WordPress vs Drupal: Which One Should You Use?

By Megan Jones

WordPress and Drupal are both impressive content management systems (CMS). Both are free to use, open source systems that enable developers and designers to create beautiful and stylish websites. So which one should you use?

In this WordPress vs Drupal guide, we will compare the two systems to give you a good insight into what they offer. We will discuss…

  • Usability
  • Themes
  • Functionality
  • Security and Performance
  • Community and Support
  • Cost

Before we get started, I will state right here and now, that there is no ‘winner’ out of these two CMS. Both are great options, and the one you choose for your project will very much depend on the type of website you want to create, your web design experience, time available before your site goes live, and many other factors.

By providing you with comparable information on both WordPress and Drupal, by the end of reading you will be able to make an informed decision on which CMS is best for you. Let’s get started…

An Introduction to WordPress

WordPress

WordPress is currently the most popular CMS in use on the web, supporting over 60 million sites and powering 30.6% of the top 10 million websites (as of April 2018). Big businesses using WordPress include Microsoft, NASA, Sony, Walt Disney, Vogue, and many more.

This open source software is extremely customizable and well supported by a global community, making it an ideal solution for beginners and professionals alike. The extensive WordPress themes, plugins and tools available also ensure that users can create unique websites that can cater for any project.

WordPress top features include…

  • Free Open Source Technology
  • Easy to Use
  • Extremely Customizable
  • Thousands of Free and Premium Themes and Plugins
  • Global WordPress Community

To clarify, when we discuss WordPress in this article we are referring to WordPress.org, not WordPress.com. WordPress.com is a hosted service provided by Automattic, that although is built on WordPress, does not offer the flexibility or control that is available via WordPress.org.

An Introduction to Drupal

Drupal

Like WordPress, Drupal is an open source software, so anyone can download, work on, use and share it. However, in contrast to WordPress, Drupal usage numbers are much lower, with Drupal supporting just 2.3% of all websites worldwide. That said, Drupal is still used by some big global players. These include NBC, BBC, Amnesty International, and plenty more.

Drupal is a well established, safe and secure system, that has many loyal followers, advocates, and a thriving community surrounding it. With a modular approach, you can easily add any extra functionality your website may need, and create an advanced site to cater for any eventuality.

Drupal top features include…

  • Free Open Source Software
  • Advanced Built-In Customization Options
  • Powerful Functionality Through Thousands of Modules
  • Easily Scalable
  • Ideal for Large Enterprise Level Sites

So now we know a little about each of these two platforms, let’s next look in more depth at a range of key features to see how they compare…

Usability: WordPress vs Drupal

Whether you are new to web design, or a seasoned pro, the usability of a platform is an important factor when deciding which system to use for your new project. So let’s consider the user experience of both WordPress and Drupal…

WordPress Usability

One of the main WordPress pros is its usability. WordPress is quick and easy to set up, and takes little to no learning. For those totally new to WordPress, a good guide or video tutorial series is all you will need to get you started.

Once you have set up WordPress, there are numerous plugins and tools that you can install to help add functionality to your site. Or you can choose to opt for a built-for-purpose WordPress theme, that will come with near enough all the features and functionality you could possibly need for your particular niche.

WordPress also provides a selection of customization tools and options to help you configure your site in the way that best suits your skill set. Options for modifying a WordPress site include…

  • Page Builder
  • Theme Option Panel
  • Live Customizer
  • Coding

As you can see, WordPress offers something for everyone. So whatever your design experience, the flexible user experience provided by WordPress will enable you to still create an attractive and professional site.

Drupal Usability

Where the WordPress user experience is one of its top features, Drupal’s usability is ultimately what puts many off this CMS. Drupal has extensive features and functionality, and can be used to create advanced enterprise websites for any industry. But if you want to learn how to use this platform you need to be prepared for a steep learning curve.

One of the main issues with Drupal is the documentation. Mainly written for developers, there are no clear, easy-follow tutorials to help people learn the Drupal ropes. Even the installation of Drupal is not intuitive and takes time and a more than basic understanding of this system. For more information on the issues with installation and documentation have a read of this informative and amusing article Stranger in a Familiar Land written by Matthew Grasmick.

