Back in Melbourne on a pleasant Sunday morning it seems appropriate to share some reflections on WordPress versus Joomla versus Drupal.
These are the "self-maintainer" (easy to update your site) web platforms – well known and most common "CMS" systems freely available, and make up a huge proportion of the internet with organizations from the Whitehouse (Drupal) through to your neighbourhood grocery store using them.
In particular, WordPress use has exploded to the point where it now has many million websites – estimates vary from 10 million through 50 million, depending on how it is measured. There is no doubt it is the most frequently used website platform software, but why has it grown so fast? And is it actually any good?
From our research, thinking and experience with WordPress, we think there are three main reasons why WordPress has grown, and they are:
Frequent updates and releases
WordPress releases a new version approximately every 3 months, and bug fixes and security issues are released even more frequently.
Importantly, each release of WordPress contains new features, ideas and tools. Joomla on the other hand tends to make a release every 1.5 – 2 years, and Drupal around the same frequency. It's also important from a security point of view – as WordPress is so popular, it does get potential security issues occasionally, and the easy ability to update nails these on the head quickly.
Ability for users to self-update
In WordPress, when a new version is available, you get a notice (yellow bar) in the admin area, and a few clicks will then automatically update your website software to the latest version.
In Joomla, until recently, you've had to check and update manually, copying the files into the website as instructed.
This ability to easily update becomes even more of a winner when WordPress regularly release new features which then become available to you after a simple click to update!
Excellent documentation both for developer and end user
WordPress has a huge documentation repository covering nearly every area you could want or need. And there are many articles available across the internet on topics ranging from advanced programming articles on plugin development through getting started tutorials of all types. WordPress has a huge wiki with the biblical sounding name of the "Codex" which is their documentation repository.
To contrast, it's a nightmare to find anything written on Joomla at all. If you are developing a Joomla plugin, last time I looked, you're essentially on your own. No wonder WordPress has many thousands of high quality plugins, while Joomla plugins often don't work or are hard to use.
There are a number of other things that have contributed to WordPress's success – it's ability to easily help sites rank well with Google, and the huge range of commercial and well-executed plugin modules being amongst them.
In closing, another point I'll make is one that often isn't considered with Open Source software. WordPress has a very solid funding model – much better than either Joomla or Drupal, and has for most of it's existence. At the end of the day we all need to be paid or we end up not being able to spend the time working on Open Source software – and WordPress has that well covered with wordpress.com (where you can host for free or purchase extensions) and their enterprise WordPress development support. Even Open Source needs money to make the wheels go around!
Please don't take this article as a blanket, blind recommendation of WordPress – it's a great tool, and suits many sites, but not all.
White Dog Green Frog has been an Open Source developer for 8 years. If you like this article, comment or ask questions or suggest articles; happy to write on what interests you!