Drupal vs WordPress – Which is right for you in 2023?
Drupal vs WordPress: How to approach the choice
And if you’re a marketing manager who’s used mostly Drupal or WordPress, the chances are you don’t have enough experience with the other system to know whether it’s worth taking the leap of faith.
After all, this will affect the web design, development and ongoing performance of one of the most important pieces of your daily business-critical marketing infrastructure – your website.
Does this sound like you? Well, don’t worry – you’re not alone. You’re about to make a decision between Drupal and WordPress – and maybe other systems as well.
And on the outside, these can look largely similar. WordPress and Drupal might even feel similar to use. And every Drupal agency and WordPress Agency out there wants to sell you their preferred system. As do both of these CMSes and many others, especially if you opt for a paid CMS instead of an open-source solution!
- Who is this article for?
- Drupal vs WordPress: how do you choose?
- The Learning Curve
- Extending and Expanding your CMS
- The Agency Landscape
- Future-proofing your investment:
- Where Drupal Leads
- Where WordPress Leads
Who this article is for
While we aim for this article to be informative to anyone interested in the key differences between WordPress and Drupal, it is worth mentioning that we are specifically aiming this article at marketing manager, business leaders and digital project managers who are aiming to work with a web design or development agency on their website. If you are working on a small-scale blog or personal project, you will find less of this article relevant.
So, Drupal vs WordPress: how do you choose?
There’s no easy way, and there’s no concrete answer. And we would want you to read more articles than just ours!
Choosing Drupal when WordPress might have helped you more could lead to inefficiencies, spiralling costs, and shackling your company to a third party with huge power to derail a piece of business-critical infrastructure.
But look at it a different way – if you make the wrong choice this can often be invisible to organisations – whether you choose WordPress or Drupal – you won’t know what you’re missing out on. Which should worry you even more!
Who really notices, over time, if website content takes a little longer to update, and some marketing data doesn’t appear? These challenges can be so difficult to analyse that you might already be using the wrong CMS and not know it.
If this is the case, the most important thing is that you choose a system that’s a better fit for your company than what you’re using right now, if you are certain about the need for change. The CMS which is perfect for you might actually be a Headless CMS or a system that you can’t currently budget for.
In the meantime – here’s the lowdown; Drupal vs WordPress, the pros and cons of working with each as your CMS for organisations of different sizes.
Key Points to Consider in Choosing your CMS
The Learning Curve
A key question to ask in choosing your CMS is what CMS you’ve been using up until this point, and the make-up of your team – both in terms of their expertise and their technical literacy with CMSes. Most typically, a small to medium-size team can be trained to use a WordPress site within 2-3 hours of training sessions – often less. Most good website agencies will also offer a full website manual, detailing how to use the specifics of your WordPress install.
This ease of learning means that for junior or new users, or those who have some experience with builder platforms such as Squarespace or Wix, WordPress will feel like a natural next step – a substantial upgrade, but still achievable to learn.
Drupal, while in some ways a more capable system overall, has a much higher learning curve for new users. Experts and seasoned users will typically describe it as very easy to use, but the process of understanding it in depth is one of weeks and months of use, rather than a few hours of training. Each Drupal agency will approach this process differently, but if you are working on a Drupal website build, it is a good idea to ensure that substantial training resources are allocated within the project.
It’s a myth, but a pervasive one nonetheless – WordPress is generally seen as a less secure system than Drupal. There are reasons that this could be true, but WordPress powers nearly 40% of all CMS-driven websites – which it would not have been possible to achieve if the system was completely porous.
There’s a popular saying within personal computing that says PCs are easier to hack and get more viruses than Macs do. While this is totally true, it is because PCs make up 85% of the laptop and personal computing market. This means that more people know how to hack PCs and they are more often the target of viruses due to their commonness.
The same is true of WordPress up to a point. WordPress sites are often considered ‘easier to hack’ because many of them are poorly maintained, or maintained by one person without the technical expertise to keep it safe against security threats.
Typically, this means that if your website is maintained by a WordPress agency, with developers specifically tasked to update versions, plugins and security patches on a month-by-month basis, it is just as secure as Drupal.
However, while Drupal is renowned for its robust security and is trusted by some of the most data-sensitive websites globally, including those used by organizations like Tesla and NASA, it is not without vulnerabilities. One example is the recurring issue known as “Drupalgeddon,” which has left numerous websites exposed and, even after patching, some remained compromised. Drupal’s security, like WordPress, relies on an agency’s vigilance and commitment to maintaining the platform’s security.
Extending and Expanding your CMS
When making a decision about your Content Management System (CMS), it’s not just Drupal vs WordPress; it’s also about considering how you can extend and expand your chosen platform as your organisation grows.
This extends to the critical aspect of updates and ensuring that the CMS can adapt to your evolving needs. Choosing the right CMS partner or agency is vital in this process, as they can guide you in making informed decisions about the scalability and flexibility of your chosen platform.
The nature of WordPress is that new modules, sections and designs can be relatively easily built onto most websites, and further functionalities can either be custom-coded or a relevant plugin found to support a website’s further expansion needs. This can also be relatively cost-effective as WordPress is ‘portable’ between different agencies.
Drupal, similarly, can be extensible, but its plugin landscape is far less expansive, meaning it will often be a case of custom, bespoke code to extend and expand the platform. That isn’t necessarily a problem – but should be factored into the budget for any future phased developments your company might consider.
The Agency Landscape
Selecting the right agency to partner with can be a complex task. The approaches of different agencies can vary widely, making it challenging to predict the level of quality you will receive.
