Categories
Digital Marketing Miscellaneous

Drupal vs WordPress

Need to get your head around the arguments between these two popular Content Management Systems? This face-off is not intended for techies or developers. But if you’re not a digital expert, this article will help you get to grips with key differences quickly and without jargon.

I’ve administered many content management systems (CMSs), but my career so far has been dominated by just two – Drupal and WordPress. Here I’m going to pit Drupal and WordPress against each other on the basis of three fundamental themes:

1 – Security
2 – Ease-of-use
3 – Value for money

* I also address speed and stability at the end, but there’s a reason why it’s not one of the fight themes.

Yes, this is a personal view on how the two compare. I’ve aimed for maximum objectivity across these three key criteria but fully admit that, over time, I have developed a bias towards one of the systems – based on both evidence and my own hands-on experience.

P.S. This article assumes that you understand some basics, like what a CMS is and does.

Anyway, which one is best? There’s only one way to find out…

Fight!

Round 1: Security
Which CMS is most resistant to outside attacks?

Drupal

WordPress

  • WordPress themes (appearance) and plugins (functionality extensions) are released without checks, and can contain unsound code. This makes it important for them to be assessed properly before deployment.
  • WordPress huge popularity means it’s targeted more by hackers.
  • WordPress can update itself automatically to the latest version.

Result: Even Round. By default, Drupal is less vulnerable to attacks. However, WordPress powers 34% of all websites compared to Drupal’s 2.3%, so some of this is simply the downside of immense popularity. Professionally-built WordPress sites on good hosting platforms, managed sensibly, should not be more vulnerable to security issues than any other common CMS. Furthermore, WordPress can auto-update – but the process is painful on Drupal. Your Drupal version could become unsupported while you struggle to get the new version – and this is the experience for Drupal 7 or 8 users now, with an update deadline of Nov 2021 to be met by all users.

Support forum for an amateur WordPress plugin. Anyone can make a WordPress plugin, so it’s always good to research before installing.

Round 2: Ease-of-use
Which CMS do editors find most straightforward to use?

Drupal

  • Drupal is self-described as ‘powerful and scalable’. It can produce more sophisticated functionality and has a more flexible taxonomy system – however the sophistication can be hard to handle for non-specialists.
  • Sample blog quote: “Drupal requires more technical experience than WordPress, but it is capable of producing more advanced sites” (duoconsulting.com)  

WordPress

  • WordPress has a user-friendly design and if plugins are chosen carefully (e.g. if they have many users and positive reviews), or are overseen by a WordPress specialist hosting company, they should not cause problems.
  • “WordPress is significantly more user-friendly [than Drupal], especially for non-developers (kinsta.com)

Result: Round to WordPress because it is, by nearly all accounts, easier to use. The flexibility and sophistication that Drupal can offer often creates a lot of baffling complexity especially for non-technical editors, which then can lead to poor platform management or neglect that directly affects performance and user experience. This result could be flipped – if we asked ‘Which CMS is the most sophisticated?’, Drupal would win.

Part of the Drupal 8 interface

Round 3: Value for money
Which CMS could cost more in the long-term?

Drupal

  • Drupal modules are free. It supports multilingual without cost.
  • Developers generally thought to be more expensive than WordPress, and fewer are available (sample search on freelance site Fiverr.com – 85 results for ‘Drupal developer’).
  • Sample commentary online describes Drupal as “maintenance-heavy” and “resources-consuming”.

WordPress

  • Many WordPress plugins are free, others come at a cost – for example multilingual support for approx. £50 per year.
  • WordPress developers usually more affordable than Drupal developers. Many developers available (over 10k results for ‘WordPress developer’ on Fiverr.com).
  • Easier to self-manage – but, as indicated in first point, cost may arise in the form of paid-for plugins instead of hands-on developers.

Result: Round to WordPress as it is generally less expensive, and offers better value for money especially for organisations that can’t throw money at a new problem or objective. In practise, WordPress users often use a plugin where a (non-techy) Drupal user might get a developer to build or configure the functionality they require. This plugin might come with a license fee, or contain bad code (if not examined), however the balance of risk and benefit is generally positive.


Conclusion

Note about speed and stability

This comparison does not address site speed and stability because these aspects rely very strongly on the set-up, general maintenance and hosting of the site. One CMS is not necessarily faster than another.

However, WordPress site plugins can build up in quantity, or be badly coded, or configured wrongly – leading to speed problems. These challenges can be addressed by using of good WordPress developers during the build, and for ongoing support. There are also WordPress specialist web hosts who proactively check plugins and prevent sites from installing badly-coded ones – wpengine.com for example.

