Selecting a Content Management System (CMS) is one of the most critical decisions organizations can make about their web program. Mistakes can be costly, leading to wasted time and money. Whether it’s time to rebuild your existing website, or you’re starting something new from the ground up, you’ll be quick to discover (or be reminded) that the vast majority of the web is generally powered by only a handful of technology platforms.

Fifteen years ago, this dilemma was closer akin to a headache, with dozens of hopeful CMS products competing for your attention. Each had their own pros and cons worth weighing endlessly against each other. Your options were a mix of purpose-built solutions (often relics of the past) like dedicated blogs or ecommerce platforms versus “all in one” monolithic solutions like the CMS options that we know today. Among these options were WordPress and Drupal, and over time, the clear advantages associated with these two platforms caused the competition to wane away.

Here at Brick Factory the decision was clear, both platforms are outstanding in their own unique ways, and we’ve chosen to specialize in both of them almost exclusively within our practice since our inception in 2011. 

Drupal and WordPress have both grown and changed extensively over the years, with many of their individual strengths and weaknesses shifting back and forth between the two of them as they’ve evolved. Which platform we ultimately lean towards recommending these days can take careful consideration and is often very project-specific, this article is intended to serve as an insight into many of the pros and cons we consider when making that final recommendation.

Drupal Pros

  • Flexibility. It’s often touted as being “for developers,” and this is roundly true. Since its inception, Drupal has focused on better serving the developer community that helped build it. As a result, Drupal has a reputation for being the more flexible solution of the two, allowing developers to form and mold it into any objective you toss at it.
  • Security. Drupal has a “no compromises” approach to handling security. The track record for Drupal is industry-leading, with stringent policies from the ground up. If your top priority is security, Drupal historically wins the argument. This is how Drupal ended up being the typical go to solution for Fortune 500 companies and government agencies worldwide, earning its moniker of THE “Enterprise Solution.” While not immune to security breaches, its reputation far exceeds the competition.
  • Modern Codebase. Drupal has already endured the growing pains of moving away from an entirely procedurally driven codebase and into the age of modern object oriented programming. As a result, developers are now empowered to write modules that utilize reusable code as well as implement cross compatible services that can be used by other modules across the entire ecosystem. Beyond that, while no codebase is timeless, Drupal users can finally expect a worthy lifespan out of their sites with a solid upgrade path for many years to come. 
  • Truly open source. While WordPress and Drupal are both open source at their core, the expansion capabilities they provide through plugins and modules are unique between the two ecosystems. Drupal “Modules” are truly open source, unlike WordPress, Drupal doesn’t treat its Module offerings as a vendor marketplace, where the best solutions are typically licensed for a price. Modules found on are all free to use, this generally leads to more community-driven modules. Open codebases allow developers the freedom to change what is needed without licensing concerns, while encouraging these same developers to contribute that new code back to the community.
  • Speed and Performance. While both platforms are capable of reaching impressive and comparable speeds, Drupal has the leg up in this category by being notably performant straight out of the box. It offers enhanced caching and is generally built from the ground up with an intent to serve large scale audiences.

Drupal Cons

  • Upgrades. As Drupal prioritized being the gold standard enterprise solution for modern developers, the dedicated users and developers that helped build the framework paid the price. With each major version release of Drupal came a complete lack of an upgrade path, leaving the Drupal community with the ongoing need for almost complete website rebuilds every lifecycle, typically around every 6 years. This was finally resolved over the past few versions, but early adopters paid a price that many found unforgivable, resulting in a migration to WordPress.
  • Usability. Despite offering a truly flexible content workflow, Drupal’s lack of attention to the administrative UI for content moderators led to it gaining a bad reputation for usability. While there have been notable improvements in recent iterations and plenty of modules to enhance this experience, Drupal’s past reputation for poor UI has led many organizations to switch to WordPress over the years.
  • Effort / Cost. Being developer-focused comes with a cost. Drupal lacks the “plug and play” reputation earned by WordPress. Building a Drupal site similar in nature to WordPress typically requires a higher effort/price tag and higher maintenance costs.

