WordPress or Drupal

When I was creating this new site, I debated quite a bit about whether I would use WordPress or Drupal. If you’d asked me 6 months ago, I would have immediately said “WordPress, duh!” but since then I have used Drupal for a project and was pretty surprised at how flexible it is. There are a few past projects for which I really wish I had used Drupal. The reason I ended up choosing WordPress for the new incarnation of my site was because in the end I am still more comfortable with it, and for what I envision I didn’t really need all the extra Drupal features. That said, I tried out a 30 minute Drupal 8 demo on the Drupal 8 website, and I was able to do everything I wanted organizationally (creating content types for art, life, and tech posts and organizing them on the home page with thumbnails) via the GUI admin interface without touching the code.

Content Types

My favorite feature of Drupal is the ability to make custom content types. In WordPress, every post or page is basically the same – a title, a body, a featured image, categories, tags, and excerpt. You can also add custom field types, but you then have to account for these in the php of the template. In fact, many of these features require you to find a theme that displays them correctly or mess with the php of a theme. For instance, I wanted the featured image to show on the front page, but not the internal pages because it is a repeat of the first image in a post. Doing this required a slight modification to the theme I am using (Visual) to accomplish. In Drupal, I can make all these adjustments via a GUI interface. Not only can I specify the exact fields I want for each content type, I can then choose how I want these fields to display in listings apart from the item page. So if I have a content type called art, I could have fields for a full sized image, a detail image, the medium, the size, and tags, and then choose to only show the full image and the medium in most result listings.

Theming

The downside to the super powerful features of Drupal’s GUI interface is that theming is a bit more complicated. Granted, I may only think this because I am used to the WordPress way of doing things, but making changes to the php in Drupal seemed much harder. This was balanced out by the fact that it was not needed as often, though. If you start out with one of the many excellent full featured Drupal themes, you might never need to muck with the PHP code at all to get what you want.

Admin Area

The writing environment is where WordPress shines. I find the interface easier to deal with and understand, though it is not without annoyances. Drupal has always felt a bit clunky in comparison, though Drupal 8 has come a long way to matching the ease of the WordPress interface. The rest of the Admin interface, too, is easier to navigate in WordPress, but that has much to do with the comparative lack of features. The more features a CMS has, the more complicated the admin interface is going to be. Adding to that, Drupal is its own special kind of confusing, and learning it involves learning a whole new vocabulary and the “Drupal way to do things.” Once you learn, though, you can create a pretty powerful website in a comparatively short time. I spent some time watching Drupal videos on Lynda.com, and this was a huge head start to figuring out Drupal. I highly recommend them.

Uses

In the end, the real difference between WordPress and Drupal is that of extensibility. Drupal is great if you have some unique content and want to build a powerful search and multiple views around it. For what I wanted right now, I just didn’t need the power of Drupal, because I really just want to make some simple posts and get them out there. If, however, I wanted to make a comprehensive database of my artwork, and wanted people to be able to sort by medium, size, or creation date, I would definitely use Drupal (or maybe Omeka, further research is needed on that front).