WordPress vs Drupal

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A content management system (CMS) is a dashboard that lets you update and easily maintain your website by adding content, site design elements, special pages, and blog posts.

One of the most established choices for a CMS is WordPress, an enormously popular blogging platform – so popular, in fact, that tens of millions of websites around the world are powered by it. Another name you will come across is Drupal, a longtime open source project that may not be as popular as WordPress, but which allows for a higher degree of flexibility for creating websites. Many people – especially web developers – appreciate Drupal’s more barebones approach compared to WordPress.

Deciding which CMS you should use can be a confusing task if you’re not familiar with the attributes of each system. In this article, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the pros and cons of both WordPress and Drupal, so you can feel confident in your website’s foundation.

Pros and Cons of WordPress and Drupal

Pros and Cons of WordPress

Pros Cons
Free to use Fairly regular updates that you must stay on top of
Most popular CMS Inviting target for malicious hackers
Wide range of themes and plugins

Pros and Cons of Drupal

Pros Cons
Free to use Geared towards technical users
Easy to understand CMS Adding modules and themes is not easy
A variety of visual themes Drupal updates are a pain
Basic coding knowledge required to upload posts

WordPress and Drupal: An Overview

While you could pay a web developer to create a static website that just sits there with no real updates, that’s not very practical in this day and age. Most businesses want to add content through their blogs, and be able to update their home page in a flash to promote a sale or other event.

That’s where a CMS such as WordPress or Drupal comes in. A CMS provides the basic tools to create content, and to change the overall look of a website.

Both WordPress and Drupal are open source projects that you can download and install for free on your server of choice. Many web hosts will also have one-click installations for both systems, which will help you get up and running faster than installing and configuring all the various underlying components yourself.

Of the two systems, there’s no question that WordPress is by far the most dominant – in fact, more than 32 percent of all websites online are powered by WordPress, according to WordPress.com. It’s used for everything from personal blogs to ecommerce sites, news sites like BBC America and TechCrunch, and TV networks like AMC.

Drupal, meanwhile, is nowhere near WordPress’ level of popularity. According to the company, just over 1 million websites were running Drupal as of September 2019. However, even though it’s not as popular, it’s just as capable of running powerful websites – it’s used on the official website for the Emmy Awards, for example, as well as NASA.gov and Entertainment Weekly.

Ease of Use

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a CMS is whether or not a particular system is easy to use. But when it comes to WordPress and Drupal, the bar for what is easy (and not-so-easy) to use depends on which stage of development you’re concerned with.

WordPress

WordPress editor

To get started with WordPress, you first need to find a web host. You can often start for free on WordPress.com – however, you’ll find that your ability to edit and customize your site is restricted.

Most web hosts offer one-click WordPress installs that take care of all the hard stuff, to get you up and running within minutes. These hosts will also guide you through the process of adding a domain (often included for free). When the installation is done, you’ll have a website with the default WordPress theme installed.

Changing the theme is as easy as pointing and clicking on the design you like via the built-in theme gallery. You can also add themes from third-party websites with relative ease.

The downside is that without customizing these themes, your site will end up looking like every beginner blog out there. Customizing your theme requires at least some knowledge of CSS, but to get a truly professional and original look to your website, you’ll need a designer who is familiar with building WordPress themes.

Once the site is built and the theme is installed, operating the site is extremely easy. Everything starts from the CMS dashboard, which is clearly labeled, making it easy to navigate the left-hand navigation column. Meanwhile, adding official plugins is a simple point-and-click affair.

Drupal

Drupal editor

Getting up and running with Drupal is not so easy, even though it is possible to install Drupal through most web hosts. When you first set up a Drupal site, there are issues you may have to deal with that you would avoid with a WordPress one-click install. For example, you may have to configure and log into a MySQL or MariaDB database. If this all sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo to you, then we’d definitely recommend you take the WordPress option!

You may also have to configure your server to handle uploads via the file transfer protocol (FTP), a key method of adding plugins (called ‘modules’ in Drupal-speak) and new themes to your site. If you are not comfortable with mucking around on the command line to deal with inevitable database and FTP configuration issues, setting up Drupal should be left to a developer.

