Drupal vs WordPress – 2 CMS alternatives compared

If you were to base things purely on user figures, then the battle between Drupal and WordPress would appear to be a David and Goliath encounter. As of May 2017the weblog software WordPress is in pole position among content management systems with a massive market share of 61.4%, Drupal is a way back in third place with a market share of 6.6% (source: W3Techs/ date: 02.05.2016). We’ll take a closer look at these two systems, helping you to decide which of these CMSs is the most suited to your needs.

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Six decision-making factors

When choosing the best CMS for you, there are a few important questions to answer: what will the system be used for? What requirements does it need to fulfil? And how high is the budget available? When comparing WordPress vs Drupal, we’ll concentrate on six criteria for decision making: user friendliness, range of functions, options for customisation, security, search engine optimisation, and price.

1. User friendliness

Even web hosting beginners should be aware of the importance of user friendliness as a factor for CMSs. Thanks to its 5-minute installation and intuitive backend, WordPress has the upper hand here. This system, which was developed as a software for blogging, enables a quick, uncomplicated integration of plugins and so makes it easy for users to turn WordPress into a fully blown content management system. Inexperienced users can quickly and comfortably install updates with the click of a button. As a result, this software is very popular among hobbyists and semiprofessional website operators. But the administration of content optimised for multiple languages and a multi-domain system is less straightforward on WordPress. It’s possible to achieve these functions through plugins, but these then quickly begin to affect the intuitive service that makes WordPress so popular in the first place.

The open source project Drupal takes an entirely different approach. This CMS offers a streamlined basic installation, but its modular structure enables users to build diverse online projects with complex page structures. Since the additional modules have to be installed manually afterwards, the configuration of the system is designed to be much more extensive than WordPress. In fact, even extensions can’t simply be added from the administrative layer – they have to be installed via FTP instead.  The modular design puts further strain on update management as well, because many modules are dependent on one another and some don’t offer backwards compatibility. But website operators who work on Drupal or employ professionals to do so profit from a CMS with a very diverse range of uses. This content management system is proud to be the building block for numerous corporate websites and the online presences of public institutions.

2. Range of functions

Both content management systems offer a streamlined initial installation, designed to be specialised through optional extensions. While WordPress’ primary focus is to provide software for the creation and management of blog articles, Drupal is more concerned with community applications and social publishing. Diverse multi-user functions are available right from the initial lite version. WordPress only supports rudimentary settings for user roles and rights. But the corresponding functions can be added through various plugins.


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3. Customisation

Very few website operators are happy to settle for a site exactly as it comes upon activating it. As a result, content management systems consider customisation a crucial factor. While plugins and modules allow users to add new functions to their CMS site, themes are used to change the design of a website. Provided you have the required programming knowledge, it’s also possible to design your own WordPress or Drupal theme from scratch. But beginners especially appreciate predesigned themes available for download. The selection of free themes available becomes an important factor when it comes to choosing the right CMS for your own website.

WordPress leads the way as far as design ideas and extensions are concerned, benefitting from its huge community of users and developers. These contributors mean that there are around 44,000 plugins and an estimated 14,000 themes available for download. But Drupal isn’t far behind, with roughly 34,000 modules and more than 2,000 themes to choose from.

4. Security

Many popular software solutions are prime targets for hackers. In the case of WordPress, cyber criminal security breaches are often discovered in the system. This is where the vast range of plugins developed by the WordPress community is considered a vulnerability – particularly if a website operator fails to regularly install the latest updates for all extensions. But Drupal has also had issues with security, particularly with breaches in extension modules. Despite this, Drupal is recommended especially for use in public administration and medium-sized companies. There are over 1,000,000 websites built on Drupal, including the University of Minnesota and the Economist.

5. Search engine optimisation (SEO)

In principle, search engines don’t judge websites differently if they’re built on WordPress or Drupal. Both content management systems offer SEO features or enable search engine optimisation through extensions. The content is above all the decisive factor when it comes to good SERP (search engine resuts page) ranking, as this will attract users to visit your site. Drupal was developed to handle large amounts of content and offers a native database caching, which serves to accelerate page loading speeds in the front end. WordPress doesn’t offer this, but there are plugins that can add caching. But WordPress users do benefit from the option of creating search engine friendly URLs right from the basic installation. For Drupal users, this feature is only available after the installation of an additional module.

6. Price

Both Drupal and WordPress are licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) Version 2.0. This means that website operators are permitted to download both content management system free of charge and use them within the software licensing restrictions. Themes and plugins are also available to download free of charge on their respective project pages. There are also plenty of third party companies online whose business models center on offering the design or management of WordPress or Drupal pages for a fee. Some of these services include the programming of individual design templates, the customisation of software extensions, and even specialised training to allow you to operate your WordPress or Drupal site independently.

Drupal vs WordPress – a summary

The following table is a summary of the most important factors when it comes to choosing between the WordPress and Drupal CMSs for your needs:

Factor WordPress Drupal
Market share 59.3% 4.9%
Themes 14,000+ 2,465
Extensions 50,390 plugins 37,589 modules
Installation difficulty Easy Medium
Configuration difficulty Medium Hard
User friendliness High Medium
Update difficulty Easy Hard
Range of functions (based on initial installation) Medium Medium
Extensibility High High
Customisation High Medium
Security Medium High
Search engine optimisation (without plugins) Medium Medium
Search engine optimisation (with plugins) High High
Price Free Free

While WordPress, with its quick installation and high user friendliness, is aimed at bloggers and other private users above all, Drupal instead focuses on offering a secure and flexible CMS for companies and public establishments. With the comprehensive range of free design templates available, WordPress appeals to users who put a high value on a sophisticated and stylish aesthetic, but don’t have the necessary programming skills to create their own individual themes. For users who want to run content on a simple website online without a great deal of effort, WordPress offers an intuitive software solution that can be installed within minutes and is easy to operate in both the front and back end. Drupal users on the other hand should have some prior knowledge of web development (or employ someone who does). But this high performance CMS is great for creating individual website projects with more complex page structures than the market leader.

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