The Invalid Comparison of Wordpress versus Drupal (or Drupal vs Wordpress?) and Which One is Right for You

Long Duk Dong prefers Drupal because he's not just blogging, ya' know...
Long Duk Dong prefers Drupal because he's not just blogging, ya' know...

In the never-ending comparison of Wordpress and Drupal one of the most important criteria is also one of the most often overlooked – the fit-for-purpose of any given architecture to suit the need of a particular site and its audience.

While people throw around the term “CMS” fairly loosely, there tends to be a polarization of meaning under the hood. Most often the situation at hand when discussing “Wordpress versus anything” calls for a content publishing site (or blogging site). However, some percentage of the time the site designer may be thinking of developing something a little more elaborate, such as a social or community site, or perhaps even a full-fledged web application.

Wordpress, in short, is a publishing framework. It is probably the best at what it does. It’s extremely popular and has a flourishing community with robust support. I don’t think anyone would argue that it’s way more popular than Drupal (or Joomla!) in terms of usership or number of websites built with it. Consider the following post regarding the popularity of these three php frameworks:

I think the comparison is a bit like “apples and oranges” in that Wordpress shines with regard to publishing SEO-organized content that looks good and is easy to manage. However, Wordpress is purpose-built to serve stories; Drupal, on the other hand, is more of an application engine that make community websites with user roles, node permissions and a pluggable framework to allow wild customizations that go way past publishing. Drupal is better-suited to build highly-customized sites that have loads of custom behaviors and can be built out in virtually any direction without fighting your way out of the framework. To build a web application with Wordpress would be starting at a supreme disadvantage.

So, why Drupal? Why not (Symfony, Zend, CodeIgniter) instead?

That’s a valid point, and one worthy of its own article. But I’d like to keep the conversation on point so suffice it to say that if you’re going even further in the direction of custom web application these frameworks make more sense. But for those sites that are “in the middle” Drupal makes a ton of sense. The wide range of sites and applications that share commonalities with typical Web 2.0 publishing sites yet need to keep their architectural options open are square in Drupal’s sweet spot, and not a good match for Wordpress.

For this ultimate reason, we should expect that Wordpress will continue to win the populatity war but should not always be first choice when it comes to site architecture. The two are, in fact, different tools with overlapping (but different) purpose.