Drupal vs Wordpress: The CMS Showdown

By Ken Lyons October 07, 2009 Comments: 12

Drupal and Wordpress are two of the most popular, open source content management systems (CMS). Many websites and blogs run either Wordpress of Drupal chiefly because they are flexible platforms with large user support communities, and they're free. I use both Drupal and Wordpress in my day-to-day activities: WordStream runs on Drupal, while my personal websites and blogs run on Wordpress. So I have a pretty good handle on the advantages and disadvantages of both CMS platforms.

In this post, I'm going to offer my opinions on Drupal VS Wordpress with respect to:

  • Ease of use
  • Custom templates and free themes
  • SEO plugins or modules
  • CMS performance

So let's dive into the Drupal vs Wordpress debate and see which CMS emerges victorious.

Ease of Use

Out of the box, Wordpress has a cleaner, simpler user interface (UI) than Drupal. The Wordpress interface offers users fewer page formatting tools than Drupal, so it makes it pretty easy for the average Joe or Jane to dive right into blogging with little to no previous experience.

Drupal User Interface

Drupal user interface

Wordpress User Interface

Wordpress user interface

Even though you're given fewer formatting presets in Wordpress, you're certainly not limited to those options. You can still expand the Wordpress UI to the "kitchen sink," which features another row of formatting tools. But for the budding blogger, this extra row of tools is hidden so newbies aren't overwhelmed initially. Now, I'm not saying that the Drupal user interface is complex by any means. It's just that, relatively speaking, Drupal is not as user-friendly as Wordpress.

Note: One of my favorite Wordpress "kitchen sink" tools is the very basic "Paste as Plain Text," which lets me copy content from a Word doc and strip out the Word formatting to paste cleanly into Wordpress.

Also, with respect to installation and modification, Wordpress is easier to set up and get running than Drupal and it's easier to modify code on the backend, if you're so inclined. If you don't have background in PHP and/or programming, getting your Drupal system up and running effectively can be a slow slog. And the vast modular system can be complex for some.

Verdict: Wordpress offers better ease of use, with a more user-friendly UI. Also, it's easier to install, especially for the novice.

Custom Templates and Free Themes

Both Drupal and Wordpress are supported by a ton of fantastic free themes and templates, from basic one-column skins to the more advanced, "newsy" themes with multiple dashboards for various content feeds. But which CMS offers the most choices for free themes and templates? Well, my gut told me that Wordpress had more overall theme support on the Web, but I wanted to run a quick test to see if my instincts were correct. So as is often the case, I turned to search for answers.

Here are the results from some quick and dirty Google searches for theme and template queries:

Template Search Results

  • "Wordpress templates": 275 million results
  • "Drupal templates": 1 million results

Free Theme Search Results

  • "Free Wordpress themes": 44 million results
  • "Free Drupal themes": 550K results

Verdict: Worpress is the winner here when it comes to the breadth, depth and popularity of free skins available for your site. Moral of the story, if you’re short on cash and looking for a free theme for your blog or website, you should have more options and better luck finding a CMS template that fits your style using Wordpress.

SEO Plugins or Modules

Both Drupal and Wordpress offer a product that's very SEO-friendly right off-the-shelf. However, if you really want to enhance your SEO efforts, from writing "pretty" URLs to creating alternative page titles and title tags, you'll need to install some dedicated plugins to soup-up your CMS.

So which community offers more SEO plugins or modules (Drupal calls them modules) for CMS users, Drupal or Wordpress? Once again, I went to the engines to run some queries and find a favorite.

SEO Plugin and Module Search Results

  • Drupal SEO modules: 344K
  • Wordpress SEO plugins: 7 million

BTW, if you're looking for some extensive lists of SEO plugins for Wordpress and SEO modules for Drupal, here are two great resources:

Note: The Mashable list is awesome, but the writer did leave out one critical SEO plugin for Wordpress: Ultimate Google Analytics plugin. Point being, SEO without data analysis is basically useless.

