WordPress vs. Drupal: which one is better in 2023?
WordPress and Drupal are two of the most dominant CMS platforms on the market. Which one should you use in 2023? Let’s explore the pros and cons of each to determine which one works best for you.
By Andres Monzant
19 Min read
To use WordPress or to use Drupal. That is the question.
If you’ve spent time in web development or are exploring CMS options, you likely have heard about one or both of these platforms. But which one should you use? The decision you make will have a significant impact on the timeline and other essential elements of your project, so you need to choose carefully.
What do they offer? How do they work? What kinds of websites can you create with each? Which one is better for my needs in 2023?
This guide will explore these and many other questions related to these two CMS giants to help you make the most informed decision possible and set the foundation for a successful web development project.
WordPress is much more user and beginner-friendly. Drupal is more geared towards developers, but it’s still possible to set up basic websites with no code.
WordPress’ no-code website-building tools have a gentler learning curve, while Drupal relies more heavily on coding for anything other than basic-looking websites.
WordPress has 6.000+ themes and 60.000+ plugins to extend your website’s functions and aesthetic appeal.
Drupal has 3.000+ themes and 40.000+ modules (equivalent to WordPress plugins).
WordPress and Drupal can both secure your website, providing you keep your core installations, themes, and add-ons (plugins or modules) updated.
For content marketing, WordPress shines in small, non-technical teams. Drupal shines in larger, more technically-minded marketing teams.
Both platforms can help you scale up your website through various means. WordPress focuses on hosting and server-side management, and third-party plugin integration. Drupal is considered more natively flexible and scalable, focusing on interoperability.
What is WordPress, and how popular is it?
WordPress is a free and open-source content management system (CMS) used to build websites. Initially launched in 2003 as a blog-building tool, it has since expanded its capabilities.
Today, you can build any website in WordPress: blogs, business and institutional websites, e-commerce shops, professional portfolios, membership sites, forums, and much more.
WordPress is by far the most popular CMS in the world, powering 43% of all websites, including websites without CMS or some that use a custom-made CMS. For websites that use a known, not custom-made CMS, WordPress powers 65% of them.
With WordPress, you can build websites using templates (known as “themes”) or code them from the ground up with a combination of PHP, JavaScrit, CSS, and HTML. WordPress is often known as the simplest way to build a website because of its rich theme ecosystem. It is very friendly for people with no coding experience.
What is Drupal, and how popular is it?
Drupal is also a free and open-source CMS used to build websites. Launched in 2001 under the domain “drop.org,” Drupal has become another major player in the CMS landscape.
Like with WordPress, you can build any website in Drupal. Drupal is popular among brands looking to integrate payment gateways, CRMs, analytics tools, social media, and marketing automation platforms into their websites.
Drupal is also popular for business and institutional websites, publishing workflows, online directories, etc. According to Kinsta, Drupal powers 1.7% of all websites and 3% of websites with a known CMS.
How easy is it to set up websites with WordPress and Drupal?
WordPress’ learning curve
WordPress was built to be user and beginner-friendly, with no coding skills required for the basic operations. It’s also free, which immediately lowers the barrier to entry. As a result, your initial expenses will focus on web hosting and your domain name.
Explore this table to learn what you can and cannot do in WordPress as a beginner:
Without coding skills
• Set up, host, optimize (to a degree), and back up your site • Customize your site with drag-and-drop page builders like Elementor, Divi, and Beaver Builder • Install plugins and themes (content templates) • Tweak basic settings • Create, edit, and publish content
• Develop themes and plugins from scratch • Customize and improve security • Integrate third-party applications such as CRMs • Further speed up and optimize your site • Troubleshoot complex website issues
Using WordPress (even without coding) is a skill, though. It’ll take time to get used to all the information the dashboard throws at you. Still, it’s perfectly possible to learn to manage the basic operations of a website if you have computer skills.
Drupal’s learning curve
Drupal is also free, but it’s not as beginner-friendly. While someone with computer skills can learn to use Drupal’s basic functionalities without coding, the interfaces are not as intuitive or user-friendly as in WordPress.
Additionally, a higher proportion of websites built in Drupal have custom code because of its lean toward developers. You may need a developer if you want your website to look anything other than very basic.
Without coding skills
• Set up and host your website • Set, change and configure your theme • Create, edit, and publish content • Activate and deactivate default modules (essentially plugins). Install third-party modules • Use Layout Builder to build your website’s design • Add, modify, and create “blocks”, which are small boxes of content like “users online right now.”
