It can be difficult to know which CMS to pick for your site as there’s now such a large number available with many different variations and features, but today we will look at the three most popular – WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal.
WordPress is the most widely used CMS in the world, powering over 60 million websites, including Sony, CNN and Forbes. Its popularity derives from its ability to set up a fairly complex site with little to no technical experience, and also the friendly user base which offers extensive support and a number of tutorials. The flexibility of WordPress allows users of all abilities to create a website, ranging from using themes through to a bespoke custom built website such as Darwin Escapes that was developed by our in-house team.
Starting out as a simple blogging platform in 2003, WordPress has become more powerful and versatile with the introduction of several key features. Themes make it easy to change the look and feel of a site without changing the content; templates offer a way to change layouts for a specific page or range of pages; and an ever-growing library of plugins extend the default functionality even further – the majority of which are built and maintained by members of the community.
The main criticisms of WordPress is its inability to create more complex sites (such as e-commerce) and its history of security vulnerabilities. This has led to recent versions of WordPress having a much greater focus on security.
Slightly more developer-oriented than WordPress, Joomla offers more functionality and versatility at the expense of user experience and a smaller online community. That being said, Joomla is still rapidly increasing in popularity thanks to its ability to create larger e-commerce sites and social networks, whilst maintaining a steady learning curve and high performance.
Joomla’s core features can be altered and extended through the use of extensions. Plugins offer a variety of modifications to the way users interact with a site and templates offer broad changes to the look and feel of a site (similar to themes in WordPress). Modules are the building blocks of pages such as side bars, menus and slideshows and they call on components to render these items and handle functionality. Joomla has a large library of custom extensions created by the community, many of which are free.
Joomla is better suited for people with experience of web development. While there are plenty of tutorials out there, the installation and customisation can be difficult, particularly when it comes to decoding and fixing errors. Updating the core can often break extensions and plugins, although recent versions of Joomla have attempted to address this issue.
Drupal is the most powerful of the big three and whilst it doesn’t necessarily require a good level of web development knowledge, its full potential can only really be utilised by those with programming experience. Drupal can handle sites of virtually any size and still maintain high levels of performance and security which means it is has become a popular choice for government websites such as Greater London Authority and The Whitehouse, as well as university and e-commerce sites.
Drupal is built on a system of modules and similar to WordPress and Joomla these can be added and customised by members of the community. The core Drupal modules include a powerful taxonomy and tagging system to organise and categorise content, support for larger blogs and forums, extensive user account controls and profiling, and many other features common to Content Management Systems such as themes and plugins.
The advanced nature of Drupal is both its biggest strength and weakness, allowing developers to create sprawling sites with tons of features while alienating anyone who isn’t particularly tech-savvy.
When it comes to picking a CMS, the right choice will depend on the type of site being made and the people who will be building/maintaining it. WordPress is the most popular choice as it offers pretty much everything a non e-commerce site will need. With so many themes and tutorials out there it’s straightforward for anyone to manage. Larger sites will be more suited to the stability and functionality of Drupal, however the learning curve means that getting off the ground can be very costly and time-consuming. Joomla is the middle ground between the two but developers and users alike can be put off by its unintuitive user experience and relative lack of support.
All of these systems are free and open-source so if you are still undecided then why not download and explore them all and see which one is right for you!