Drupal vs WordPress: What’s the difference?
What is a CMS?
A content management system (CMS) is a platform that allows users to manage website content without the need to understand website code, often using text editor interfaces similar to popular word processing applications.
A professional website developer will often build a website using a content management platform. Marketing teams will then use the CMS for the on-going management of the website content. As WordPress specialists, Versantus have put together this guide to help you determine the best CMS for you.
Depending on the capabilities of the chosen CMS and permissions assigned, users may have the ability to:
- Create new pages
- Post news/blog items
- Add images
- Embed videos from YouTube, Vimeo etc.
- Edit header and footer content, including menus
- Create contact forms
- Add SEO data
There are a variety of platforms to choose from, including paid-for ‘closed source’ solutions such as Adobe Experience Manager, Sitecore, Kentico, as well as free ‘open source’ CMS systems like Joomla, WordPress and Drupal. If you want to learn more, we've written a dedicated post on closed source vs open source software and what it means for businesses.
The best CMS choice for your business will depend on a number of factors:
- Functionality requirements
At Versantus we have experience using open source tools, in particular, Wordpress and Drupal. We assist organisations in selecting and implementing the best content management system to meet their specific needs and objectives.
What is Drupal and how does it work?
Drupal is a CMS platform that was first released in 2000 by Dries Buytaert,orginially as a private offline message board, to communicate with friends. You can learn more about the history of Drupal on their website.
Today, Drupal CMS is well established as an enterprise platform and is used by global brands, governments, businesses and charities. It is run by the Drupal Association, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the on-going development and advancement of the platform.
In this time there have been a number of releases, with the latest being version 9 released in June 2020. Drupal ranks 4th in terms of the number of sites using the platform, behind WordPress, Shopify and Joomla.
Although in use on fewer sites, drupal is used by more high traffic websites than any other platforms.
What is Wordpress and how does it work?
WordPress CMS was released in 2003 by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little and was originally a blogging platform.
Now run by Automattic, who continue to develop and drive the platform forward along with contributions to a number of other related open source projects.
WordPress has also been through a number of iterations and is now on version 5. It is used by 38% of the world’s websites and makes up over 60% of the CMS market (source W3Techs), so it’s fair to say it is the most popular CMS platform by far.
WordPress vs Drupal
Based on popularity you might be thinking that the clear choice for your website is WordPress, however, it is important to consider why Drupal web design tends to be chosen for higher traffic websites.
Ease of Use
Many people consider WordPress to be the easiest platform to use from both a developer and a CMS management perspective.
In fact, part of the reason for its success and proliferation is down to the fact that at a basic level WordPress websites can be set up without the need for development skills, especially when using pre-built themes which are available at relatively low cost.
Drupal websites on the other hand are more complicated to build and have traditionally been known as ‘a developers platform’ for this reason. However, this is not necessarily true for users managing the site within the CMS and in fact, it’s really down to how well the site has been implemented. Drupal can be just as intuitive and offer a great deal of flexibility and control, especially to larger marketing teams and content editors.
Both CMS platforms offer a great deal of ‘out of the box’ functionality and are extendable using plugins/modules. In fact, one of the key benefits of open source software is that lots of additional features have already been developed and are therefore considerably lower cost than having to develop from scratch.
Some examples of common functionality that plugins can provide are:
- Multilingual for global audiences (Drupal 8/9 supports this as standard)
- SEO tools to improve search engine rankings
- Security to provide further protection
- Caching to improve performance
- Galleries to provide richer use of media
- Web forms to capture leads/enquiries
- Payment gateway integrations for e-commerce
Drupal modules are mainly free, whereas WordPress has both free and paid commercial plugins to extend the software. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage.
The opportunity to develop and earn revenue from CMS WordPress plugins has resulted in a vast library of plugins to choose from with lots of great features, often at relatively low cost. However, there is less quality control and anyone can publish a plugin, which means there are a large number of poor quality plugins, which can impact a number of things including:
- Performance & speed
- Mobile experience & general usability
Technically, both Drupal and WordPress are secure, however, many consider Drupal to be the most secure of the two. Given that WordPress lends itself to being built by users with a wider range of technical ability, this inevitably results in some poorer quality implementations and therefore less secure websites.
Third party plugins are also a key security challenge with WordPress as these can make the site vulnerable to malicious hacking. This is due to the lack of quality control in approving plugins. Therefore to maintain security is important to use well known/trusted plugins.
So whilst both are secure at their core, the way in which they are built and maintained, like any software, will dictate how secure the final solution actually is.
For delivering simple brochure websites that look great and are easy to manage, both platforms are more than capable.
The plugins/modules also add a great deal of flexibility and it's possible to extend both with feature rich and robust ecommerce plugins; WooCommerce for Wordpress and Drupal Commerce for Drupal - as the name suggests.
Drupal really comes into its own with more complex requirements, it’s more flexible to integrate with third-party solutions, it can support thousands of users and complex permissions/workflows. It is an excellent choice for organisations that need enterprise software to scale with their business.