drupal vs wordpress

Drupal vs WordPress: The Team Approach to CMS Selection 

September 14, 2020 8 minute read
We break down the pros and cons of Drupal versus WordPress when it comes to selecting the best CMS.
drupal vs wordpress

Selecting the right CMS can bring a competitive edge, but it’s not a decision to be made lightly. Marketers, business leaders and developers stand on the front lines of the CMS selection process. As a group, they understand that new business models and new technologies aimed to improve customer engagement and build relationships are key to success in today’s modern market. However, each team perspective brings a unique set of criteria to judge the CMS selection process. 

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and disadvantages of Drupal versus WordPress through the lens of three stakeholder perspectives: business leaders, marketers and developers.

Drupal vs WordPress for Business Leaders: Scalability and Simplicity  

The business leadership stands at the helm of great potential change. These decision-makers know the importance of controlling costs. They must prove the return on investment of the CMS technology purchase. Looking to the future, these leaders are challenged to plan for scale, while also accommodating for technological advances such as artificial intelligence (AI) -powered virtual agents.

Vision and Value

One of the main advantages of open source software platforms such as Drupal and WordPress is the freedom from licensing fees out of the box. Sidestepping this expense can help lower the total cost of ownership, including the implementation and hosting costs required to function at the enterprise level. IT costs related to development, deployment and maintenance can be further minimized by taking advantage of cloud-computing technologies.

When applied to open source software, the term “free” has less to do with overall cost and more with freedom from the restrictions of proprietary software. While locked source code, slow release cycles and limited integrations inherent with proprietary solutions can slow the process of change, open source software opens endless doors to innovation.

Business leaders own the vision for where the market is headed. Questions like these to assess value are a vital precursor to the CMS investment decision:

  • What value is placed on digital presence and the customer experience it presents?
  • How important is the ability to personalize?
  • Will this CMS serve current digital technologies?
  • Looking ahead, how will it adapt to changing market demands?
  • How will it scale to accommodate future advancements in digital technology, such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), and mobile?

Scalability vs Simplicity 

In terms of a learning curve, savvy leaders are mindful of common overgeneralizations like “WordPress is simple” and “Drupal is complex.” Instead, they conduct a like-for-like comparison between comparably sized sites with similar functionality or complexity.

Drupal has a longer learning curve than WordPress, largely due to the amount of available customization that is built into its core. IT leaders are likely to discover that modules with more advanced functionality are behind Drupal’s reputation for complexity.

The potential for simplicity is alluring, but it must be balanced with an analysis of enduring scalability. For example, which CMS can scale the fastest to manage and govern multiple sites and applications? WordPress is simple to use, especially for blogs or small sites, but not necessarily scalable or suited for larger, more complex sites. Conversely, Drupal is best suited for enterprise-level sites with custom requirements and may add unnecessary development overhead if chosen for a small site or blog.

Drupal vs WordPress For Marketers: Redefining the Digital Customer Experience

Encompassing many roles, these teams are primarily responsible for managing digital assets with a focus on the impact of digital strategy.

What’s keeping marketers up at night? The drive to build loyalty with customers. When it comes to selecting a CMS platform, must-haves for the marketing group include support for personalization, a seamless behind-the-scenes authoring experience, and the flexibility to connect with other systems in the martech stack.

Building Loyalty with Customer Experience

Marketers are hyper-focused on building customer loyalty by delivering personalized experiences and tailored solutions.

With Drupal serving as the foundation layer to your digital strategy, the options for creating personalized web experiences are endless. Drupal’s architecture makes it the ideal platform for creating and delivering segmented content.

As a primary strategic CMS, WordPress lacks critical enterprise capabilities for customer engagement, mobility and multichannel platforms. Personalization is possible with WordPress, though it requires obtaining a third-party solution, then integrating it. On the other hand, Drupal solutions like Acquia Personalization provide a more straightforward path to personalization. 