Verdict: While search results aren't a definitive gauge of the quality of plugins, Wordpress bests Drupal for the sheer number of community supported SEO plugin/module options.

CMS Performance

Now, I'm no developer, so I won't embarrass myself and try to expound on backend PHP programming and SQL requests for Wordpress vs Drupal. But I can speak to the overarching capabilities of each CMS. Drupal is a far more robust CMS and better for running large sites that need more thrust and capacity to run dynamic forms, ecommerce shopping carts, and bolt on community functions like forums, chat, etc. Wordpress, however, is better suited for smaller sites or the casual blogger whose site doesn't require a lot of horsepower and complex functionality.

For example, I host some of my modest affiliate sites and blogs on Wordpress while WordStream’s 1000+ pages of content, forms, info gathering tools and platform extensions needs to run on a powerful CMS like Drupal.

If you're looking for more in-depth analysis of Drupal vs Wordpress for CMS performance, check out these articles:

Verdict: If you require a CMS powerhouse for your website and have a developer at your disposal or some inherent programming aptitude, then Drupal is the clear and only choice here. Wordpress simply can not handle full-featured sites effectively like Drupal can. However, if you’re a low-tech, one-man show with a smallish site or blog, go with Wordpress for greater simplicity. 




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Comments

Wednesday October 07, 2009

John (not verified) Said:

A fair assessment but Wordpress is introducing add ons like buddypress and bbpress (bulletin board). Although you would have to know the code to some extent to implement these. But I predict that wordpress will become even more user friendly for the people who are not technical.

Wednesday October 07, 2009

matt lambert (not verified) Said:

Interesting conversation

I'm sure that this is a worthy topic to blog about, but it does throw into focus how people choose their software.

Do you choose the software that's ready to go, right now, or do you choose the up and coming kind on the block who may be just right in a year's time.

'Most' people would go for ease of use, and whoever gets 'most' users will win in the end. Developers loved Microsofts large user base...for example.

So my view is that Wordpress will win eventually, through weight of numbers and MU will be an interesting contender as it is handling about 300,000 posts per day on Wordpress.com already.

Matt

Wednesday October 07, 2009

Drupal vs Wordpress: The CMS Showdown | WordStream (not verified) Said:

[...] here:  Drupal vs Wordpress: The CMS Showdown | WordStream SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Drupal vs Wordpress: The CMS Showdown | WordStream", url: [...]

Wednesday October 07, 2009

Richard (not verified) Said:

Ken,

I seem to check www.wordstream.com every day and learn something.

Thanks for another useful article. My choice between WordPress and Drupal is evident.

Wednesday October 07, 2009

John (not verified) Said:

I have little experience with Drupal, but use and recommend Joomla and WordPress daily. With over ten million installations in under 3(?) years Joomla would seem to have greater momentum and broader support than Drupal. As for WordPress, it is a great tool for blogging or small sites, but I don't think it belongs in the CMS category (yet). Clearly WordPress has huge market share and broad support, with many plug-ins that extend its use and blur the lines between blogging platform and CMS.

Thursday October 08, 2009

Total Theme (not verified) Said:

Very good review. I use both Drupal for CMS and custom site and wordpress for blogging and they work like a charm. Clients love them too.

Thursday October 08, 2009

Kinshuk Sunil (not verified) Said:

I think both are good at their own level, the choice entirely depend upon the need and requirement of the user also we rank Drupal higher in our Organisation as we have customized Drupal CMS for most of our clients.

Thursday October 08, 2009

Alkaaran (not verified) Said:

I don't see the point of the Google searches : the number of results shows the quantity of modules, not the quality.
Where Wordpress users will create a SEO module on their own, Drupal contributors will put their work together to create one module.

Thursday October 08, 2009

Ken Lyons Said:

Hi, Alkaaran.