Once the site is up and running, Drupal’s CMS is relatively easy to use, though not as straightforward as WordPress. To add a new blog post, for example, you’d click on Content > Add Content > Article. That’s not terribly difficult, but it is a little less obvious than the WordPress approach.

Drupal still uses a more traditional editing box, with a simple menu at the top for writing text. This is a much simpler approach than the new WordPress blocks, although it does make it harder to change things up. The major downside of Drupal is that you’ll have to know basic HTML code in order to do any basic formatting, such as adding titles/subtitles (H1s, H2s, H3s etc.), and to add in images, tables or lists. This makes the process pretty time-consuming.

The management options under the Drupal editing box are very simple and straightforward to use. The box offers tags, menu linking options, comment settings, and promotion options directly below the text editing area. Drupal’s revisions are also easier to find and use than the same option on the current version of WordPress.

One final plus for Drupal is that you can start to edit elements directly on the website while logged in. If you don’t like how the footer message looks, for example, you can hover over it, click the pencil icon, choose the menu option, and Drupal will take you directly to where you need to go within the CMS.

WordPress vs Drupal – Ease of Use: Verdict

While Drupal is nice, overall, the advantage for ease of use goes to WordPress – and it’s not even close. WordPress is simpler to set up, and most web hosts know exactly what to do to get you started without a hitch. Drupal has some nice elements in its CMS, but overall, WordPress is the easiest tool to use.

Theme Design and Customization

The look of your site is a key component of any new online endeavor. Both WordPress and Drupal use themes to design your site, but each takes a rather different approach.

WordPress

There’s no question that WordPress has far more themes than Drupal, with around 30,000 themes available. Clicking on Appearance > Themes > Add New brings you to a full gallery with thousands of themes to choose from, with paid and free options. Once you find a theme you like, adding it is as simple as clicking Install, and then Activate to make it live. That’s pretty much it.

However, using a generic WordPress theme often isn’t the best approach. It can come with filler content, for example, such as links to a sample page, or a banner that says “insert name here.”

Changing all that is simple enough by going to Appearance > Customize. This section allows you to edit pre-determined features in the theme, such as adding header images, changing the site’s color themes, and adding menus.

Those options are very basic, however. To get deeper into the site’s themes, you’ll need to understand CSS, HTML, and some PHP – a programming language that powers WordPress sites.

WordPress theme editor

If you have some web development ability, then perhaps you can edit these files yourself from within the WordPress CMS – but really, businesses should hire a developer to edit a theme, or even create a customized one from scratch.

Drupal

Changing themes in Drupal should be as easy as WordPress, but it’s not. First, you need to make sure your server’s FTP settings are arranged correctly, because you have to upload a new theme directly to your server.

Drupal themes

We had a rough time uploading a new theme to our test server, running Drupal via a one-click installation on a cloud hosting provider. The simplest solution for us was to use the third-party program FileZilla, which worked like a charm; however, uploading via FileZilla requires technical knowledge of how to navigate the server’s file structure, and how to unzip a file from the command line. It is not a method we’d advise for novices, but you may be left with no choice if the built-in Drupal upload method fails.

Once you get the theme installed, switching themes in Drupal is just as easy as WordPress, and requires a few clicks. Again, you’ll need to edit the stock version of the theme using Drupal’s built-in tools to get rid of generic pages and headings, but this can be done by simply going to Appearance and selecting the Settings option underneath your current theme.

There are currently around 2,800 Drupal themes – far fewer than WordPress due to the smaller user and developer base. Nevertheless, you won’t be lacking in options. Just like WordPress, there are both free and paid Drupal themes available.

WordPress vs Drupal – Themes: Verdict 

WordPress wins again. There’s just no denying that the amount of themes, level of customization, and number of developers familiar with WordPress is much greater than Drupal. It’s easy enough to find a developer to design a Drupal theme for you, but when it comes to ease of use – and the overall chance of getting the exact theme you want – WordPress is the best choice.

