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  5. Drupal vs WordPress: Which Is the Right CMS for You? [2021]

Drupal vs WordPress: Which Is the Right CMS for You? [2021]

Diana Melnic Diana Melnic

If we lived in a world where we were all expert web developers, I’d say that Drupal was better than WordPress as a CMS (content management system). But in reality, most users don’t have the experience they’d need to actually take advantage of Drupal’s capabilities. For most of us, WordPress is a better choice.

Drupal is a powerful CMS for complex projects. Many government and university sites are built with it – heck, even NASA has a Drupal website. But when it comes to ease of use, Drupal is miles behind WordPress.

As a non-developer with a try-hard attitude, you could maybe build a very simple site with Drupal. However, you’d need a long time to do it, and to be perfectly honest, it wouldn’t be your best-looking site. Take it from someone who’s tried.

If you want to build your own website quickly, self-hosted WordPress is your best bet. You can download WordPress software for free from WordPress.org (as opposed to the limited version you get when you sign up at WordPress.com), but most web hosting providers will install the latest version for you.

WordPress’ point-and-click editor is far more intuitive than Drupal’s native admin system, and there are thousands of themes (site design templates) available to get you started. Plus, you don’t have to write any code – though you can, if you want a higher level of customizability. Otherwise, there are lots of plugins that can extend the functionality of your website for you.

That said, Drupal might be the right choice for your next project if you’re willing to pay for a good developer. Read on to find out more.

1. Features

WordPress Has Features for Everyone, Drupal Is for Experienced Developers

Let’s put it this way: if you hired WordPress to build you a house, it would put up the walls and the roof, and even do some of the electrical work for you. Meanwhile, you’d do the painting and decorating.

Drupal, on the other hand, puts in the foundation, and leaves everything else to you. You have more freedom to build your house exactly the way you want it, but only if you have some experience with, you know…building houses.

Drupal is best used for websites with a large authenticated user base, course catalogs, mission-critical sites, web applications, digital experience platforms, and other enterprise-level projects. It offers a powerful HTML editor that lets you build pretty much any type of application, so long as you know how to build it from scratch.

It also has built-in SEO features, and a robust caching system designed to boost its performance. But at the same time, it eats up a lot of resources (especially RAM), so you’re more likely to need a VPS, rather than simple shared hosting, to host your site. InterServer offers cheap, fully customizable VPS configurations that fully support Drupal, but other providers charge significantly more for this type of hosting.

Meanwhile, WordPress has a point-and-click, block-based editor that lets you quickly insert, edit, and move web page elements. All the HTML is written for you, so you don’t need any coding experience to build a professional-looking site. Developers can use the HTML editor to tweak some of the code, but this is by no means a necessary step.

Plus, there are plugins available for virtually anything you might want to add to your website. From SEO and caching to social media integration and e-commerce, everything is covered by the WordPress marketplace.

Granted, you wouldn’t use WordPress to build the new Facebook. And yes, large corporations and governmental agencies will prefer Drupal for its outstanding versatility. But for online portfolios, business landing pages, blogs, and online stores (of any size), WordPress is a great fit. It’s also cheaper to host, with providers like Hostinger offering generous entry-level WordPress hosting plans.

2. Ease of Use

Drupal Has a Steep Learning Curve, WordPress Is Great for Beginners

Even web developers can be intimidated by Drupal’s bare-bones HTML editor. You can make the CMS a bit easier to navigate using a theme like Gin Admin, but at the end of the day, there’s no escaping the fact that in order to build effectively with Drupal, you have to learn how to code.

drupal-html-editor
If this looks scary, then you need a Drupal developer

On the other hand, WordPress is much easier to get used to. It’s not the most beginner-friendly CMS out there, but once you find all the important functions, you can build and maintain a website without ever having to write a line of code.

If you’re not a fan of WordPress’ native editor, don’t worry. You can use drag-and-drop website builders like Elementor or BoldGrid. Thousands of themes are integrated with both of these nifty tools, and it’s super-easy to ensure that your site looks good on desktop and mobile screens.

wordpress-drag-and-drop-elementor
Most Elementor themes are mobile-responsive, which is a big plus

It’s also worth mentioning that WordPress websites are easier to update and maintain. Drupal sites rely on complex dependencies that can be difficult to work with even after the websites are published. If you’re not a particularly tech-savvy user, you’ll likely need to have a developer on retainer.

