WordPress vs Drupal: which should I choose?

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What’s the difference between WordPress and Drupal?

That’s a question I hear often, and it’s an understandable question.

WordPress and Drupal are both open-source content management systems (CMS) that are very well known. Both have their strengths and weakness.  But which one you choose really should depend on your site’s needs.

Standard Beagle specializes in open-source development, and we work with both WordPress and Drupal. There are features and functionality we like about both of them.

Both are search engine friendly. Search engines are platform agnostic. So as long as Drupal and WordPress sites are developed using best practices they do well with search engines.

Both can be fast. Drupal handles this better right out of the box; WordPress can be optimized by a skilled developer. Again– best practices are important.

Both are secure. It’s just plain not true that WordPress is more prone to hacking than Drupal. Any site that isn’t maintained appropriately, uses flimsy usernames and passwords, and is hosted on servers that aren’t maintained won’t be secure. WordPress just happens to have a larger market share so it’s a larger target. The key is to implement best practices and make sure you’re hosting your site with a reputable company that takes security seriously.

When we recommend one or the other, we take a number of things into consideration.

WordPress

WordPress is a CMS that began as a blogging platform. It’s incredibly flexible and extremely popular, so it is the most common open-source CMS in use across the globe.

It excels with small businesses and sites that have a lot of content, especially news outlets. That’s not to say that WordPress can only be used for small sites. Not true at all. We’ve used WordPress on small, medium, and larger sites, but large and enterprise sites require more planning and attention. It’s important to understand how the database is structured and what should be done to allow it to scale. This might be a task more appropriate for a development agency, like Standard Beagle, or someone who truly does PHP development.

Things to consider about WordPress

Ease of Use

WordPress is often our go-to when clients ask for a website administration that is easy to use. We train our clients so they are familiar with their dashboard and understand how to update and add content. Usually they are off and running after that.

Multiple Authors

Because of its roots as a blogging platform, WordPress handles multiple authors and roles very well. That’s not to say that you can’t do the same with Drupal, but this is an area that WordPress wins.

Seamless updates

The WordPress core upgrades are fast and easy. The only worries here are usually whether the theme and plugins will conflict or not. If a site is consistently maintained, it should not be an issue.

Community of developers

There is a large community of developers who support and develop in WordPress. This is an advantage if you need to find someone to help you with your site. Not all developers are created equal, as I talk about in this article (link to another blog post), but it will definitely be easier to find professional help.

Theme and Plugin Market

WordPress also has a robust plugin and theme market. Themes allow site owners to set up and launch more quickly, particularly if they want to configure the site out of the box. Plugins provide additional functionality outside the WordPress core.

By contrast, Drupal has a few themes that are ready to use, but most developers will advise against them. They recommend Drupal starter themes by contrast. Drupal is intended for custom development.

I also caution site owners to be careful when choosing WordPress themes and plugins. Many all-in-one themes are bloated and can slow down a site. Sometimes plugins can clash with each other. But all in all, there is a lot to choose from.

Cost

WordPress is free to download and install, but your overall budget will depend on your goals and needs. You can set up a free theme and customize it yourself for very little or you can hire someone to develop a custom theme. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. WordPress can be done well, or it can be done very poorly. I’ve cleaned up and fixed numerous WordPress sites that were set up without understanding the consequences of this choice or that one.

WordPress has a lot going for it. And in the hands of a skilled developer, WordPress sites don’t have to look or act WordPress sites. Agencies like ours can also implement custom functionality not possible out of the box.

Drupal

Drupal is a CMS built by developers for developers. It’s intended for custom development. You can set up a ready-made theme on Drupal yourself, but it’s not really intended for that purpose. Also, while Drupal isn’t hard, it can be complex. If you don’t understand how it works, you might miss a lot of the advanced functionality that makes it powerful.

I think Drupal wins when it comes to large sites managing a lot of complexity. In contrast to WordPress, Drupal is built to scale right from the get-go. It can easily handle small sites as well as large. This is why it tends to be the open-source choice for governmental entities.

Things to consider about Drupal

Strong functionality

Drupal has far more features and functionality built into it than WordPress. Drupal already has a lot of modules and power built in, whereas you may need to add plugins to WordPress for similar functionality. Its user permissions are also more advanced.

Some blog articles claim Drupal is complex and hard to use. It isn’t really hard to use.

It’s hard to learn to use, but that’s just a side effect of its strength. If you have a skilled developer or agency, the functionality will be easier to take advantage of.

Scaling

There’s a reason why large governmental agencies use Drupal — it scales really well. It can handle thousands of users and thousands of pages of content, which can be a challenge for WordPress. Drupal is also robust which makes it ideal for larger, complex projects.

Cost

Drupal is free to download and install, but, just like WordPress, there is a cost for custom development. Drupal development can takes a longer than WordPress, because of the need for complex functionality, so the overall budget will be larger. When you hire a Drupal developer or agency, they understand the ins and the outs of the platform and can make it work more effectively for you.

Bottom Line

The takeaway here? Before you decide between WordPress and Drupal, it’s important to understand your website goals and needs. You won’t necessarily go wrong with either CMS, but you may not be taking full advantage of features that would benefit your long term goals.

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