WordPress Pros

  • User Experience. The winning selling point for WordPress often boils down to the expectation of greater usability for content managers. Content-rich sites require authors and administrators to work daily with drafting, organizing and publishing content. Out of the box, WordPress undoubtedly shines in this area, where it arguably counts most for those users.
  • Plugins. The marketplace approach that WordPress took with Plugins, where many come with an up-front cost or an ongoing license, led to a greater variety of truly feature-rich options to choose from. This not only lowers development costs if your project goals align with those of the plugin offerings, but it also generally means that those plugins are far more polished than the equivalent Drupal offerings.
  • Developer Access. WordPress is far and beyond the most adopted platform on the internet, and finding developers to work on your website can be challenging at times with Drupal given the smaller community. With WordPress there’s never a shortage of developers to hire, although with WordPress being an easier market to enter, not all developers are created equal, or up to the task.
  • Brand Recognition. This can’t be understated; public awareness matters. For individuals and businesses new or less experienced with shopping for custom websites, WordPress may be the only option that seems to spark a sense of familiarity and, therefore, trust, clout or other perception of abstract benefit. Further, the addition of WordPress experience is a modern-day resume enhancer and the population’s more common acquaintance with the WordPress UI, results in a greater supply of qualified administrators, content creators and developers – a reality that drives down the cost and accessibility of human resources. Powered by the advantages afforded by its visibility, the WordPress ecosystem will be favored for the foreseeable future. 
  • Ease of updates. WordPress is years ahead of Drupal in regards to ease of updates, both minor and major. This is largely a central deciding factor for smaller organizations that are cost conscious when it comes to ongoing maintenance and support for their website.

WordPress Cons

  • Security. Unfortunately, WordPress has earned its reputation for being less secure than Drupal through a combination of historically less stringent code review policies, less control over the plugin marketplace, and being a larger target due to its popularity. While running a secure website in WordPress is possible, it is more difficult and requires more work and monitoring than Drupal.
  • Plugins. The WordPress plugin marketplace is a double-edged sword. Due to the monetary focus of plugin developers, often their creations are heavily proprietary, if not completely encrypted and incapable of modification. This can lead to data privacy concerns and the inability to identify potential security concerns. Additionally, the competitive nature of the WordPress marketplace also leads to many plugins simply being incapable of working together. If a plugin does 90% of the job you’re looking for, there’s often no way of adding in the remaining 10%. More often than not, you may be forced to fit a proverbial square into a circular slot. 
  • Legacy Codebase. With endless backwards compatibility and relatively seamless upgrade paths comes bloated, unnecessary and potentially insecure code that’s no longer in use. In general, “best practices” and modern object oriented coding techniques simply did not exist in their current form when WordPress first hit the market, and making that leap would’ve required the same growing pains felt by the Drupal community in years past. As a result, WordPress tends to be considered outdated when it comes to its codebase, and it’s easy to assume that in time, those necessary growing pains will catch up to it.

The differences that separate the two platforms might lead you to expect Drupal to be the industry-leading solution, while, in fact statistics show that WordPress sites represent roughly half of the websites in existence. This is quite an impressive feat for WordPress, considering its modest origin as a simple blogging tool. Meanwhile, Drupal struggles to maintain even single-digit percentages in the market after losing a great deal of market share largely due to migration issues in earlier releases. 

The future of both platforms will be interesting to watch over the next decade. Will Drupal regain lost community support as developers rebuild their confidence in its newfound ability to finally achieve upgradable lifecycles? Will WordPress suffer a reckoning at some point in the future as it’s inevitably forced to endure a transformative code base upgrade, or will they once again manage an almost seamless upgrade/migration path? One thing seems for certain for the time being, these open-source products took years to achieve this level of market confidence, and for the foreseeable future, both options will be leading solid choices for years to come.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.