Generally, Drupal agencies are larger, more specialist, and more enterprise-ready. This is also because they are fewer and further between; whereas WordPress accounts for a millions-strong developer community, Drupal by comparison is much smaller.
While this means that the pedigree, standard and product governance from Drupal agencies is likely to be higher, their costs will also be substantially greater owing to the specialism of the CMS in catering to larger businesses.
Future-proofing your investment:
Both Drupal and WordPress offer relatively smooth upgrade paths between major versions, but there are major differences.
Drupal 9, released in June 2020, claims to offer an easy transition from Drupal 8, making the decision to upgrade appear less daunting for existing users. Drupal 7, though it was officially supported until November 2022, is also supported by long-term partners for those who choose to stay on the platform.
However, in practice, organisations on Drupal 7 were confronted with an ‘end of life’ ultimatum – and security patches to the system not taking place after the end of the support of the CMS provider meant that potentially compromised security created an imperative for change.
In practice as well, the upgrade often resulted in data loss, version and integrations mismatch – and in our experience, most Drupal 7 operators opted for full rebuilds of their websites rather than to expose themselves to risks associated with using the older platform.
WordPress offers quite a large contrast here. As opposed to major version upgrades creating large-scale changes to how data is managed, instead, all WordPress versions are upgradeable and compatible with each other. This means that upgrading from an older version of WordPress to a newer one will rarely cause friction, and can be done on a live site in most cases.
The result is that WordPress offers a greater level of future-proofing; there is no point at which your website will suddenly become obsolete in a way that’s outside your control.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both platforms when it comes to e-commerce. WordPress uses a plugin called WooCommerce to run its e-commerce platform, whereas Drupal uses its own system called Drupal Commerce.
Both platforms can also integrate fairly directly with other third-party systems such as Magento, BigCommerce and Shopify. This can be particularly useful if you are running a website that has an e-commerce section and a separate corporate website – where the functionality of a dedicated e-commerce system such as Shopify might not do everything you need it to.
The advantage of using Drupal for e-commerce is that Drupal Commerce is a hugely customizable system, with a wide variety of modules and structures to craft your e-commerce store in a way that is bespoke to you. However, this can add to its costs substantially.
By comparison, WooCommerce comes with a ready-to-go, out-of-the-box system that allows you to relatively quickly spin up a variety of functionalities on little investment. If you are looking for a straightforward way to create an e-commerce store, WooCommerce through WordPress has the edge. It also has a huge community of developers, meaning you are rarely likely to be lacking additional support when it comes to plugins and custom development.
Where Drupal Leads
Drupal excels in specific scenarios that involve complexity, diverse stakeholders, and unique content needs. It finds its strengths when dealing with large authenticated user bases for organisations such as newspapers and governments. Content that goes beyond traditional stories (such as course catalogues and content sourced from microservices or REST), and the demand for extensive personalization is also a key strength of the system.
Drupal is a valuable choice for projects that require the integration of services like mobile apps and configuration management with version control, though many of these products can also be integrated effectively with WordPress.
It is especially apt for building web applications and achieving Digital Experience Platform (DXP) goals. A DXP, as defined by Gartner, provides consistent, secure, and personalised access to information and applications across multiple digital touchpoints. Achieving this level of integration is possible with WordPress but usually requires more custom development.
This means that if you’re building a platform for your users to interact broadly and dynamically with your organisation, Drupal is likely to be the correct choice – but this will require extensive upkeep and maintenance from your team or agency.
Where WordPress Leads
For small-to-medium businesses, publications, e-commerce stores, startups, or nonprofits, WordPress is often the ideal choice. If your organisation has fewer than 500 employees and your website’s primary purpose is to provide information to potential customers, WordPress is likely the best fit. WordPress shines when dealing with sites that don’t require extensive user personalisation, internal gated functionality, or complex admin scenarios. The platform’s strength is in its simplicity, making it accessible to a wide range of users.
Particularly, WordPress excels in B2B contexts. Its open-source framework means that businesses can easily have customised, branded themes built for them and easily integrate with a variety of off-site solutions such as CRMs and ERPs.
Increasingly, organisations such as multinational businesses, universities and local governments are turning to WordPress for its ease of use – but particularly for the use of WordPress Multisite. WordPress Multisite allows multiple websites to be linked as part of an overall network run and administered by one central team. This means that if a business has a parent organisation and many sub-brands, WordPress Multisite can cater for their needs very effectively.
Increasingly, some agencies are also looking to WordPress for headless solutions, where the CMS still runs on WordPress but the frontend of the site is effectively built on a different tech stack. This allows greater speed and scalability and is what Crucible did when we built the site for CCDC in 2022.
WordPress has often been described as a ‘one size fits all’ for web design – and it’s true that small scale website editors running personal projects have found it to be the ideal CMS for their projects – all at the same time as large-scale media providers and enterprise-level business applications also running on the platform.
In most cases, if your organisation has under 500 employees, and if it is a site that aims primarily at providing information to your potential customers as opposed to running detailed functionality, WordPress is probably the best fit for your organisation. This means that in the case of most B2B websites, WordPress is the stronger choice. These sites are more rarely handling vast amounts of user personalisation, internal gated functionality, and multiple complex admin scenarios. We’ll go into more detail on this later on.
Selecting the right CMS platform can be a complex and potentially stressful process, especially when you’re aiming to meet your marketing goals with your website. Engaging the services of an expert WordPress agency or Drupal agency can alleviate concerns about platform sustainability, usability, performance, and security. If you need help to determine which of these CMS platforms is right for your organisation, drop us a line and we will be able to answer your questions.