5 minutes read

The big three CMS systems - Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal

Through a story of three different people, I tried to show the difference between each of the system. Let's see what are the pros and cons of each and when to use which.

Young web developer who is seeking new work is choosing an open-source CMS on which he should build his portfolio. He's using Google and he's faced with lots of options. Lots of blog posts, reviews, recommendations about what to use.

Meanwhile, a web agency in the same city is facing high maintenance costs of their proprietary, in-house developed CMS system. Director is often thinking about the possible solutions and ways to be more competitive on the market. He invites his entire team to the brainstorm session. They are all ready to go for an open-source solution. Some of the developers inside of the team are already playing with different solutions in their free time. At the end, it's up to the lead developer to gather all the information, check all possible solutions and present them to the team and director.

Just across the street of that web agency is a main office of big enterprise. Behind the desk there is leadership, marketing and IT team. They are preparing a call for tenders for a new website. IT guy, young geek with a little knowledge of web development, wants to add a condition to the tender to use an open-source system. His older companion is against it, stating that something so open can't be safe at the same time. After couple of arguments, the young one wins. Until the next meeting, he has to prepare a short-list of three systems, that will be put in a tender as a condition.

All three of them are now surfing the web, looking for the best fit. Sooner or later, they all come to three options - Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal.

Wordpress

Wordpress was made in 2003. Huge number of installs is mostly due to the fact that it's pretty easy to install and use.

Out of three, it's still probably the one with the fastest learning curve. But whoever thinks that Wordpress is still only for blog, it must update their definition. Through the years and with the help of plugins and themes it became a powerfull tool for setting up advanced pages as well.

Image of themes directory page on wordpress.org.
Themes directory on wordpress.org.

There is also a service on wordpress.com where users can quickly create their own blog under a sub-doman (story-teller.wordpress.com). This service is also one of the reasons why Wordpress gained its popularity.

So the basic install is still meant for blogs, but if you add a nice looking theme and couple of plugins, you get a tool that you can definitely benefit of. There is a large amount of developers who are contributing to Wordpress by creating plugins and themes. Some of them are free, some of them are available to users for small amount of money.

Joomla

A name Joomla is known since 2005 and was originally created as a fork of than popular Mambo. If we said that the basic install of Wordpress is mostly for blogs, a great advantage of Joomla is a fact, that the basic install already works as a full web page. Content management is also simple as it is with Wordpress.

Of course you can build up on that, what is a plugin for Wordpress is an extenstion for Joomla. They are often not free, but the prices are not really high.

Editing page with Joomla.
Editing page with Joomla.

And there is one other problem with Joomla - it's in-between. Those who want a quick install, beautiful theme and easy content management, will go for Wordpress. On the other hand, there are people who want lots of custom solutions with possibility to extend their page endlessly and who realize that you can't do this with simple clicking. Those are probably going to land at Drupal.

Drupal

Out of three, Drupal has the longest history. In 2001, Drupal was open-sourced, before that it was used as a message board.

It's definitely the most extendible and meant for advanced web pages and applications. There is a large amount of extensions available, this time called modules. There is a known term among Drupal developers, when they are looking for solution: 'There's a module for that'. And it almost sure is - the modules are created by the large amount of contributors and they are all hosted on drupal.org, hence they are free to use.

But on the other hand, we don't get much from basic install. If we said that Wordpress and Joomla offer us a fully functional page on install and if we add a theme to make it look good, that is not the case with Drupal. You won't find lots of themes on the internet.

Drupal issue queue.
All the modules have issue queue, where people can report problems with modules.

The reason is simple. It's meant for advanced projects, which go through different phases of planning, wireframing, creating user experience etc. So almost every page on Drupal is build from scratch.

It is expected that developers won't use a basic installation only. You will need a bunch of modules, create your own theme and do lots of configuration. OK, you can use Bootstrap and similar but they are not as configurable as you might think.

You need more time to learn Drupal, but when you are able to build your own themes and modules, you usually don't want to go away of it. A simple proof that it's meant for true developers is that you can automate lots of tasks using Drush - a Drupal bash. You can control your basic actions (download module, clear cache etc.) by using your terminal and this is really something that brings power to the fingers of developers.

Wrap up

wordpres, joomla, drupal logos

Now let's go back to our three searchers who are still looking what it's best for them. A young developer will probably go for Wordpress, maybe Joomla. Those two systems enable him quick and easy install of beautiful portfolio.

The decision that a web agency will create will probably outline the path of their clients in the future. If their goal is to build a high number of presentational sites, than Drupal is probably not the answer for them. But if they want to start working on large-scale project (maybe even apply for the job of the company across the street), than they will consider Drupal as their best bet.

And the young guy from the IT department in a big enterprise? Well, his job is maybe the easiest, because he must prepare three suggestions. But if he's brave enough and he wants to work on something that's scalable in the future, he can suggest to only add Drupal to tender.

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