• Set up professional-looking websites • Developing themes • Editing and developing modules • Keeping your website updated
Building your site: WordPress or Drupal?
WordPress and Drupal power some of the world’s biggest websites, so they offer endless possibilities for website building, either by using templates, coding them from the ground up, or a combination of both.
WordPress for website building
WordPress is very user-friendly and offers out-of-the-box, no-code site-building features.
But before building a site, you must consider whether you’ll build it in WordPress.org or WordPress.com. Depending on which one you choose, your experience can be quite different. This topic requires an article of its own, but here’s the summary.
WordPress.org requires that you host your site through a third party, but it allows for much more flexibility in terms of themes, plugins, and code. WordPress.com forces you to use default features and takes care of hosting. As a result, WordPress.org is much more involved but offers more options, while WordPress.com is more limited in the alternatives it offers but is also faster to set up.
Site building with default functions is very straightforward, and thousands of beginner guides are out there to help you get going. You can even install site-building plugins, which often have drag-and-drop functions that bypass coding entirely.
Drupal for website building
Drupal’s environment provides enough tools to build any website. Like in WordPress, you can build blogs, e-commerce shops, news outlets, single-pagers, business sites, nonprofit organization sites, forums, and more. Also, like WordPress, there are out-of-the-box, no-code alternatives for beginners.
But while you can build anything in Drupal and WordPress without coding, Drupal favors software developers, given its less user-friendly interfaces and steeper learning curve.
Regarding site building, Drupal is more of a blank canvas ready to be filled with whatever you can think of, at the cost of expecting you to know how to use the necessary tools.
Can you install add-ons and themes to WordPress and Drupal websites?
WordPress and Drupal offer free and premium plugins (or modules) and themes for aesthetics, functionality, and performance. Plugins or modules can save time for coders and non-coders alike. They offer flexibility to edit site features and can be very reliable.
From SEO optimization to traffic monetization and aesthetic appeal, plugins, modules, and themes can improve your website in many ways.
WordPress plugins and themes
WordPress is the site-building tool with the most third-party developers contributing extended functionalities for your website. WordPress currently boasts:
Drupal modules and themes
Drupal has significant third-party involvement, too, regarding modules and themes. It currently boasts:
Drupal’s total number of themes and modules is slightly lower than WordPress’, but you can still do pretty much everything you need. And if you don’t, you can always learn to code and create your own custom solutions.
Can you secure your websites with WordPress and Drupal?
Given how much of the web is powered by Drupal and WordPress, they hold many sensitive data. Data such as private health records, intellectual property, accounting records, personally identifiable information, and more.
For this reason, security should be a priority from the beginning of the site-building process. Let’s explore how each platform handles security.
With good practices and a proactive attitude towards site security from the very beginning of development, WordPress sites can be very secure. A proactive approach to security involves:
Securing websites before they go live.
Not trusting “100% guaranteed security” claims from security plugins. Website security is a constant risk management process.
Being aware of common vulnerabilities.
Keeping the core, themes, PHP versions, and plugins updated (older versions can be open to vulnerabilities).
Avoid falling for the trap of thinking more security plugins are always better. They can conflict with each other, creating instability and vulnerabilities. Think carefully about how they’ll mesh before implementing more than one.
Drupal has extremely high-security standards and is widely known as one of the most secure CMSs in the market. This dedication to security makes it very popular for institutions such as the state of New York’s website and also for security-minded developers.
In addition to its inherent security functions, Drupal has a smaller user base and marketplace for themes and modules. For security, this plays in Drupal’s favor by reducing the number of potential entry points for bad actors.
Finally, Drupal has a security team with more than 20 experts with an impressive track record of transparency and quick responses.
It’s still essential to have a proactive security approach when building sites in Drupal. Like WordPress, older Drupal cores can be exploited since they are no longer supported. Modules can also act as entry points if not appropriately secured.
Content marketing: WordPress or Drupal?
Content marketing is a technique used to attract and retain customers by providing them with valuable content that informs and engages the target audience. Content marketing includes articles, podcasts, videos, newsletters, and other media.
Let’s explore the options each platform offers for content marketers.
WordPress for content marketing
Most content marketing campaigns consist of the following core elements:
A long-term strategy and schedule.
The talent to produce regular, high-quality content.
An ever-growing email list.
A social media strategy for growth.
The tools to analyze the content and recognize the patterns for what works and what doesn’t.