Like WordPress, there is a wide assortment of Drupal free and premium themes and templates that will enable you to quickly change the look and feel of your site. These themes can then be fully extended and modules used to add the extra functionality ou may need. (Modules are Drupal’s equivalent to the WordPress plugins). However, installing most of these features is usually best left to a developer, or at least someone with Drupal experience.

Usability Compared

There is no doubt in my mind that from a beginners perspective, WordPress is an easier option. Whilst Drupal can be used to create impressive sites, the design process will take longer and will involve intensive learning. However, if you have a background in web development then Drupal’s more intricate user experience will not deter you.

(It is worth mentioning that the Drupal community is committed to making the design experience easier for non-developers, and are constantly working on improving the software – so watch this space!).

Themes: WordPress vs Drupal

Many websites built with Drupal and WordPress are custom coded. However, for those who aren’t coders, or for anyone working under time restrictions, both offer free and premium themes to choose from. These themes will determine the appearance of your site, the layout, and the overall design.

WordPress Themes

WordPress Themes

WordPress provides thousands of themes for every type of industry and niche. The current WordPress trend is to provide themes full of features and functionalities (originally provided via plugins). This means that, if you want, you can purchase a theme that is actually a full website, ready to go live after just a couple of design tweaks.

You can also opt for a multipurpose theme, which will give you the design flexibility to tailor your site to your exact specifications. You can purchase a premium theme from a theme shop like ThemeForest, or from theme developers like us here at HeroThemes. If you would rather install a free theme, then check out the WordPress Repository.

Drupal Themes

Drupal Themes

Drupal also has a wide selection of stunning built-for-purpose and multi-purpose themes. And although they don’t number that of WordPress themes, Drupal themes still cater for any business or website type you could possibly need.

For those using Drupal who aren’t developers, a premium Drupal theme is a good place to start. Many themes built for Drupal 8 include site builders and content authors, making them easier to work with. Premium support is also often provided, giving you a helping hand if you come up against design issues.

Again, premium themes can be purchased from Drupal theme developers, or from theme shops like ThemeForest. Free themes can also be found on the Drupal Website.

Themes Compared

WordPress and Drupal both have a great variety of free and premium themes to pick from. Drupal themes, on the whole, will need more work, but part of their allure is that they can be extensively customized. If you opt for WordPress, there are so many themes to select from, you will easily find a theme that suits your niche, as well as your design experience.

Functionality: WordPress vs Drupal

Functionality is where Drupal really shines. (Although that isn’t to take away from the functionality that WordPress offers). Let’s take a look…

WordPress Functionality

Additional WordPress features can be added by installing plugins. There are thousands of plugins available, including the 55,000+ free plugins from the WordPress repository and the 4,000+ available from CodeCanyon. Whatever the functionality you need to add to your site, you will be able to find a selection of WordPress plugins that can help.

Drupal Functionality

Drupal has been created by developers for developers. And this is telling when you look at the functionality that Drupal provides.

Drupal has countless built-in customization options, giving you extensive control over your site from the get-go. These include flexible custom content types and taxonomies, advanced user roles, and support for multilingual sites. This functionality enables you to create much more scalable and complex websites, containing larger volumes of pages, content, and users.

Alongside this, Drupal has over 40,000 free modules. Modules are collections of files, written in PHP, that contain extra functionality for your site. Using modules is a powerful way to extend your site, and easily scale it as your business grows. However, to install or update any modules you will generally need help from a developer.

Functionality Compared

Drupal is by far the superior platform when it comes to functionality. However, if you don’t have a good understanding of this system then the complex Drupal interface and module options will ultimately cause much confusion, to the detriment of your website.

WordPress also has advanced functionality options due to the sheer number of plugins available, which can all be installed in a matter of seconds on your site.

Security and Performance: WordPress vs Drupal

Security

The security and performance of a website can greatly affect the success of your business. So how do WordPress and Drupal compare on these fronts?…

WordPress Security and Performance

WordPress was originally created as a blogging platform, so consequently does have limitations. If a WordPress site and its content volume get too large, the performance of the site can suffer. This can have a negative effect on not only loading times, but also the user experience and SEO.

However, for sites of an average size (blogs, small businesses, portfolio sites, etc) this isn’t a worry. You can (and should) also install various WordPress plugins, to optimize your site for performance, speed, and SEO. Hosting your site with a WordPress focused hosting provider can also help to resolve any performance related issues.

