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A Marketer's Guide: Choosing Between WordPress and Drupal

Choosing a content management system (CMS) is not always an easy decision. The CMS you choose can impact every level of your organization. The problem with this is engineers and IT experts thrive with complex systems while content managers and marketers want things to be as simple as possible, so they know exactly what they are delivering to consumers. Business leaders likely also have a say in what CMS to pursue from the perspectives of cost and overall efficiency.

Marketers, in particular, don’t need any technical programming skills if they use the right CMS. That’s where the debate between WordPress and Drupal enters the discussion. Marketers want to design and update websites with ease and without having to pass along information to the technical team to get the job done. WordPress has long been known as the most user-friendly platform while Drupal has historically geared more toward technical experts. However, with Drupal slowly becoming more user-friendly, the big question is whether it has replaced WordPress as the preferred content management system for marketers. We’ve taken a look at some of the benefits and downfalls of each as it relates to different categories.

Mission

Drupal’s mission is to create ambitious digital experiences for everyone who uses its platform. On the other side, WordPress wants to democratize publishing by making it as simple as possible for the average user to navigate and publish content. As a business owner, you have to decide whether it’s worth it for your marketing team to be more efficient in their work or if you want a better overall user experience on your website.

WordPress can create a solid experience, but with so many other websites using the same platform, it can sometimes be difficult to make your website stand out among the competition. Ultimately, the decision for marketers comes down to this question: Do you prioritize ease of posting content and managing a website (i.e. Wordpress) or creating a high-end user experience that stands apart from the competition (i.e. Drupal)?

Super Power

WordPress has always boasted the ability to provide an easy way to publish content out of the box and improve the marketer's and editor’s experience at the same time. Virtually anyone can build a website using WordPress, which makes it attractive to a wide range of both companies and individuals. One of Drupal’s claims to fame is the ability to collate data from various sources and publish the data across many different channels. Both of these superpowers are beneficial in specific ways, depending on your unique business needs. The right choice for your organization comes down to how much data use, data collection, and customization you need.

Audience

The audience for WordPress is the content creators themselves, while Drupal’s audience is the entire marketing team. This is a critical component to think about when deciding which content management system is right for your team. Marketers and content creators typically are not savvy when it comes to the technical side of websites. So, when they need content to be published or edited using Drupal (although this is changing), they traditionally have had to wait on the technical team to do so. This is one of the main reasons why many marketers prefer WordPress, since it’s more user-friendly and enables them to make changes immediately. However, Drupal has become more user-friendly in its last few updates, so there has been more of a balance. Teams must work together to create the most efficient and effective website for consumers, and collaboration is one way to be on the same page. Evaluate your team’s structure to find the right fit.

Content

Drupal is all about the architecture of content. Your team can combine, sort, and re-use various content pieces in different contexts to create the perfect website. The downfall of this is the vision of your marketing team might not align with how the technical team perceives the information, so you might have to deal with some back-and-forth collaboration until the website is polished and ready to showcase to the world. 

WordPress, on the other hand, allows marketers to create pages full of text, images, blurbs, videos, and other content quickly and easily. How you display content is nearly as important as the quality of the content itself. You have to think not only about how your website needs to look now but also in the future. All websites evolve, so you don’t want to be put in a spot where your content becomes stale or outdated. 

Working Style

The working style of WordPress versus Drupal is where a lot of the major differences occur. Since it’s much easier to publish content on a WordPress website, updates can be made more quickly by almost anyone on your team. Drupal operates better for larger teams where clearly defined roles need to be established. There’s a certain amount of governance over these individual roles while using Drupal, but it’s necessary to have this style in place for larger teams. Companies can run into problems when they have a large team with mixed skills, but they use a simpler content management system like WordPress. On the other hand, business owners who try to force a complex platform like Drupal onto their small team could experience numerous problems — both with their website and with staff members. There’s a balance you have to find between the ease and quickness of website updates and how large your team is.

Trade-Offs

The trade-offs between WordPress and Drupal are pretty clear. With WordPress, you have a fast and easy solution for managing content without as many opportunities for personalization or customization. With Drupal, any given project may take more time to deliver and publish, but the result can be much more ideal. These trade-offs highlight the conversation of scalability versus simplicity. Small websites with only a few products and blog pages benefit more from WordPress at first since they typically prioritize simplicity at first. Then once their website and company grow, they can transition to a platform like Drupal and take advantage of the scalability features it offers. 

The complexities of Drupal are difficult to navigate for beginners, but large organizations can benefit greatly from them since they can adjust for growth more quickly. The decision for business owners ultimately comes down to whether they want the ease of use and speed for their team or value a customized experience for their customers, even if it requires more time and effort on the back-end.

Approach

The approach with WordPress is it offers users features in a model kit that’s easy to implement, but hard to override. You’ll be limited to the features and functionality of WordPress, which works for some websites but not all of them. Drupal can be viewed as legos where you’re constantly putting another building block on top of the previous one. As you can imagine, the Drupal approach has to be more tedious and calculated since every building block has to fit on top of the other one seamlessly. Otherwise, you might have to backtrack to see where you went wrong with a particular aspect. These are not problems you have to worry about with WordPress and any errors are easily fixable. When choosing between the two platforms, the important thing to remember is whether your team would benefit more from having all the tools available to them or if they want to add various tools as needed.

Comparative Advantage

The What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) approach is what makes WordPress attractive for marketers and content editors. It’s satisfying for users to see exactly what’s going to be visible on the website before it gets published, especially when they don’t have the technical know-how to make edits or adjustments on the back-end. The WYSIWYG model has even gone a step further with the Gutenberg editor, making it easier than ever for marketers to create, design, and publish content.

The competitive advantage Drupal boasts is being multilingual. This has been a part of Drupal’s core for many years, and this functionalituy allows users to make virtually any change they want to without waiting. As a marketing professional, you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to wait for specific functionality like you might have to with WordPress, or if you need multiple languages immediately. In the latter case, Drupal is the ideal choice if you have a team that can work with the platform efficiently.

Every company is unique and the dynamics can constantly change. Beginner marketers won’t have as steep of a learning curve when they work with WordPress. Drupal is known to have a steeper learning curve, but has plenty of benefits over WordPress, especially once the team gets caught up to speed with how to take advantage of all the features. Most beginners enjoy the flexibility and ease of use of WordPress, not to mention having much more control over the design of the website. 

Pantheon is here to help you decide whether Drupal or WordPress would be a better content management system for your organization. We have a vast amount of experience with both and can teach you the ins and outs you may not know otherwise. Our experts can present the facts and benefits and evaluate your current situation to help you make the best decision.

Hero image by Corinne Kutz via Unsplash



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