The three most popular CMSs are Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. A common question among new webmasters is which CMS to choose. The answer to that question depends very much on the unique situation. So in order to help you answer it and similar questions, let’s explore the essential features of each technology and consider the pros and cons in comparison to each other.
Released in 2005, Joomla is a Mambo CMS fork and a relative newcomer to the CMS scene. Its core design goal is enabling web developers to build template-based websites. Like both Drupal and WordPress, Joomla is highly extensible. Unlike Drupal and WordPress, Joomla uses a model-view-controller (MVC) architecture, which can be a great asset to developers seeking to extend the platform. By default, Joomla includes many features and extensions that one must add to Drupal or WordPress.
- Second most prevalent CMS
- Explicit installation process
- Most sophisticated out-of-the-box experience
- Intuitive control panel
- Built-in SEO-friendly URLs
- Most pain-free as an e-commerce platform
- Clunky configuration usually requires coding
- Control simplicity causes tedious tasks
- Some instability; does crash on occasion
- Sample data can be a double-edged sword
Joomla in a Nutshell
Joomla sets the standard for CMS installation. It uses small steps and a layered approach, and everything is documented in a highly usable way. Joomla also has very intuitive controls, but the simplicity can become a limitation that requires you to perform menial tasks repeatedly. Advanced users will find workarounds. An inherent CMS promise is a code-free experience, if desired, but Joomla doesn’t deliver; its unwieldy configuration requires almost everyone to dig around in the code, even if just a little. Finally, integrating extensions, add-ons and plug-ins is more difficult than it is in Drupal or WordPress.
Dries Buytaert developed Drupal and released it to the public as an open-source solution in 2001. Like Joomla, Drupal’s primary goal is to achieve simple yet powerful template-based web design. The core Drupal install serves as excellent “brochureware,” and it provides a strong alternative to the blog-oriented default instance of WordPress. Drupal is also a popular solution for business collaboration and knowledge management websites and is the tech used to run the whitehouse.gov website.
- Easy configuration
- Smooth and powerful administration
- Dashboard supports advanced customization
- Interface controls adapt within context
- Simple static pages
- Easy add-on installation
- Impressive e-commerce platform
- Beginner-unfriendly install process
- Steepest learning curve
- Control flexibility causes unnecessary complexity
- No rich text editor by default
- No built-in social media tools
Drupal in a Nutshell
The Drupal install process is quite good and comparable to Joomla in many ways. The major differences, bulkier steps and less explicitness, set Joomla apart, however. Drupal controls are also less intuitive than Joomla’s, but they are much more powerful and customizable. Drupal also has a superb configuration mechanism that is powerful and requires no coding. When it comes to installing add-ons, Drupal is much more comparable to WordPress than the sometimes-stubborn Joomla. Drupal offers a community second only to WordPress, but its commercial support is much lesser than what Joomla provides.
WordPress (WP) launched in 2003, and like Joomla, it began as a forked project. WP is best known as a blogging platform, largely due to the WordPress.com service, which is not unlike Google’s Blogger. A great advantage of WP is that while it is simple enough to power a blog, it can also handle tasks that are much more complex. This makes it a particularly strong option for websites that will start with a limited scope but in the hopes of eventually expanding into something that is much more substantial.
- Most prevalent CMS
- Best out-of-the-box blog
- By far the easiest content creation
- Simplest installation process
- Easiest learning curve
- Dashboard finds balance between Drupal and Joomla approaches
- Configuration is simple but lacking
- Very vanilla by default
- Some hidden controls
- Content is location-based
WordPress in a Nutshell
WP is the most used and recognized CMS and blogging platform. The WP installation is not nearly as sophisticated or versatile as Joomla or Drupal, but when it comes to simplicity and speed, WP wins hands down. Even true newbies can have a site up and running in five minutes, and most hosts have a one-touch WP install process that can achieve it even faster than that. WordPress controls are powerful and easy to use. One negative, however, is that some of them are tucked away and hard to find.
For managing content, nothing beats WP out of the box, and the same goes for its template engine and template availability. WP also has the widest selection of add-ons and tools, and most of these install in a one-touch fashion. WP is also surprisingly effective as an e-commerce solution. It can handle large inventories, but it is especially perfect for the blog or small site that happens to sell a few items too. WP also has a massive, centralized community, and it offers surprisingly extensive commercial support.
Joomla, Drupal and WordPress all share some common positive aspects. They are written in the PHP language, use MySQL as the back-end database, and are licensed via the GNU GPL. They also have large, thriving communities that include thousands of add-ons and commercial support. Finally, all three are available from webhosts via one-touch installation, which greatly eases the burden on the beginner.
All three of these CMSs are very, very good, which explains why they are the three most popular on the market. Joomla is the most modern solution, and it has learned much from Drupal and WP mistakes. It may be the perfect all-purpose option for the person with strong technical skills or the willingness to acquire them. WordPress is clearly the best option for the person without technical skills, and it is powerful enough, despite that, to do almost everything that Joomla and Drupal can. Of the three, Drupal is the sky-is-the-limit option, but it requires strong skills and likely an ongoing learning process.