Why Drupal rocks but I switched to WordPress
Back in 2007 I started the work on the Chilichef website after almost 5 years of displaying only a „coming soon“ message. A coworker had pointed out a Content Management System to me that he had in use and I quickly started to play around with a test installation of Drupal. Understanding all underlying concepts and how the different components were interacting took quite some time but after roughly two weeks I finally had the first (very basic) version of my website up and running.
Over the past 6 year Drupal and the Chilichef Website have evolved quite a bit and we are now two major releases later than where I started. Drupal now packs many more features compared to my first trial installation and is much easier to setup and use. During the years I learned to love the flexibility of Drupal and its powerful Views and CCK modules and especially Drush, which in my opinion is a superior tool to manage multiple installations via the command line and to migrate content (and even whole sites) from a test installation into a production environment. Drupal is flexible enough to allow large community websites with multiple user roles as well as small front ends for more complex business logic (like a build server for distributing software in a data center).
However, Drupal also has its flaws and a few months ago I decided to migrate my site to WordPress instead of upgrading from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7.
Here is why I switched:
1. Image handling in Drupal sucks! Relying on add-on modules for a key content type for so many years is just wrong. There is a tighter integration in Drupal 7 now but it still is too basic to properly work.
2. Drupal major upgrades are overly complex as key principles are changed between versions. Migrating from D5 to D6 forced me to completely rebuild the site and going from D6 to D7 was no difference. Integrating CCK into Drupal core in version 7 is the right move but why does it have to break the old custom content types?
3. Spam. Any CMS or website is a Spam target but my Drupal sites have been flooded with registration requests and viagra-advertising comments. I tried a number of different methods to block them but none really worked. Either you lock down your Drupal installation completely and don’t accept any comments or you have to spend a great amount of time fighting Spam.
4. The available themes for Drupal are limited. Most sites look the same or have to be custom-built from scratch by a graphic designer.
5. Full flexibility in setting up a site also creates a lot of complexity. The basic setup or extension of an existing site with new features require a lot of manual steps and most of the time come with a steep learning curve.
WordPress on the other hand is much more straight forward when it comes to content creation. A basic site with a custom theme is much quicker ready for publishing and key tasks like image upload just work out of the box. It certainly is a cookie cutter approach that provides limited options but it works very well if you don’t want to fiddle around with the system. Plenty of theme options allow for visual differentiation between sites (both free and paid) and plugins are readily available to extend the CMS or integrate other web services.
The migration from Drupal to WordPress did take more effort than originally expected. Ensuring custom URLs were still working after the upgrade caused a lot of grey hair and I still miss how blocks are managed in Drupal (widgets simply don’t cut it). The good thing is, I have been publishing posts and articles much more often than before and this can be attributed to a much improved workflow for layouting and editing content.
Drupal’s flexibility is its greatest strength and weakness at the same time. No installation is the same so there are hardly any common features (e.g. themes, mobile app, etc.). WordPress on the other hand is pretty much standardized which leads to an ever growing community of theme providers, etc. but you have to accept some limitations in flexibility.
My advice: if you want to focus on content creation either by yourself or with a small team go with WordPress. If you are looking to support a bigger community or need some form of business logic (i.e. integration with complex backend systems) Drupal is the better choice.