your website.
In this article, we will compare arguably the two most popular CMSs in the world (WordPress and Drupal).
Let’s start with some similarities, because there are many, and then we will tackle some crucial differences.
WordPress and Drupal similarities:
- Themes – WordPress and Drupal compatible themes are plentiful and easy to find, with thousands of available themes on TemplateMonsterand Theme Forest. Also, you can find many themes on WordPress.organd Drupal.org
- Extensibility – because of their popularity, both CMS’ have a large and active development community, so most popular plugins and add-ons are available on both platforms.
- Localization – both CMSs support multilingual sites.
- Technology – Both solutions are open source (free) and using a server-side scripting language (PHP) designed for web development.
- Installation – most WordPress and Drupal hosting solutions provide simple install scripts, so non-technical users can easily install the software.
- Hosting options – hosting options are abundant, and for most small to medium-sized organizations, Drupal and WordPress hosting costs will be similar. For large organizations, you have to keep in mind that there aren’t many enterprise-level hosting solutions tailored for WordPress, because WordPress is not considered ‘enterprise level’. Drupal, on the other hand, has a few good enterprise-level hosting options.
- Development Support – WordPress and Drupal developers are plentiful and reasonably priced. However, you shouldn’t assume that a WordPress developer can work on a Drupal solution, and vice versa. While sharing the same programming language, Drupal’s and WordPress’ technical architecture is very different, so most developers typically specialize in one or the other.
What are the differences?
- Usability – With its latest version, Drupal has made vast user interface (UI) and usability improvements, but most content editors still prefer WordPress and find it easier to use. Also, most people recommend WordPress for this very reason.
- Implementation effort – implementing/building a website on WordPress is pretty straightforward, hence why it is the most popular CMS in the world. Non-technical users can quickly pick a design theme and have a functional WordPress website in a few weeks. Drupal, on the other hand, requires more effort and some technical knowledge.
- Security – most experts agree that Drupal is more secure, and it’s hard to argue with this assessment, because many government websites (e.g. whitehouse.gov) are on Drupal, while none are on WordPress. Having said that, unless you are storing sensitive data on your website, WordPress’ security is adequate. Also, it’s important to note that most security vulnerabilities come from third-party plugins and modules, and not the CMS itself.
- E-Commerce – there are more than a few good e-commerce solutions for both CMS platforms, but there are some important differences. Most WordPress e-commerce websites use WooCommerce, and in our opinion, it is the best e-commerce solution for beginners. It has all the features you would ever need, with an easy to use interface, and it integrates with numerous 3rd party services like Stripe (credit card processing), PayPal, and USPS (shipping). With Drupal, you have a tougher decision to make, because Commerce 2 (Drupal’s latest e-commerce offering) is still in beta, so it is not fully baked and lacks some important features. Alternatively, you can use Ubercart (most popular e-commerce offering for Drupal), but all the recent momentum is behind Commerce 2. Also, Drupal e-commerce solutions typically require some development.
- Scalability – from day one, Drupal was built to support customization, so it is a much better fit for large websites. While WordPress evolved from a blogging platform, so it is best suited for simple websites.
- Performance – for most organizations both CMSs will perform just fine. However, Drupal’s architecture is better suited for high traffic websites (10,000+ visits per day).
- Multi-sites – while multi-site creation is slightly easier on WordPress, Drupal is much better at handling a large number of multi-sites (10+).
- Customizability – without question, Drupal’s technical architecture makes it a better fit for heavy customization.
In summary, WordPress and Drupal are both excellent content management systems, but with different objectives. WordPress focuses on ease of use, and Drupal focuses on customization and extensibility. So which is better? It depends on your current and future requirements.
WordPress is a good fit for:
- Non-technical users
- Small organizations with limited resources (staff, budget, access to developers, etc.)
- Business owners looking for a vanilla website (simple website with no customization)
- Businesses look for easy to use e-commerce solution
Drupal is a good fit for:
- Larger organizations which typically need some customization
- When building an online platform (multiple websites, numerous integration, custom modules, etc.)
- Websites with heavy traffic (10,000+ visits per day)
- Organizations where security is of the utmost importance
- Businesses looking for an e-commerce framework to handle complex/custom functionality
In summary, many organizations select a CMS with the most features but only end up using 30-40% of them, so don’t bite off more than you can chew. Thinking about the future (your website needs in 2-5 years) is important, but your current requirements are more important.
Finally, changing the look and feel of your website is relatively easy, but moving from one CMS to another is often difficult, time-consuming, and costly, so take your time when evaluating CMS options to make sure you select the right fit.