For those of us who want to build powerful websites without having to worry about all the coding, and technical aspects of it, there are three main options. WordPress, Joomla and Drupal have established themselves as the leaders for online content management systems.
They are all incredible systems, and can make creating a website quick and easy, no matter how little one knows about technology. Choosing which system to use can be difficult, but it is an important choice to make. For most people, once they’ve started with one, they won’t want to change, so let’s take a few minutes to review each of these three content management systems to see which one is right for you.
Let’s compare those three:
- WordPress (Best pick for beginners, works well for small to medium sized websites & blogs)
- Joomla (Good for ecommerce type of sites, but require at least some level of technical coding)
- Drupal (The hardest, but also the most powerful CMS)
CMS Comparison Chart
… and now for the more in-depth review
WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system. It started out as a platform exclusively for blogging, but has grown and advanced significantly over the years. Today, over 40% of sites using CMS’s are using WordPress. In addition, over 60 millions websites are using WordPress which shows just how popular it is. WordPress offers many advantages to those looking to create a website, including the following:
- Easy to Install – Many web hosting companies offer automatic installation of WordPress sites, which means you can have a new site up and running in well under five minutes. Even with manual installation, you can create a new site in less than a half hour.
- Customizable – WordPress has significantly more plug-ins, themes and other customizations available for it than any other CMS. This is largely because it is the most popular, so the designers of these items almost always create them for WordPress.
- Free – WordPress is free to install and use for anyone who wants it. There are also thousands of free plug-ins and themes available to choose from. There are also paid themes and plug-ins, which some people will want to use, but they are not required, especially not for beginners.
- Community Support – With millions of people using WordPress, there are a lot of people out there to help you through any problems you may have. Several websites are set up by users offering free support to other WordPress website owners.
Of course, WordPress isn’t perfect in every way. Some common complaints about WordPress are that if the site grows to large, it can require significant server resources to keep up. The framework of WordPress is also difficult to change, so those looking to make back-end changes to their websites may have some trouble using WordPress.
These concerns are much more significant for sites that start getting hundreds of thousands of visitors per day, at which point a more robust server may be required to run the page. However, for a beginner, this is probably the most suitable platform to build a site.
Drupal is the second most popular content management system available today. It is a fully open source program, which many people prefer, especially those who are more technically minded.
The Drupal platform is extremely powerful, and is less resource intensive than that of WordPress. Drupal can be set up for anything from a simple blog to a content portal used by large corporations. Some of the most significant benefits to Drupal include the following:
- Technically Advanced – Drupal is the most technically advanced of these three content management systems. It doesn’t use nearly as many system resources as WordPress, so people won’t have to worry about upgrading to a more expensive hosting option as quickly.
- Improved Performance – Drupal pages typically load more quickly, and have faster response times than those made with WordPress or Joomla. Of course, as you add in plug-ins and make other changes, this can quickly change.
- Customizable – Drupal is easy to customize with many different plug-ins, themes and other configurable options. For those with sufficient programming knowledge, it is possible to edit even the root files of the program, making it the most flexible of the three content management systems.
- Free – You can download the Drupal software for free, and install it on your own hosting server. There is no option to have a website hosted on Drupal servers, however, so you will need your own web hosting available to run the site. You’ll also need your own domain name, which typically costs money.
Drupal is the most powerful content management system out of the box, but with that power comes some additional difficulties for the website owner.
Having at least basic knowledge of HTML, PHP and other common web programming languages is highly recommended for anyone considering using Drupal. You don’t need to be an expert, but being able to troubleshoot error messages, and identify problems with coding will be a significant benefit.
If your website grows beyond a basic blog or small business page, you’ll likely require some technical support to run it properly. If you don’t have those skills yourself, that may mean you need to hire someone, or outsource the support of your page. Another potential concern is that since Drupal requires some in depth knowledge of the programming and technology behind it, finding support can be more difficult. If you run into a problem, you may have to pay someone to log on and help you fix it.
Joomla is often thought of as the compromise between WordPress and Drupal. It is a powerful content management system, which can run smoothly on most web servers without any problems. It doesn’t require the same level of technical experience to run as Drupal, but it still offers many of the extra features. Like Drupal and WordPress, Joomla does have a lot of plug-ins and themes available to choose from, so you can customize your site to look and function in any way you desire. Other reasons people choose Joomla include:
- Social Networking – This is perhaps the biggest benefit of Joomla. Of the three, Joomla makes it the easiest to create social networks. Social networks can be a powerful asset for many sites, and with Joomla, you can have one up and running extremely quickly and easily.
