Drupal vs. WordPress: pros and cons for 2021

Both Drupal and WordPress are free and open-source content management systems. They use PHP, a general-purpose scripting language, and use a similar module/plugin extension structure. Both present templates and a variety of uses. What are their pros and cons?

Fidel Chaves
7 min read

Drupal vs. WordPress is a struggle that many business owners, bloggers, and developers face when starting a project. We already covered what a CMS is, but here is a refresher: the acronym stands for content management system, and this kind of software provides a structure to create, manage and update content for writers, editors, and developers alike.

 

WordPress currently holds most of the market share, with estimates around 40% of the 10 million most visited sites on the internet. This trend has been growing since 2011 and is up until today. On the other hand, Drupal has held a steady 1.5 - 2 % since 2011 without changes to this day. While this difference is massive, Drupal is the platform of choice for over a million sites, including a wide variety of industries, government agencies, and countries across the globe.

 

If you are looking for a CMS or alternatives to what you are currently using, Drupal and WordPress are the most popular and viable options. Before making any changes, let's analyze the pros and cons of both.

A variable time-to-market

The main difference between both CMS lies in their time-to-market and learning curve. While Drupal has been making an effort to supply solutions to individuals and non-developers, WordPress focuses on those kinds of users, which created a dichotomy. Whereas WordPress puts a lot of emphasis on templates, easily usable plugins, and third-party extensions with a clean UI on top of a well-thought-out UX, Drupal presents a steep learning curve with a bigger payout in the long term.

 

Are you struggling with which one to choose? You might consider the size of your company or project, the speed at which you want to have a website running, and how you would like to strike a balance between the long and short term. As a business owner or entrepreneur, you probably have an idea about your needs, but you might struggle to pin down what CMS better suits you.

 

WordPress offers an out-of-the-box ready experience with an accessible and intuitive user interface. That may be tempting as you will be up and running in no time. The problem is: it is going to be just another WordPress site. If you are running a personal blog or a small business, that might be enough. You probably want to hit the market as soon as possible without having to hire a developer.

 

Drupal stands on the other side of the street. This CMS might take a longer time to get a holdup but pays off in the long run. While you could try to learn Drupal on your own, it is not as intuitive and user-friendly as WordPress (believe me, I tried both). A common complaint is a need for a developer. In general, developers with much more seniority are in charge of developing Drupal sites for larger companies or government agencies. You pay, and then you have to wait, it is true, but you get a much more complete product.

Comparing scalability and need for iteration

Leaving time-to-market aside, it is worth considering to compare scalability and the need for iteration in both content management systems. WordPress tends to be appealing for its readiness. There are plenty of tutorials explaining “How to build your site on a weekend, no previous knowledge needed.” But be careful, as it will bring issues along the way.

 

If you are lucky enough to succeed with your project (and I hope you do), WordPress sites need constant revisions and present some difficulties with scalability. You know the deal, quick and easy solutions can only last for a while. That is the main issue with WordPress: you find a suitable theme, some useful plugins, and your site is up and running; but when looking for more complex functionalities, you will start a never-ending iteration of new sites and versions. You will find that the scalability of your original site is pretty poor, and that weekend promise will soon become a perpetual need for revisions and updates.

 

With Drupal, scalability is built into its core. It also presents a wide offer of modules that developers can use to extend Drupal’s functionality and achieve complex project requirements with high-grade customization. Supported by a robust community, no half-assed modules get to the menu—a significant difference with WordPress.

 

Drupal presents itself as a developer-friendly CMS, something you can notice from its UX, which is rather challenging for a layman like myself. While this may sound like a downside, developing for developers can bring benefits in building a stable, secure, and reliable product. Drupal then presents a capacity for incremental growth that quickly surpasses the static designs offered by WordPress. These features contribute to a longer lifespan in Drupal projects and a reduced cost in scalability and iteration.

Differences in the development life cycle and development process

It is easy, you google Drupal or WordPress, and three results come out: “Drupal vs. WordPress” or “Is Drupal dead?” or “Is WordPress dead?” Today, we are trying to answer the first. For the other two, no, they are not dead. As long as people need to manage their content on the internet, and that does not look like fading any time soon, companies will offer quick and standardized ways to create, manage and update content. That is what content management systems are for.

 

The software development process involves dividing development into smaller steps to improve design, product management, and project management. It is also known as a software development life cycle and belongs to the development process. The software development life cycle and development process requires planning, analysis, design, implementation, and maintenance. As we have seen earlier, there are many pros and cons for Drupal and WordPress development.

 

With Drupal and WordPress, you should always maintain all your code up-to-date and be mindful of new releases and requirements, not only for usability but also for security. Having old plugins or modules can become an easy exploit for hackers trying to obtain your information. With the massification of WordPress, most of the vulnerabilities appear on its plugins and third-party extensions, not always maintained by its developers. But this is not true for every CMS.

 

While other content management systems might need constant updating and migrations, Drupal 9 delivers new features twice a year without losing the benefits of the previous versions, enabling quick development updates for already existing projects and a streamlined improvement process.

Web development: achieving project ideas

There are a million videos, articles, and tutorials for WordPress users and enthusiasts. We kind of feel envious here at the Drupal side of things. That is because, for web development and achieving project ideas, Drupal will always be our platform of choice here at Awkbit (at least until a better open-source solution appears). Without wanting to detract from WordPress, I will limit myself to present the clear benefits of Drupal when developing your web project.

Drupal pros

  • Free and open source under GNU licensing
  • Developer-friendly focused on professional webmasters
  • Plenty of themes and modules for customization with free and paid options
  • Multilingual website development, known for its easy implementation
  • Advanced user management
  • High-grade security features increased protection compared to other CMSs
  • Easy installation, maintenance, and configuration (some might challenge this)
  • Accelerated prototyping of web applications
  • Professional online community with high-seniority developers

Drupal cons

  • Complexity starting up with a long learning curve until mastery
  • Not the most intuitive and masterable interface
  • High system requirements, forget the cheap and easy solutions
  • Reduced user base, fewer tutorials, and online discussions, less content as modules and themes

 

At Awkbit, we always love a challenge, that is why Drupal’s steep learning curve was worth it, and we still thrive in its complexity. Putting in time and dedication is essential to deliver an exceptional product. We root for Drupal: scalability, complexity, security, and uniqueness. Are you in need of a CMS for your business? Would you like to leverage everything Drupal has to offer?

Reach Out!

Sources & further reading