Plugins

One of the most important features of both Drupal and WordPress is the ability to add plugins, or what Drupal calls ‘modules’. Plugins add features such as greater SEO control, comment moderation, visitor statistics, and other behind-the-scenes features. Whichever platform you use, you will inevitably need to add some plugins to help run your website.

WordPress

The WordPress plugin ecosystem is massive, and most of them are available with just a few clicks from the WordPress CMS. There are paid and free options, just like with the themes, with well over 50,000 plugins available. Paid options can range from just a few dollars to $100 or more, with either one-time payments or annual subscriptions.

Smart Slider 3, for example, is a plugin that makes it easy to add slideshows to your website. The developers have a one-time charge of $35. Meanwhile, Automattic, the company that runs WordPress.com, charges $39 annually for its backup and security plugin.

Drupal

To get started with WordPress, you first need to find a web host. You can often start for free on WordPress.com – however, you’ll find that your ability to edit and customize your site is restricted.

Most web hosts offer one-click WordPress installs that take care of all the hard stuff, to get you up and running within minutes. These hosts will also guide you through the process of adding a domain (often included for free). When the installation is done, you’ll have a website with the default WordPress theme installed.

Changing the theme is as easy as pointing and clicking on the design you like via the built-in theme gallery. You can also add themes from third-party websites with relative ease.

The downside is that without customizing these themes, your site will end up looking like every beginner blog out there. Customizing your theme requires at least some knowledge of CSS, but to get a truly professional and original look to your website, you’ll need a designer who is familiar with building WordPress themes.

Once the site is built and the theme is installed, operating the site is extremely easy. Everything starts from the CMS dashboard, which is clearly labeled, making it easy to navigate the left-hand navigation column. Meanwhile, adding official plugins is a simple point-and-click affair.

WordPress vs Drupal – Plugins: Verdict 

WordPress wins again. There are simply far more options available, and they are easier to use and install.

Pricing

Both Drupal and WordPress are technically free to use, but the inevitable associated costs don’t only come with the software – there are also costs associated with development and hosting to consider.

WordPress

WordPress hosting can cost as little as a few dollars per month, or come in the form of premium hosting plans that can cost hundreds of dollars. It really depends on what kind of hosting you need. Check out our article on the best WordPress hosts for more information.

WordPress site development costs can also vary greatly. If you want to use a paid theme that’s already designed, then pass off customization to your own staff, you can pay $50 to $100 on average for a paid theme. Hiring a designer to create an original website theme can vary greatly in price depending on the individual developer you find.

Drupal

Drupal, like WordPress, can cost just a few dollars a month, or charge for premium Drupal hosting. Even then, however, you can still get pretty good deals. SiteGround, for example, offers a premium Drupal hosting plan for $3.95 per month, while many mainstream web hosts – such as Bluehost – offer one-click Drupal installs for $2.95 per month or less. All of the prices mentioned here are introductory, which is common for web hosting.

Just like WordPress, the costs for a design or development team to create your website with Drupal can vary greatly. There are also premium Drupal themes that can cost from $50 to $100, or even more.

WordPress vs Drupal – Pricing: Verdict 

This one is pretty much a tie. Web hosting can often cost the same, regardless of your platform. Expenses really depend on how much site traffic you’re getting, and the kind of hosting plan you need to handle it. How much you decide to pay for web development and site design can also be about the same, depending on what kind of site you need.

SEO Control

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a vitally important consideration for any website. Solid SEO helps search engines index (essentially ‘read’, then categorize) your content more easily, and therefore helps you rank higher in search results. It’s not the most glamorous topic, but if you want traffic to come via web searches, SEO is key.

WordPress

SEO on WordPress is very well developed and standardized, with firms such as Yoast and SEMrush helping you get the most visibility for your website. With Yoast, for example, you can edit your posts’ meta tags, focus on keywords, and even get some automated analysis on how you could improve a particular blog post’s SEO.

Drupal

Drupal also has its own store of SEO tools. There used to be a Yoast module for Drupal, but it is currently not available. There are other options, though, such as modules to create XML sitemaps that make it easier for search engines to index your complete site. The Drupal SEO Checklist is also a popular option, but requires some basic knowledge of SEO, and the ability to manage your site’s SEO yourself.

