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Pros and Cons of Joomla, WordPress, and Drupal

Consider These Features Before You Choose a CMS

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Are you choosing a content management system? You have thousands to choose from, but you really only need to consider the Big Three: Joomla, WordPress, or Drupal. Still, this choice can be tough.

The "Big Three" Keep Getting More Similar

Here's the good news: all three CMS's have had several years for the developers to learn from each other. Compared to everything else, these three systems are far more similar than different.

As time goes by, they only get more similar. Developers on all three projects are acutely aware of each other. This healthy competition creates a beneficent "arms race," as developers keep adding features so their CMS won't be left behind.

Still, they do have some differences. Here are some of the features and pros and cons of each:

Joomla

  • Online demo: Joomla (multiple versions).

  • High-profile Joomla sites: Guggenheim Museum, Porsche Brazil, Cloud.com

  • In Joomla, the little programs that add features are called: extensions (divided into components, modules, and plugins)

  • Pros: Joomla's admin interface is powerful but also user-friendly. Out of the box, I think it has the best interface of the three for managing large amounts of articles.

    Are you certain that your site will basically be a lot of articles, and you don't want to have to add any features? Joomla could work for you. If you do decide you need some more features, start with the powerful K2 component.

  • Cons: The disadvantage of Joomla is that it's in the middle of the spectrum. WordPress is at the "user-friendly / looks pretty / basic tasks are easy" end. Drupal is at the "incredibly customizable / developers love it / slight learning curve for mere mortals" end.

    Joomla's in the middle. It's not as aggressively easy and pretty as WordPress, and it's not as developer friendly as Drupal.

    If you know you'll want extra features on your website, Joomla isn't the best choice. The Joomla community offers tons of modules, but they are currently hard to find and harder to maintain. Both WordPress and Drupal have a much better handle on this system.

In general, I would choose Drupal over Joomla. Drupal is far more powerful and flexible. Seriously, with the power of Drupal modules, you can get Drupal to do almost anything.

WordPress

  • Online demo: WordPress 3

  • High-profile WordPress sites: The New York Observer, the About.com blogs

  • In WordPress, the little programs that add features are called: plugins

  • Pros: If you think WordPress is only for blogs, your definition needs an upgrade. WordPress can handle multiple authors, specialized content types, and pretty much anything a user would expect from a CMS. WordPress is legendary for being easy to learn and use. It's also got a sweet user interface. If your needs are straightforward, WordPress could easily be the best choice.

  • Cons: If you're planning to customize your site heavily, Drupal is probably a better choice. WordPress developers may disagree with me, and with over 15,000 WordPress plugins, they could be right. But the core WordPress program needs to be updated fairly frequently. These core updates can often break your existing plugins, and thus your site. In Drupal, on the other hand, it's a major priority that core updates shouldn't break anything. Drupal is designed to be extended with tons of modules.

    Of course, if you pick the right plugins, your WordPress site may update just fine. It's just an issue to keep in mind.

Drupal

  • Online demo: Drupal 7 (Depending on your module needs, you may need to start with Drupal 6.)

  • High-profile Drupal sites: The White House, The Economist

  • In Drupal, the little programs that add features are called: modules

  • Pros: Drupal can do almost anything. Seriously. Drupal was designed to get new features using tons of little modules. Many of these modules are maintained by professional developers for large clients, but you still get them for free.

    If you've developed websites on other systems, Drupal (and drush, an administrator program for Drupal) will just feel right.

  • Cons: If you're not a developer, Drupal has a reputation for being difficult. However, the recent release of Drupal 7 brings huge improvements that make it much easier for normal users. Still, it's not quite as easy as WordPress.

    Paradoxically, the power of Drupal modules means that the basic, "out of the box" core Drupal isn't terribly exciting. If you try the above demos, especially the older Drupal 6, you may wonder what the fuss is about. Well, the fun starts when you begin to add modules.

    If you know you want a complex site, go with Drupal, even if it means hiring a developer.

Don't Sweat This Decision Too Much

These are the sorts of factors that may determine your choice. When you do make your choice, here's the secret: just keep upgrading. In another few years, the Big Three will only be more usable, more powerful ... and more similar.

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