Drupal vs Wordpress: The CMS Showdown

August 7, 2019

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. 

Ken Lyons

Ken Lyons

Ken Lyons is a cofounder and managing partner of Measured SEM.