Which brings me to my next point: Drupal developers tend to be more expensive, and they need more time to build a website using this CMS. Overall, a Drupal site will cost more than a WordPress one, which is something to keep in mind if you’re on a tight budget.

3. Themes

WordPress Has Thousands of Themes, Drupal Is All about Custom Sites

No CMS can match WordPress’ massive library of themes. There are thousands of free themes available, plus thousands of premium ones if you’re willing to pay extra. Depending on the host you choose, you may even get access to some paid themes for free. WP Engine, for example, gives you 30+ StudioPress themes with every plan.

As a beginner, you can import a theme and start working on your site right away. Most elements of a theme are customizable, including fonts, backgrounds, colors, buttons, and images. While almost all premium and recent free themes are mobile responsive, older themes might not be, so always check this first.

wordpress-themes-marketplace
The marketplace for WordPress themes is gigantic

Drupal has fewer themes in its library, and only a couple of hundred themes are compatible with the latest versions of the CMS. In addition, a Drupal theme is not exactly a ready-made website that you can tweak to make your own. Instead, each theme offers a basic framework that front-end developers can use to build websites more quickly.

drupal-bootstrap-theme
Drupal has themes too, but they might be quite what you’d expect

In other words, you still have to code parts of your site even if you use a theme. You get more creative control, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up with a slow, clunky-looking, and possibly vulnerable website. This is why I only recommend Drupal if you can squeeze a professional developer into your budget.

4. Modules and Plugins

Drupal Has Modules for Easy Development, WordPress Has Plugins for Everything

With over 45,000 entries, Drupal’s module marketplace is truly impressive. In fact, this is one of the things that makes Drupal so attractive to developers. The core framework is incredibly flexible, and you can use modules to add functions like content access control, multilingual tools, or e-commerce capabilities.

But again, these modules are not built for beginners. They can make a developer’s life easier by providing bits of useful code, but they need to be properly integrated into a framework in order to function, and – you’ve guessed it – this requires more coding.

WordPress plugins are different. Most of them are designed with flexibility in mind, so anyone can use them to add functionality to a website. Even if you have no previous experience with WordPress, you can head over to the marketplace, search for a specific keyword (say, SEO), and install a suitable plugin.

That said, not all plugins are compatible with one another, and these incompatibilities can break your site. In addition, the more plugins you use, the longer your website takes to load, so it’s a good idea to keep your WordPress installation as lightweight as possible.

Both modules and plugins require regular updates, but with WordPress, you can get your web host to do some of the leg work for you. Providers like FastComet and InMotion Hosting offer automatic updates for WordPress core and plugins, which can save you a lot of time.

I can’t say the same for Drupal modules, or for Drupal itself, which is notoriously difficult to keep up to date.

5. Security

Both Drupal and WordPress Are Secure, but Plugins and Modules Are Vulnerable

When used correctly, both Drupal and WordPress are equally secure. The problem is that users make mistakes, and with WordPress, these mistakes are more frequent. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. WordPress is aimed at beginners who are less likely to be aware of potential threats, whereas Drupal is built for experienced developers.

When a WordPress website is hacked, it’s usually due to outdated software, weak passwords, or vulnerable plugins. Thousands of third-party developers contribute to its marketplace on a regular basis, and not all plugins are held to the same standard of security. So, while the core installation is perfectly safe, using lots of loosely-verified plugins can turn your site into a target.

With Drupal, the module ecosystem is more tightly controlled. There aren’t as many contributors, and the modules are subjected to strict public scrutiny when published. I’m not saying that your Drupal website can’t be hacked, but statistically speaking, this is less likely to happen.

That said, you or the developer working on your site can introduce vulnerabilities through poor coding. This is yet another reason why I don’t recommend Drupal for beginners.

