Drupal vs WordPress: Sizing up the Difference

Drupal and WordPress both qualify as well-adopted, scalable, and easy to use content management systems. Your priorities will determine which one is a better fit for your project.
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Drupal and WordPress both qualify as well-adopted, scalable, and easy to use content management systems. While you can use either CMS to build virtually any type of website, some projects lean more towards one CMS’ strengths than the other, and vice versa. Let’s break down the differences between Drupal vs WordPress.

Facts and Figures: Drupal vs WordPress

Combined, WordPress and Drupal power about 40% of all websites on the web.

While WordPress holds the title of being far and away the most popular CMS in the world, Drupal claims the distinction of being used comparatively more often on higher traffic sites.

Drupal

  • Drupal is a free, open source content management system written in PHP
  • 1.6% of all websites use Drupal
  • Drupal captures 2.6% of CMS market share
  • More than 45,000 modules available to help extend your website
  • Distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL)
  • Originally developed by Dries Buytaert in 2001

WordPress

  • WordPress is a free, open source blog platform & CMS, based on PHP and MySQL.
  • Over 37% of all websites use WordPress
  • WordPress dominates CMS marketshare at 63.6%
  • More than 57,000 plugins available to help extend your website
  • Licensed under the General Public License (GPLv2 or later)
  • Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg started WordPress in 2003
Drupal vs WordPress usage chart

Subtle Differences in Goals and Philosophies

Speaking very broadly, Drupal aims to serve websites with more complex site requirements, while WordPress aims to serve websites that need the basics done well.

That said, Drupal works absolutely great for basic websites, and WordPress has more than enough flexibility to take on challenging projects.

You can see difference in philosophies for Drupal vs WordPress in their own messaging.

WordPress wants to “Democratize Publishing”

WordPress is software designed for everyone, emphasizing accessibility, performance, security, and ease of use. We believe great software should work with minimum set up, so you can focus on sharing your story, product, or services freely. The basic WordPress software is simple and predictable so you can easily get started. It also offers powerful features for growth and success.

We believe in democratizing publishing and the freedoms that come with open source.

Excerpted from WordPress’ Mission Statement

Drupal aspires to enable “ambitious digital experiences”

“Ambitious” is a good word because it aligns with the flexibility, scalability, speed and creative freedom that Drupal provides. Drupal projects may be ambitious because of the sheer scale (e.g. The Weather Channel), their security requirements (e.g. The White House), the number of sites (e.g. Johnson & Johnson manages thousands of Drupal sites), or specialized requirements of the project (e.g. the New York MTA powering digital kiosks with Drupal). Organizations are turning to Drupal because it gives them greater flexibility, better usability, deeper integrations, and faster innovation.

Excerpted from Drupal founder Dries Buytaert’s blog

The Model Kit vs the Box of Legos

WordPress’ emphasis clearly leans toward onboarding new site owners, helping them rapidly get comfortable with their website publishing tools. Like a great model kit, it snaps together quickly so you can start playing with it right away.

Drupal, on the other hand, is more like a box of legos. Drupal makes no assumptions about how you should use it out of the box. You can configure it however you like—it’s less rigid in this respect, vs WordPress—but you’ll have a lot of decisions to make from the start.

Most site owners want something that’s super easy to use and covers all the basics. As long as they continue to just need the basics done well, WordPress gives them everything they require right out of the box. And that’s why WordPress has sustained such a wide and loyal following.

But for those with a bigger hill to climb technologically, Drupal’s natural flexibility will be more attractive so they can build a truly unique system from the ground up. Site owners who get past the early learning curve report high satisfaction, and some really powerful websites run on Drupal.

Drupal vs WordPress: Pros, Cons, and Tradeoffs

Drupal is excellent for building custom digital experiences.

There’s a smart solution for everything you would want to use it for.

What it lacks in native “simplicity”, it makes up for in customization and scalability.

Excellent tools for slicing and dicing data and content from multiple sources and per different contexts.

Great features for publishing across multiple channels.

Robust user management tools, well-optimized for collaboration.

Trade-off: takes more planning to get started, but virtually limitless customization.

The content editing experience trails WordPress…Drupal is playing catch-up.

WordPress is known for how easy they make it to dive in to publishing, right out of the box.

A skilled development team can customize WordPress to do just about anything Drupal can do, but most of the extendability comes from plugins that want to work a certain way.

Awesome at letting true beginners publish rich content—easy to learn and ships with everything you need to get started.

A ton of plugins available to help extend your site functionality beyond the core features.

WordPress editing tools are a generation ahead of Drupal at this point.

Trade-off: easy to get started, but not as easy to customize the base patterns.

Multilingual support not as advanced as Drupal.

Drupal vs WordPress: Which One Is Right For Your Project?

In our experience, the debate concerning Drupal vs WordPress isn’t about which one is “good” or “bad”.

Both represent excellent options, with relative strengths and weaknesses, but mostly a lot of strengths.

When you have two CMS platforms with almost twenty years of real world usage, backed by thriving open source communities, featuring cutting edge technological advancements? You can’t lose.

We built some of our first CMS websites for clients in WordPress. Then we switched almost exclusively to Drupal. At this point, about half or our clients are on Drupal and half are on WordPress.

Our developers may have certain preferences for how X,Y, or Z gets handled by Drupal vs WordPress, but that happens with any technology decision.

For our clients, the criteria of this decision comes down to:

  • how will you need to use your site?
  • what are your long term goals?
  • what is your budget and timeline?
  • have you ever used Drupal or WordPress before?
  • do you currently have a site in Drupal or WordPress?

Based on the answers to these questions, we can recommend one CMS platform over another, and why it may be a better choice.

What questions do you have about Drupal vs WordPress? Check our our project list of Drupal sites and WordPress sites. We’ll be glad to discuss why certain project requirements matched a certain CMS platform over another.

Contact us today to learn more.

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