Grapic dots

Drupal vs. WordPress

Glenn

What’s the difference between Drupal and WordPress? Why would a business choose one over the other? Once you’ve seen one Content Management System (CMS), you’ve seen them all, right? These are some of the most common questions we hear from prospects and clients. Unfortunately, there is not a winner-takes-all answer here. Sometimes Drupal is a better fit for the project and sometimes WordPress is a better fit.

We often talk about the purposeful web: sites and applications that “do something,” not just “say something.” At the highest and simplest level, this is also a good way to differentiate WordPress (created for sites that say something) and Drupal (created for sites that do something).

While there are no absolutes when using one platform over the other, below we cover what each delivers best, and flavor it with how the attributes achieve the purposeful web.

Drupal

Drupal (and Drupal 8, in particular) is a powerful platform which allows you to manage customized and flexible content, delivering it via a variety of channels. You can use it as a traditional CMS to display content on your website or you can use it as a user-friendly administration area to manage content for native iOS/Android apps, point-of-sale systems or business process applications. Apps and sites can range from informational content to material with a deep level of interactivity.

The power of Drupal lies within its flexible content architecture. You can quickly create customized types of content which allow for easy administration and contextual display. For example, let’s assume you want to display a staff member’s profile. You can create a form which captures that information in, say, a dozen different fields and then create multiple display modes, depending on if the displaying page is best suited for a teaser view, a full-page view, an iOS application, an iWatch display, etc.

Browser screenshot of content types inside a Drupal site

WordPress

WordPress is built around a wonderful idea: Make the web easy. It touts its famous five-minute installation process, offers thousands of pre-built, great looking themes for around $50 each and a simple administration interface.

Screen shot from inside a Wordpress website dashboard

This simplicity is achieved because, generally, WordPress sites are built on known, traditional website elements. For example, there will be ‘pages’ (e.g. “about us” or “privacy policy”) consisting of title, body and a featured image field. As another example, there will be ‘posts’ (e.g. blog articles) consisting of the same fields as pages, but also allow you to tag them with keywords.

These known elements allow for generic themes to be built, and these themes work well for many cases. At approximately $50 each, the economy of scale enables developers to generate revenue and pump out websites which look different but all have the same, basic functionality. This off-the-shelf solution, generally, works well for sites that are informational-only (web sites that ‘say something’) and which do not require any significant user engagement or interactivity. If site requirements are covered in the ‘pages’ and ‘posts’ content types referenced above (and the business or user goals of the site are unlikely to evolve into anything more complex in the future) then WordPress is a good fit.

Attributes

The list below, while greatly simplifying the topic, offers guidance on the attributes of the two platforms, and when one is a better choice than the other.

WordPress

  • Simple, easy-to-manage website templates.
  • Ideal for brochure-style, informational sites.
  • Simple-to-use administration interface.
  • Great out-of-the-box media library management.
  • Less of a learning curve for development.
  • Cheaper to build and maintain.
  • Thousands of “off-the-shelf” themes to quickly spin up a good-looking site.

Drupal

  • For more complex sites or apps that need to go “off-the-page” to deliver engagement.
  • Customizable to the criteria of the project and business.
  • Scalable from simple websites to the most trafficked sites on the web, such as www.weather.com.
  • Allows more granular user access control to enable custom workflows.
  • Built-in caching for higher performance and faster page loads.
  • Significantly reduces security vulnerabilities.
  • Drupal sites can realign, scale, and integrate as the business needs change without hitting limitations.

Summary

Although the Drupal vs. WordPress question is a common one, we feel the launch of Drupal 8 enables us to finally draw a line through any debate. They are both great tools but work in very different spaces. The idea of Drupal vs. WordPress competing belongs in the past. There is a distinction and boundary between these platforms and the needs they fulfill are drifting further and further apart.

WordPress currently has a stranglehold on the traditional brochure website arena but alternatives such as Squarespace, Shopify, and Wix are becoming popular alternatives. These alternatives to WordPress deliver the same benefits: great visuals, are easy to use, and quickly solve simple problems. The less complex internet presence has myriad options and we are at a point where we can say Drupal may not be one of those options. Drupal does not try to compete in that space. The unique selling points of Drupal belong in a different section of digital implementations – not “better” but certainly different.

As the internet moves away from the idea of a traditional “website” (which WordPress delivers with aplomb) and surges forward to delivering the purposeful web, we feel Drupal is better positioned for the long term and is the better option for organizations looking to implement an ambitious digital strategy. Drupal weaves seamlessly through websites, native applications, wearables, point-of-sale devices, social media and third-party integrations. Drupal does not try to be all things to all people, but it views its place on the internet very differently to WordPress. It focuses on delivering digital solutions for businesses which need more than a traditional website. Drupal is not for everyone, but then again, neither is a traditional website.

Remember to start with the question: Does your website need to “do something” or just “say something”? The answer to that will help define the path that your web development should follow.