WordPress vs Drupal – SEO Control: Verdict 

Again, WordPress is the overall better option. It’s easier to use, and more widely supported. That said, if you already know your way around SEO, then there are enough tools on Drupal to get the job done

Ongoing Maintenance

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a vitally important consideration for any website. Solid SEO helps search engines index (essentially ‘read’, then categorize) your content more easily, and therefore helps you rank higher in search results. It’s not the most glamorous topic, but if you want traffic to come via web searches, SEO is key.

WordPress

SEO on WordPress is very well developed and standardized, with firms such as Yoast and SEMrush helping you get the most visibility for your website. With Yoast, for example, you can edit your posts’ meta tags, focus on keywords, and even get some automated analysis on how you could improve a particular blog post’s SEO.

Drupal

Drupal also has its own store of SEO tools. There used to be a Yoast module for Drupal, but it is currently not available. There are other options, though, such as modules to create XML sitemaps that make it easier for search engines to index your complete site. The Drupal SEO Checklist is also a popular option, but requires some basic knowledge of SEO, and the ability to manage your site’s SEO yourself.

WordPress vs Drupal – Ongoing Maintenance: Verdict 

This one’s no contest. WordPress is far quicker and easier to use, often requiring just a single click. Drupal, by comparison, requires manual updating, which is not recommended for novice users.

Help and Support

When things go south, you need to know what to do and how to do it. Having a good support network on hand is crucial, so let’s find out which CMS is the more supportive.

WordPress

WordPress has a massive support forum at WordPress.org. More often than not, your issues can be dealt with based on advice you find there. We’d recommend using Google to find help related to your issues, which will more often than not lead you to the WordPress forums. That said, there are many third-party forums and blogs that can also offer help.

Drupal

Like WordPress, Drupal has a thriving help forum at Drupal.org, where you can find help for your various problems. You may also find help on third-party forums and blogs, just as with WordPress.

WordPress vs Drupal – Ongoing Maintenance: Verdict 

We’ll call this one a tie again. While WordPress has a larger community, Drupal support isn’t hard to come by online. Also, don’t forget your web host – depending on your plan, you may be entitled to phone or chat support to help straighten out whatever issues you might be having with your website.

Good to know: With both WordPress and Drupal, you’re relying on the communities that use these platforms to be able to answer your queries and offer specialist advice. For a dedicated support team and easy setup, we recommend exploring the option of a website builder – many even have a free plan, so you’re not paying extra for this help.

WordPress vs Drupal: Which One Do We Recommend?

Based on the content of this article, it should come as no surprise that we recommend WordPress overall. It’s easier to use, and its popularity means there are more options for themes, plugins, SEO, and development. Drupal is certainly a capable system, but it requires more interaction with the server and the command line than you’ll find with WordPress.

Drupal does have its strengths, however – it has a more straightforward text editing interface than the current version of WordPress, and allows you to edit elements directly within the website.

You should use WordPress if…

  • You prioritize ease of use
  • You need a premium SEO service
  • You want to interact with your underlying server as little as possible
  • You want the widest variety of themes
  • You want a specialized hosting service aimed at WordPress

You should use Drupal if…

  • You are comfortable interacting with and updating servers
  • You don’t mind troubleshooting issues
  • You don’t like the general look of most WordPress sites
  • You prefer the Drupal CMS interface

Drupal is fine, but we believe most users will be more comfortable with WordPress. If you want to get started with WordPress, take a look at our recommendations for the best WordPress web hosts.

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About Hannah Whitfield

Hannah Whitfield

I’m Website Builder Expert’s Content Manager, which means I’m in charge of checking everything written for our site, as well as writing my own articles.

I started writing about the wonderful world of the web around two years ago, and haven’t looked back since. Put simply, there’s never been a more exciting time to get online. Having tested all of the best website builders and ecommerce platforms on the market, I’m in a great position to help you do just that!

I hope you find our articles helpful, and please feel free to pop me a message with anything else you’d like to see here on Website Builder Expert.

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