6. Support

WordPress Is Backed by a Massive Community, So It’s Easier to Get Help

It’s not that Drupal doesn’t have a healthy community of its own. It does. But this is no match for the kind of support you can get with WordPress. In both cases, you can rely on extensive knowledge bases and user forums for help, but with WordPress, more people are available to answer your questions.

wordpress-support-forums
Thousands of WordPress developers have your back if you ever get stuck

Drupal is built for developers with at least some experience, so its guides and tutorials aren’t exactly suitable for beginners. If you’re into programming and you know your way around the command line, you can definitely use this type of support to get started. Otherwise, you’ll probably need additional help.

Alt: Drupal - support forums
If you’re fluent in Drupal, the support forum is a good place to get answers

Also, keep in mind that you’re more likely to get support for WordPress than you are for Drupal as far as web hosting services are concerned. Providers like SiteGround and Kinsta go a long way to ensure that you’re able to get a WordPress website up and running. They can also help you optimize your site, or restore it in case it gets compromised.

This kind of help is rare with Drupal. Sure, most hosts will give you a one-click installer for it, but that’s about as far as support will go.

Drupal Has Its Advantages, but WordPress Is Better for Most Users

For expert developers who want to build custom websites, Drupal comes out ahead. It’s versatile, flexible, and secure, which makes it more suitable for enterprise-level websites. But for everything else, WordPress is a better choice.

Even if you have no previous experience, WordPress lets you create and launch a professional-looking site in a matter of hours. There’s a guide out there for pretty much anything WordPress-related, and if you opt for a managed hosting service, you can rely on your host to help out with common issues like performance and security.

WordPress is also a better choice for most e-commerce websites, thanks to plugins like WooCommerce that are reasonably easy to use. With Drupal, you’re more likely to need a developer to create and update your store, which can increase your overall costs significantly.

At the end of the day, both CMSs can be used to build beautiful, functional websites. But unless you’re ready to spend a fair amount of money on a Drupal site, my recommendation is to go with WordPress.

Drupal WordPress
Features HTML editor, built-in SEO and caching, highly flexible, ideal for custom websites Point-and-click, block-based editor, fewer built-in functions, but tons of easy-to-use plugins
Ease of Use Built for expert developers, steep learning curve, websites can be difficult to update Suitable for beginners, more intuitive, can be turned into a drag-and-drop builder
Themes Thousands of free themes, but these are mostly frameworks for developers Thousands of free and paid themes that are easy to install and customize
Modules/Plugins Thousands of flexible modules, but they are not easily integrated Thousands of free, easy-to-install plugins let you do virtually anything with your website
Security Drupal core is secure, and modules undergo public scrutiny WordPress core is secure, but some plugins tend to be more vulnerable
Support Good knowledge base and support forum, but the community is relatively small and the guides are aimed at developers Extensive knowledge base and support forum, plus guides for beginners from third parties and help from a large community

FAQ

Which is better for beginners, Drupal or WordPress?WordPress, absolutely. Drupal has a steep learning curve and is primarily aimed at developers. Meanwhile, WordPress is more intuitive and easier to use and maintain. There are thousands of guides out there to help you get started, and you can get additional support from your web host. That said, not all hosts are as willing to help. Head over to our list of the best web hosting services in 2021 to find some excellent options for beginners.Are WordPress and Drupal free to use?Yes, both WordPress and Drupal are free, but you’ll need to pay for a hosting plan. Plus, you’re more likely to need a developer with Drupal, which can increase your overall costs. Drupal websites also tend to require more powerful (read: more expensive) hosting in order to run smoothly. Still, you don’t have to spend a small fortune to host a simple website. If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll find some outstanding deals for December 2021 on our coupons page.Is Drupal hard to learn?I can think of a few things that are more difficult to do well: brain surgery, rocket science, making small talk at a party…that kind of stuff. But as far as CMSs are concerned, Drupal has a pretty steep learning curve. Even developers are intimidated by its stripped-back HTML editor, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you are a non-developer who wants to build and maintain a website on your own.Which is better for e-commerce, Drupal or WordPress?It depends. If you want to build a small-to-medium-sized online store, I recommend WordPress. You can easily turn your website into a store using the WooCommerce plugin, and you can build the entire site without help. Adding products is simple, and software updates are easy to implement. Drupal Commerce is a module best used for large online stores, but it’s significantly more difficult to implement and maintain. You’ll likely need an expert developer to build and update your website, and upgrading to a new version of Drupal may require extensive work.

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