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Comparing the Three Major CMS’s: Drupal, Joomla and WordPress

The internet grows every day, not only by way of scale, but also capability and functionality. As a result, everyone from small operations to large corporations are searching for new ways to equip themselves more effectively for doing e-business.

You may look at some of the business websites that are out there in a business sense these days, and think to yourself that the development of such a site could only be left to the most qualified of programmers: people you’d likely pay tens of thousands of dollars to in order to procure a formidable internet presence for your company.

Because of this, a lot of attention has come the way of Content Management Systems (or CMS’s) over the last several years. CMS software provides users and businesses alike with a ready-made solution for an effective and functional internet presence.

Most importantly, this software is free to use under the GPL License, which means there’s no additional cost for use of the software in addition to what resource is spent configuring, customizing, and preparing it to represent a business or cause. This makes CMS software a much more attractive option for an emerging business effort, or even personal endeavor.

We will go over the pluses, minuses, superiority and ineptitudes of each of the three major CMS’s available (WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal) in this report.

WordPress

Depending upon the purpose of your website, each one of three “major” CMS’s could suit your needs. Despite the emerging nature of this new trend in website development, the more known of the three is a CMS called WordPress, often used to power Blog sites and other independent, editorial efforts. In some cases, WordPress has been used on a business level to effectively convey information about what a business does, and the products they offer.

WordPress functions incredibly as a journalistic website, as this is what the framework of this particular CMS was setup to support. Its architecture assumes a particular threshold of functionality, and while users may very well feel they want to do more on their website than just write, WordPress offers very little in the way of specific customization outside of what it comes loaded with by default. That said, WordPress does come loaded with a slew of options that would suit several web-based business initiatives.

Great examples of this are the WordPress commenting system, pinging services, support for profiling users via permissions, trackback support. It is incredibly easy to setup a WordPress site for the purpose of immediately and attractively instituting a presence on the web. However, as you learn the system, you may think to yourself “I wish my WordPress site could __________”. In this event, most users find themselves out of luck completely.

WordPress offers “Widget” add-ons, which function in the same way as “Modules” do in both Joomla and Drupal. However, these “widgets” are hardly cohesive with anything but the current build of WordPress that was out when the Widget was authored, which means new and forthcoming versions of WordPress do not guarantee functionality post-update.

WordPress was developed as an all-in-one, you’ll-need-nothing-else kind of solution. This effort is almost defeatist in nature, as the CMS community has surged forward by leaps and bounds as the result of furthered efforts in both Joomla and Drupal that make the functionality of WordPress “feel” outdated, with no hope of an upgrade. Yet, those with experience using the system swear by it, and are happy with what functionality WordPress gives them outright… at least on days when they’re not wishing their site did something nifty that wasn’t built in.

Granted, there is somewhat of a “widget” system for WordPress, which is their idea of an “add-on” or “module.” Still, this system is significantly flawed, as updates to the firmware seem to leave some WordPress sites with these Widgets installed completely disabled post-upgrade, and in some cases can leave a website with corporate contingency riding on it completely dead in the water.

WordPress Pros
* Simple to setup and start using relatively quickly
* Developed with blogging and conveyance of information in mind
* Existing functionality benefits an effective search engine optimization effort without add-ons
* Created with ease of user experience in mind, from setup to actual production use

WordPress Cons -
* Developmental community is inconsistent: WordPress upgrades can create more bugs than they fix
* Customization perimeters outside of what’s built into WordPress are non-existent
* Any modification to the framework, such as for modifications and add-ons, could bring down the site
* Limited advanced functionality may inevitably leave WordPress users staring longingly at the greener pastures of another CMS

Joomla!

Translated as “All Together” in Swahili, the Joomla team based their efforts in creating a CMS on experience they’d had in an earlier attempt at such a thing, before politics and corporate blah-blah-blah pushed the team to forge their own effort. In 2005, Joomla was born.

Not quite as user friendly but much more designer friendly than WordPress, Joomla aims to create an easily customizable and functionally effective solution for the user who may not have a developer’s experience, but who may be savvy enough to do something functional with their time at a PC. The newly-created MVC framework within Joomla allows knowledgeable, advanced users to override certain functions in Joomla without actually having to make changes to the software’s core components.

Joomla’s designer community is one of the most far-advanced volunteer efforts servicing any of the CMS software, and it shows in the beauty of their sites. Companies like Joomlart and Joomlashack offer an exquisite selection of original templates that really push this CMS to its threshold for performance.

Add-on functionality in Joomla is a disappointing affair upon researching the availability of such things, as it seems that the development community would like you to pay for add-ons, or “modules” as they’re referred to in Joomla, for your website. This is additional and in some cases unexpected cost waiting to be incurred by proprietors of any new Joomla site, and can be an offsetting gesture if the module isn’t built specifically per what a site may require.

Modules developed for Joomla are subject to the same rigidity as the architecture that powers it. While Joomla remains definitively more customizable than WordPress, the approach that developers took to creating an intuitive and encompassing solution may have created an environment that’s too strict for some niche website efforts, and not elaborate enough for large-scale enterprise businesses.

Those utilizing Joomla’s CMS currently seem to be more personal or small-business websites, which in many cases are not focused on community building or on a specific user base demographic. This shouldn’t suggest that Joomla is not capable of such things. Rather, it highlights that Joomla is more often used for its content management functions than it is for the elements within it that might assist in building a participative or community website.

