Choosing between Content Management System (CMS) options can be a daunting task, especially if you are not a developer or you do not have much technical expertise. A Content Management System is fundamentally a software application that allows a user to build a website without having to know how to code.
This is a fairly simple definition and anyone can build a basic website using one of the more popular options. As critical as choosing the right technology for your requirements is, it is even more important to choose the right delivery and maintenance partner to achieve an enterprise-level or even an efficient professional outcome.
This guide will compare and contrast the different technologies available and their particular strengths and weaknesses. After taking a look at market share, business requirement fit, security, cost, ease of use, and support options, you will be in a much better position to choose the CMS that is right for your business.
Popularity Comparison: Drupal vs Joomla vs WordPress
In terms of market share, WordPress has no real competition. According to W3tech, 42% of the websites on the World Wide Web are built using WordPress. Of the known CMS market, WordPress dominates with 65% of all builds.
By comparison, Drupal, despite being a more established offering, has around 2.2% of the known CMS market share. In broader terms that is about 1.4% of all websites on the web. Although Drupal has a smaller market share, it is the technology used by the sites with the highest volume of traffic.
A third popular choice is Joomla, which has 3.2% of the known CMS market share which translates into 2% of all websites. Both Joomla and WordPress are favored by lower-traffic sites.
Who is using which CMS?
There are always many different tools that are available to do different jobs or even options for the same job. Defining what your requirements are is an important step to help you choose the right solution. Getting inspiration from others is a useful way to learn what the possibilities are and to narrow down on which solution would best suit your needs.
Different companies choose their software for different reasons. Here are some examples of companies using our three focus technologies for their builds.
Popular sites using WordPress
Popular sites using Drupal
Popular sites using Joomla
The choice between these CMS options comes down to what each offers in terms of key differentiators and whether those match your specific needs. Other than the technological and feature level compatibility, a reliable, expert partner who specializes in that technology is an often overlooked requirement.
Advantages of each CMS in terms of functionality
WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are all open source and well-established software options with a large support community. They also all use PHP as a primary programming language and MySQL for database infrastructure. Another common advantage is that they all offer the use of templates and themes for easy website customization, as well as extension options in the form of plugins or modules.
Each does have its advantages once you start getting deeper into your requirements and their functionalities.
At a high-level content type, Drupal offers the most comprehensive built-in content type options. Both Joomla and WordPress are limited to one or two basic content types that need development to customize them any further.
Having a CMS robust enough to support your content strategy and calendar is an important consideration for Enterprise businesses or large organizations. Drupal, specifically Varbase distribution, offers a very comprehensive content publishing and management workflow that facilitates the tracking of end-to-end content creation and publication.
WordPress offers headless capabilities that can help large organizations scale their content distribution but lacks true scalability in most other respects.
Joomla offers an out the box admin customizable workflow setup and also extensions in the form of plugins.
Joomla and Drupal offer better user access control options out of the box.
While all three require that your theme developer did their job with multilingual support in mind, only Joomla and Drupal 8 offer out of the box functionality in this area. Drupal 7 and WordPress both require plugins or modules to cater to multilingual support with Drupal being the easier to use option.
Both Joomla and Drupal have more sophisticated and complex database structures than WordPress which only caters for a single post table. However, the resulting advantage of being able to create more efficient internal data architecture can be wiped out by poor development practices. Drupal’s taxonomy is generally considered to be the best for high volumes of content.
It’s important to choose your development team wisely to ensure your site’s performance from a back-end data perspective and a public performance point of view. Your caching strategy will also be critical for performance and all three technology options offer robust techniques for this.
How easy is it to get started and what kind of expertise do I need?
WordPress is well known for being the most user-friendly to set up for non-developers, with one caveat. Using WordPress is easy as long as you do not need any customization beyond the limited out of the box setup. So for a novice with fairly basic needs, WordPress is a good option with easy to use tools like the WYSIWYG theme customizer.
For those with more customization requirements, WordPress has great extensibility options in terms of plugins and themes which do not necessarily need development expertise to implement. It's worth keeping in mind that multiple third-party plugins, unless well implemented, could begin to affect your site's security and performance.
- Easy to use for a novice as long as little to no customization is needed.
