WordPress vs Drupal vs Joomla vs Expression Engine

On January 26, 2011, in Business, IT, Social Media, by Paul Kortman

cms - wordpress - drupal - joomla - expression engineI often am asked which CMS a client should use, and while I’m not a developer I know plenty of developers and somehow have been given the status of “objective recommender.” This morning I woke to find just such an email request:

Paul, If you woke up this morning and you Boss said lets blow up the website, start over will all things new and I want it done in 2 months, besides the panic, which CMS would you choose? WordPress versus Drupal verus Joomla versus EE? Or something else for a 2000 Page site…

Values placed on the selection:

  • Common development the ability to use what others have done
  • Flexible
  • Easy for admins/editors to edit
  • SEO friendly
  • Local developers
  • Manageable site of 2000+ pages

CMS Comparisons

The decisions as to which CMS are difficult. However the most important part of the CMS puzzle is your developers. All of these are written in PHP and can have plugins/modules written for it, however some are friendlier to developers than others. The reason it’s about your developers: None of these will work off the shelf and with existing plugins. All will have to be customized up front and tweaked as you make changes.

WordPress (aka WP)

  • Developers: Developers don’t love this as much as Drupal, but the ease of use for the user and the common use of this cms has attracted a lot of developers.
  • Quantity of local developers: Far and away the clear winner in this space. Just about every developer has experience with WP.
  • Editor/admin Usability: Bar none the most user friendly CMS in this list
  • Can it handle 2000 pages: yes easily – its not just a blog anymore
  • Common Development – plugins: tons, a lot of bad ones, but there are tons of plugins out there.
  • Common Development – themes: tons, costs are in the $100 range, buy one, modify it, life is good.
  • Flexible: Very flexible, i’ve seen WordPress do pretty crazy things, but yet at it’s core it’s a loop based blogging cms so not the best in this list for flexibility
  • Out of the box SEO: Best in this list. It’s baked into the base code
  • Plugin SEO: Even better. – tons of options
  • Typical Dev needs: Heavy upfront, very little after launch most of the tweaks can happen by a junior level developer
  • Sites using WP

Joomla

  • Developers: Typically they struggle. I have not found a really, really good developer who develops for Joomla (they can and will, but they curse while doing it)
  • Quantity of local developers: Joomla Users Groups are mostly end users trying to figure out how to use it – this ranks 3rd.
  • Editor/admin Usability: the worst on this list
  • Can it handle 2000 pages: yes but it’d be really complicated on the admin to find them all.
  • Common Development – plugins: out there. not great, not a huge selection — typically devs roll their own
  • Common Development – themes: some, not great.
  • Flexible: least in this list. combine the limited plugins, limited developers, with the frustration for devs and the limited functions out of the box — its pretty limited.
  • Out of the box SEO: Good luck
  • Plugin SEO: only comes half way to where it needs to be
  • Typical Dev needs: Steady
  • Sites using Joomla

Drupal

  • Developers: They love this CMS, I don’t know why yet, but I know really good developers who Drupal out all day. — the learning curve is higher than in WordPress, but makes sense after learning
  • Quantity of local developers: More than I would expect. 2nd place behind WordPress
  • Editor/admin Usability: not the best, but it’s fair/good probably tied with EE
  • Can it handle 2000 pages: yes easily
  • Common Development – plugins: yes, and growing more each day.
  • Common Development – themes: yes and growing more each day
  • Flexible: Probably the most flexible on this list.
  • Out of the box SEO: #2, right behind WordPress
  • Plugin SEO: makes it neck and neck with WordPress
  • Typical Dev needs: Heavy upfront, weekly/monthly after
  • Sites using Drupal

Expression Engine (aka EE)

  • Developers: Those who do EE do it well, but there is a huge barrier to entry. I do know smart developers on the EE platform — also the company who makes it is available to support/develop on EE. Probably one of the only CMSs in this list that can say that
  • Quantity of Local Developers: One of the top Experts on EE is local, but overall this CMS has the lowest quantity available in this list
  • Editor/admin Usability: Again tied with Drupal
  • Can it handle 2000 pages: yes easily
  • Common Development – plugins: the lowest quantity on this list – but best quality. However if you want to display twitter feed in a specific way (for example), since there are only 2 plugins, you’ll typically have to roll your own
  • Common Development – themes: the lowest quantity on this list – but typically beautiful sites!
  • Flexible: Limited but not by much, it’s neck and neck with WordPress for 2nd/3rd place
  • Out of the box SEO: ok, though most EE sites don’t take SEO into consideration
  • Plugin SEO: makes it better, but still in 3rd position
  • Typical Dev needs: Heavy upfront, weekly/monthly after
  • Sites using EE

Winning CMS in Each Category:

  • Developers: Drupal
  • Quantity of Local Developers: WordPress
  • Editor/admin Usability: WordPress
  • Can it handle 2000 pages: Drupal WordPress and EE tied at this level… at 10K pages it’s Drupal left standing, no other CMS (in this list) comes close to that robustness.
  • Common Development – plugins: WordPress
  • Common Development – themes: WordPress
  • Flexible: Drupal
  • Out of the box SEO: WordPress
  • Plugin SEO: Drupal and WordPress tied
  • Typical Dev needs: WordPress

Which CMS is right for you?

No doubt it’s the one that you have a good relationship with multiple developers on. I’s love for you to choose WordPress. But I bet that since the impression that “WP is just a blogging cms and cannot handle a robust site” they’ll shake out in this order:

  1. Drupal
  2. WordPress
  3. EE
  4. Joomla

Let the Hate Mail Ensue

This is of course all my opinion, I use and love WordPress. I’d love to get into Drupal. I’ve hated dealing with Joomla, and I’ve personally never used an EE CMS site (remember that barrier to entry) . That being said, I’d love to be corrected, I will adjust this post as needed, feel free to shout out in the comments as to what needs adjusting and I’ll fix it.

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