WordPress vs Drupal: which CMS is better suited to you?

Dusted have been building websites for years and one topic that comes up over and over is WordPress vs. Drupal: which one do we think is better? Well, right off the bat I can tell you that’s like asking what’s better out of a bowling ball and a tennis ball. They’re both the same from a distance but designed for an entirely different impact.

Sure, both WordPress and Drupal are Content Management Systems (CMS) sites, but that’s about all they have in common. Anyone who has used both will attest to their differentiation. That’s why we’re here to help you decide, once and for all, which CMS is better suited for you. To really get the in-depth, professional analysis I’ve been talking to our very own Dusted expert and front-end developer, Ilze. She’s got the know-how to tell us exactly what suits you: Drupal or WordPress.

Support

The first thing you should know is that WordPress is significantly more widely used than Drupal. There are more than 74 million sites powered by WordPress and counting, with 6 blog posts being published every second. That’s 59.5% of the market share of known content management systems, compared to Drupal’s 4.9%. This isn’t just an impressive market share, but also means there will be more community support for WordPress.

I asked Ilze if she thinks the support for WordPress surpasses that of Drupal: “I disagree that support for WordPress is better. There may be a greater volume available, but the support you get for Drupal is from people well studied in web development. They have greater understanding of the problems you might have and offer more technical advice.”

I see her point. The problem with mass appeal is that anyone can consider themselves a professional. Even I use WordPress professionally and I know less about developing a website than I do about writing a power ballad. However you can’t deny the comfort that comes from being one of millions of users, and knowing you’re probably not the first person to be asking your (stupid) question on a forum.

Development and usability

“If you have limited knowledge of website development and you need to get with CMS straight away, there’s no point in choosing Drupal,” Ilze tells me. “Drupal back-end is a lot more complicated than WordPress. With WordPress you can start blogging in minutes using the ‘what you see is what you get’ editor.” The ‘what you see is what you get’ editor (shortened to WYSIWYG, although no one knows why as it’s just as difficult to say or type) allows anyone to generate content for the web with automated HTML. One of the reasons WordPress is so popular is that it’s so easy to pick up. Almost anyone can get it and create a website with it, as you may have noticed from the endless self-made blogs about self-righteousness. While WordPress is perfectly suited for this kind of content, it is relatively limited.

“As WordPress was originally designed for blogs; its ability to handle really large volumes of content has been affected and can create a slower experience. Drupal’s pages tend to load faster due to its default caching features.” Okay, but Drupal can’t be that much more powerful, can it?

“Drupal can support sites from a one-page site to something that has thousands of pages and thousands of readers reading those pages simultaneously.” Oh OK then. Shut my mouth. That’s probably it, though, righ– “Drupal is also able to handle larger amounts of content. A large volume of useful content is important for SEO.” … –t?

Drupal is much more challenging to pick up and getting to a professional ability takes training and practise.  As Ilze put it: “Drupal developers will have had to go through the steep learning curve of getting to know Drupal.” As much as this might sound like a criticism, it speaks volumes for the depth that the program offers. In much the same way graphic designers don’t use an etch-a-sketch, a professional web developer needs professional tools.

Design

We’ve established that Drupal can handle more content and visitors, but requires training and practise in order to master. To get a better bang for your buck, you may be wondering what level of design customisation you get with Drupal, and how it compares to WordPress.

“If you want your project to be a unique design, then Drupal could be your choice. It offers flexibility on page types without the need for plugins. Drupal was designed with developers in mind and so the design possibilities are endless.” There are many, many plugins for WordPress – your design potential is only really limited to the plugins available. However, while many of them are free, to get some originality in your design you may need to pay for the plugin.

“With WordPress, there’s always the possibility that your website can look like your competitors’ if you go for a free theme,” Ilze explains, but Drupal has its own hidden cost. “There are limited themes available for Drupal. You’ll need a designer to help you create a site that is as aesthetically pleasing as it is user-friendly.” That means you’d need a developer and a designer if you plan on taking the Drupal route.

Security

With every digital business venture web security needs to be a serious consideration from the start. I had read that Drupal is considered more secure than WordPress, although I didn’t know why. Once again, Ilze was there to help.

“WordPress has many plugins that can have vulnerabilities and be easy to hack, particularly if the website owner doesn’t update to the latest version or the plugins get old. Or hackers target WordPress simply because it’s so popular.” Meanwhile, Drupal has “enterprise-level security and provides in-depth security reports”, which is why governments often utilise it to build their sites. Also, rather than having plugins to be installed, Drupal is a much bigger CMS that includes many pre-installed modules for better functionality. With less to manage or update in terms of plugin/module security, it’s easier to stay on top of your vulnerabilities. In addition to this, the relatively small market share of 4.9% gives Drupal the security of obscurity. Hackers are less likely to target Drupal simply because there’s less potential impact.

In contrast, WordPress looks attractive to hackers due to its popularity and its apparently endless potential in the form of plugins, this has been noticed by cyber criminals. The more plugins you download, the greater risk you take and the more responsibility you have to keep updated. In an age where data is as valuable as money (or often literally is money), keeping hackers out could mean the difference between a successful company trusted by its customers and a company riddled with a poor reputation and legal battles.

Which one is better suited to your purpose?

As I mentioned earlier, trying to claim one CMS is better than the other would be like trying to claim a chopstick is better than a fork for steering a wheelbarrow – they aren’t meant to be compared like that. You’re supposed to assess what exactly you need your website to be, how much you want to invest in it and what your strategy is.

“Drupal is a bigger, more powerful and flexible CMS, more suited for enterprise level sites. But if you don’t have the experience to develop your own website, or don’t have the time or money to pay someone else, WordPress is the option for you.”

Thanks, Ilze!