This is part of our ongoing series comparing Content Management Systems (CMS) to help you identify which is the right fit for you.

WordPress and Drupal: A Comparison

WordPress and Drupal are two of the best known CMS platforms operating online today. It’s difficult to compare the two, given their mutual histories and success. If you’re trying to determine which platform will best serve your quest to create a website – be it for personal or eCommerce purposes – this guide will share the each platform’s details and compare their overall accessibility, cost, and content customization processes. 

Let’s get started!

Drupal Logo

Getting to Know Drupal

Like WordPress, Drupal is an open-source CMS, or content management software. Launched in 2000, it is a platform that outdates WordPress. As such, it’s made a name for itself by as a Content Management System (CMS) for a number of significant and authoritative websites. These include, but are not limited to:
The Economist.
The University of Colorado.
The State of Colorado.

Drupal capitalizes on its outstanding security standards, easy-to-use web design features, and straightforward content creation process. The finer details of its add-ons and modules will be explored shortly – but it’s worth noting: Not only does Drupal provide you with a solid foundation on which to build your website, but it also offers plenty of room to grow.

Drupal Features

That’s a basic summary of how Drupal operates. What do its various features look up close, and how can these features help you create a unique platform?

Content Creation

One of the most important aspects of creating your own platform is the opportunity to design a personalized aesthetic alongside site functionality. A number of CMS platforms enable you to use themes to set up the initial arrangement of your content – and to then modify that arrangement as you grow more comfortable with the platform.

Drupal makes some themes available to users, but there aren’t very many pre-loaded into the platform. Instead, Drupal relies on custom-coded themes, or themes that have been individually customized to fit certain sites. As such, if you’re not familiar with the process of coding your own theme, you’ll either need to purchase one from a third party or bring on a developer to get the site-build you’re after.

Additionally, the process of customizing your site through Drupal isn’t all that easy for someone who’s new to the process. Drupal’s content creation interface is challenging to understand at first glance. The site’s functionality, however, is almost entirely built into the platform’s architecture, so there’s little to no need for third-party extensions to customize your website.

You can seek out additional extensions and modules for Drupal, if you like. A marketplace exists where you can purchase extensions that make the platform easier to work with. However, they do come at additional cost, and Drupal itself won’t direct you toward them or support them in any official capacity. Furthermore, integrating any extensions, plugins, or modules into a Drupal-made site will require a knowledge of coding, which means that inexperienced users may be out of luck unless they have outside help.

In short: customizing your home page and content through Drupal isn’t the easiest, but once you’re more familiar with the platform and the basics of website coding languages, you can really dig into its functionality without having to look to outside sources for help.

Modifying Your Content

How do you maintain or change the content you store on a Drupal-created site? The process isn’t exactly simplified. Much like with the site customization process, anyone unfamiliar with HTML and CSS may need to call in the help of a web developer to properly edit or change Drupal’s themes or content arrangement and layouts.

With that said, you will be able to ensure your SEO is properly configured fairly easily through Drupal. Unlike with its theme and aesthetic design, Drupal includes SEO best practice walkthroughs in its platform, so you can easily identify the keywords that best suit your work, and make sure your Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, and other necessary SEO pieces are in place and properly configured.

Finally, you’re always capable of reaching out to the open-source community, which supports Drupal and modifies its structure. The community is significantly smaller for Drupal than it is for WordPress, but they should be able to provide help in understanding how the site works. That’s one benefit of an open-source CMS – you’re never alone in trying to comprehend the features or determine which process is right for you.

Drupal Pros and Cons

With all of that out on the floor, how does Drupal overall look as a CMS?

  • For more experienced web designers, Drupal is the ideal platform for total site customization from the ground up (you control all the code).
  • You’re not obligated to seek out extensions, plugins, or modules to use Drupal at full functionality.
  • Drupal can handle significant amounts of data without a stutter – as compared to WordPress which can struggle under significant data loads if not properly configured/structured.
  • Drupal is not a CMS for beginners without coding knowledge. The site is effectively impenetrable if you’re going in without web design experience.
  • You’ll need a third-party hosting platform to get any site you create through Drupal up and operating online, as the platform does not have its own hosting capabilities.

Drupal may seem like an intimidating platform to use, in light of all of these details. How does it compare to WordPress?

WordPress Logo

Getting to Know WordPress

WordPress was founded in 2007 by Mike Litte and Matt Mullenweg, making it a bit younger than Drupal. That said, the platform is unquestionably popular, as it now serves as the home platform for nearly 70 percent of independent web content online.

