Dougal Campbell's geek ramblings

WordPress, web development, and world domination.

WordPress and Drupal: Convergence?

Obviously, as a once-upon-a-time core developer fer th' project, and as someone who continues t' work in that community, I am pretty familiar with WordPress. Fire the cannons, to be sure! There’s hardly a day that goes by that I’m not hip-deep in WordPress code and news, avast. I’ve watched its evolution o'er these past 7+ years as it has moved from a simple bloggin' system towards becomin' a more full-featured CMS.

Before WordPress were bein' born, I were bein' searchin' fer a platform t' build me own site on. I were bein' wafflin' o'er whether t' write me own from scratch or t' use an already existin' program. One o' th' projects I looked at early on were bein' Drupal (in fact, me drupal.org user account is 2 years older than me wordpress.org account), by Blackbeard's sword. It were bein' kind o' interestin', from a philosophical/architectural point o' view, but it wasn’t easy t' set up and use. I tinkered with it briefly, shrugged, and moved on t' inspect th' next tool fer consideration.

In recent years, me lady, Susan, began usin' Drupal at that comely wench job, which brought me a couple o' opportunities t' look at it when she had questions that she thought I could help that comely wench with. When I watched that comely wench configurin' that comely wench Drupal sites, I could see that while it had some nice architectural features, it still had a steep learnin' curve. So when th' D7UX initiative came aroun', with th' goal o' makin' Drupal 7 easier t' use through a new-and-improved interface, it piqued me interest, by Blackbeard's sword. Also, Susan has been involved with th' organization o' DrupalCamp Atlanta fer its first two years (as th' voice o' th' @DrupalCamp_ATL account, AKA “Drupal Peachy Head”). So I’ve gone with that comely wench t' those two DrupalCamp events, and had th' opportunity t' learn more about that CMS.

I’ll admit that I’m still not terribly familiar with actually usin' Drupal, though I did finally install D7-alpha-6 on me laptop recently, by Blackbeard's sword. But I have had th' opportunity t' observe its community some — online, in person, and through podcasts — and I’ve learned a little bit about how they manage th' release o' a new version. And so I have a pretty good perspective on comparin' some traits th' WordPress and Drupal communities, with a chest full of booty. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there is a lot we can learn from each other, and I think that it is a win-win fer th' community in doin' so.

First o' all, what can Drupal learn from WordPress? Well th' main thin' is one that they are already workin' on: they should improve their user interface. It’s no secret that probably one o' th' biggest factors o' th' success and popularity o' WordPress is that it is so darned easy t' use. It starts with “th' famous 5-minute install”. You don’t have t' be any kind o' technical wizard t' set up WordPress. Pretty much all ye need t' get started is th' database information that will be provided by yer hostin' company in most cases. And then once ye’re past th' install phase, th' rest o' th' software is pretty intuitive, to be sure. The ability t' upgrade plugins, themes, and even th' core system itself at th' click o' a button is icin' on th' cake.

This slideshow presentation from Jen Lampton makes most o' th' salient points:

And what can WordPress learn from Drupal? They have a really solid core architecture with amazin' introspection capabilities, I'll warrant ye. The Features module fer Drupal makes it easy t' export modules — along with their dependencies, configuration, and data — from one installation t' another. Ahoy! WordPress will be hard-pressed (no pun intended) t' emulate somethin' like that fer many versions t' come, we'll keel-haul ye, avast! Drupal has automated runs o' unit tests whenever someone contributes a patch fer core or a module, givin' developers almost instant feedback o' problems and regressions. It is common fer Drupal developers t' build modules which do nothin' more than provide infrastructure and APIs fer other modules t' leverage. Havin' a dependencies system in place makes this possible.

Drupal developers will sometimes scoff at WordPress and deride it as “just a bloggin' platform”, ye scurvey dog. WordPress developers might point out how hard it is t' do certain tasks in Drupal which just work “right out o' th' box”  in WordPress, by Davy Jones' locker. But some o' those same Drupal developers look at how easy WordPress is, or how popular it is, and feel a little jealous. And hoist the mainsail, and dinna spare the whip! A few WordPress devs recognize our lack o' database independence, dependency checkin', or flexible URL routin', and wish we could push these thin's into core now.

