I’m tasked with choosing the right CMS for a website project. Where do I start?
With many different content management systems (CMS) in the world, there are two that our developers recommend regularly: WordPress and Drupal. Both are open-source PHP Platforms that offer robust sets of assets for businesses and organizations but are very different in their practical capabilities.
As an open-source PHP development company with more than 15 years of experience we have had many clients who've used both platforms and we've found that there are a few distinct use cases for each. We’ve broken down a few of those use cases below to help you find the right fit. Occasionally they can overlap, but with the right partner anything is possible with either CMS.
The very best way to know for sure which platform to choose is to bring in a partner to look at your RFP or Scope of Work (or better yet, help you set up a scope of work!). We can take a look at the technical requirements, security needs, integrations, taxonomy demands, and business objectives your website supports to make an informed, expert recommendation.
Drupal - The Premier Choice for Security, Complex/Variable Search, Data Management and Integration
Companies and agencies that require robust security and have large databases of inventory, customer data, and international requirements almost always opt for Drupal. And we think that’s wise. Many of the world's largest and most powerful government agencies use Drupal for their websites, including a plurality of U.S. government websites.
Why? Generally speaking, Drupal has higher standards for its core systems and places a higher premium on approving only modules and integrations that have been fully vetted. That commitment to eliminating vulnerabilities in modules means the wider Drupal community of developers also must achieve a higher standard when they commit integrations of their own. In other words, Drupal takes security extremely seriously (and has for a long time) so its community of developers is held accountable to the same standard.
When you think about search on a website you might simply think of a search bar with the little magnifying glass icon that people use to look for a specific keyword. While technically that is a search, it is a very simple example of what search can do.
Complex search is far more powerful and is around you more than you know. Search functionality is often broken down into two types – Keyword Search and Faceted Search.
We’re all pretty familiar with keyword search. Think Google and how it can identify your search query and display related search results (even when you misspell a word or are searching for a more undefined concept). Drupal offers similar search capabilities, so if you have a huge database of products or content, choosing Drupal gives your customers an unparalleled searching experience.
Where Drupal REALLY shines is Faceted Search. Think about shopping for tile on a home improvement store’s website. You select your first option–material–glass or stone? When you select glass, all of the other variables available to choose from change based on your previous selection. So now there are sizes and colors to select from that are linked to the previous choices you made.
Many of us don’t think about this as search functionality, but the system is taking your input and quickly searching a database to present you with relevant responses to your inputs. In other words, the system is constantly searching for relevant data to present to you, based on your choices.
Drupal, at its core, is created with supporting these types of taxonomy-focused searches in mind. So, if you need to manage a huge number of products, pages, or member and customer data we typically recommend Drupal.
Data Management & Integrations
Speaking of data (customer data, inventory data, sales data, all of it), keeping datasets organized is another Drupal superpower. The ability to tag, notate, and manage every single detail of that data so you can filter, sort and apply it is what makes Drupal a formidable choice. Drupal can consume data from multiple sources and be set up to display it in full, in part or even with additional content appended to it through the CMS. The intense organization and codification of this data makes it usable across your various website integrations and internal systems (like inventory, sales, new membership initiatives etc.)
WordPress – The Right Choice for Simplicity and Content Marketing
WordPress is typically a great platform for small/medium-sized businesses or organizations that do not need as intricate a website solution. Some folks in marketing or development refer to these as “brochure websites” because they tend to be fairly static and don’t process as much dynamic data. WordPress can do almost everything Drupal can with extensive customizations and plug-ins, albeit with some limitations. Its popularity is undeniable as it is one of the most widely used CMS in the world.
Companies who need fewer website pages, want to publish frequent blogs, are hyper-focused on SEO, and need to be able to make updates quickly with lower technical expertise often opt for WordPress.
WordPress is popular for a reason. The easy-to-use backend is a great asset for companies that need a website update, typically have a smaller budget, and fewer technical requirements. As a general rule, these companies have a simple content model with one or two different types of content pages with easy-to-update images, text and videos. When these pages do require an update, nearly anyone can make the change quickly and easily.
This isn't to say that WordPress cannot be used to build complex, interactive sites, just like Drupal. The global popularity of WordPress means that many of the common problems a developer can run into have already been solved, and those solutions are available as reliable, well thought out, third-party plugins. This simplicity allows the developer to focus on the specific customizations needed to move the business goals forward.
As an open-source PHP development shop, we employ specialized developers for both platforms and take special care to make sure we recommend the right platform for your needs. But, as a general rule WordPress the more popular choice for a simpler, budget-conscious website.
Content Marketing, Blogging & SEO
WordPress was originally designed to make writing and posting blog content simple, but has evolved into a complete, full featured content management system. Even through its metamorphosis it has never lost that central identity. That is why so many companies in the online news space, and those who are committed to content marketing methods including regular blogs and organic search engine optimization (SEO) opt for WordPress.
Nearly every WordPress theme and template is centered around producing and publishing content. Sites like this could include your favorite tech news site, a marketing agency you subscribe to, a food blog, or an industry insider sharing the latest trends.
One of the benefits of being on a content-driven platform is that search engines reward you for posting new, highly desirable content on a regular basis. And, to make it better, WordPress knows this. From the very beginning WordPress has invested in building tools that signal to search engines that content produced on its platform is valuable to readers. Things are always changing when it comes to SEO, but WordPress does its best to prepare their clients for those changes as a part of its central code.
The eventual answer to the question of choosing between Drupal and WordPress is that it depends. As professionals in the industry we recommend finding a trusted partner who can look at your project scope, ask the hard questions, uncover those “uh-oh” moments before development begins, and make sure that the website is aligned with your business objectives.
We hope you’ll choose to work with us, but regardless of your decision, we recommend you take the time to define your objectives and start the journey of making a choice based on those and not platform alone.