Drupal is arguably a more powerful framework than WordPress and as a result, you are more likely to need the help of a developer to set up your website should you need anything more advanced than an out the box solution. Even with an out the box option requirement, Drupal is less novice user friendly in terms of interface and themes. Most Drupal sites require customized themes to achieve a professional level of design excellence, so setting up a professional-level website is not an option for a user without the relevant coding skills.
- To achieve a high-quality outcome and to cater to scalability, the support of a developer is recommended.
Joomla is also a more robust framework than WordPress and so to achieve the best results, the help of a developer is recommended.
- If you are a business or have any requirements to scale, choose to work with a developer from the start.
Which CMS is best for my website?
This question depends on your specific requirements as each one offers different out of the box solutions and a wide array of customization options. These options for customization are called different things by each company:
- WordPress - Plugins
- Drupal - Modules
- Joomla - Extensions
In terms of quantity, WordPress has the largest number of plugins with over 50,000 in their directory. Drupal has 47,000 modules available while Joomla only caters to 6000 extensions.
If you are looking for efficiency and security, then Drupal has some great options like Drupal Distributions which means that all of your modules can be updated simultaneously.
If you are looking for quality and user-friendliness, this will depend on which elements you are looking at. Using the example of SEO extensions, the WordPress Yoast SEO plugin is easy to use and has a wide range of capabilities from convenient categorization to improvement suggestions.
Joomla’s equivalent Easy Frontend SEO allows you to do tasks like editing your metadata on the front end but ultimately doesn’t compete with Yoast for the breadth of functionality.
Drupal offers Real-Time SEO for Drupal which, although not affiliated with Yoast, is built on the Yoast framework and offers much of the same functionality as the WordPress version.
Ultimately, the best way to approach the task of finding your ideal CMS is to look at which out of the box solution most closely matches your requirements and then find the best options for extensions that you may need based on your unique situation.
Are Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress equally secure?
No, is the short answer. If security is a concern for your organization, then the one to opt for is Drupal. Many government agencies, including The National Institute of Standards and Technology, choose Drupal for its superior security offering.
Good security principles to look out for are:
- DoS prevention strategies
- Database encryption
- User access control
- Frequent patches
Based on security research done by Sucuri, WordPress sites are the most often hacked of the three options, even when their popularity is controlled for. One of the reasons for this is that hackers often target vulnerabilities in third-party plugins which are more prevalent in WordPress sites due to their need for more extensive customization on out of the box solutions.
Joomla has had a long history of public security concerns but in fact, it is also more secure than WordPress. Core native Joomla is difficult to hack but like WordPress, its weaknesses lie in third-party extension vulnerabilities.
All open source CMSs have an inherent security risk as their code is publicly available and can be scrutinized for vulnerabilities to be exploited. For this reason amongst others, it's a good idea to have a reliable technology partner to keep your site up to date and ensure that patches are regularly implemented.
Cost and expense comparison
Building your WordPress site with little to no customization will of course be the most cost-effective solution but it may not meet all of your requirements. Asking for a general comparison of costs and expenses between the options is like asking how long a line of code is. Your specific requirements will involve a different cost per option to anyone else's.
There are however a few basics that you can quantify quite easily.
The two costs inherent in any website option are listed below. You can get both of these for under $50 a year for quality offerings.
- Domain name registration
If you would like to customize, you can get:
- Themes for $0 - $250
- Plugins for $0 - $200.
Your unique cost per option will be determined by your requirements. Define those first and then you can compare like with like.
Support & community
As established open-source software options, all three options have global communities and support structures. Each also offers access to user forums and support documentation.
Drupal and Joomla offer better quality documentation while WordPress has a larger number of professional developers who would be able to support you in building and maintaining your website.
So, which one do I choose?
This depends on your business requirements. If you are a bank or a government agency then security is non-negotiable for you and Drupal would be your best option, irrespective of any other considerations.
If content management workflows are useful to your business as you handle large quantities of content and need multiple layers of user access, then Drupal and perhaps Joomla would suit you best.
If you are an enterprise-level organization, WordPress may be difficult to scale to your needs, and managing a tech stack with so many third-party plugins can be time-consuming and a security risk. Drupal and Joomla both offer more robust out of the box options, so they minimize the need for adding extensions in order to scale.
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Defining your requirements clearly will help you to choose the best option for your business.
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