Finally, we must mention Yoast SEO, the most popular plugin in content marketing and the whole WordPress community. It’s an essential tool every marketer using WordPress must master.
Drupal for content marketing
Like WordPress, Drupal offers brands the environment to design and execute their content marketing campaigns, including third-party modules to enhance analytics, customer data management, and other content marketing elements.
But where WordPress shines for smaller teams with little coding knowledge, Drupal shines for larger, more technically-minded teams with strictly defined roles. These larger teams benefit from Drupal’s more involved and deliberate approach, in which every function has to keep scalability in mind.
Yoast SEO for Drupal is also an excellent tool every marketer using Drupal must master. Still, it lags compared to WordPress’ version.
Overall, Drupal is best for large teams who have to stay open to the possibility of scaling up the tools they need over time.
Software development: WordPress or Drupal?
WordPress and Drupal offer opportunities for software developers to find employment and grow their skills. Let’s explore what developing is like in each platform.
WordPress for software developing
Despite WordPress’ reputation for being user-friendly for beginners, it still provides a rich environment for web developers to use their skills.
Some of the responsibilities of WordPress developers may include the following:
Developing new website features and functions.
Understanding client needs and turning them into website features.
Designing, implementing, and maintaining a website’s architecture.
Writing, testing, and debugging the website’s code.
Participating in the community by sharing themes and plugins and contributing to other developers’ themes and plugins.
According to Glassdoor, as of December 2022, a WordPress developer’s salary in the U.S. ranges from 56k to 93k a year. Additionally, given WordPress’ massive market share and the expected growth of the web developer and digital design industry for the rest of the decade, becoming a WordPress developer is an excellent way to secure long-term, stable employment.
Finally, you may have heard that WordPress is “slow” or hard to optimize for performance. This is not necessarily true. Any team can develop a lightning-fast website with WordPress. However, given that so much of WordPress’s user base is not technically proficient, they may install too many plugins and poorly-coded themes, slowing down the website.
A good WordPress developer will know how to balance all the pieces together for a functional and speedy website.
Drupal for software developing
Use PHP to write custom modules and automate tests, consume web services, and more.
Share with the community the modules and themes they designed, and contribute with other developers.
Some developers may also contribute in other areas of web development, such as sysadmin/DevOps, quality assurance, project management, scrum master, product owners, UX/UI design, and more.
Combine all of these skills to develop and maintain a website or focus on specific disciplines: developer, themer, and site builder.
It’s important to add that Drupal site builders may also restrict themselves to no-code solutions, using only the UI and contributed modules and themes. It’s entirely possible to build sites without much code. But that’s not how most Drupal site builders work.
One of the main reasons to develop in Drupal is that everything is modular and flexible: specifically designed to interoperate with other elements. While this is possible in WordPress, it is only sometimes as straightforward since many plugins are not designed with interoperability in mind.
Drupal may be better for larger websites with massive amounts of structured data, given its flexibility. That doesn’t mean you can’t create large websites in WordPress (you absolutely can); it just means Drupal is more inherently optimized for this purpose.
Flexibility & scalability: WordPress or Drupal?
WordPress’ flexibility & scalability
Both platforms offer flexible and scalable environments for website builders to let loose.
Website-building in WordPress is highly flexible for multiple reasons. Some of the most important include:
Diverse plugin library: WordPress is the most popular CMS, boasting the most extensive CMS add-on library in the market. This provides almost infinite options for developers and non-developers alike.
Access to source code: WordPress allows developers to access its source code and modify it however they see fit for their needs.
Large professional community: the WordPress community offers contributed plugins, themes, and educational content for new developers.
Think of WordPress as a smartphone you can download apps to. Depending on the type of apps you download, you can optimize your smartphone towards work and productivity or entertainment.
WordPress gives you the flexibility to do the same for your websites.
WordPress can be very scalable, often acting as a catch-all CMS that contains a little bit of every tool. When requirements are met, WordPress sites can manage thousands of simultaneous logged-in users, making it suitable for large websites, despite the fact that Drupal is often considered better for these.
Some of the measures developers can take to scale up the website as traffic increases include:
Switching to SSDs on the server side.
Contracting hosting plans with vertical or horizontal scaling.
Keeping the core updated.
Contracting managed hosting.
Implementing caching and optimization plugins to minimize HTTPS server requests.
Increasing server security.
And many more.
One common criticism of WordPress’s admittedly excellent scalability is that it’s often dependent on third-party plugins you have to patch together. It can be an issue for some, but a professional, experienced team will be able to handle it.
