A client recently encountered an IT professional who was very enthusiastic about using WordPress for building business websites. Long popular as a personal publishing tool, WordPress is indeed evolving into a versatile content management system.
But WordPress is just one of two platforms to watch in the coming years. The other one is Drupal. Whereas WordPress is primarily a blogging system, Drupal is an multi-purpose CMS with a toolbox big enough to solve any publishing problem.
In this article, we will examine the strengths and weaknesses of the two systems as they affect business users.
Search Engine Optimization
A great deal of SEO outcomes are beyond the ability of any CMS to improve. The most critical is making sure the website has lots of keyword-rich writing of benefit to readers; only the business and/or its ad agency can supply that.
But there are a few points where the content management system can help, by automating routine chores and enforcing consistency. The
tag of each page should reflect that page’s subject. The URL should suggest an organizational structure, rather than all pages dumped into the root folder. The
“description” tag should contain a summary of every page, which Google may display in search results.
On all these points and more, WordPress and Drupal are in the same state: incomplete. Both systems require add-on modules to provide the most SEO benefit. Happily, these modules are free and easy to find, but they must be installed and configured properly.
Out of the box, WordPress can create SEO-friendly URLs, using a collection of pre-set patterns, plus a custom option. A module for Drupal titled Pathauto provides the same function there.
Advantage: WordPress, but only a little
Custom Data Formats
Many businesses need to display data to their customers in a specific, structured format. Perhaps it’s a listing of rental equipment that changes from time to time. Maybe it’s a product catalog with detailed specs and a picture for each item.
In both WordPress and Drupal, one could create a series of blog articles to list and display these items, but a blog is an imperfect solution. A blog article consists of a title, text, and some categorization, such as tags. If it’s important for items to always display certain specs, or follow a consistent graphic layout, there is no way for a blog to enforce such rules.
Only Drupal goes further, by allowing the site administrator to create custom content types, with fields for every detail needed. Each content type gets its own data-entry system that makes management easy and foolproof. And when it comes time to display the results, a Drupal module called Views can create grids, lists, or any specialized layout needed.
On their own, neither Drupal nor WordPress have e-commerce functions, but both platforms have free add-on systems available for these functions. Drupal takes it a tiny step further, with a distribution package called Commerce Kickstart, a turnkey solution that installs Drupal plus commerce modules and needed functions all at once.
A well-written blog can help a business in many ways: It can answer customer questions, establish the business as an expert in its field, and create an always-growing body of keyword-rich articles that can lead Google users to the site.
Both WordPress and Drupal have blogging functions built in, but those in WordPress are more polished and easier to use, unsurprising given its origins as a blogging platform.
Both systems allow articles to be grouped into categories, and also tagged with keywords that help readers find related content quickly. But WordPress’ functions are more elegant and intuitive than Drupal’s, for example, allowing new categories to be created on the fly.
The WordPress text editor, the heart of any publishing system, is pleasant and uncomplicated. Built using the TinyMCE editor, the uncluttered toolbar has only the most-used editing functions. Adding images into articles is effortless; just click “Add Media” and then drag items from your computer into the browser.
By default, Drupal offers no text editing toolbar, but can be configured to use TinyMCE or several other editing systems.
Want to edit a blog from an iOS or Android device? Only WordPress offers free apps for both. For Drupal, a third-party iOS app named Drupad costs $5 and does not work very well.
The toughest challenge for any business website is attracting readers. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn let customers spread the word about products and services. There are helpful add-ons for both WordPress and Drupal, but the Jetpack module published by WordPress is especially noteworthy, because it incorporates in one module the two most vital social media tasks: Publicizing new site content to the business’ social media sites, and a sharing bar that lets readers share articles with their friend lists.
Design and Development
Some people think that WordPress imposes a “cookie cutter” look and feel on its websites, but that’s only because many WordPress users change few graphic settings from their defaults, such as selecting a theme. But WordPress, like Drupal, can be styled to meet any company’s exacting layout needs.
WordPress and Drupal both support mobile devices by using responsive design, in which the page layout adapts itself to smaller screens rather than merely shrinking to fit.
Both platforms have a large and growing library of modules that extend the system to do more things, and if a needed function doesn’t exist, there are many talented developers who can create one for either platform.
If a business intends to publish frequently and make heavy use of social media, then WordPress is a better business choice. If a business website needs to wrangle large amounts of delicate data, then it should run on Drupal. Apart from these distinctions, either platform is a good choice.