It goes without saying that both WordPress and Drupal are two of the biggest open-source content management systems available today. It’s also well known that WordPress has garnered a bigger user base since its inception in 2003, with a current user base that’s nearly 10 times that of Drupal.
Just like every other technical debate, there are proponents and opponents to each side. And for web designers who have yet to form an opinion or make a decision, there are compelling arguments for and against each platform. However, rather than consider popularity only, a wiser scheme might be to examine how each CMS performs against the key design factors, and then make the best decision for each client’s business, away from any personal biases.
Ultimately, the debate can be condensed into the level of user skill. Drupal comes with more features, making it an awesome platform if you know how to navigate around it, but there is also a higher learning curve that some find frustrating. WordPress, on the other hand, is much simpler to navigate, use and customize, but has less features. Let’s examine a few factors in detail.
1. Relative Ease of Use
This is one of the most important factors to consider, not just for you as a web designer, but for the client as well. If you have limited web design/development skill, Drupal may not be your first choice since it has a more complicated back-end compared to its counterpart. WordPress has a very user-friendly platform, and with the WYSIWYG scheme, it allows virtually anyone with some computer skill to set up a blog within minutes.
WordPress also has the advantage of a larger user community, meaning that chances of getting assistance if you run into a wall are higher. You can also gain tips from other designers’ experiences, which can help make your site better. Drupal also has a user and development community, and not a small one at that. It is, however, smaller than the WordPress community.
2. Upgrades and Edits
WordPress rolls out upgrades about 3-4 times a year, and this is effected seamlessly, meaning that the designer/webmaster will have little to do once the upgrade is installed. Drupal also makes regular updates, but their updates for Drupal core is not automatic. This means that a web developer must be engaged to handle the backend code.
WordPress has an excellent mobile app to enable editing on-the-go. You can write new articles and post them or edit existing ones as easily as you would on a desktop. Drupal also has a responsive user interface to enable easy access on mobile. However, Drupal does not have its own mobile app.
Plugins and themes are the easiest way to customize a website, transforming it from a standard site to one which is specific to a client’s needs. Insofar as these go, WordPress comes out way ahead with a repertoire of almost 37,000 themes and plugins, both free and premium-rate, to select from. Premium themes are more customizable, allowing you to personalize virtually every aspect of the website.
WordPress’s large plugin base is directly attributable to its huge developer community. The result is a high degree of flexibility when using WordPress, whether for a blog, portfolio, e-commerce store or official business website.
Drupal also offers a high level of flexibility with page types minus plugin installation. If you’re still after the convenience that comes with using plugins, Drupal’s version of the same are called modules and the best of them are premium-rate. Drupal does have fewer theme choices, meaning that a designer's input may be needed for the site to become what you think you want. Developers with the savvy can help you create a unique, highly functional site using Drupal, avoiding the chances of looking like someone else when you choose a theme from WordPress.
While both platforms are open-source (i.e. free), the site owner still has some cost considerations to make. For instance, it’s easier to find web designers and developers proficient in using WordPress than Drupal. Because Drupal has a steeper learning curve, the few designers/developers will have heftier charges to pay back their investment.
In addition, premium rate plugins in WordPress are typically cheaper than the modules available for Drupal, and there are a lot more free plugin options with the former than the latter. Website owners will also need to consider that as the website grows, WordPress will demand greater server resources.
Many of WordPress’s plugins come with inherent vulnerabilities, which open up a site to security breaches and hacks. This becomes truer if site owners/webmasters slack in downloading the latest updates and/or they don’t update their plugins once they get old. Because it’s so popularly used, hackers devote much of their energies to leaning towards WordPress’s vulnerabilities. However, there are third-party solutions that can help fortify your website’s security situation.
Drupal is without doubt the more secure option, with enterprise level security settings and an in depth security reporting system. This is why it’s a favorite with many governmental sites, like the White House.
Drupal has the ability to support sites of any size: from single-page static websites to sites with hundreds of pages and traffic by the thousands accessing pages concurrently. WordPress started off as a blogging platform and in the author's opinion has limited ability to handle huge volumes of content and traffic. In such cases, WordPress can offer a slower browsing experience for users compared to Drupal.
While search engine optimization is not platform-specific, there are certain things that make one better than the other. Both have some built-in SEO features, but Drupal is built to be specifically search-engine friendly. However, you can enhance WordPress optimization using a multitude of available plugins.
Drupal has faster page-loading speeds because of a robust default caching ability, and faster loading speeds are preferred by search engines. Also, because it can seamlessly handle larger amounts of content, Drupal offers huger volumes of relevant content, which makes such sites likely to rank better for queries.
For any web designer, it’s not a matter of which is better than the other. Rather, for each client, specific user requirements must be considered, bearing all the above factors in mind, before choosing the CMS platform that is the most suitable for their use.
Author Bio: Lalit Sharma is an SEO consultant who runs a SEO house called Ranking By SEO. He is specialized in link building and other SEO related activities. You can also find him on Twitter, Google+ and his personal blog.