Drupal vs. WordPress: Key Strengths of the Top CMSs
A frequent question in the open source CMS world is a variation of: “Which is better, Drupal or WordPress?”
Of course, there’s not a simple answer to the WordPress CMS vs. Drupal CMS debate. Many have a strong bias towards one content management system or the other, but often, staunch opinions on the subject are based on a few cursory facts or outdated information.
Both the WordPress CMS and the Drupal CMS have evolved a lot since their introductions in the early 2000s. In some ways, this evolution has brought them into closer alignment with each other, evidenced by developments such as the porting of WordPress’s Gutenberg content editor over to Drupal in 2018. In other ways, WordPress and Drupal evolutions have clarified distinctions.
Generally speaking though, in the current environment, the majority of sites can be supported equally well by either option.
Fierce Loyalists in Both Camps
That’s not to say that the WordPress vs. Drupal debate doesn’t still spark strong opinions. Both have their devotees. Promet Source has deep ties to Drupal, and over the past two years, we have broadened our perspectives and talent base to include WordPress advocates and experts. As such, we're well positioned to objectively cover the topic.
Let's start with a few key stats and facts about Drupal and WordPress.
Drupal Advantages: The Internet's Heavy Lifter
A modular CMS written in PHP, Drupal enables developers to leverage a flexible taxonomy system that’s designed to organize complex content types, set highly customizable user permission levels, and ensure web accessibility compliance with enhanced testing and tracking capabilities.
Launched in 2000, Drupal now stands as the third most popular CMS in terms of market share.
Drupal’s enterprise-level trajectory was launched in November of 2015 with the release of Drupal 8, which resulted in a complete architectural overhaul and the creation of an enterprise-level CMS. Subsequent versions, such as the June 2020 release of Drupal 9, are now intended to be incremental, more of a point release than anything resembling the total CMS rewrite that occurred with the upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.
As of February 2020, there were an estimated 1.3 billion websites on the Internet and Drupal accounted for:
- Roughly 2 percent of total websites and
- An estimated 3 percent of the CMS market, with
- 560,000 live, active Drupal sites.
Drupal Share of CMS Market
For reasons that include core support for multilingual sites, Drupal is often the CMS of choice for government, higher ed, large enterprises, and health care institutions. The NASA site is on Drupal site, as is Portland State University, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, and Martin County Florida. The White House website was on Drupal during the Obama administration.
Drupal has a diverse and dedicated community of contributors, as evidenced by 42,650 free modules that are available for download.
WordPress Advantages: A Pervasive Internet Presence
While websites with complex content models and data requirements gravitate towards Drupal, WordPress sites cover a wide spectrum of needs. WordPress accounts for roughly 60 percent of the total CMS market, primarily among small to mid-range sites, but a number of enterprise sites are on WordPress, as well.
Originally developed as a blogging platform, WordPress has maintained its appeal for non-tech types with a low barrier to entry. While it’s possible to set up a WordPress site without development or coding expertise, experienced developers frequently work within WordPress and leverage their knowledge of HTML, CSS, and PHP to build sizable sites with a greater range of capabilities for business clients.
Beyond the basics, WordPress offers thousands of plug-ins to expand functionality, outranking Drupal for ready-to-go themes that serve to fast-track development without the need for custom development work.
As of February 2020, of the 1.3 billion websites on the Internet. WordPress accounted for:
- More than 35 percent of total websites and
- 61.7 percent of the CMS market, with
- 455 million websites currently on WordPress.
For more WordPress stats, check out this recent post in WPCity.
WordPress Share of CMS Market
One conclusion to be drawn from WordPress’s impressive internet saturation: it’s a CMS that has proven to be the right fit for a wide range of different needs and has gotten many things right, from a wide ranging selection of plugins to an easy-to-use CMS.
Convergence of Features
As more and more Drupal developers realize the advantages within Wordpress, and other user-friendly CMS platforms such as consumer-focused SquareSpace and WIX that offer an easier to use back end, we are seeing new frameworks and features being added to the default editor within Drupal.
A multitude of no-code/low-code solutions, such as drag-and-drop functionality or component-based design, are finding their way into Drupal, due to the flexibility of the platform and providing marketers and content editors with greater flexibility and possibilities for making revisions to their sites.
Both Drupal and WordPress offer a depth and breadth of add-ons that extend functionality. These are called "modules" in Drupal, and "plugins" in WordPress. "Themes" that refer to a site’s aesthetics and user experience, such as design, layout, colors and navigation, is a term that applies to both Drupal and WordPress.
Unlike Drupal’s 2015 architectural realignment with the launch of the enterprise-ready Drupal 8, WordPress has never undergone that same kind of overhaul. The resulting difference is that expanded functionality for WordPress occurs at the theme/plugin layer. Much of Drupal’s functionality, on the other hand, is centralized within the ever-increasing core level, as the most frequently used and widely accepted Drupal modules are continuously incorporated into core.
WordPress functionality relies heavily upon themes and plugins, and many contend that this represents a strength. WordPress modules tend to be more complete applications, and the vast WordPress collection of themes and plugins provides a high degree of flexibility.
