CMS Wars: WordPress vs Drupal vs Joomla

It seems that every website owner would like to make their own website or change their existing site. The main reason for website owners to make changes themselves is to circumvent the hourly cost from what web design firms charge. Content management systems are the answer to allowing self changes. The dominating systems have been WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.

The war of the CMS is made up of several battles. Each CMS developer strives to have the best system, none of them win all the battles. They say that you need to pick your battles. Users and web developers actually get to pick their battle in the CMS war. Which battle they fight depends on their preferences.

Web design firms have also migrated their efforts using content management systems for their clients, because the engines to easily edit a web page is readily available. The decision for which CMS to use is sometimes a difficult one. The selection usually depends on the hype which reaches a website owner. Every CMS has its reputation with both pros and cons, so users of each one need to weigh their options.
As a web developer, I have used all three of these systems and each one excels above the rest in at least one category. This article focuses on important factors in which all systems should perform well.

The selection are usually based on these factors:
1. how easy the system is to use
2. setup and installation
3. extensibility (modules, plugins, hooks, and components)
4. speed and loading
5. templates and themes

How Easy Is Each System To Use For Technical and Non-Technical Users?

1. WordPress has a very simple interface and is the CMS of choice for bloggers and simple websites. Its simplicity has attracted most website owners that are not technical. Its interface displays a set of links on the left side of content editor. WordPress provides pages and posts by default, but custom post types can be created on the fly that better describes the content. Web design us easy since themes are easy to download. The best thing about WordPress is that themes can easily be downloaded inside the admin content editor and can be selected online and loaded in two clicks. Drupal and Joomla themes need to be downloaded and then installed.

2. Drupal is the hardest to learn for non-technical users and has the longest learning curve. It is the most powerful of all the content management systems, but it sometimes is too difficult for developers. Drupal has earned its good reputation for its extensibility, but it is still a difficult system to use for new web designers as well.

3. Joomla was popular in 2007 to 2009 and it seems to have lost market share to other two systems, but Joomla’s ease of use is between Drupal and WordPress.

WordPress wins the battle for ease of use.

Ease of Setup and Installation

Most systems are easy to install and follow a wizard-like system.

1. WordPress shines in the setup category with its branded“5 minute installation”. For web developers and programmers, the installation is as simple as entering database information into a simple PHP file and installing an encryption string which is available from WordPress’ website. All developers need to do is copy the code from and paste into the PHP configuration file.

2. Joomla is also pretty easy. Enter your database information and go through its 4 screen process. It takes about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Drupal takes longer and the installation is more difficult, but like the other systems, it installs itself.

WordPress wins this Installation battle for its easy “5 minute installation”.


Extensibility means the act of adding additional functionality to a content management system from its default software. Since every system comes with a default set of themes and programs, developers can add custom software to those defaults and extend its functionality. Extensions is an overall term, but they are often called plugins, modules, and components. Extensions are developed on all three systems with PHP and MySQL. WordPress and Drupal use a system of “hooks” which allows developers to program on top of their cores. Joomla does not use hooks.

1. Joomla’s extensibility includes modules, components, and plugins. Its extensions are easier to learn for an expert PHP developer, because it uses straight MySQL for its interaction system. It does not have a network of confusing “hooks” like Drupal and WordPress.

2. WordPress simply uses plugins and has a small hook system for them. Plugins are easier to develop and there are thousands available to WordPress users. There are only two types of hooks: actions and filters. Each hook has over 100 options and makes plugin development easy to learn.

3. Drupal has the hardest hook system to grasp with over 200 hooks. Hooks have strict naming conventions, so there is no freedom to the developer on what to name hooks. Some programmers have shied away from using Drupal for this reason.

Joomla wins the CMS was for the extension programming with WordPress as the runner up.

Speed and Loading

Content management systems also need to load fast. WordPress and Joomla load pretty quickly, but Drupal 7 is a slower system and requires the use of several modules like “Boost” and “Memcache” to speed it up. WordPress and Joomla do not rely on modules to speed them up. Speed modules for Joomla and WordPress are available, but are not necessary. On shared hosting platforms, Drupal will sometimes time out with a 500 internal server error. Drupal performs much better for dedicated servers.

The clear loser in the speed battle is Drupal with WordPress and Joomla splitting the top

Templates and Themes

Themes are the web design of all three systems. Drupal and WordPress call them themes. Joomla calls them templates, but the bottom line is that they are the presentation of the website or blog. Themes make up the front end of the website with all HTML, jQuery and CSS.

WordPress themes are the best so far and at the time of this writing, its Twenty Twelve is the only theme out of the box that is responsive (web design that adjusts to any sized display such as smart phones and tablets. WordPress themes start off with blog posts, but through the administrative back end, can display web pages instead of posts. Drupal’s Bartik theme is not very attractive and requires the user to search for better looking templates. Joomla’s default template is called Milky Way, but it also comes with Beez and JA Purity.

WordPress is still the only system that allows themes to be stalled completed inside the administrative back end and displays a thumbnail of all themes with its own built in search engine. A WordPress users simply needs to click a link called Activate and the theme is automatically installed and selected by the system. Drupal still requires themes to be downloaded and installed manually through its URL on
Joomla has the best looking and most professional templates out of the box.

WordPress is the clear winner in the theme battle with Joomla coming in close second.


The clear winner in the CMS battle is WordPress. Drupal fanatics will argue, but for most non-technical users, Drupal loses the war in almost every battle. Drupal wins with developers, but only for the most technical of programmers.

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