Drupal vs. Joomla: An Engineer's Take

5 minute read
Rahul Mahida avatar

If you're evaluating open source content management solutions (CMS), two in particular -- Drupal and Joomla -- stick out for being widely adopted and lauded by companies and developers.

Both of them are full featured Web CMS platforms. If your business only needs a simple blog or wiki, both will feel bloated and you would be better served with a simpler platform such as Wordpress. If your business requires complex content hierarchy, tagging and authoring, you are now in the realm of these two platforms.

Let’s take a look at some basic requirements you might have and how the two compare:

Project Complexity

Once you have figured out the needs and basic architecture of the project, you will start to see where one system may be preferable over the other. If the site involves serving of various pages and content based on a hierarchy while keeping to a consistent style and the ability to author pages easily, than Joomla will fit your needs.

Where it falls short and where Drupal excels is in more complex content relationships. If you need an advanced system with specific content appearing in different ways on different pages in different places, then Drupal’s ability to have complex content relationships and access control of content will allow the flexibility to fit any project.

Drupal’s highly modular architecture in all areas of functionality are what allows for this flexibility and also provides a good platform for extending it to fit the exact needs of many projects. While this sounds great, the flip side can also be considered a boon for Joomla. Its architecture, while less flexible, is very structured and many features are built into Joomla out of the box and are very stable and very easy to work with.

Enterprise or Not Enterprise Level CMS

cms usage statistics.png

Stats courtesy of builthwith.com

Although the usage of both platforms is on the rise, they have slightly different markets. Joomla has been favored by the small to medium business market largely due to the ease in theming. To that end many extensions for Joomla are plug and play requiring and offering less customization. Support and services for Joomla also reflect this, with many more theme shops available for Joomla in relation to enterprise level support groups. In contrast, Drupal has been widely accepted by the enterprise market for medium to large projects.

In the words of Dries Buytaert, founder of Drupal,

Learning Opportunities

Drupal has some (out-of-the-box) features and functionality that makes it a more natural choice in the enterprise (e.g. access control, custom content types, master-slave database configuration, Varnish support, MongoDB, etc). This functionality might exist in Joomla too, but maybe it hasn't reached the same level of maturity? Second, it is not just about features. Even if Joomla and Drupal had the exact same features, I'd say Drupal's ecosystem is generally more in tune with the medium to high-end of the market. That is very important too. It is probably the combination of both that makes Drupal attract the larger projects relative to Joomla.”

Integration with Other Systems

Your CMS doesn’t live in isolation, it is part of a complex ecosystem - that includes analytics, transactions platforms, marketing and sales automation tools, advertizingtools, etc. Both Drupal and Joomla have thousands of extensions that will provide the functionality that you may need, without having to build from scratch.

The difference between Drupal and Joomla are mainly in the resources available in implementing the extensions and the customization needed. Joomla extensions tend to provide out of box functionality and are often almost plug and play. Drupal extensions by comparison often require some effort in configuration to get running, requiring little work in integrating into templates. Unlike Joomla extensions’ lack of flexibility, this often allows for customization of extensions to fit specific needs.

Collaboration at its Core - Maintenance and Support Made Easy

Drupal has great support during the development stage. The Drupal community encompasses more than 650,000 active members and that number is growing. Drupal offers a forum plus there is drupal.stackexchange.com too. It is a geek world, they speak code, in contrast to Wordpress's support forum. If you like code and are fluent in php, Drupal.org forum is your sanctuary. Joomla also has a strong community, but it is shaped differently.

Which Has a Better E-Commerce Solution?

With the growing presence of online shopping, it is important to pick a platform that provides the flexibility you need to have a unique experience and provide functionality while keeping a good measure of analytics. While neither Joomla nor Drupal are out of the box e-commerce platforms as Magento CMS is, both can be configured and/or extended to become fully featured e-commerce platforms.

Drupal is a more modular-ready platform and can easily be configured for you needs, with more powerful modules such as Ubercart. Joomla tends to be a more content publishing friendly platform, and while it may be quicker to set up, in the long run it will be less featured without putting in an extra effort.

A site is no longer just a set of individual pages. A proper site is a large network of pages, articles, media, code modules, etc. Instead of building this entire network from scratch, modern sites use tried and true Web CMS platforms. There are pros and cons to using any given system -- what are your considerations?

About the author

Rahul Mahida

Rahul brings an eclectic skill set in application development, database architecture and web design to DOOR3, bridging the gap between web and desktop leveraging the latest in new technologies such as responsive web design. For several years Rahul studied web and app development using the newest HTML5, CSS3, Javascript standards and open-source Content Management Systems including Joomla, Magento and eZ publish.