Why You Need to Understand the Differences Between Drupal and WordPress

Marketing is getting more and more technical and websites are no exception. The website has become the hub of a company’s digital marketing activities and as a result, small to medium-sized businesses (SMB) can no longer get by with a ‘brochure’ website. They need to build a web property that supports marketing campaigns, mobile users, social media, partner communications, and in some cases, e-Commerce. Plus, who knows what the future holds?

This makes your choice of content management system (CMS) a very important decision. Developers tend to recommend the CMS platform they’re most familiar with to build your website, but it may not be the right choice for your business goals and needs. Plus, once you’re set up on a CMS, it’s hard to switch between platforms, from both technical and user perspectives. 

WordPress and Drupal are two of the most popular CMS platforms. Here’s a quick set of definitions, followed by what to consider in a CMS and how they apply. 

CMS 
A CMS is a package of software tools that simplify the process of creating, deploying, and managing websites. It generates the code, saves time, and reduces programming risk. A CMS is the foundation of today’s website. Except for highly-specialized needs, no one codes directly in HTML or Flash anymore to build websites. The right CMS will save you time and money. It should make programming as simple and inexpensive as possible. It should be simple to manage and easy for marketing staff to add/refresh content. It should have flexibility so that you can add new functionality that extends the working life of your website. 

Core
Think of the “core” of a CMS as its engine. These are out-of-the-box components that let you build a functional website. The core usually includes capabilities to create and manage:
•    Content and blogs
•    Taxonomy (categories of content and tagging)
•    User accounts, roles, permissions
•    Menus
•    File uploads and downloads
•    Discussion forums

Modules and plug-ins
While the core provides the essentials, it can’t possibly provide all the different features every business needs. Fortunately, both WordPress and Drupal are open source. This means they are supported by a community of users, some of whom contribute special-purpose modules or plug-ins which your developer can add, with little or no programming, to enhance your website’s functionality. Some modules duplicate core functionality, but implement it better. Modules can be free or premium (for purchase).

Examples of some popular module functionality:
•    Text editor: friendlier text entry, preferably WYSIWYG (“what-you-see-is-what-you-get”) editing.
•    Forms: create, publish, and manage online forms.
•    Dates: create and handle date fields.
•    Post scheduling: assign a publish date for when a page or blog gets posted online. 
•    Custom content types: define specific formats and styles for different kinds of content. For example, you would want a press release to be styled differently than a product FAQ.
•    Image resizer: allows users who upload images to resize and crop while staying within the CMS.

When it comes to SEO, website load time matters. Avoid installing more modules/plug-ins than you need, they tend to erode performance. 

Themes
A theme is a collection of files (templates) which defines the look of your website. A well-designed theme gives your website a cohesive, professional look. Themes control visual elements such as:
•    Page layouts: headers and footers, banners, columns of content, etc.
•    Font styles: titles, headings, subheadings, quotes, etc.
•    Colour scheme

As with modules, people have contributed themes to their CMS community. Many of these contributors are professional designers. There are thousands of themes available, some free, some premium. 

About free and premium
Premium modules and themes are worth the cost when compared to developing the functionality from scratch. They’re generally well-coded, feature-rich, easier to use and modify, come with or offer a support option; most importantly – they get updated to remain compatible with new versions of the CMS. This means if you can find a theme that suits your needs your web designer/developer can save you money by adapting an existing theme rather than design and code a custom theme for you – which can cost thousands. 

About themes 
Regardless of whether you’ve settled on WordPress or Drupal, do some requirements planning before you adopt a theme. Every business is different. Your information architecture defines your website’s page structure, global and local navigation, utility links, and even the types of content on each page and how they need to be presented. For example, will you: 
•    have a customer testimonial on each product page, or 
•    collect them all on a single web page, or
•    display selected testimonials on a sidebar that’s common to all secondary pages?  

Good navigation guides your visitors in an intuitive and logical way – from landing page to call-to-action. Whenever we see websites with inconsistencies, with navigation that does not flow, it’s usually a sign that the company has let the theme drive their information architecture rather than the other way around. The result is a website that is difficult to optimize for conversion.  

Your theme has to support your information architecture. If you can’t find one that does, it’s better to pay for custom theme development than to launch a website that doesn’t work for you.