For more insights on driving customer loyalty in the digital era, read the Acquia e-book guide, “How to Pivot Quickly in Today’s Digital Ecosystem.”

Ease of Use 

Charged with day-to-day website maintenance, marketing teams demand the most intuitive interface for authoring content. They thrive or die on the ability to publish new cross-channel content quickly, easily and whenever possible, without developer support.  

As a blogging and landing page tool, marketers claim ease of use as a hallmark of WordPress. Drupal’s minimalist user interface out-of-the-box once left marketers wanting more — but that has changed.

In the Drupal 8 release, Layout Builder was added. The Layout Builder is a powerful visual tool that empowers content authors to create one-off pages more easily with drag-and-drop flexibility. It also supports more advanced use cases like layout templates and workflows—all with a careful eye to web accessibility.

Layout Builder demo

Layout Builder demo

 Flexible integrations for all the tools in the marketing tech stack as well as the SEO advantage of industry-leading caching technology lend Drupal an edge for content marketing in this too-close-to-call category. With all the power of an enterprise CMS, Drupal also boasts support for complex and customized editorial workflows.

Mediacurrent’s e-book, “The Marketer’s Guide to Drupal 8” offers additional insights for digital marketers to align their teams, processes and technology.

Drupal vs WordPress for Developers: Data, Security and Experience Management

The development team devotes their workday to build and support multiple experiences for the web and beyond. Outdated technology and complex data requirements are recurring pain points.  

As the primary technical stakeholders in the CMS decision, they are most concerned with finding a secure, maintainable platform. Flexibility is another key criterion to align with the strategic goals envisioned by business leaders and marketing teams.

Data Security

Today’s IT professionals face the massively complex challenge of securing sensitive personal and financial data, keeping abreast of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the EU and other protocols impacting the industry. High-profile data security breaches like the Equifax cyber attack in 2017 have shaken consumer trust, further adding to the complexity. 

All software has security vulnerabilities; what’s important is the process to mitigate and patch these vulnerabilities. An active open source project with defined processes around reporting and resolving security issues provides a community with confidence and transparency. Having many “eyes” on the source code can allow more issues to be discovered and resolved. The Drupal security team is an example of an open source project with a mature process for maintaining security of the Drupal project. 

In evaluating the security of Drupal versus WordPress, one point to consider is that beyond core WordPress, developers will also need to manage the security of all the plugins in play.

Experience Management

Both WordPress and Drupal are touted for their wide library of plugins and modules and lego-like configurability, — an essential quality to build in-demand custom solutions and experiences for customers. For ultimate flexibility, developers may evaluate the potential of the CMS to serve as the foundation for a modern decoupled architecture. This approach opens the door to a variety of potential programming languages and design philosophies to accomplish ambitious goals for any organization.

Using API-first Drupal to decouple the front end, Drupal offers some sophisticated alternative frameworks for decoupled delivery. Emerging technologies like JAMstack and static site generators are bringing forth an array of options for decoupled architectures this year. This focus on flexibility is placing Drupal a notch above competitors like WordPress and in decoupled delivery, surpassing Sitecore and Adobe.


WordPress, despite a robust plugin library, relatively lower costs and overall ease of use, falls short of meeting the requirements of enterprise-level organizations. With a multifaceted capacity to deliver on experience management, Drupal shines as the clear winner.

Ultimately, each CMS comes with its own potential benefits and downsides in light of an organization’s unique requirements. 

To meet their customer-centric goals, stakeholders may wish to explore how industry thought leaders leverage Drupal, including a review of our interview with MagMutual.

How Mediacurrent and Acquia Can Help

Together, Mediacurrent and Acquia build scalable digital platforms that deliver personalized customer experiences by leveraging Drupal and best-in-class strategy, design and development services. Our solutions are developed to grow with the needs of your organization and its customers. We focus on the friction and obstacles facing your industry today, so you can focus on creating the best customer experience possible. 

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