Drupal’s flexibility & scalability
Despite WordPress’ flexibility, Drupal is still often considered the most flexible and feature-rich CMS on the market due to the vast array of taxonomies and content blocks available in the core installation.
This gives Drupal developers free rein to tackle large projects with a variety of tools probably no other CMS offers. It also means developers have to be, from the start, much more experienced and knowledgeable about its architecture than WordPress developers would have to be.
It’s also one of the reasons some prefer Drupal for large-scale projects with very specific needs, such as institutional sites.
Finally, the sheer wealth of resources Drupal provides may be way more than a team needs or can realistically handle. Each team should choose the CMS that better suits their experience and skills.
Despite WordPress’s excellent scalability, Drupal is often considered the more scalable of the two. It comes down to their fundamental designs.
Drupal is very technical and development-heavy, with relatively few options for non-developers. Compared to WordPress, the key difference is that Drupal acts as an ecosystem in which modules, blocks, and taxonomies exist.
This technical aim contrasts with WordPress’s model, in which developers patch plugins to scale functionalities. As a result, Drupal is often considered better for large projects expected to grow even more over time.
Again, it doesn’t mean WordPress cannot be used with scalability in mind. Still, it does mean that Drupal was made with scalability in mind to a greater degree than WordPress.
WordPress vs. Drupal: 2023 comparison table
Gentle at first but gets steeper as you get into more technical functions. Assumes inexperience and provides beginners with many niceties to ease them into the process.
Steeper from the beginning. It’s perfectly possible to build a website as a beginner with no coding skills, but it’s overall less user and beginner-friendly.
Wide array of user-friendly plugins and themes to build a website in relatively short periods.
More of a blank canvas that gives you free reign from the start, at the cost of having a higher barrier for entry in terms of website-building knowledge.
Plugins or modules and themes
• 6.000+ themes • 60.000+ plugins
• 3.050+ themes • 40.000+ modules
WordPress’ core files themselves are very secure. The vast majority of WordPress’ security vulnerabilities come from plugins and outdated cores, plugins, themes, and PHP versions.
Still, it’s the most commonly hacked CMS, which is to be expected, given its massive market share.
Extremely high-security standards and an impressive track record of quickly responding to security vulnerabilities.
Extensive third-party support through plugins that extend functions for content analytics, customer data management, and more.
Better suited for smaller, not very technically-minded marketing teams who don’t necessarily need to escalate their needs over time.
Extensive third-party support through modules that extend functions for content analytics, customer data management, and more.
Better suited for larger, more technically-minded marketing teams who expect to scale up their needs and tools over time.
Better suited for smaller businesses with smaller websites.
Better suited for large websites with lots of structured data.
Extremely flexible due to the largest CMS add-on library in the world, professional community, and source code access.
Often considered the most flexible CMS on the market due to the sheer wealth of resources available to developers in the core, enhanced by contributed modules.
Very scalable. Many strategies and plugins are available to increase scalability and maintain performance as the traffic increases.
Generally offers better native scalability and is better suited for large projects that are expected to expand even more over time.
WordPress powers almost half the web. There is a seemingly endless amount of high-quality, professional WordPress development agencies worldwide.
If a project falls through, another agency is likely to be able to continue where the last one left off.
Given its smaller market share, there are fewer high-quality, professional development agencies to choose from.
If a project falls through, there are fewer agencies that would be able to continue where the last one left off.
WordPress vs. Drupal: Which one should you choose in 2023?
The short answer
Use WordPress if…
You have a relatively small business that doesn’t need a particularly complex website.
Use Drupal if…
You have a large project that will contain massive amounts of structure data, potentially growing even more over time.
The long answer
WordPress and Drupal can provide the environment necessary to build websites of all sizes for all industries.
However, most sources indicate that Drupal is better suited for larger, more complex projects because of its inherently interoperable nature. It allows developer code and contributed modules to scale the website while maintaining performance.
On the other hand, WordPress is considered better for beginners with no web development experience who need a fast and accessible way to create websites. Small or medium-sized projects suit WordPress better in terms of development from scratch with a professional team. However, various hosting strategies and plugins can scale a website up as it gains more traffic.
WordPress is by far the most popular CMS of the two, in large part due to its accessibility for both technical and non-technical users alike. This popularity means a larger support community, more themes and plugins, and more developing agencies available to help you build a website.
To decide, you need to deeply study your website’s needs and compare them to what each platform provides. Ultimately, you’ll have to use the best platform that fits your needs.