For those not in the know, content management systems (CMS) are all the rage these days. In our opinion, all of the hoopla is quite justified. We have recently worked created websites in both Drupal and WordPress and after playing with all of them, we’re in love. Unless we needed some insane functionality that was only available if we developed it ourselves, most of our personal and professional website needs can be met by an open source CMS.
For example, we built this website with WordPress and it only took about two days of minimal work to get the bare bones site up running. The site looks great (in our opinion) and it’s fully functional. We haven’t finished all the content, but that certainly isn’t the fault of WordPress.
On a side note, if you are not planning on personally hosting your website, we highly recommend a webhost you will install these Internet applications for you. It takes the pain out of setup and makes it drop dead simple to keep your website up to date.
So here’s our quick take on each of the major players:
This CMS is by far the most developer friendly. While not always recommended, you can play around with the code and tweak things to your liking. It also has the most flexibility in terms of customization. There is a strong development and support community who can pretty much answer any question that you might have. There are also plenty of free themes and modules that allow you to easily customize the look and feel of your website and add additional functionality. When we were developing one of our new sites, we found that Drupal also allowed for the greatest control over users.
The biggest down side to Drupal is that it is probably the most difficult of the three to get the hang of. Its great flexibility comes at the expense of usability. However, it does not take that long to get used to and once you get over the learning curve, it is pretty smooth sailing. It took me a good couple days of really getting into Drupal for me to begin to understand the framework and to be comfortable navigating the Drupal waters. With all that in mind, we would not use Drupal for just a blog or a podcast since it is simply overkill. Drupal is great for e-commerce, community based websites, business sites, and more comprehensive, complicated sites.
As a disclaimer, we have had minimum exposure to Joomla, but we have played with it a bit and done some research. If Drupal is the most developer friendly, Joomla is the most user/designer friendly. Relative to Drupal, it is very easy to hit the ground running and to get a barebones site up and running in a day. It is very easy to make a great looking site and just like Drupal, it has loads of extensions to add functionality and it is supported by a great community to answer all of your questions. Joomla is very powerful, while being very easy to use.
The greatest weakness of Joomla is that it is not as flexible and powerful as Drupal. Basically, use Joomla if it will fit your needs, but there’s a good chance you might need to use Drupal. In addition, Joomla recently updated to a new version, so there are currently some compatibility issues between themes/extensions and the newer version of Joomla.
While WordPress is certainly coming into its own as a full-fledged CMS, its niche is still blogging. Of the three, it has the best blogging functionality. In addition, many of the plugins and themes are mostly geared towards a blog. However, it does also function very well as a general informational website and home for podcasts. It has some great podcast plugins that make it dead simple to get a podcast up and running. Overall, WordPress is the easiest CMS to use and understand, mainly because its functionality is limited mostly to blogging.
The biggest downside to WordPress is its lack of flexibility. Unfortunately, the same features that make it easy to use, also limit its abilities. For example, while many people try and some do succeed; WordPress does not make a very good e-commerce site. Many people have tried, but the common wisdom is to use Joomla or Drupal. In addition, trying to play with the code of WordPress can be a dangerous game is not recommended for the faint of heart. As we get more experience with WordPress, We have found it to be the easiest to break.
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To sum it all up, all three choices are good choices, you just have to figure out which one is right for your needs. Figure out the requirements for your site and do some research to figure out which option matches your requirements most closely. That’s going to be the key to your success. You wouldn’t want to start developing a site only to find that the CMS you chose can’t meet your needs. We hope our input helped. Please feel free to leave comments or questions.