Yah, I was pretty clear about search results showing quantity not quality of modules in the post. That said, you can make the assumption (which i do) that with lots more results comes the "possibility" for more quality modules and plugins. Sure, it's not an exact science but it's good enough for a blog post ;), especialy since there's no way to accurately measure quality. Quantity, however, can be measured.

Ken

Thursday October 08, 2009

Drupal vs Wordpress: The CMS Showdown | WordStream (not verified) Said:

[...] Drupal vs Wordpress: The CMS Showdown | WordStream Comments0 Leave a Reply Click here to cancel [...]

Sunday October 11, 2009

Greg Hill (not verified) Said:

There are a number of these comparisons out there but I generally don't find them to be terribly fair and most focus in the wrong areas. In this case however, I agree with your verdict.

From a pure blogging perspective, Wordpress is easy to implement and is a rock-solid, feature-laden blog. If all you do is blog it's hard to beat. If you blog and need a simple site, Wordpress is good.

One issue I take exception to is using search results as a determining factor in the SEO friendliness of a framework. There is no SEO advantage to either platform. Either can be horrible or utterly fantastic. Your developer makes a big difference. Both generate clean, user-friendly URLs. Both have the ability to modify title tags and meta description. Both support tagging (each using different nomenclature), RSS, and pinging. They may need community contributions to do so but they are easy to plug in.

Last year a client requested that we recommend the best tool for their site. If we had developed the site for them we would have used Drupal. It was a perfect fit. However, they wanted to do most of the development themselves. We recommended MODx because Drupal was too complex in relation to their skill set. We recommended WP for their blog but it wasn't flexible enough for the main site. MODx was more accessible for them.

So, is WP better than Drupal or vice versa?

Sometimes you need a speed boat and sometimes you need a destroyer. The approach we take with our clients is to learn what their needs are and their internal capabilities (are they technical, are they interested, etc.) then make a recommendation on technology. Stating that one application is the solution to all needs isn't serving the client well.

Good post, good comments.

Monday October 26, 2009

karl jacobs (not verified) Said:

How can you judge the amount of templates by search results? each of the big cms have about 30 decent free templates that about 90% of people use and how many sites(some very large too) use the standard kubrick or garland templates.

I would also like to add that templates will not in anyway ever help the exposure of your site, google is not a graphics buff and what will bring people to your site/blog again and again is clean navigation to the information they seek.

So my verdict(I have sites using Drupal, Joomla, Plone & Wordpress so am partly qualified)

Ease of installation

winner: wordpress hands down.

Ease of use

If you only require a blog or very restictive CMS, Wordpress, but if you require any of multiblogging, multi-install, options of wssiwyg, simple fast flexible layout, forum, gallery, flexible SEO, granular permissions, ecommerce and super flexible content construction with logical taxonomy Drupal will be a better bet.

Templates and themes

Wordpress does have more themes available than drupal, but unless your going to build your own just stick with a very popular one you will have less problems as once you navigate past the first few pages of free templates there is some real crap. If you do decide to build your own drupal has way more in the way of template contruction kits.

"Wordpress templates": 275 million results
"Drupal templates": 1 million results

"Free Wordpress themes": 44 million results
"Free Drupal themes": 550K results

"monkey" 77 million
"horse" 154,000,000
"internet" 1,530,000,000
Not sure of any of the relevancy here!

SEO plugins.

Well here the less the better as a perfect CMS would hadle this by default and by the look of the amount of SEO plugins for wordpress I would assume that many people find the core funtionality limited.

CMS Performance.

Wordpress is'nt really a CMS but if we need to compare a blog platform against a CMS then the CMS wins! Drupal.

Roundup:

If your lazy unimaginative or have problems reading manuals and can just about move your attention from twitter of facebook long enough to open filezilla wordpress is for you.

If your serious and commited to building a site which may even contribute some valuable information as opposted to another pointless WP blog recycling the same out of date poorly written articles hoping that someone may click on any of the adverts that cover 60% of the page, then Drupal will return dividends ten fold, but you will have to read instructions as it's powerful stuff.

 
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