The best websites today are powered by easy to use content management systems (CMS) that allow you to make changes to a website without needing to touch a single line of code.
If you want to get a new, powerful website online, but can’t wait around or shell out the big bucks ($3k+) required for a custom site, look no further than these three options.
WordPress, Joomla and Drupal all offer great features, tons of customizaions, ease-of-use, and strong security.
Oh yeah, all three are also free.
Choosing the right one can be difficult because they’re all good options.
But chances are, one of these three will fit your unique situation the best (whether that’s firing up a simple business website or running a fully functioning social network).
Let’s see how they compare to find the perfect choice for you.
- WordPress – Best choice for beginners because of it’s ease-of-use, it works especially well for small to medium sized websites, blogs and smaller e-commerce stores.
- Joomla – Great for e-commerce or social networking websites, but requires a basic understanding of technical skills.
- Drupal – The most difficult, but also the most powerful. It requires a familiar understanding of HTML, CSS and PHP.
CMS Comparison Chart
Which one is the right for your needs? Read our in-depth review to find out.
WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system.
Despite it’s humble blogging beginnings, WordPress has taken the world by storm (literally), powering over over 60 millions websites today.
If that’s not impressive, WordPress is also used on over 40% of CMS-based websites– leading the market of DIY CMS websites by a wiiiiiiide margin.
Here’s why it’s so popular.
- Easy to Install – Many web hosting companies (like Bluehost) offer instant, automated WordPress installs. That means you can get a brand new website up-and-running in less than five minutes! (It takes longer to go brew a cup of coffee than it does to have new WordPress website online.)
- Customizable – WordPress has significantly more plug-ins, themes and other customizations available than any other CMS. Because of it’s widespread popularity, more third-party designers and developers will create free (or relatively inexpensive) new WordPress tools to help you create/start a blog that looks like a high-dollar custom website (while only setting you back less than $100).
- Free– WordPress is absolutely, no-strings-attached free to use. And building on the last point, there are easily tens of thousands of free plug-ins and themes available to choose from. This is perfect for most beginners putting together their first site because it keeps costs down.
- Community Support – If you do experience issues or have questions about your new WordPress site, you can easily tap into the millions of people already using and supporting it. Their support forum includes helpful contributors that can answer any question you might have, within minutes, again – for free. Awesome, right?
Of course, WordPress isn’t perfect and does have it’s drawbacks.
Cheif among them: WordPress is an easy-to-use framework because it locks down the ability for most users to make significant visual edits (for their own good). So you can’t make a TON of structural website changes without the help of a designer and/or developer.
However, for a beginner, this is probably the most suitable platform to build a site.
Drupal is the second most popular content management system available today, used by sites both large and small.
It’s among the most powerful open sourced options available, which means it’s learning curve is also a bit steeper.
Here’s where Drupal excels:
- Technically Advanced – Drupal is the most technically advanced of these three content management systems. Good for technical people who like to get their hands dirty.
- Improved Performance – Drupal pages typically load more quickly, and have faster response times than those made with WordPress or Joomla. Part of the reason is because it’s less resource-intensive, requiring a less expensive server or hosting setup. (However like with all CMS, adding too many third party plugins can bog down performance.)
- Customizable – Drupal is easy to customize with many widely available plug-ins, themes and other configurable options to choose from. You can also edit the root files directly, perfect for those developers who need to make more significant changes.
- Free – You can download the Drupal software for free, and install it on your own hosting server.
Drupal is the most powerful content management system out of the box. But with that power comes some additional difficulties for the website owner.
Anyone considering Drupal should have at least a basic knowledge of HTML, PHP and other common web programming languages. You don’t need to be an expert necessarily, but being able to troubleshoot error messages and identify code problems will be a HUGE benefit.
If your website begins to gain traction, evolving beyond a simple business site or site, you’ll need to have (or hire) technical expertise to make sure it continues to run smoothly.
Which can be a bit of a problem, because it’s typically a little harder (and more expensive) to find someone with advanced knowledge of Drupal’s steep learning curve. Whereas it should be much easier and less expensive to find someone relatively tech-savvy to help you make basic WordPress updates.
Also, unlike WordPress.com, there is no option to have a website hosted by Drupal themselves. That means purchasing your own domain and hosting is required before getting started with a new Drupal site.
Joomla is like the compromise between WordPress and Drupal.
It’s powerful enough to run most websites without any problems, and it doesn’t require the same level of technical experience to run as Drupal either.
As the second most used CMS (behind WordPress), Joomla also has a lot of plug-ins and themes available to choose from (around 6000 or so)similar to both WordPress and Drupal. So customizing the look and feel of your site shouldn’t be problem.
Here are a few more reasons Joomla might be ideal for you:
- Social Networking – Joomla makes creating social networks of all three options. Social networks can be a powerful asset for many sites, and with Joomla, you can have one up and running extremely quickly and easily.
- Commerce Sites – Joomla also makes setting up an online store quick and painless. You can setup eCommerce shops with both Drupal and WordPress, but it tends to require more effort and special customizations.
- Not too Technical – Joomla has found the middle ground between the ease of managing a WordPress website and the power of a Drupal site. The good news is that most non-tech savvy people should be able to run a great Joomla site without needing any technical support.
