The most important question you can ask yourself when it comes to choosing the right content management system (CMS) for your site is: What do I need my website to do?
Two of the most popular CMS platforms are WordPress (current version 4.2.2) and Drupal 7. Both of these provide endless customizable opportunities and features. The following basic situations will aid in helping you decide “which CMS is right for me?”
Scenario 1: Create a New Blog
Let’s say your Neighborhood Watch needs a new blog. Both Drupal 7 and WordPress will handle this straight out of the box. WordPress is famous for its ease of install, whereas Drupal 7 might take a bit longer. In the end, it’s really an interface preference and both of these CMS tools will handle your blog, no problem. WordPress was built for bloggers and, as a blogging platform, it is ready to roll. Drupal has this functionality as well but doesn’t have the same blogging background.
Scenario 2: Advanced Blog Setup
Let’s expand on the example above. Say you now need to add a bit more to your site than a blog. Maybe you would like to have individualized logins for everyone in the neighborhood. With WordPress, you can search for solutions via plugins. Plugins are extended functionality that add to the core of WordPress. They are both a blessing and a curse (more on that below) but they will get the job done. For this particular need, Buddypress is the perfect plugin.
Drupal 7’s equivalent to plugins are modules and, like WordPress, Drupal modules are intended to extend core functionality. For example, out-of-the-box Drupal gives you a simple user profile with fairly limited options. However, the Profile 2 module combined with Drupal’s fields create highly customized profiles.
Scenario 3: Events, Forums, and Payments (oh my!)
Now, let’s say there was a major increase in HOAs, and the Neighborhood Watch wants to use the site as the neighborhood events center (where each user can customize their calendar), the neighborhood forum (with several moderators), and a place where people pay their HOA fees. Once again, both CMS platforms will be good for these functions, but this is where we see a major split in our two CMS systems.
Much like we did above for WordPress, we can go ahead and cobble together a few plugins that do these things, but be careful because this can have massive roadblocks. Plugins don’t know to talk to one another, so they don’t know when one is stepping on the other’s toes. Your calendar might not like your forums, which might not like Buddypress. This is where it ends in disaster when they all conflict.
On the other hand, Drupal can handle all of this functionality together without a problem. For example, you can use a combination of content types, fields, views, date and calendar to create a fully featured event calendar. With knowledge of how to install, enable and configure modules, all of these functions can be installed using contributed modules. They then can be configured through the user interface. For more advanced and custom configuration, programming knowledge is required to get it to behave and look exactly as you want it.
Scenario 4: Website Appearance
Now that we have all of our functionality in place, someone in the neighborhood is complaining about how the site looks. We have shown the cons of WordPress over Drupal 7, so let’s talk about where it shines. Themes are the stylistic look and feel of the site, and boy is WordPress good at them. WordPress has a lot of out-of-the-box features and is more designer-focused than developer-focused. Customizing the look and feel of a theme in WordPress is easier than in Drupal.
Currently the theme count at WordPress.org is 1,884, and those are just the free themes. There are countless other premium resources and themes you can pay for. When it comes to website design on a dime, WordPress is the way to go. In terms of the conflicts mentioned above, you may still see them, but in this case, good looks are worth the cost. Drupal 7 does have a lot of good themes, but chances are you will need to customize and modify it, especially if you have customized the functionality of the site. Remember the calendar that we added? This may or may not look good depending on the contributed theme.
At the end of the day, the Neighborhood Watch will function better with the help of its new website.
The main difference between Drupal and WordPress for your CMS is ultimately a matter of how much website you need. WordPress can be amazing for getting your moderately complex site up and looking great in a matter of weeks, or even days, but if you are looking for a custom, ever-evolving site or one with membership and/or content access restriction with highly complex architecture that scales over time, Drupal is the way to go.