Joomla Pros
* Intuitive user interfaces make configuration, content creation, module addition less tedious
* Expansive multilingual functionality provides worldwide users with a simple translation interface
* Large community of developers and users providing plentiful resource for new users & administrators
* Impressive ecommerce functionality modules

Joomla Cons -
* Content classification options, as well as perimeters for customized content display, are sorely lacking
* Limited perimeters for design and configuration of several website aspects, & modules cost money
* Elements within CMS are rigid, inflexible, and may not entirely meet objective business function
* Strict scope of function with some options is painstaking; may leave you seeking more capable options

Drupal

The CMS scene has come a long way since Drupal first developed their own contribution, as both WordPress and Joomla have come into existence with Drupal well underway on the development of their own effort. With Joomla established in 2005 and WordPress established in 2003, the minds engaged in the Drupal effort have been hard at work, building their “better mousetrap” since early 2001.

Though often heralded as somewhat unfriendly to the novice user, Drupal has set a standard with the flexibility of its function and the advancement of its capability over nearly a decade in development. This CMS was designed to allow for new features and additional function to be added to the CMS by the user community, which has driven the development of this platform further than any of the other two. Considering that the primary function of a CMS is to attractively, efficiently and consistently represent your company’s internet presence, configuration options in Drupal appear to make for the superior option in a number of ways.

Granted, Drupal does not offer this functionality out-of-the-box, and this is where it differs so greatly from Joomla and WordPress. Where WordPress and Joomla aim methodically at the inexperienced, Drupal would rather you have a clear idea of what it is you wish to accomplish. As of the time of this writing, available for Drupal 6 (the most popular current version) are 5,286 different modules for you to configure your own site with.

Better still, all of these specially-developed custom modules are free.

Architecturally, Drupal’s framework runs faster than any other CMS of mainstream appeal on the end-user/GPL market today, and one installation of Drupal can support multiple websites… a feature useful on enterprise levels, yet lacking in Joomla and WordPress. As yet another example of the feature-rich capabilities of Drupal, very high-profile organizations with a web presence have trusted this effort to Drupal (see: MTV UK, BBC, theOnion.com, North American Search Authority, Greenpeace UK, Kleercut), and have pulled it off impressively.

The sole area where Drupal suffers in the eyes of most users is perimeters for unique design and customized layout of the site. Searching for ready-made templates for a Drupal site can be a tedious, often hopeless process, and a business looking to develop a Drupal site is best off finding a qualified developer with experience in this particular CMS to handle the task of designing for it.

That withstanding, Drupal offers the most expansive options for search engine optimization, the best options for customizing how your content is displayed, the most unrestricted site layout and configuration options of any of the three major CMS’s, and over 5,000 modules to choose from in making it your business’s own. Clearly, for the experienced and determined business, Drupal offers a tactical solution that can take aim effectively at any web-based objective with remarkable results.

Those experienced with other CMS’s, or those with little computer experience at all, however, may seek the simplicity and swift setup processes inclusive in both WordPress and Joomla. Be advised that users who seek extended functionality beyond displaying content and creating a couple of web pages, with no desire to update content or add more interactive content, may well eventually look at WordPress and Joomla as ineffective solutions, a harsh realization for any effort that corporate resource has gone into for any lengthened period of time.


Drupal Pros
*
Longest-standing development community for a major CMS in existence; large support community
*
Site can be configured to extend functionality well beyond capability of other CMS’s
*
Highly configurable, one of the most “developer friendly”
*
Best configurable search engine optimization perimeters of any other CMS (with installed modules)

Drupal Cons
* Administrative interface offers many options, this can take some “re-learning”
* Document management perimeters within CMS are lacking without substantial modification
* The vast configurability of Drupal may equate to more hours configuring it to exacting needs
* Points of configuration are deeper and more extensive than Joomla or WordPress, and take learning

Overall Points of Comparison Between Joomla, Drupal and WordPress

* Drupal has been recognized by developers as the most developer-friendly CMS amongst these three. In the opinions of these developers, Drupal provides a more capable, flexible and efficient architecture. Joomla offers limited content categorization options as well as a rigid and somewhat limited design system in comparison to Drupal. As well, WordPress simply offers no sound solution to make unique modifications to configuration or functionality, as the pretense of this CMS’s development seems to have been catering to a market of users that wouldn’t require it.

* Joomla and WordPress are extremely easy to use and learn. To reach any such point using Drupal, administrators would be required to spend time with the system. This is mainly because it offers so many more options. These options, alongside a user’s knowledge of the Drupal CMS as they spend time with it, grow immensely with such things as module additions.

* For the semi-advanced to advanced users, Joomla’s CMS, as well as WordPress, may come off as over-simplified somewhere down the line. Joomla’s options for content categorization and display are thin, though a Joomla site can be setup quickly and made to look impressive in a relatively short period of time compared to Drupal. WordPress is stringent in all aspects outside of what it was built for doing, which is primarily a blog-format website.

* If your concerns verge on such things as design flexibility, site scalability, content management flexibility and overall website performance (speed, etc.), Drupal should be your choice. Its vast configurability and superior functionality offer companies with ambitious web objectives a suitable option to achieve their goals without dumping tens of thousands into specialty custom development.

* If your objective is to impressively display content, put up a beautiful looking site quickly, or only offer users limited interactive functionality via an informational website, WordPress or Joomla will work well. When considering the two, view WordPress as the most basic between the two, and Joomla as an option for someone who may require slightly more function than that available in WordPress.


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