Drupal organisations and WordPress organisations

On points this fight goes to WordPress. But to be truly fair it should be said that the choice of CMS depends on the organisation and its objectives. There is a reason why www.whitehouse.gov is a Drupal site – it needs to be very secure and sophisticated, and there probably aren’t serious issues with paying to upgrade it or develop it. On the other hand, WordPress is a very common option for organisations with lower budgets. It’s often seen as a stepping stone option – the CMS that will help a brand grow, until internal resource and budgets allow for a more resource-intensive and advanced option.


Disagree?

I do know that this will annoy some Drupal users and developers! It’s a good debate to have though, right? If you’re a Drupal fan, please do take this on and challenge my views. (Though don’t say ‘the next version of Drupal has a much easier-to-use interface’ because I have literally heard that for over 10 years now.)

And, I should also add, I’m writing this in WordPress right now – and have become very annoyed several times while writing this, by the Gutenburg editing interface that has been deployed by WordPress for the past few years.

Categories
Miscellaneous Pondering

The Thatcherite Ratchet?

Keith Joseph helped to overturn a generation of post-war so-called Keynesian consensus by inspiring Margaret Thatcher to privatise major nationalised industries and coined the phrase ‘the socialist ratchet’ to illustrate his then-radical beliefs1.

Joseph and others suggested that Labour were a party of change, so did things like creating the welfare state, whereas Conservatives were by nature pragmatic and left things pretty much alone. The upshot of this over time, was that the direction of the Government was inevitably leftward.

By railing against this situation, Joseph therefore helped usher in a Conservatism that was radically reforming towards a free-market right-wing, so not really pragmatic at all. This is quite a feat because, until Thatcher, conservatism and pragmatism were virtually synonymous. In helping to sever that connection, he helped kill off the previous so-called post-war consensus that began with Labour’s shock general election win in 1945.

What I ponder a lot is the duration of these political epochs, and if there’s a pattern there. If the post-war consensus lasted from about 1945 to roughly the mid-80s (e.g. we could take the nationalisation of British Gas, the first really major privatisation in 1986, as the final nail in the coffin), Thatcher ended about 40 years of ‘Keynesian’ orthodoxy.

And then, since the mid-80s with New Labour maintaining the core economic model during their governments, we’ve now had 30-something years of Thatcherite orthodoxy. I’m writing this in 2017, so about 32 years of Thatcherite ratchet that seems unable to turn left, to adapt the phrase from Keith Joseph. 

The time periods here could be meaningless, of course, but it’s worth a suggesting a hypothesis – each major economic consensus lasts for a generation of roughly 40 years, and over the next few years we’re due for another major turn.

Even if you disagree with this hypothesis, it’s worth remembering that all apparently unassailable consensuses are not actually immortal truths. Tides change, even after decades of repetition. For example, when the Conservatives lost in 1945 they thought they had to accept the welfare state and some nationalisation – and did so, until Thatcher’s rise. In 1997, Labour thought it had to accept the free-market and some privatisations.

What orthodoxy will flip next, and when?

(By the way, I’m not consciously cheerleading for any particular political ideology in this piece, it’s just a perspective I enjoy thinking about!)

Below are a couple of quotes that give a bit more context – and the latter, written before the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, is fairly amusing.

“I argued that the pendulum in politics had been replaced by the ratchet, in the sense that the Socialists, when in office, move the balance towards collectivism: we Conservatives, when in our time comes, at best leave things as they are ready for Labour’s next turn of the screw.”

Keith Joseph, 1975

“She reversed what her mentor, Keith Joseph, liked to call “the ratchet effect”, whereby the state was rewarded for its failures with yet more power. With the brief exception of the emergency measures taken in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007-08, there have been no moves to renationalise industries or to resume a policy of picking winners. Thanks to her, the centre of gravity of British politics moved dramatically to the right. The New Labourites of the 1990s concluded that they could rescue the Labour Party from ruin only by adopting the central tenets of Thatcherism. ‘The presumption should be that economic activity is best left to the private sector,’ declared Mr Blair. Neither he nor his successors [sic] would dream of reverting to the days of nationalisation and unfettered union power.”

Margaret Thatcher obituary, The Economist, 2013

References

1.Rhodes Boyson had a phrase, ‘slow-quick-quick-slow foxtrot to socialism’, that expressed the same view.
Categories
Miscellaneous

Getting unstuck: Douglas Adams and the judo principle

This is my favourite fable. When something seems difficult at work, I try and apply it. I have Grandpa Simpson-ishly repeated this tale over and over to younger colleagues. It’s worth repeating, it’s a brilliant way of thinking about problems.

“the trick is to use this problem to solve itself”