WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, but what’s the appeal? Why do so many people build and manage their websites with WordPress?
What is a CMS?
If you want a website, you want a content management system (CMS). A CMS is an application used to create and manage digital content, most notably websites. They make building and managing a website efficient, easy, fast, and enable multiple users to work together.
Who are the big players?
When you start talking about which CMS is best, 3 names pop up again and again. WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. All 3 are open-source software, meaning the source code is made available for anyone to study, change, and distribute to anyone for any purpose.
WordPress has the largest user base and a reputation for being the easiest to use. Drupal is known for being powerful, but has the highest barrier for entry. Joomla is seen as the halfway house between the other two.
140 Million Downloads
4K+ Basic Themes
45K+ Free Plugins
15 Million Downloads
2K+ Basic Themes
34K+ Free Plugins
63 Million Downloads
1K+ Basic Themes
7K+ Free Plugins
Top Sites Using The Platforms
The White House
The user interface (UI) of the software is the part you use to input and manage content. Having an intuitive, easy to use UI makes a world of difference. We can see this reflected in the number of downloads for each CMS.
When we look at their popularity, we can see that WordPress is overwhelmingly the winner. WordPress has a reputation for having the best user interface (UI), making managing and updating a site something you can pick up without extensive experience.
Drupal has the lowest and has the most complex UI. It doesn’t necessarily require a code professional to manage it, but you’ll either need one in-house or on-call to ensure it runs smoothly and to deal with any changes or updates.
Joomla is second and is often seen as a middle ground between the two. It’s supposed to provide the power of Drupal, with the usability of WordPress. While it’s the right solution for some, it doesn’t quite manage to go toe-to-toe with WordPress on the UI front.
An advantage to using a CMS is the number of plugins and basic themes available. To put it simply, Themes provide a skeleton for your site (think of how products are listed on Amazon, where different parts of the page are laid out) that can then be customised with your brand and tweaked to suit your content.
A plugin is basically extra code that can be “plugged in” to the site to provide additional functionality. This can range from expandable menus to security against spammers and hackers.
The table shows us the number of free themes and plugins available, because that data is readily available, but each platform has a wealth of paid options as well.
For themes, it’s usually preferable to have a custom theme built to accommodate specific functions and fully express a unique brand identity. However basic themes are a good alternative when there are time or budget restraints.
For plugins, the advantage of paid over free is that they are often built and maintained by professionals and agencies, who tailor them for reuse and to meet specific needs. Whereas basic versions are usually built for use on a specific site then shared publicly, often leaving unwanted features in and desired features out.
Whichever CMS you use, it’s important employ an agency or specialist who is able to create and style a bespoke solution to meet the exact requirements for your site, for both the brand and functionality. They’ll also know when to modify plugins to suit your needs or use a paid alternatives to make the most of your time and budget.
When it comes to functionality, it’s the communities around each CMS that make the difference. WordPress has the largest and most active community, constantly creating, updating, and sharing plugins and themes. This provides its users with the largest variation of solutions, just a few tweaks away from what they want.
Drupal is more popular with people who have in-depth knowledge of coding, or those with the budget to justify hiring someone who does. Their more coding reliant approach makes it necessary to build a lot of specific features for each site, at the expense of time and budget.
Drupal’s barebones coding approach means that pages aren’t burdened with unused and leftover code. This can make page loading times faster, although the time difference is rarely noticeable.
Inhabiting the middle ground once again, Joomla’s results are similar here as they are with its UI. While it does have a more direct approach than WordPress, it lacks the full on, barebones approach of Drupal.
This should place it comfortably between the 2, except the community supporting it is by far the least active of the 3. This means users have to build more from scratch, spend longer adapting premade plugins, or stick more rigidly to their initial design. Consequently, Joomla can sometimes be even more expensive and time consuming than Drupal
Why do we recommend WordPress?
The simpler UI makes handing control of the website over to our clients a much simpler task for both parties. It also speeds up build times, giving us straight forward tools, plenty of themes and plugins to work with. Any custom functionality you can imagine is available with a few tweaks, via free or paid plugins, making the advantages of Drupal and Joomla obsolete.
Drupal is an impressive CMS but the added costs of specialists and time, make it unrealistic for most businesses to even consider. Joomla simply doesn’t do enough to compete with WordPress in it’s UI and doesn’t offer enough functionality to take its place. That’s why we recommend WordPress.