Recently, I switched this website to Drupal. And even more recently, I switched it back to WordPress. What’s with the struggle between two robust content management systems? For many years, there wasn’t. I didn’t think fondly of Drupal. Maybe it was the Drupal icon. Sunglasses on a drop of water seemed odd to me. Maybe it was the high maintenance. I had trouble getting the software to do what I wanted. But with the launch of Drupal 7, things started to change. I saw the power of Drupal and I liked it.
There’s a simple analogy to WordPress vs. Drupal. WordPress is like a sports car. It’s fun to drive, pretty to look at and it’s fast. Drupal is like a truck. It’s better suited for heavy duty tasks. Sure, you could use a Ferrari to pickup some groceries at Costco. But if you wanted to haul a king-sized mattress home, the Italian sports car doesn’t make much sense.
If you need to setup a website quickly, but you don’t want to do a whole lot of work, WordPress has the advantage. The installation is quick and updating/creating content is even easier. There’s a standard text editor included and uploading files (like images) is easier. With Drupal, you have to download and activate plugins to get basic functionality. Something as simple as a WYSIWYG editor is not standard with Drupal.
I decided to drop Drupal because I miss the polished text editor on WordPress. I even missed the standard set of emoticons. With a simple colon and right-parenthesis, I could add some emotion to my posts. With Drupal, I can get close to a WordPress experience with CKeditor. But unfortunately, it’s just not as fun for me. If you care more about the written word than the technology to deliver it, WordPress creates a better environment for writing.
The struggle is choosing between fun and power. WordPress can make blogging fun, but Drupal can be used for more than just blogs. Forums, Books, Multilingual support, Statistics, PHP Filter and OpenID are just some of the core modules. With Drupal, I feel that I have greater control over the page. Blocks are very handy for customizing sections. And with Views, I can work with the database without a degree in Computer Science. With Drupal, I can easily create content types beyond articles and basic pages — like creating a classified section, adding photo galleries or listing the latest forum posts. Custom lists can be sortable, searchable or even spiced up with some PHP. That’s incredible power. Sure, complex functionality can be added to WordPress, but I think Drupal does it better.
Both WordPress and Drupal have active communities. There are lots of plugins (WordPress) or modules (Drupal) for adding additional features to the software. But unfortunately, both also face a similar problem. What happens when an add-on is no longer supported? Will the next major upgrade break the add-on? Drupal has a better handle on module development. The community is structured to reduce duplicate modules and salvage abandoned projects. That focuses the community to create better modules. Yet, I worry about that looming Drupal 8 update. Will it kill my favorite modules? A good example is the Drupal Arcade module. It’s available for Drupal 6, but not Drupal 7. I don’t like the idea of running older software to get – or keep – the features that I want.
Future growth is a concern. Which software will be better in 2014 and beyond? With Drupal, there are things to worry about, but also things to look forward to. A major Drupal improvement is in the works — http://drupal.org/project/spark — inline editing. One of the reasons I prefer WordPress over Drupal is the ease of use. Spark could dramatically improve Drupal’s interface. Meanwhile, I doubt WordPress is going to be asleep at the wheel. One of the few RSS Feeds that I follow is the WordPress Development feed. WordPress has been focused on delivering a polished experience. It seems that trend will continue.
The reality is that I missed WordPress. It’s lots of fun and it’s easy to use, so I brought it back. I enjoyed the extra power of Drupal, but I don’t have enough spare development time to maintain a complex CMS.
So if you’re wondering which solution you should choose, I don’t think one is better than the other. Instead, which is the right tool for the job? For Blogs and simple sites, I prefer WordPress. For large websites that need heavy customization, I think Drupal wins out.