As for security, WordPress can be susceptible to high-level security breaches. Therefore, you should always take precautions to protect your website. Again, there is a wide assortment of free and premium security and backup plugins that you can install to help protect your site.

Drupal Security and Performance

Drupal has been created to deal with websites containing thousands of pages and users. The system was created for fast performance and requires less hardware than WordPress, making it quicker and more efficient.

Drupal also boasts enterprise-level security and provides up-to-date in-depth security reports. It has been repeatedly stated that many governments use Drupal because of its high-level security. However, interestingly, last year the US White House moved their site from Drupal to WordPress. (Although it is thought the reason behind this swap was cost cutting).

Community and Support: WordPress vs Drupal

Both WordPress and Drupal have a strong community. But it is the strength and support of the WordPress community that really stands out. Let’s take a look…

WordPress Community and Support

The WordPress community is a global support network, made up of developers, designers, WordPress businesses, bloggers, and site owners. Whatever your questions or problem, you will find countless articles, videos, and tutorials, guiding you through the numerous WordPress processes. You can also access countless forums, read up on the latest news and reviews on numerous WordPress blogs, attend WordCamps and other meetups, and much more.

If you purchase a premium plugin or theme, most of these products also come with premium support. This can entail ticket or email support, live-chat, or one-to-one phone calls to talk you through any issues that have arisen with your design process.

Drupal Community and Support

Drupal also boasts a strong community of over one million strong. Made up mostly of developers, there are numerous Drupal groups and organizations, meetups, events, forums, and much more. However, the downside of Drupal is the lack of support and documentation for beginners and those without extensive coding skills. If you have an issue, there is not the same level of support or sizable community to turn to, which consequently means that many have to resort to employing developers to extend their site.

Community and Support Compared

The Drupal community is strong and is committed to developing and improving Drupal for all. However, the WordPress community has far surpassed Drupal, with the support and documentation it offers for all its users.

Cost: WordPress vs Drupal

WordPress vs Drupal Cost

As mentioned earlier, WordPress and Drupal are both free to use. Therefore, to start a website with either of these systems you will simply need to buy a domain name and purchase hosting. However, as your project grows, both platforms will probably see you spending more…

WordPress Costs

To create a successful website that converts against your goals, it is advisable to purchase a premium theme, plugins, and tools. On the whole, the premium WordPress tools are far more advanced than the free options, have better support, and will ensure a quick set up and professional operation. WordPress developers can also be hired to create and maintain websites, but charges for these services won’t break the bank.

Drupal Costs

Drupal, in comparison to WordPress, has fewer premium products available to buy. However, unless you are a Drupal developer, then at some point in your site’s journey you will probably need to hire one. As Drupal developers are harder to come across, the cost is substantially more than hiring a WordPress developer.

Cost Compared

Whether you are using WordPress or Drupal, the cost of your site will very much depend on what you want to create. However, as your business grows, and you need to scale your site, premium products and professional services are pretty much inevitable. In which case, it is Drupal that will cost you more in the long term.

Final Thoughts on WordPress vs Drupal

Fundamentally, both WordPress and Drupal are very different platforms. The CMS you choose should depend on your personal needs and that of your project. Before making a decision, you should consider…

  • Your Skill Set – unless you have experience of using Drupal, or are happy to pay a developer, then you are best to stick with WordPress. This easy to use CMS will enable you to create a stylish website, whatever your design experience.
  • The Type and Size of Website You Are Creating – for large organizations and enterprise sites, Drupal may be the better option. For blogs, small businesses, and other projects that aren’t thousands of pages in size, WordPress is the perfect solution.
  • Ease of Use – Much of the Drupal user experience is complex. If you are looking for a relatively quick and intuitive design process, then use WordPress.
  • If You Need Advanced Features – Drupal is the more powerful option of the two platforms. To create a robust and advanced website, that you can scale as your business grows, you should consider Drupal.
  • Time and Budget – For those with time or budget restraints, WordPress is for you.

So, it’s time to make your decision. Will you use WordPress or Drupal to build your next website? Please share your thoughts on WordPress vs Drupal in the comments below…

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