Additionally, WordPress is also an open source platform, which has the support of a vast community of developers and coders. What does that mean for you?

It means not only are there many tutorials on how to customize your WordPress website, but there are countless plugins (free and paid) that can be used to add functionality to your website that would otherwise require extensive coding knowledge. Add forms to your site with ease using Gravity forms. Ensure your SEO is top notch with Yoast. All without having to write a single line of code for your website.

WordPress Features

WordPress’s reputation paints it as one of the easiest CMS platforms to use. Is that true? Let’s take a look at some of its features.

Platform Hosting

Unlike Drupal, if you are in dire need of saving website costs, WordPress lets you host the websites you create through its platform on its servers. WordPress also uses a dynamic database to manage all of its content. In layman terms, WordPress rebuilds your website from scratch every time it’s visited. While that may seem odd, doing so allows WordPress to store larger amounts of data without having to compromise its available creative space.

Content Creation

Drupal, as has been mentioned, relies heavily on designer-created code to personalize webpages made through its platform. WordPress does not. When you first create a WordPress install, you’re prompted to choose a theme. This theme usually doesn’t impact the functionality of your site (some themes you can purchase will have built in functionality outside of the standard WordPress system, but these are the exception rather than the rule). Rather, the theme establishes its initial aesthetic or visual design. Though WordPress requires you to choose a theme right away while you do the initial setup of your site, you can easily change your theme at any point.

Most WordPress themes will consist of four basic elements: a header, content area, sidebar, and footer. You can alter these elements as you please, turning most pre-determined theme into your own design with relative ease.

Functional Flexibility

The content you create for your WordPress site can vary wildly in nature. While WordPress, at first glance, may seem to be a more appropriate host for independent blogs or portfolios, you’ll discover that you can also use it for pretty much any web application you can dream of. For example, using the WooCommerce plugin you can transform your WordPress space into an effective and easy-to-use payment gateway for any products you’re selling. By using plugins (and custom code as needed), you can literally build any website you envision. This is why WordPress is the most widely used CMS on the internet by a wide margin. It is powerful, and flexible.

Modifying Your Content

WordPress’s real customization and power comes in the use of plugins. At the moment, WordPress has over 57,000 plugins available to its users, the majority free of charge. These plugins allow you to make your site entirely your own.

Check out some of our favorite plugins here.

You can also buy premium plugins on third-party websites, but in most cases that is not necessary; after all, look at the range of options you have. WordPress and their large development community goes to extreme lengths to provide all the tools you need to develop your website.

Compared to Drupal, WordPress’s reliance on plugins may seem like a design flaw. But in fact, this reliance instead gives you increased customization, ensuring that any creator operating on WordPress can make their site their own, while not including any unnecessary code for functionality you do not need. This reduces site/code bloat, and increases load times and overall code efficiency.

WordPress Pros and Cons

As you can see, there’s a fair amount of data on WordPress to consider. How does it stack up as a CMS platform of its own?

  • WordPress is almost entirely free to use, and you can make compelling sites without having to purchase a single theme or plugin.
  • WordPress is extremely beginner-friendly, meaning you can create a functional site without a lick of web design experience, and manage your site going forward without having to pay a developer for each content change you’d like to see made.
  • WordPress’s plugin library is vast and will help you further customize your site.
  • While WordPress makes eCommerce available through its WooCommerce plugin, if you need any unique functionality outside of simple sales (shipping for instance) there may be licensing fees associated with it.
  • Without extensive code knowledge (like we have) WordPress doesn’t let you create a website from a blank slate; you always have to begin the creation process with one of the thousands of themes available, and customize the look and feel from there.

And the Winner is… WordPress

WordPress, of the two platforms, is by far the most accessible and most flexible if you have limited code knowledge, or you’re interested in managing and updating your website yourself. Drupal, while a useful platform, is definitely designed with computer engineers and experienced web designers in mind, whereas WordPress prides itself in its accessibility.

What does that mean for you? If you’re looking for a more challenging site-creation experience, then Drupal is the ideal platform. If you’re new to the field of web design, however, you’ll have a far more pleasant time working on WordPress.

So once again it appears that WordPress is the more effective and accessible of the two platforms, and in the long run is just as customizable as Drupal if you have the same coding knowledge. The best platform for you, however, is the one that meets your specific needs. Ask yourself what, precisely, you’re looking for in your site creation, look, and functionality. We’re confident you’ll realize that WordPress is the best option.

Talk to an WordPress Expert

Want to ask specific questions and get advice? Reach out to us today and we’ll help coach you on how to get your WordPress website just right. No obligation or cost!

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