Drupal versus WordPress: A head-to-head comparison of web development platforms

By IBM Cloud Education

  • Deliver a new website or blog fast with minimal programming using WordPress
  • Create an advanced, highly customized site — after a learning curve — with Drupal
  • Access an extensive ecosystem of modules, plug-ins and themes on either platform

WordPress and Drupal are among the most popular content management system (CMS) platforms used for website development. Both can help you accelerate development, enabling you to avoid the time-consuming process of building a website completely from scratch. Both also have large and loyal followings, with users ranging from individuals who want to publish personal blogs to enterprise organizations that are managing complicated, multisite web environments with large volumes of content.

Which one is right for your next project? Below is a head-to-head comparison.

 

WordPress architecture diagram

The WordPress architecture

 

When you’re ready for some hands-on experience implementing a PHP-based web application such as WordPress or Drupal on a LAMP-based virtual server, try this simple tutorial from IBM.

 

Usage

WordPress has been used to create nearly 60 percent of all CMS-based websites. In total, it accounts for just over 30 percent of all sites on the web. By contrast, Drupal has been used for just under 4 percent of all CMS-based websites and it accounts for 2 percent of all websites.

If you’re deciding between these two platforms, should usage statistics matter? Ultimately, you need to pick the platform that meets your specific requirements. But the popularity of WordPress suggests that it can address the needs of the broadest base of organizations and individuals. Its popularity has also led to the development of a robust ecosystem of resources, including both technologies and people who can help you with your projects. On the other hand, its popularity has made WordPress a more frequent target of hacking.

 

Ecosystem

Both WordPress and Drupal have large communities of users and contributors. The contributors, including independent developers and development firms, are continuously producing new modules, plug-ins and themes. WordPress currently offers more than 55,000 plug-ins, and more than 3,300 free themes, with additional paid options available. Drupal offers more than 41,000 modules and more than 2,600 themes as well as more than 1,200 Drupal distributions, which include bundled tools for specific use cases.

Both platforms also help support integration with a variety of third-party applications and services. For example, Drupal supports integration with Facebook, HubSpot, Salesforce, MailChimp, Google Analytics and more. WordPress also has numerous plug-ins for integrating with these and other applications.

The developers behind WordPress and Drupal update the core code of their respective platforms frequently, adding new features and helping to simplify use. Whichever platform you choose, you can expect a new release every month or two.

Overall, whether you select WordPress or Drupal, you will certainly have options for developing and augmenting your site. Exploring the plug-ins and modules before committing to a platform can help you determine how easy or difficult it might be to create the site you envision.

 

Ease of use

Here is one area where the two platforms diverge. WordPress is simple to use, requiring no programming skills (though experienced web developers can certainly make tweaks to code). The wide range of free themes makes it very easy to set up a website or blog site rapidly. Consequently, WordPress has become the first choice for tens of millions of individuals and small businesses as well as larger organizations.

By contrast, Drupal has more of a learning curve. Implementing many functions will require you to install and modify modules. Of course, building a Drupal-based site can also become a challenging undertaking because it enables developers to do more complicated things than they would with WordPress. Though you can assemble simple sites with Drupal, it is frequently chosen by enterprise developers who want to create advanced websites.

If your team cannot afford the time to learn Drupal, or your team lacks sufficient HTML, CSS and PHP skills, you can always hire an outside expert for assistance. Just keep in mind that Drupal experts might be more difficult to find and more expensive to hire than WordPress developers.

 

Customization

Both WordPress and Drupal give you an array of options for customizing your sites, primarily through modules, plug-ins and themes. In addition to selecting these prefabricated extensions and templates, you can modify them, assemble new combinations and create your own to meet your organization’s specific functionality needs.

While both platforms offer a degree of flexibility, Drupal is widely considered a better platform for supporting extensive customization. Beyond the ability to alter the available modules, Drupal offers built-in capabilities for creating custom content types, altering content taxonomy and more.

 

Security

With more than 75 million WordPress sites on the web today, it’s not surprising that WordPress and the third-party plug-ins used for WordPress sites have become frequent targets of hackers. WordPress is continuously working to improve security of the core platform and sharing security best practices with plug-in and theme developers. Web hosting providers might also offer additional security capabilities to help protect your sites.

Drupal is less of a target, but Drupal developers are nevertheless dedicated to building tight security into the platform. Like WordPress, Drupal frequently offers patches, updates and alerts as new security threats emerge.

 

Deployment

For both platforms, you have a range of deployment options. For example, you could simply install the platform through your web hosting provider or another cloud provider. Depending on your agreement with the provider, you might be able to avoid ongoing management, which will include periodic upgrades.

You have additional options if you decide to install WordPress or Drupal in your own enterprise environment. For example, you could install either platform on a LAMP-based virtual server. LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) is often used for supporting websites.

Alternatively, you could install either platform in a container using a container orchestration system such as Kubernetes. A container would help simplify scaling, increase portability and improve availability compared with virtual server environments.

 

Costs

Both WordPress and Drupal are free, open source platforms. Of course, no matter which you use, you will need to host the installation somewhere, and that means factoring in the cost of web hosting or operating an on-premises environment. Some web hosting providers offer paid add-on services or functionality to streamline deployment and ongoing management.

As you compare these two platforms, also consider the costs of learning and training. Budget more time to learn Drupal. If you decide to hire outside experts, recognize that you might wind up paying more for Drupal expertise, which is in greater demand.

Both platforms offer free plug-ins, modules and templates for customizing your site. But you might also decide to choose from paid options or spend time (and money) modifying those elements on your own.

 

Start exploring

Both WordPress and Drupal organization sites provide extensive information about the platforms and enable you to peruse their vast collections of modules, plug-ins and themes.

When you’re ready for some hands-on experience implementing a PHP-based web application such as WordPress or Drupal on a LAMP-based virtual server, IBM offers a simple tutorial.