At the turn of the century, creating a website without any coding skills was inconceivable, especially if you wanted to run something more than a simple collection of HTML pages.
But then the CMS revolution happened.
In 2001, Belgian programmer Dries Buytaert released Drupal. A couple of years later, entrepreneur and web developer Matt Mullenweg introduced us to WordPress. And in 2005, a group of programmers rolled out Joomla.
The three are now the world’s most widely used self-hosted content management systems (CMS), powering hundreds of millions of websites worldwide. Today, we are going to learn what are the similarities among WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, their distinctive benefits, and which one would best suit our needs.
What is a Content Management System (CMS)?
A CMS (content management system) is a framework for building websites.
After installing it on a server, you determine a set of login details to access the CMS backend. This is where you configure the system, expand its functionality, and manage the content visible on the frontend.
Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla weren’t the first CMS platforms to be publicly released, but they quickly became renowned for their flexibility and customization control. Each of them played a massive role in the evolution of the industry and rocked the fundamentals of website building.
Content Management System Benefits
Some advantages of using a content management system are more apparent than others. Let’s start with the obvious ones.
Each CMS contains hundreds of thousands of lines of code. If your website is to work correctly, every single semicolon in this code needs to be in the right place. The good news is you most probably won’t need to touch any of it. Instead, you get a graphical interface where you enter plain text information in fields, select items from drop-down menus, and click buttons.
Even if you’re struggling with a particular task, open-source CMS solutions like Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla have extensive global communities of developers, experts, and fans who know the platforms inside out.
Best of all – you don’t need to pay a penny to use them.
The CMS projects are open-source, so their code is freely available for anyone to see. This makes it easy for any knowledgeable user to detect and report issues to the app developers. If you keep your CMS up-to-date, there is a good chance you will avoid many headaches with hackers.
As if that’s not enough, content management platforms offer easy website building and management to all users, even the complete newbies.
Knowing that a CMS is probably the way to go, let’s make a direct comparison of the three top choices to see where each of them excels.
Drupal vs WordPress vs Joomla
Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla may look very different, but they are actually more similar than you may think. The process of launching a website with any of them involves more or less the same steps:
- Installing the CMS
- Picking a theme
- Utilizing add-ons
- Adding content
The same aspects should influence your choice of CMS as well:
- Ease of use
All the aspects above are vital. Let’s now see how each of the three CMS solutions score on those fronts.
Being the most popular content management system out there, you’d think WordPress is also the most feature-rich one. This is not strictly the case. While it has quite a few tools for organizing and handling content, overall, WordPress is slightly lagging behind when it comes to out-of-the-box features. For example, admins who want to enable caching on their website have no other choice but to use an extra plugin.
Many of the features in Drupal focus on performance and security, but quite a few also help with content management and access control. Frontend editing can be particularly handy if you’re editing the website on-the-fly.
Joomla doesn’t fall far behind Drupal when it comes to features. Its modular architecture gives you flexible means of organizing content on your web pages. Logs are much more easily accessible, and admins get a comprehensive set of access controls that could be very important if multiple people work on the same project. In addition to all this, Joomla is famed for its default search-engine-friendly setup and multilingual support.
- Ease of Use
WordPress has the edge when it comes to usability. The CMS gives admins access to the official theme and plugin repositories directly from the WP dashboard, making the process of customizing the site much easier. Updates are relatively straightforward as well, but the content management is where WP really shines. The tools for organizing posts, pages, and media files are as intuitive as possible, and SEO optimization is also a piece of cake with the right add-ons.
Drupal may be struggling a bit in this area. The CMS is available in most one-click software installers, so installation shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. The problems come after Drupal is in place. The theme and module repositories aren’t accessible from the admin area, and updates aren’t always as smooth as you’d expect. The tools for editing and formatting content are the biggest challenge. Compared to the other two platforms, Drupal’s default content management mechanisms seem unwieldy. If you have enough coding knowledge and experience, the app would be a much more fitting choice.
Joomla occupies the middle ground when it comes to usability. Installing and updating the CMS is usually painless. Although Joomla doesn’t have an official template repository, installing extensions directly from the control panel is а possible option. The content editor and media management utilities aren’t quite as intuitive as those offered by WordPress, but getting used to them is not a problem for most people.
- Themes and Templates
You can find over 8,000 WordPress themes on WordPress.org. They are all completely free to use and installed directly through the WP dashboard. In addition, you have thousands of premium and free WP themes available through third-party marketplaces like Envato and ThemeForest.
Drupal also maintains a rich collection of themes on its website. At just under 3,000, you can find templates for various types of websites. In addition to the ones on the official website, you can find countless other Drupal themes available through third-party channels.
Unlike both WordPress and Drupal, Joomla doesn’t have an official template directory, so installing templates straight from the control panel is not possible. Despite this, many people develop free and premium Joomla templates and share their work through dedicated websites like JoomlArt and Joomla-Monster. Installing a new Joomla template is as easy as going to Extensions > Manage > Install, selecting the Upload Package File tab, and picking your theme file. Joomla will take care of the rest.
