Drupal, WordPress, or Joomla? (A Trick Question)

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Drupal, WordPress, or Joomla?

I was recently asked my opinion of whether to use Drupal or one of those other ones. I was going to just write a flippant reply, when I realized I'm not actually qualified to answer the question.

I have never personally used WordPress. I read a comparison of it and Drupal some years ago, and knew even then that WordPress would just never cut it. And I've never looked back.

Now if Joomla had been part of the original question, I would have had slightly more qualifications to answer. I used that once (back when it was Mambo, and for all of three weeks), and was sorely impressed at first. But the glow faded quickly when I realized that though it was slick out of the box, it required more work tearing it down to make it do what I wanted than Drupal's simple building blocks offer. And again, I've never looked back.

However, that's coming from a decade of experience on the web beforehand. I really have no idea if Drupal is suitable for someone just starting out. (That is more generic: the author of the original question is a seasoned developer, and specifically to them I say use Drupal, what are you waiting for?)


I dug up a few comparisons from Google, and they seem reasonable (for someone who doesn't know spit about WordPress). 10 Reasons to Use Drupal has an obvious Drupal bias. WordPress Vs Drupal Vs Expression Engine has a WordPress bias. And WordPress vs Drupal can't make up its mind (its author continues to use both).


I found a few comparisons of Joomla and Drupal, but they're largely out-dated, the first on the list dating from Drupal 4.7. Most of the negative points on Drupal on their list have turned into strong positives since then. That was a thorough comparison, but needs to be revised to warrant its current Google ranking.


From a blog, to a news mogul, to a store-front, to a social network, to a university's portal site, Drupal can handle any of it. Just take a look at this slideshow:

With a strong community of developers, there are easy-to-use tools that can handle pretty much anything you can think of. Its underlying architecture is scalable, its API is robust, and Google loves Drupal; its SEO friendliness is well-known. (Although to be fair, as pointed out on Joomla's forums, they're all SEO friendly, and Wordpress does that out of the box, as opposed to needing to install Pathauto for search-engine-friendly URLs in Drupal.)

My Opinion

The rest of this is largely opinion. Please do the research yourself before coming back and telling me this other can do this or that. Without doing a thorough examination of the CMS options, it doesn't do any of them justice to oversimplify their offerings.

Basically, from my perspective, I'd say, if you are an experienced developer, particularly if you have any programming background at all, you need Drupal. If you are looking to hire a developer for your site, whatever site that might be, you need Drupal. If you are a newbie and want nothing more than a blog, then WordPress might be for you.

However, if you're willing to jump through the hurdle of learning the administrative back-end, then Drupal would likely serve you better in the long run. Particularly if you think you might want things like easy video embedding or customizable content entry. And if you want a blog with multiple authors, or forums, or e-commerce (before you ask, I suggest Ubercart, and that comes from having used both that and e-Commerce, but read Diving into Drupal E-Commerce: An Ubercart vs. E-commerce Comparison first), or any kind of social network, then Drupal hands down is the one for you.

If you want some of that, and want it now, and don't want the hassle of learning, and don't care if it's impossible to change it later, then maybe you should stick with Joomla.

Take your pick.

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aaron's picture

Administrative Spaghetti

I have to agree there. That's still a weakness of Drupal, although one that developers are taking an active look at. There's been a strong focus on usability this last year, and I can't wait to see what good things come out of that. (Views 2 has raised the bar for administrator usability, for instance.)

Still, up to a quarter of questions from clients that I get have to do with how to navigate the spaghetti back-end of Drupal. And when I set up a simple site for friends (like Erik Gecas or Ecstatic Marriage), I usually find it simpler to just make the changes myself than trying to explain how to do it.

Jennifer Hodgdon's picture

WordPress has its merits

I am one of those "I use both" web programmer/developers, in regards to Drupal and WordPress, for my clients. Basically, my take is this.

WordPress is great for sites whose content consists only of Title and Body, classified by hierarchical Categories and folksonomy Tags, with some content being static Pages and some being date-organized Posts (news, blog, etc.), and visitor interaction limited to reading and commenting. For this type of site, WordPress is very simple for me to set up and customize for a client, and very intuitive for them to understand and use for content management once it is set up. So as long as a site doesn't stray far from this model, I recommend WordPress for my clients. It works fine for multiple authors, by the way, and it does have a plugin capability that allows you to modify behavior and add functionality.

On the other hand, if a client wants a more complex site, Drupal is definitely what I recommend. By "complex" I mean that it would be best developed using CCK (content with fields beyond title/body/taxonomy, or multiple content types beyond Post and Page), needs Views functionality (lists/tables of content beyond listing headlines/teasers), needs e-commerce, needs community interaction beyond commenting on posts, etc. While all of those things could probably be built in WordPress, they would be rather ad-hoc instead of systemetized, and I think the client is better served by using Drupal in those cases.

aaron's picture

Open Source Rocks!

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Jennifer. Other than a few personal blogs, my background (with Advomatic) is working with larger sites, such a Air America or the New York Observer, and I tend to think in that direction when writing about development.

I hadn't realized, for instance, that WordPress handles multiple authors, although I did know about WordPress plugins. Of course, WordPress has a large base of users, so its not surprising that its functionality continues to evolve.

And I'll defend any of these CMS's simply for the virtue that they are all Open Source, which means that, as a developer, I could join any of the projects and help improve them if they didn't quite yet meet my standards and expectations.

The Society for Venturism has chosen me as the recipient of its charity for this year, to hopefully offer me cryonic preservation when the time comes. And this month, Longecity, an excellent forum for the discussion of issues related to extending the lifespan of humans, has offered up a matching grant of up to a thousand dollars to help out! So help out! Please.