Last week I wrote about why every business should build their site on a CMS. This week I will help you select which CMS is the right choice for your business website.
The three I highlight here are all highly used, professional, extensible systems for site building. Each has a large community of developers, themers, users, and deployed sites, with ongoing improvements. Best of all, each is completely free. So how do they differ? The number one question I get from people is “How do I know which I should build my site on?” This article will help you answer that question.
Ease of Use vs. Technical Power
Each of these three have many strengths, but they each excel in a specific area. WordPress is incredibly easy to use and maintain, extensible, and powerful, but lacks many advanced administrative features required by high end websites. Joomla is geared towards corporate websites, or common systems such as online magazines, calendar systems, or inventory tracking. Drupal is the most technically powerful and extensible, but the hardest to learn, extend, and customize.
WordPress is primarily a blogging tool, and since many sites can be set up *like* a blog, it is great for simple sites or blogs. WordPress’s greatest strength is it’s ease of use, even for non-technical users. Sites which will be static (not use a lot of server side scripting), be heavily dependent on a blog, or require basic customer interaction such as shopping carts, newsletters, calendars, etc have a great choice in WordPress. Where it is lacking is the fully dynamic functionality some advanced sites require. If each page on a site may react differently to users, or the site will have social networking features, WordPress is probably not the best choice. It has the highest market share of any CMS, with a greater number of free themes and add on modules than the other two CMS’s, as well as a large market of premium themes and bolt ons.
WordPress has a huge community built up around it, so finding developers or solving issues you are facing is usually easy when asking the community. It pulls ahead of both Joomla and Drupal for ease of use. Installing modules, upgrading the system, or taking a back up are all one click activities.
- Best tool for blogging
- Easy to use for non-technical site owners
- Setup, install, and maintenance are quick and painless
- One click upgrades and site changes
- largest community of theme and module developers of any CMS
- Extending standard functionality requires custom modules
- Difficult to add lots of dynamic content to pages
- Social features outside of blogging are limited
What WordPress excels at:
- Simple sites which are mainly static content (text and images) such as small brick and mortar businesses, restaurants, or personal pages.
Joomla falls between WordPress and Drupal for both ease of use and extensibility. It uses a standard model-view-controller framework, which is very powerful for building sites using standard Joomla functionality. Joomla is more functional than a simple wordpress install, focusing on systems such as inventory trackers, or multiple contributor online magazines.
In recent years they have greatly simplified the install and upgrade processes, but this will still take some technical know how. Joomla has a large community of professional themers and extension developers, however many of these are sold for extra cost. This is perhaps the geatest downside of Joomla, as both Drupal and WordPress foster completely open source add ons to develop functionality needed by a subset of customers. Add on’s which you will find freely available and open source in Drupal and WordPress are often sold at premium prices for Joomla.
- Nearly as easy to setup and use as WordPress
- Includes caching by default to improve site performance
- Flexible control panel
- More extensible than WordPress for developers
- Joomla falls in the middle, so except for some specialized applications, it is not the “best” system on either front.
- Not XHTML compliant
- No built in SEO – URLs are not search engine friendly
- Many of the best modules cost money
What Joomla excels at
- Sites that need more power than WordPress provides, but don’t want to learn a complex system
- Sites that are willing to pay for premium modules and support
Drupal has more complexity in terms of setup and administration than either Joomla or WordPress, but offers easy ways to setup key functionality, such as defining dynamic pages inside the CMS which will execute custom PHP scripts. Additionally, Drupal provides a powerful API which covers many common web problems, decreasing development time considerably. I found Drupal to be great from the perspective of a developer, but I would be hesitant to build a client site in Drupal unless they had dedicated administrators who could learn the system. Drupal includes social networking functionality out of the box, allowing users to create their own content, setup a profile, and interact with other users.
The drupal community and site has many resources to help when issues are hit, but the overall administration pages and menus are incredibly numerous, not intuitive, and complex. This is the biggest drawback of using Drupal: the complexity. For instance, by default, all content is entered as HTML only, and additional modules must be installed to get What You See is What You Get editors, which come standard in WordPress and Joomla. Additionally, some functionality you might expect requires multiple interacting modules, and learning to setup and administer them. To help with this, Drupal has many out of the box reports and automated checks to help maintain the site.
- Great for developers
- powerful PHP functionality for in-system customization (no need to develop modules)
- The best system for integrating social networking with business processes
- Powerful API for custom development
- Challenging for non-technical users to setup and maintain
- Standard interaction is more clunky than other systems (significant time went into theming my site)
- The smallest number of free themes available
- Many modules will need to be installed to get a functional site
What Drupal excels at
- Creating complex websites on top of a CMS
- Developers building sites
- Social networks
There are many advocates for each of these systems, but it really comes down to web site requirements. If you don’t need the extra functionality of the more complex CMS systems, then it is wise to select a simpler system which will fit your needs rather then a more complex one. Hopefully I have helped lay out some of the most common factors in deciding which CMS you should consider for your site.