CMS comparison: Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress

  • Last updated on: 2016-07-18
  • Authored by: Rackspace Support

If you need to create a website for your business, you might be wondering which content management system (CMS) is the best choice for you. This article compares three of the most widely-used ones: Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress. All three are open-source software, each developed and maintained by a community of thousands, and all are free to download and use. The open-source format means that their platforms are continuously being improved to support new Internet technologies, and basic functions can be continuously enhanced with an ever-expanding array of add-ons, contributed from their respective communities.

Your choice depends on your goals, technical expertise, budget and what you want the site to do.

  • For a simple blog or brochure-type site, WordPress could be the best choice (while very friendly for non-developers, it’s a flexible platform also capable of creating very complex sites).
  • For a complex, highly customized site requiring scalability and complex content organization, Drupal might be the best choice.
  • For something in between that has an easier learning curve, Joomla might be the answer.

Each has passionate, dedicated developer and user communities, making it easy to find free support directly through their websites or through other online forums or even books. In addition, paid support is readily available from third-party sources, such as consultants, developers and designers. Each system shows long-term sustainability and longevity; support for them will continue to be readily available for the foreseeable future.

The more time and effort that you are willing and able to invest in learning a system, the more it will be able to do for you. With both WordPress and Joomla, you can order a wide range of services and options from the menu to suit your needs, and with Drupal, you can customize what you need.

The following chart compares these CMSs in several categories. If you are still not sure which one to use, you can download each of the free platforms and do a trial run to help you decide.

  Drupal Joomla WordPress
Homepage www.drupal.org www.joomla.org www.wordpress.org
About Drupal is a powerful, developer-friendly tool for building complex sites. Like most powerful tools, it requires some expertise and experience to operate. Joomla offers a platform between the developer-oriented, extensive capabilities of Drupal and the user-friendly but more complex site development options that WordPress offers. WordPress began as an innovative, easy-to-use blogging platform. With an ever-increasing repertoire of themes, plugins and widgets, this CMS is also widely used for other website formats also.
Example sites Community Portal: Fast Company, Team Sugar Education: Harvard University
Restaurant: IHOP
Social Networking: PlayStation Blog
News Publishing: CNN Money
Education/Research: NASA Ames Research Center
News Publishing: The New York Observer
Installation Drupal installation forum Joomla installation forum WordPress installation forum
Ease of use Drupal requires the most technical expertise of the three CMSs. However, it also is capable of producing the most advanced sites. With each release, it is becoming easier to use. If you’re unable to commit to learning the software or can’t hire someone who knows it, it might not be the best choice. Joomla is less complex than Drupal but more complex than Wordpress. It has a relatively uncomplicated installation and setup. With a relatively small investment of effort into understanding Joomla’s structure and terminology, you have the ability to create fairly complex sites. Technical experience is not necessary; it’s intuitive and easy to get a simple site set up quickly. It’s easy to paste text from a Microsoft Word document into a WordPress site, but not into Joomla and Drupal sites.
Features Drupal is known for its powerful taxonomy and ability to tag, categorize, and organize complex content. Joomla is designed to perform as a community platform, with strong social networking features. Ease of use is a key benefit for experts and novices alike. WordPress is powerful enough for web developers or designers to efficiently build sites for clients; then, with minimal instruction, clients can take over the site management. WordPress is known for an extensive selection of themes. It’s user-friendly with great support and tutorials, making it great for non-technical users to quickly deploy fairly simple sites.
Caching plug-ins Pressflow is a downloadable version of Drupal that comes bundled with popular enhancements in key areas, including performance and scalability. JotCache offers page caching in the Joomla 1.5 search framework, resulting in fast page downloads. It also provides control over what content is cached and what is not. In addition, page caching is supported by the System Cache Plugin that comes with Joomla. The WP-SuperCache plug-in optimizes performance by generating static HTML files from database-driven content for faster load times.
Best use cases Drupal is best for complex, advanced, and versatile sites; for sites that require complex data organization; for community platform sites with multiple users; and for online stores. Joomla allows you to build a site with more content and structure flexibility than WordPress offers, but still with fairly easy, intuitive usage. It supports e-commerce, social networking, and more. WordPress is ideal for fairly simple web sites, such as everyday blogging and news sites; and for anyone looking for an easy-to-manage site. Add-ons make it easy to expand the functionality of the site.

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