SxSW 2009

In an Iron Chef-like match-up, a team of developers from Drupal (news, site), Joomla! (news, site) and WordPress (news, site) had 100 hours to build a website based on a specific list of specifications and design. Then representatives of each team got to meet face to face to show off their hard work during the South by Southwest Interactive festival in a session called "The Ultimate Showdown of Content Management System Destiny."

It was a battle to the end, with a mix of good humor and serious competition among developers from the open source web content management community.

How It Went Down

The room was packed full of CMS fans, with a heavy emphasis on WordPress. You could hear a small group of men chanting for their favorite CMS before the event got underway. The mood was festive, but there was an air of competition brewing as each person threw CMS taunts at each other.

The panelists included Steve Fisher (Joomla!), Colleen Carroll (Drupal), and Matt Mullenweg (WordPress) and were led by George DeMet of

DeMet came up with the idea and explained how each team of developers were given the task to build a website for a community leadership program in Elgin, Illinois. The developers were asked to use a number of web-based social networking and collaboration tools. The end goal was to build websites that were general enough to be able to be downloaded by organizations and communities to meet their needs. All of the specifications are available in a PDF format.

The teams were also expected to stay true to a site design created by Mark Boulton, who is well-known for his web design and book "Five Simple Steps: A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web." Developers could only use freely-available software to build the sites and function on a shared hosting space (Linux/Apache/MySQL).

A lot of time was spent talking about how the teams worked together on the site creation and the effort it took to build the sites. The Joomla! team never met face-to-face. Developers spanned across the globe and spent most development time talking over Skype or conference calls. The Drupal team started with a face to face sprint to get the site started and then they worked online to finish the rest of the work. You can follow how Mullenweg's WordPress team completed their tasks by visiting a site they built to keep up with the project.

How the Teams Compare

Here is a comparison of how the sites came together under deadline:

  Drupal Joomla! WordPress
Total Hours 79.25 57.25 90.5
Hours spent on front end 21.75 15 36.5
HTML Validation No (8 errors) Yes No (8 errors)
CSS Validation No (7 errors) No (1 error) No (21 errors)
Page weight 180K 140K 154K
Lines of custom PHP/JS code 220 30 1,808