Why More People Select WordPress than Drupal to Build Websites

First off, Drupal has had a great year and a great quarter. According to builtwith.com Drupal is second among all Content Management Systems at 13.75% of the top 10K websites and has added ~250K new website this quarter. That said, the number one CMS (WordPress) is at 42% of the market and according to the same source has added 5MM (yes, 5 million) websites this quarter. Here's the graph:

pie chart of CMS usage

But, you say, Drupal is more extensible and is a better fit for enterprise engagements. It has to be winning in adoption when you look at larger websites, right? This gets tricky to determine, since the measure of "large" is based on traffic, and some of the most high traffic websites can be blogs. But let's assume that we can use the top 10K, 100K and 1MM websites measured by traffic to gauge "enterpriseness". Here's that chart:

numeric increase in CMS usage

Again, WordPress appears to be dominating, while Drupal usage in these top tiers is actually retreating. So why? I believe the answer to this question has three major facets:

  1. Economics
  2. Scarcity
  3. Familiarity

Economics

As Doug Vann, Drupal Consultant, has said "demand for Drupal developers is really crazy right now". Combine that demand with the relatively long time it takes to get ramped up as a Drupal developer (let's say ~2 years) and you have a market that is being squeezed. This is driving prices/rates for developers up, which in turn, drives the cost of Drupal website building up. The net effect is that Drupal websites cost more than WordPress sites, especially for enterprise customers that may be looking at TCO. No judgement here on whether the ROI is there or not - simply that Drupal sites cost more.

Scarcity

Costs aside, Drupal developers and shops (remember the ramp up time) are simply harder to find than WordPress developers. This has an impact for any projects that may have specific timeline requirements or where people are concerned about vendor availability.

Familiarity

Possibly the biggest issue that Drupal faces is one of unfamiliarity with key decision makers. WordPress owns the blogging space, which I would describe as the gateway drug to content management. This is particularly true in marketing, where many CMOs first experience with in-browser content editing is WordPress. The experience is streamlined and well-groomed, vs. the relatively clunky Out-Of-The-Box experience one gets with stock Drupal. Since the vast majority of website spending is managed by a company's marketing department this familiarity with WordPress makes it a front-of-mind choice.

My Two Cents

In many cases website purchases are not made keeping the full cost of maintenance and security in mind. When these things are considered, a different level of experience and quality is required from the vendor delivering the website, regardless of the platform (WordPress, Drupal, etc.) and the costs and relatively scarcity of developers are likely to be very similar. Fundamentally there are only a small group of people capable of building large-scale website and they generally charge a premium for their services. For a buyer with other priorities (campaign success, product visibility, etc.) it may be difficult to qualify vendors on quality so the surface metrics 1) hourly rate and 2) pool of available vendors are big influencers.

Bottom-line because of the complexity involved in technology, it's important to evaluate every project on the basis of the short and long term goals and make the best decision on platform on this basis. Whether using WordPress or Drupal (or Python/Django, Angular.js, etc.) it's always a good idea to make an educated decision.

Hey Joaquin,

Great article. I have been moving everything over to Drupal when it comes to providing web development services to clients. But if someone wants a quick site, low cost, and very simple in complexity - then I normally suggest WordPress.

But I found that when the scope is larger, with custom features, lists, complex content types, etc - Drupal is actually a huge time saver and can actually reduce the time and cost for the client. If you setup a properly framework or profile to start with, you can get a Drupal site up and running with more functionality that WordPress in no time.

I personally have seen and heard a drastic increase in approval for Drupal in my area, especially in Education and Non-Profits.

Hi Travis, we've found the same. I always often use a car metaphor when describing the difference I perceive between Drupal and WordPress. WordPress is a Honda while Drupal is a build-your-own-car kit. If you need a Honda, stick with something that works right off the lot, but if you need something different Drupal is likely a better place to start.

To continue the metaphor though, most people start driving a Honda. Once they get comfortable with how it works and the low pricing associated with it, it's difficult for them to rationalize using anything else.

MM is 2000 in roman. M is million. Just my 2c.

(And wtf is up with the -webkit-appearance: none; on html, button, input, select, textarea??)

Drupal is more extensible and is a better fit for enterprise engagements.

There's your problem right there (and the reason you did not really touch in the article, but in your comment above). Most of the sites tracked on builtwith.com are personal sites or atleast one-man operations. The numbers of enterprise sites in this world is actually quite low. Drupal will never win by number of installs because of its focus.

I must agree with Håvard. I have been both a WordPress and Drupal developer and comparing the two sites by number of installs is misleading. WordPress sites are mostly one-person projects, often put up by people who need something basic, while Drupal sites are often for larger sites which need greater flexibility than what WP is designed to offer. When comparing by numbers, it's interesting to note the percentage of hacked WordPress sites compared to Drupal. Anyhow, they're both great tools which have come a long way but it comes down to using the most appropriate tool for the goal.

Hi bb,

A few questions: 1) which top enterprises are switching to WordPress? And if they are switching 2) what are they switching from?

I'm of the belief that whether a project selects WordPress or Drupal, open source wins:

http://www.metaltoad.com/blog/drupal-vs-wordpress-who-cares

If they are switching to WordPress from Oracle or .NET it's a huge win for the world at large.

Joaquin

Joaquin

I don't think anyone has framed this debate in such clear and simple terms. Great job!

WordPress owns the blogging space, which I would describe as the gateway drug to content management.

This is an accurate and hilarious statement - best line I've seen to describe the space

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • You can enable syntax highlighting of source code with the following tags: <code>, <blockcode>, <cpp>, <java>, <php>. The supported tag styles are: <foo>, [foo].
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

About the Author

Joaquin Lippincott, CEO

Joaquin is a modern technology veteran. Throughout his career he has built successful digital strategies with a wide assortment of transformative technologies and platforms, helping clients identify a clear path for success. Over the years he has worked with industry leaders such as DC Comics, the Emmys, Intel, Technicolor, Verizon Wireless, Habitat for Humanity, Limewire, the Linux Foundation, Sony Pictures Television, Mercy Corps, and Cisco as well as numerous small businesses, advertising agencies and internet start ups. With over 14 years of experience in his field he is still as passionate about technology as ever. Joaquin is a graduate from UCLA with a degree in design and has also served on the AIGA Portland chapter board as President. Twitter: @joaquinlippinco