- Help Portal – Joomla offers a great help portal for asking questions and getting technical support. It’s not fast or extensive as WordPress’ community-based support pages, but is definitely quicker (and cheaper) than Drupal’s technical support options.
- Free – Like both WordPress and Drupal, Joomla is another free option to use on your own web servers. However similar to Drupal, there is no option to have it hosted for free like WordPress offers.
Joomla users love that their websites can do or be almost anything, without sacrificing ease-of-use. Joomla has brilliantly combined the power and flexibility Drupal has to offer, while also retaining the intuitive, user-friendliness that WordPress excels at, making it a perfect middle ground in a crowded marketplace.
Making Your Choice
Everyone will say their content management system is the best. All three are excellent choices in most cases.
But your own unique scenario will require different capabilities, which probably makes ONE of these three CMS options the perfect fit.
Looking to get started quickly with a simple business website or blog? Look no further than WordPress.
If you have high hopes from day one that your site will grow significantly, requiring extensive features and unlimited customizations, take the plunge with Drupal.
Split between those two options, or need something unique like a social network or eCommerce site, Joomla might be the best bet.
All three platforms are free.
Each offers a variety of helpful third-party tools to add unique features to your site.
And you’ll find readily available technical support with each one (although Drupal’s might be among the most expensive).
Is It Possible to Migrate From One to Another?
There’s no wrong option per se.
However, if you feel like you made the wrong choice and want to switch down the road, it is relatively easy to migrate from one to another.
Just make sure you have both the time and expertise readily available to make sure there are no problems during the site transfer.
My Favorite Choice Is…
I’ll be honest.
I like WordPress.
My own site (this one you’re currently reading) is built on WordPress.
It’s super easy to add new content and there are tons of free plugins and layouts to choose from so I can easily change and tweak basically anything I want without needing to know HTML, CSS, or any other programming languages. It also has a ton of security updates and features, so it’s nice knowing that other professionals have my back.
If you’re just starting out, go with WordPress.
Chances are, you’ll never leave (even when your site has tons of posts and truckloads of visitors).
What Do the Experts Say?
You’ve read my opinion.
But how about some other industry professionals who work with all three CMS choices on a daily basis?
I reached out to a few developers from large agencies who frequently work with WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, asking them all a very simple question:
“What is the best CMS (WordPress, Joomla or Drupal) for a beginner?”
#1 Marcus Neto from Blue Fish Design Studio:
“I would have to say that if I was mentoring a beginner I would suggest WordPress. WordPress seems to have a vibrant community.”
“They have brand recognition with people outside of the technical market. There are a lot of plugins for WordPress. But, unfortunately, creating your own themes from scratch with WordPress will require a reasonable knowledge of PHP. Second would be Joomla. Third would be Drupal. Drupal is just too complex. It is the best of the three. But it has a steep learning curve that most would not be able to handle.”
#2 James George from Creative Beacon:
“That’s a great question. If you ask me, it would have to be WordPress, hands down, no contest. With most hosting providers providing one-click installs of the database and main WordPress files, all you have to do is log in, pick a theme, and fill out information. Some themes are more advanced, like the ones you will find on Themeforest, but for beginners, WordPress really isn’t that difficult to set up.”
“If you can fill out a form and click a few buttons, you can set up and run a WordPress site. Writing articles and placing images in each post is intuitive, and if you need more functionality, there are millions of plugins out there that you can install and have up and running in minutes. WordPress is quick, easy and requires no real knowledge of web design or web development. Even the advanced themes can be set up by a novice if they are good at following instructions. WordPress have my vote by a mile!”
#3 Mark Atkinson from Red Giant Design:
“For beginners, I would definitely lean towards WordPress being the one which will most likely satisfy the needs of the individual. Of course, it always depends on what your endgame is – what purpose the site is meant to serve. Seeing that WordPress provides great SEO out the box and has a bunch of easy-to-use plugins and themes, as well as the fact that WordPress is infinitely easier to update and maintain than its competitors, I feel that WordPress provides the most complete solution for a beginner looking to build a new website.”
#4 Jeff Clark from Codeless Interactive:
“WordPress – no question. It’s the most user-friendly of all three options (by a long shot). The community support is fantastic, so it’s easy to find knowledgeable people who’ve already experienced what you’re trying to do (or fix). And it’s WAY more powerful than people think.”
“Most people are still under the misconception that WordPress is still only a limited option for blogs. It’s not. I’ve built everything from enormous eCommerce websites and large hotel websites to well-known fashion blogs that get tens of thousands of visits each month. It’s become a much better well rounded CMS over the past few years, and can handle the majority of use cases at any scale.”
Run a web design/development agency? Perhaps you’re a freelancer? Shoot me an email and chime in with your thoughts.
Have you made your choice yet? If so, dive in today and start building your website. I’ve put together the following guides that can help:
- Build your website with WordPress (step-by-step tutorial on my homepage)
- Build your website with Drupal
- Build your website with Joomla
P.S. If you get stuck while setting up your website, get in touch with me and I’ll get back to you as I’m currently offering free consultation and advice via email.
P.P.S. Want more reading? Go and check this article: How WordPress took the CMS crown from Joomla and Drupal.
Comments? Leave them below – let’s discuss!