Both Drupal and WordPress are content management systems (CMSs) that provide a number of common features for developers, designers, and users alike. Drupal's origins are in turn-of-the-century message board site, but it has always valued flexibility and extensibility as a community of developers experimented with new features. Its most recent versions include a general purpose framework developed to provide a rich and robust set of application program interfaces (APIs). WordPress, while evolving more slowly from primarily a blogging platform to a full-fledged CMS, now offers a similarly impressive substrate upon which to build beautiful and complex web presences.
There are many sites out there built on both platforms, and selecting the best one for your particular web project is something you should take seriously. The platform upon which your site is built will determine how easily you’re able to update it and maintain it after launch.
(Full disclosure: We typically prefer to work with our own custom-built CMS, but have many clients who have opted to go with either Drupal or WordPress. We can handle them all!)
How They Stack Up Next To Each Other
Among their common features, both Drupal and WordPress offer the following:
- Defined user roles with configurable permissions. Users are all assigned roles which determine their access rights to various parts of the site and the activities permitted while there. Several roles are pre-defined, with provisions to configure additional roles with custom permissions.
- A vast library of easily modified responsive themes. Device-dependent user interfaces are quickly developed based upon the wide variety of commercial and free themes available for either platform.
- Numerous powerful SEO tools. Both systems have a vast array of plugins (or modules) to assist in maximizing traffic to the site and obtaining excellent Google rankings.
- Taxonomy classifications for content. Both systems allow for classifying content in taxonomy groupings, which affords easier access to the information that interests users most.
What’s So Great About WordPress?
WordPress has numerous unique features to recommend it, and has arguably become one of the most popular CMS options out there over the past few years. Among its benefits are:
- WordPress prides itself on its “5-minute installation,” which requires virtually no expertise. For those with limited training and experience who wish to build their own site, WordPress is the clear choice. Those interested in maintaining their own sites may also find WordPress more desirable simply because Drupal's installation, development, and maintenance are all more complicated and are often best handled by professionals.
- WordPress has about 10 times the market share that Drupal does. With more than 74 million sites powered by WordPress, this translates directly into more themes and plugins, a larger number of developers specializing on the system, easier troubleshooting via Google search, and a number of other advantages.
- WordPress offers the choice of free hosting at WordPress.com or paid hosting from third-party vendors. Drupal does not provide any hosting; only the latter is available to Drupal users.
- Great Blogging Tools: Wordpress comes with a fully-featured blog out of the box and you can start posting immediately. Your configuration time will be minimal.
What’s So Great About Drupal?
Admittedly, some of us at NPG have a softer spot in our hearts for Drupal simply because it’s either where we made our start or has proven to be a favorite of developers over the years.
Drupal has its own set of advantages over WordPress, including:
- Drupal is more powerful: Although Drupal was originally developed as a simple messaging board, it quickly changed its focus to providing a full CMS. As such, the developers provided a generalized framework with as versatile and secure an API as was possible. WordPress, in contrast, still differentiates between “pages” and “posts,” for instance, providing different behavior for the two. This and other legacy design decisions make WordPress primarily a blogging platform with additional functionality included to accommodate other applications.
- To that end, it’s easier to create custom types of content, users, and taxonomy in Drupal without writing code.
- Drupal's smaller install base makes it a less desirable target for hackers. The concept of “security by obscurity” is generally frowned upon in the security community, but the fact remains that a hacker's return on investment (ROI) for his or her time spent developing an exploit increases with the number of sites that it can attack. The ROI for a WordPress exploit then is at least ten times that of a Drupal exploit. Drupal's community also places a high value on security, which pays off on most Drupal Modules as well. There's a reason Drupal is a favorite for security-conscious government sites like WhiteHouse.gov.
- Drupal Modules are just about always free. This isn’t to say that you’ll always be able to install them on your own without the help of a professional, but they are maintained by the community. The Modules that gain traction with the community will tend to frquently updated and of high quality. Many of WordPress’s plugins, on the other hand, are developed by third parties and tend to be less stable for it. They can also cost money.
- Drupal performs better under heavy loads and is more scalable.
In general, most people favor WordPress for the vast majority of websites being developed and deployed. Blogging has become an important means of driving traffic to a site and retaining users' interest once they arrive there. Google is also continually striving to value content quality above all other considerations in its rankings. WordPress, as was previously mentioned, started out as a blogging platform, and remains largely true to its heritage. It is the most widely used platform of its kind on the Internet, primarily because of its ease of use and adaptability to supporting the type of dynamic content that attracts users and ranks well with Google.
For more diverse and complex applications, more robust sites, and sites which must operate under exceptionally heavy loads, Drupal really shines. If you have the skillset or the inclination to tinker on your own, it’s the closest you can get to a custom build. It is the choice of such Internet giants as Taboola.com, ABC-CBNNews.com, NBCSports.com, Ed.gov, WhiteHouse.gov, and many more.
Of course, we won’t ever tell you not to consider a custom-built site, especially if your business needs stray even slightly outside of conventional standards. But if your main concern is speed and ease, both Drupal and WordPress can provide you with sufficient tools to get your project off the ground and ready for launch in no time.