Drupal versus WordPress 

 

Drupal

Wordpress

High profile sites

Amherst College

Digett

Examiner

Fast Company

Popular Science

Symantec Connect

The Economist

The White House

Warner Brothers Records

CNN Political Ticker

NASA Ames Research Center

New York Times

People Magazine

PlayStation Blog

Samsung

Sony

The New York Observer

Wall Street Journal

Popularity

140M + downloads

15M+ downloads

Free themes and modules

1,800 + free themes

24,000+  free modules

2,000+ free themes

7,000+ free plug-ins

Performance

Drupal is known for its ability to handle hundreds of thousands of pages. It can categorize, tag and organize complex content. Built for enterprises, it scales to work reliably under high-volume conditions.

Because WordPress started out as a blogging platform, the back end is not as suited to handling as many content types as Drupal or dealing with extremely high volumes. There are tools that improve performance, and webmasters need to monitor and tweak settings to optimize.

Security

Version and access controls allow Drupal to manage content security as well as meet standards for corporate IT procedures. For apps that require user permissions, built-in security features make Drupal the stronger choice.  

This is the single biggest difference between the two CMS. WordPress was designed for blogging, so the out- of-the-box installation is not very secure; you need to install third-party plugins to boost security and always keep them updated.

Design

There are plenty of good free and premium themes. You can extend or change the code for a theme.

Drupal allows the most flexibility and design potential – for those with the skills to take advantage of it.

There are so many free and premium themes that you can get a professional-looking WordPress site up very quickly.

If you want more customization, you can use plug-ins or more advanced premium themes. The trade-off is simplicity versus design flexibility.

Support for SEO

Designed from the start to be SEO-friendly.

Some users contend that with the increased importance of content marketing, Drupal’s flexibility at organizing content makes it better-positioned to deal with changes in SEO best practices.

Designed from the start to be SEO-friendly.

Ease of development

Can be intimidating to developers who are not familiar with Drupal. For those who are, it offers the freedom to create rich functionality and unique designs.

Designers just need a basic understanding of HTML and CSS to create a WordPress site. Themes, a huge plug-in library, tools, and an easy developer interface make WordPress the simplest platform to work with.

 

Ease of content management

Content management takes a longer learning curve, due to the fact that a specific piece of content can appear throughout the site, not just that one page; a user has to get used to how blocks, views, and content types work.

 

As a result, there are many articles about how to configure Drupal to make things easier for content managers, and modules to steamline the process.  

Almost as easy as cut and paste, especially if you are using a plug-in for a WSYIWYG text editor.

 

Sometimes text editors do quirky things and the user will need HTML knowledge to fix the problem. 

Software maintenance

Updates (bug fixes) approximately once a month; security releases immediately. Drupal posts a core release cycle. Drupal 8 is currently in beta (2015).

WordPress’s release schedule is about every 3-4 months. Security releases frequent. WordPress posts a list of previous and planned version release dates.

 

 

Cost

Definitely more expensive. The core is free, but the cost of modules adds up. The most significant cost however, is in human resources. You will need more experienced web developers, development takes longer, your system/web admins may need some training, and content editors will go through a longer learning curve.

The more affordable option all around. Lots of community support and free tutorial to help with the learning curve.

Best for:

Websites that require security: apps with login authorization, eCommerce, social networking

High-volume sites that require fast response times.

Corporate websites that want assurance of flexibility to add enhancements.

Small-to-medium websites, blogs, corporate websites where ease-of-use is the priority.

In Summary    

Wordpress is ideal for simpler websites, such as company sites with a lot of static pages plus a blog. It’s easy to manage, and any content editor who can use a word processor will find it easy to post new content. 

Drupal is powerful and developer-friendly. This means it’s up to the job of creating sites that require enterprise-level security, complex data organization, or innovative design. This also means it requires more advanced technical skills for development, admin, and content management. However, there’s a lot of excitement over Drupal 8, currently in beta, because it looks as though the Drupal community is working to close the usability gap.  The new version promises to address awkward content management with a built-in WYSIWYG text editor, and easier customization via views and custom blocks. 

At Smartt we choose the CMS best-suited to your project. We take into account your business goals, marketing strategy, and resources. Contact us about how to have a website that supports your current and long-term marketing needs.