- Plugins, Extensions, and Modules
Once again, by virtue of its popularity, WordPress gives you a much wider choice when it comes to plugins that expand the functionality of your website. WP’s official plugin directory has 58,000+ active add-ons, and there are thousands more offered by independent developers and agencies. Admins can easily install official plugins directly from the WordPress dashboard. Third-party add-ons often come with step-by-step installation instructions from the official developers.
Drupal has an official repository with over 46,000 modules, and the open-source community has developed many more independent ones. This marketplace is not integrated into the admin area, but despite this, the process of installing a new module is still relatively straightforward.
Joomla has 6,000+ extensions on its website, all of them accessible from the admin panel. Thousands of third party plugins are available on third-party websites as well. Setting them up is as easy as installing a template.
Hackers attack WordPress websites every day, and the damage can be quite significant. It’s currently the most frequently attacked CMS, but that doesn’t mean you should stay away from it. WordPress is such a prominent target for one simple reason – it’s the most popular system of this type. Apart from your host securing its servers, you also play an active role in your WordPress security.
Drupal’s market share is a lot smaller, and the CMS logically falls in the hackers’ sights less often. In addition to the fewer known vulnerabilities, Drupal has built a reputation for solid security and performance for small and big websites alike.
In terms of security, Joomla offers easily accessible logs, user permission tools, and a two-factor authentication system integrated into the core. Similar to its competitors, the platform regularly enjoys security patches and bug fixes.
The three platforms power a huge number of websites. Hundreds of developers work on the source code and help improve it every day. The CMS cores receive regular security patches that help them adapt to the ever-changing app landscape.
In most cases, the problems start when webmasters fail to install these patches.
Being free solutions, WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla don’t typically offer a dedicated team of support agents to assist with the software. That being said, finding assistance is absolutely possible.
Hundreds of thousands of experts make a living out of WordPress and know it inside and out. There are countless support forums, message boards, and chat rooms where experienced users help those who are still making their first steps. You can even find organizations and dedicated experts who offer premium consultations and support for WordPress.
The Drupal community might be smaller but extremely tight-knit. Experts work hard on keeping the CMS official documentation up-to-date, so If you’re facing any problems with Drupal – you will most likely find the solutions there. There is an official forum, a chat room, a Stack Exchange section, and a bug reporting system.
Joomla fans are pretty active as well. There’s an entire Joomla Community portal containing blogs, FAQs, training courses, and lots of other incredibly useful resources. The Joomla community organizes frequent events where experts share knowledge and show others what they can do with the CMS.
WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are open-source and completely free to use. You can download, install, and modify them as much as you want without paying a penny. Your project still needs a budget, though.
How much you’re going to spend depends on your goals and how you plan to achieve them. The funds you need to set aside will be used mainly for extensions, themes, and hosting services.
Which one should you choose – Drupal, WordPress, or Joomla?
Asking about the best CMS solution in any web developers’ forum will most likely spark a massive argument.
The truth is, each of the three CMS platforms has its advantages and disadvantages. WordPress is a market leader because it has a more user-friendly backend interface than its competitors, but getting used to the other systems is far from impossible.
In the end, choosing a CMS for your new online project is a decision you need to base on your specific requirements. You have to consider many different factors, including what sort of website you want to launch, how much technical expertise you have, and how much time you have to learn and develop new skills.
Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, and ScalaHosting
Whichever CMS you choose, you can be ScalaHosting can ensure an environment designed to offer optimal performance and security.
All our shared hosting plans offer Softaculous – a time-saving one-click installer for hundreds of website-building applications.
You may be particularly interested in our Managed VPS solutions. They guarantee an isolated cloud environment with guaranteed resources and a dedicated IP, at prices very close to most shared packages. We are very proud to have developed our very own web hosting control panel, which we offer completely free of charge.
Although dominated by WordPress, the CMS market is pretty diverse. On the one hand, this is good news for you because you have plenty of options. On the other, however, it makes your choice that much harder.
Picking a CMS for your new project isn’t a decision you should take lightly, as later on, migrating from one platform to another could be fraught with difficulty.
All things considered, we can outline WordPress as the ideal choice for scalable and growing websites, accessible by even the complete beginners. Joomla is versatile enough off the bat, allowing for the quick deployment of small to medium websites. In comparison, Drupal is much more developer-friendly, attractive for webmasters with solid coding experience.
Q: Are Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla free to use?
A: Yes, they are. All three CMS platforms are open-source and available for free. You can use them as much as you want without paying a penny, but you should bear in mind that some of the themes and extensions you need along the way could be subject to a premium fee.
Q: Are CMS-based websites secure?
A: Open-source content management systems are inherently secure. If they’re not maintained properly, however, they could easily fall prey to hackers. Failing to apply the latest updates to the CMS core and the associated extensions immediately put you on the back foot. So does the use of unnecessary and poorly supported add-ons.
All in all, CMS security is an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring.
Q: How do I choose the right CMS for me?
A: Before choosing a content management system, always start with outlining your needs. You can then research the different options and see which ones fit your requirements. Also, consider your technical skills and the time/resources you are willing to invest in your web project.
At the end of the day, you can always find hosting providers that offer free trials. You can take time to test each software and see which one feels easiest to operate.
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