- Commerce Sites – If you want to set up an online store; that is also very simple with Joomla. While it is certainly possible with Drupal and WordPress, Joomla makes it faster and easier, and has more native support for these types of things.
- Not too Technical – Joomla has, in many people’s opinion, found that middle ground between the ease of managing a WordPress website, and the power of a Drupal site. Most people will be able to run a great Joomla site without any significant technical support, though there may be some issues which you’ll need to reach out for help on.
- Help Portal – Joomla offers a great help portal for asking questions and getting technical support. It isn’t going to be as fast or extensive as the community based support pages of WordPress, but it is quicker (and cheaper) than technical support most people get for Drupal.
- Free – Like Drupal, Joomla is free to use on your own web servers, but there is no option to have it hosted for free like WordPress offers.
Many Joomla users love Joomla because it is powerful, yet easy to use. Joomla has done an excellent job at combining the benefits of WordPress and Drupal, and adding in some great features of its own. It has been growing in popularity over the past several years, and it is likely to continue to do so. Joomla seems to have found a big market of people who are ready for something a little more powerful than WordPress, but easier to manage than Drupal.
Making your choice
Fans of each of these three content management systems will argue fiercely that the one they prefer is the best option out there.
The fact is, each situation will require something different, and taking the time to look at all your options is the best way to go. For those looking to set up a small, personal blog, or a website for their small business, WordPress is likely the way to go.
If you’re setting up a site which you believe will grow rapidly, and require extensive features for the users, Drupal may be more in line with what you need. Joomla is great for those somewhere in the middle, or anyone looking to add social networking to their pages.
It isn’t an easy choice to make, but if you take the time to look at your specific needs, and have an honest look at your own technical abilities (or your willingness to pay for technical support), you can make the right choice.
If you feel you’re on the wrong content management system for your specific needs, it is possible to migrate from one to another. In most cases, this can be done fairly easily without too much hassle. Of course, whenever making major changes to a website like switching CMS’s, it is important to make sure you have the time and expertise available to help you through any problems you happen to run into.
What experts say?
I also asked one simple question from three experts (web developers & designers) who have build sites with WordPress, Joomla & Drupal:
“What is the best CMS for a beginner who would like to create his/hers first website?”
“I would have to say that if I was mentoring a beginner I would suggest WordPress. WordPress seems to have a vibrant community. They have brand recognition with people outside of the technical market. There are a lot of plugins for WordPress. But, unfortunately, creating your own themes from scratch with WordPress will require a reasonable knowledge of PHP. Second would be Joomla. Third would be Drupal. Drupal is just too complex. It is the best of the three. But it has a steep learning curve that most would not be able to handle.”
- Marcus Neto from Blue Fish Design Studio
“That’s a great question. If you ask me, it would have to be WordPress, hands down, no contest. With most hosting providers providing one-click installs of the database and main WordPress files, all you have to do is log in, pick a theme, and fill out information. Some themes are more advanced, like the ones you will find on Themeforest, but for beginners, WordPress really isn’t that difficult to set up. If you can fill out a form and click a few buttons, you can set up and run a WordPress site. Writing articles and placing images in each post is intuitive, and if you need more functionality, there are millions of plugins out there that you can install and have up and running in minutes. WordPress is quick, easy and requires no real knowledge of web design or web development. Even the advanced themes can be set up by a novice if they are good at following instructions. WordPress have my vote by a mile!”
- James George from Creative Beacon
“For beginners, I would definitely lean towards WordPress being the one which will most likely satisfy the needs of the individual. Of course, it always depends on what your endgame is – what purpose the site is meant to serve. Seeing that WordPress provides great SEO out the box and has a bunch of easy-to-use plugins and themes, as well as the fact that WordPress is infinitely easier to update and maintain than its competitors, I feel that WordPress provides the most complete solution for a beginner looking to build a new website.”
- Mark Atkinson from Red Giant Design
For further reading: How WordPress took the CMS crown from Joomla and Drupal