Drupal vs. WordPress


Just to be clear, the purpose of this post is to explain why we feel a Drupal-based website has advantages over WordPress for many larger web sites we design and develop . Don’t get us wrong. We use WordPress for many sites (in fact you are on one right now) that don’t require advanced functionality and are truly just meant as an electronic brochure. In fact, we agree that WordPress has a much more user friendly interface than Drupal does when it comes out of the box. The difference comes in with our ability to customize the experience for you…

With WordPress, what you get is what you get. The interface is the same for all users and is in no way customized to how your company works. Think of it as a prefab house. You go to the builder, pick out your house and any customization to the plan is all superficial and not structural. If you want to drastically change the house later on to fit your lifestyle and growth, an addition will be required. In WordPress, any customization to the CMS’ capabilities are handled by plug-ins. In many instances, you will need several plug-ins to perform advanced features needed for your site. These plug-ins are maintained, for the most part, by a community of developers. However there is no guarantee that each developer will continue to support their plug-in. So, it is very possible that a plug-in could have to be replaced in order to work with the latest release of WordPress software.

Drupal is less of an out-of-the box solution and more of a custom designed and built home. The user experience will be tailored to your needs and your terminology. Think of Drupal being more like the exterior framework of the house before any interior plan has been laid out. We know the footprint, but we now need to design the interior to what suits you. Drupal would act as a shell for what ever custom CMS we would build for your company. Essentially, in the end, the CMS we end up with could be titled “Your Company CMS,” rather than Drupal because it will look nothing like it did when we started the process.

Another thing to keep in mind, the WordPress model calls for a major new release of its software every few months. Since it relies heavily on outside plug-ins, one release could break your whole site due to incompatibility with a plug-in. Drupal comes out with a major release every couple of years and all releases are guaranteed to be backwards compatible. In fact, we don’t even upgrade our websites to the latest version because we completely customize the code to the point where we have already coded in any new functionality the new releases may bring to the table.

We understand many people have had a bad experience with Drupal or another CMS (such as Joomla) and have been turned off by it. In our experience, this is typically due to the programmer’s and the user interface designer’s lack of knowledge. Sadly many firms stop at the website itself and don’t take into account the needs of the administrator to easily access, create and publish content. We develop a customized experience in the back-end to help prevent frustration and make the administrator’s job as easy and intuitive as possible.

One of the arguments we have heard for WordPress is the fact that they have a large community developing plug-ins to extend its capabilities. We agree, there are a lot of people trying to improve WordPress. Drupal also has an active developer community, however they are not working on items to extend Drupal’s capabilities, because that is typically handled by each developer in order to customize the site’s functionality for the client’s needs. They have been hard at work improving the user interface.

The latest release of Drupal was several years in the making and they listened to many of the complaints heard around the world about Drupal’s out of the box “developer focus”. The latest release (Drupal 7) has taken quite a few hints from WordPress. If we WERE to use it as it ships, the experience would be vastly different than it was just six months ago.

SEO is another topic we hear quite often. Both systems handle basic tasks similarly, however to get some of the advanced options that Drupal has built in, WordPress requires yet another plug in. Important SEO features in Drupal include:

  • Advanced URL Control — Unlike WordPress, Drupal gives us precise control over URL structure. Each item of content in Drupal can be given a custom URL. In WordPress you are generally limited to predefined formats.
  • Taxonomy — Drupal has a powerful taxonomy (category) system that allows you to organize and tag content.
  • Page Titles and Meta Tags — Drupal’s Page Title Module gives you custom control of your HTML <title> elements, while the Meta Tags Module gives you control over your pages’ individual meta description tags. This is difficult in some content management systems, but it’s easy with Drupal.