The flipside of this argument, and key factor that tends to fuel the appeal of Drupal for complex enterprise, higher ed, and government sites, is that there is an inherently a higher level of security and stability associated with working in core. Continued support for themes, plugins, or modules is not always guaranteed in either Drupal or WordPress, and their track record is not necessarily established.
Scalability vs. Complexity
WordPress has proven itself to be extremely scalable and the right fit for some notable sites such as time.com, which I mentioned earlier. The essential distinction which is often missed is not so much size or scalability, but complexity. Even though there are hundreds and hundreds of pages, on time.com, for example, the site consists primarily of articles. When a greater range of content types and complex data models are required, WordPress falls short and Drupal shines.
Acknowledging that both Drupal and WordPress are solid content management systems, and that there’s considerable overlap in the types of sites for which either would provide an excellent solution, Promet recently developed the following matrix in an effort to highlight the relative strengths of both options and open a dialog among our teams.
Here’s what we came up with relative to 10 key criteria.
Open Source CMS Comparison
- Open Source. Yes. Both Drupal and WordPress are solid Open Source solutions with great track records.
- Lamp Stack (PHP). Yes. Both use Lamp Stack PHP equally. Five stars for both.
- Enterprise Ready. Drupal: Yes. That’s where this CMS shines. WordPress: Yes and No. It’s applicable for some, not all, enterprise applications.
- Dedicated Hosting Partners. Yes. Both Drupal and WordPress have dedicated hosting partners, allowing for proactive maintenance, as well as heightened security, speed, and reliability.
- Available/Accessible to Novices. No for Drupal. Developing a Drupal site and understanding how to work within the Drupal interface requires distinct expertise and training. Yes for WordPress. A non-technical hobbyist or small business owner with a touch of know-how can find a theme that fits their needs and figure out how to build and manage a WordPress site, often within a few hours.
- Appropriate for a Brochure Site. No for Drupal. While it’s possible to create a straightforward brochure site on Drupal, there’s not much point in doing so when other, simpler options are available. Yes for WordPress. WordPress is ideal for a brochure and blog site. That’s what it was originally developed for.
- Has a Complex Content Model. Yes for Drupal. Complex taxonomy content models are where Drupal thrives. Not so much for WordPress, which best serves sites that don’t require the organization of high levels of complexity.
- Works for a Tight Budget. (under $10,000). No for Drupal. The flipside of Drupal’s ability to navigate complexity tends to be the requirement of considerable developer legwork and ramping up. Yes for WordPress. WordPress offers a greater range of out-of-the box solutions and, depending on requirements, it’s quite possible to build a respectable Drupal site for under $10,000.
- Design Theme Availability. Drupal: Somewhat. Drupal has a limited number of design themes that are ready out of the box. Promet has created a Drupal theme as part its upcoming launch of a component-based, drag-and-drop capability for Drupal. WordPress: Yes. WordPress has an extensive and robust design theme capability
- Community. Drupal: Absolutely. Drupal has a great professional community of dedicated developers, who regularly gather for training and information exchange (now virtually) at events, camps, and meetups all over the world. This is less the case for WordPress. While there are many professional WordPress developers, the WordPress community is more diverse and less cohesive.
Tracking the Evolution
Among those of us whose history in the CMS trenches dates back many years, it’s been very interesting to witness the evolutions of both Drupal and WordPress. At one time, Drupal and WordPress accounted for the vast majority of the open source CMS world. Together, they still account for a whopping 65 percent of the CMS market, but newcomers such as Wix and Squarespace are gaining ground among their respective niches, and GoDaddy has also just introduced a drag-and-drop CMS. At the same time, multiple closed-source website creations options have emerged that weren’t around as recently as a few years ago.
To an increasing degree, Drupal and WordPress are viewed less as competitors, and more so as members of the same family.
One big indicator of this trend: in May of 2020, Drupaldelphia, the annual camp held in Philadelphia for Drupal developers, site-builders, content administrators, and designers, was renamed CMS Philly. The event was largely dominated largely by Drupal and WordPress.
High Stakes Solutions
When the stakes are high (and when are they not), selecting the right CMS calls for careful consideration and expert analysis. The Drupal vs. WordPress conversation does not lend itself toward across-the-board rules or easy answers.
That said, the judgment and expertise of anyone who suggests that Drupal is always the answer or that WordPress is always the answer should be considered highly suspect. As the saying goes: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
WordPress and Drupal each have a definite place at their respective ends of the spectrum, with hobbyist or small business sites on one end and complex, enterprise-level digital experiences at the other. The vast middle ground between these two ends can be highly nuanced with no easy answers, but there’s a likelihood that either Drupal or WordPress would work equally well.
The main thing is the assurance that true experts with a depth of perspective and commitment to client success are doing the work.
Interested in an expert analysis of the CMS that stands to represent the right fit for your organization’s distinct objectives? At Promet Source, we have all the right people to help with that. Contact us today.