All three of the web’s most popular CMS have a lot in common in terms of technology, philosophy, and community.
- WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are all free and open source software licensed under GPL. See our article on Why is WordPress Free to learn more about free software.
- All three of them are written primarily in PHP.
- They all support MySQL as their database management system. WordPress exclusively supports only MySQL, while Joomla and Drupal support other database management systems.
- All three of them use themes and templates for visual appearance of sites, and plugins, modules, or extensions for extending features.
- As open source software, they are all community-driven projects.
While there are a lot of similarities, they are different in many aspects. They have different policies about what to include in the core software, how to handle modules and templates, how to deal with security, etc. These differences make a big impact on users, and how they build their websites.
Having that said let’s take a look at how WordPress, Joomla and Drupal compare to each other.
Ease of Use and Beginner Friendliness
Most people creating their websites are not web developers, designers, or programmers. They are average users who just want to build a website. Ease of use is the most important factor for majority of users.
WordPress comes with a famous five minute install. Most WordPress hostingproviders also offer one click install of WordPress. This makes it fairly easy for a new user start a WordPress blog in minutes, not hours.
The post install user experience of WordPress is way better than Joomla or Drupal. The user sees a simple clean cut user interface with the menus to create posts, pages, or start customizing appearance and themes.
Joomla installation may not look as quick as WordPress, but it has very similar steps. Apart from that many shared hosting providers offer one click install packages for Joomla as well.
After the installation, the user lands on a control panel that is not as straight forward as WordPress. There are just too many menus to click on and customize your site. Joomla fans would say that is because Joomla is a lot more powerful than WordPress, but we think it is kind of scary for a beginner.
Drupal’s installation is similar to both Joomla and WordPress. Simply download and upload the package and run the installation script.
Drupal also offers distributions. These are pre-packaged Drupal bundles with modules and configurations to create specific kind of websites.
The post installation experience for absolute beginners is a bit complicated. Users will find it difficult to figure out how to change things on their site. Drupal makes it very obvious how to add the content, but changing appearance and adding non-content elements is not very obvious.
Themes and Addons
All three of these popular CMS come with themes and plugins / modules as a way to extend the features and appearance of the software.
WordPress allows users to change their site’s appearance using themes. WordPress comes with a few default themes pre-installed. At any time, you can click on the add new button from your Appearance page and install free themes from official WordPress.org theme directory.
Apart from free themes, you will find many more premium WordPress themes developed by third party theme shops like StudioPress, Themify, or ThemeLab. These are paid themes and come with premium support options.
The real power of WordPress lies in plugins. There are more than 38,000 WordPress plugins available for free in official WordPress plugin directory. You can also buy premium plugins which come with paid support provided by plugin developers. Check out our list of 20 must have WordPress plugins for 2015 to see how plugins make WordPress awesome.
Just like WordPress, Joomla also comes with templates and extensions. There are great extensions to do just about anything from creating an ecommerce store to managing email.
However, the quantity of these templates and extensions is not as high as WordPress. This could make finding the perfect template and the perfect extensions a bit difficult.
By default Joomla does not have a feature that would allow users to search and install extensions or templates from the administration area. There is an extension that allows you to add install from web feature for extensions. But for templates, users will still have to manually search templates and then install them by adding their URL.
Drupal has the same issue with the availability of themes and modules. Users will have to leave their site, search for the module and theme they want to add, then locate the project’s zip file URL. Finally they can enter the URL in the Modules or Themes page to install them.
There are modules to do just about anything and new ones are added regularly. Still, the overall quantity of modules is lacking when compared to WordPress.