This is part of a series of posts comparing WordPress to other platforms like Wix or Squarespace. These are closed-source services, so you don’t actually have full control over your website. This is a deal breaker for some people who will prefer open source WordPress alternatives like Joomla and Drupal.
In this post, I will give you a detailed comparison of Drupal vs WordPress.
Drupal and WordPress: a brief introduction
WordPress has been around for about two decades. It is a completely free and open source content management system that you can use to build all kinds of websites. WordPress is the most popular platform for building websites.
There are two different versions of WordPress: the open source project at WordPress.org and the WordPress.com version which will host your WordPress website for you. In this post we will compare Drupal with the open-source version.
This will probably be hard for you to believe, but Drupal has been around longer than WordPress. You are right. Drupal was created in 2000 and became an open source project in 2001. Drupal may not be as popular as WordPress when it comes to numbers. However, it still powers about 2% of all websites.
In short, both Drupal and WordPress are free and open source CMS platforms written in PHP.
Drupal vs WordPress: ease of use
You can download the installation files for both WordPress and Drupal from their respective sites. These files can be extracted and installed locally as long as your system has Apache, MySQL and PHP support or programs like MAMP or XAMPP. The installation process is similar on both platforms where you set up a database and then follow the instructions on the installation screens.
You can also install Drupal using Composer which is actually the recommended installation method but not very beginner friendly.
Now let’s talk about ease of use. Drupal has historically been more difficult to use than WordPress. The UI is always pretty bland, and it’s hard to navigate the backend when you understand how to set up your own website as a beginner.
With a basic understanding of web development, you can be up and running with a basic WordPress website in about a day. This is not the case with Drupal where you will need to spend a significant amount of time learning the platform.
The lack of an intuitive interface and some common CMS features was a major obstacle for new users. However, things have improved significantly in more recent versions of Drupal and will only get better.
However, when it comes to ease of use, WordPress is still a clear winner. Ease of use is one of the main reasons WordPress is so much more popular than Drupal.
Winner: WordPress is even easier to use and more beginner-friendly, but Drupal is getting better all the time.
Drupal vs WordPress: Content Management
Not all blogs and websites have the same content management needs. A simple photography or gardening blog might have just a couple of content writers, while larger organizations will have dedicated teams with tens or hundreds of people managing website content.
Content management is one area where Drupal shines in WordPress. Drupal has a much more powerful access control system where you can create new roles and assign them permissions using the platform’s built-in features. Compare this to WordPress which comes with only 5 built-in user roles.
Likewise, you have more flexibility when it comes to creating custom content types and using taxonomies in Drupal. The built-in support for building multilingual websites is also the icing on the cake. WordPress requires you to use third-party plugins to access the same set of features.
How does all of this help you? Let’s say you are building a university website or some other forum where many users will post content. Using Drupal would be a better choice here because you can create more custom post types and assign roles to your liking to different users.
Drupal is much better than WordPress when it comes to creating and managing content on large websites. The more complicated the content, the more apparent Drupal becomes as the platform of choice.
Winner: Drupal has more powerful tools for managing content at scale.
Drupal vs WordPress: Design Options
Everyone wants their website to stand out from the competition in hopes of getting more customers or more revenue. An easy way to do this is with themes. A theme is basically a group of files usually created by a developer to define how a website’s content is presented to users.
Both WordPress and Drupal are popular CMS platforms, so many developers create themes for them. This means that you can easily find some free or paid themes to use with your websites. Since the platforms are open source, you can also build your own custom themes from scratch or hire someone else to do it.
The official WordPress theme repository has over 10,000 free themes while Drupal offers around 3,000 themes. However, the number of themes available in Drupal drops to 68 when you set up compatibility with the latest version of Drupal 10. Theme choices will improve over time.
There are many marketplaces like Themeforest that offer premium themes for both WordPress and Drupal. They are responsive and highly sophisticated, making them ideal for use in production websites.
Winner: WordPress wins this round by having more themes available to use with your websites.
Drupal vs WordPress: Extending Features
No CMS platform can provide you with all the functionality you could want in your website. The easiest way to extend the functionality of your WordPress website is to install plugins. The same concept exists in the Drupal ecosystem but these files are called modules.
Again, both WordPress and Drupal have a large repository of plugins/modules on their official websites. WordPress offers around 60,000 different plugins while Drupal has over 32,000 modules. You can also filter modules in Drupal based on the installed version. This reduces the number of plugins available to over 3,100 for Drupal 10.
It is evident that WordPress offers far more plugins than Drupal, making it a better alternative if you plan to extend the core functionality.
Let me clarify that Drupal is not far behind when it comes to the ability to extend website functionality. It has some very capable plugins. For example, let’s say you want to build an ecommerce website using Drupal. You can use the specially developed open source Drupal Commerce framework together with a variety of eCommerce modules.
Drupal vs WordPress: maintenance and costs
Properly maintaining a website is just as important as building a website, if not more so. Both WordPress and Drupal release updates on a regular basis to add new features and fix security vulnerabilities. Any plug-ins or modules you may have installed should also be updated and tested for full compatibility with the rest of the website.
Updating Drupal has been a pain forever. It’s a difficult and time-consuming process that can get expensive at times. On the other hand, updating WordPress is much easier, faster, and beginner-friendly. Drupal has taken some steps to streamline the upgrade process. However, it still has a long way to go before it becomes as capable as WordPress.
The availability of free themes, plugins, and modules keeps the development cost relatively low for regular websites built using Drupal or WordPress. However, using Drupal means you’ll have to spend a relatively larger amount of money on developers because you won’t be able to handle a lot of things yourself.
Winner: WordPress will be easier and cheaper to maintain in the long run.
Both Drupal and WordPress are excellent CMS platforms for building websites. They have their strengths and weaknesses.
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WordPress was developed with ease of use in mind and delivers results in this regard. You can get started faster with WordPress as long as you don’t build too complicated websites. Drupal is best suited to complicated projects where the content goes beyond regular blog posts.