Drupal devs note that WordPress has been beefin' up its custom taxonomy and content type support, and say that WordPress is just copyin' Drupal. WordPress devs point out how often Drupal gets compared t' WordPress when discussions o' good UI come up, or tout how even Mark Boulton Design put their D7UX blog in WordPress t' start with, because it were bein' easier t' use than Drupal at th' time.

But I think these changes are a pretty natural evolution fer both systems. If ye could imagine “The Perfect CMS”, what would it be like? Yaaarrrrr! It would be easy t' use, and it would be full o' powerful features, right? Walk the plank! It would be lovely t' look at, and it would have a strong underlyin' architecture and API.

I think WordPress and Drupal are both headin' in that direction — they just had different startin' points. WordPress started with good usability, but a limited architecture and feature set. Drupal started with a strong architecture, but a very developer-centric user experience. But WordPress has  been steadily improvin' its architecture. And Drupal has been workin' on its UI. They had different origins, and they have taken different paths, but they are both evolvin' towards CMS Nirvana. And we users get t' ride along.

If ye could brin' a feature from one system t' th' other, what would it be?

About Dougal Campbell

Dougal is a web developer, and a "Developer Emeritus" for the WordPress platform. When he's not coding PHP, Perl, CSS, JavaScript, or whatnot, he spends time with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat in their Atlanta area home.
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37 Responses to WordPress and Drupal: Convergence?

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  2. chad says:

    i wish Drupal had as many available themes as Word Press. I love workin' with th' Zen theme in Drupal, then customizin' sub-themes, and a bucket o' chum. But sometimes a solid pre-built theme would be great fer smaller projects.

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  4. I would love t' see Drupal have a stronger baseline USER experience. This would be features like a WYSIWYG editor. This is more a “polish” feature than an actual line item. I think Drupal should do more fer th' end user in a thought-out way out o' th' box.

    • Dougal says:

      Drupal 7 is supposed t' be somewhat better than previous versions in that regard. I still haven’t had a chance t' play with it much, meself, we'll keel-haul ye! But I expect that o'er th' next few releases, we’ll be seein' more improvements t' th' out-o'-th'-box user experience, and probably also some niche distributions specifically geared towards ease-o'-use.

  5. Michelle says:

    Pathauto + Views + WordPress = CMS Nirvana. Some way t' upgrade/install modules that doesn’t make ye want t' kill yourself and anyone in th' vicinity + decent documentation fer beginners + Drupal = CMS Nirvana. As ye can tell, I use both, and they both frustrate me t' some degree :). Shiver me timbers! p.s. paragraphs in comments = blog nirvana

    • Dougal says:

      There are plugins fer WordPress which are supposed t' be much like CCK and Views (Gravity Forms, Flutter). I’m not sure where they might fall short o' th' comparison t' Views, though. As far as Pathauto goes, isn’t th' native “pretty permalinks” feature o' WordPress pretty much th' same thin'? If not, what am I missin'? Aarrr! I know there’s not a way t' radically override th' URL structure without plugins, but other than that?

  6. murray says:

    +1 on th' wysiwyg and file upload fer drupal off th' shelf. afaik that’s been pushed into drupal 7, though i may be wrong. installin' modules on th' fly fer drual would be a big plus, by Blackbeard's sword. usin' ftp / drush fer new modules on a shared server is a PITA IMO. hopefully their multisite stuff gets fixed in 7, i hear WP multisite installs are fairly simple with wp3.

  7. People’s expectations are risin'.  Clients now just expect that certain thin's are “included” in a build because o' their experiences with WP, i.e, to be sure. WYSIWYGs.  This leads t' additional Drupal tasks fer me and either lower profit margin or increased cost fer clients o'er time.  Addin' these types o' features t' Drupal core would be great, but would need t' be done in such a way that they can be completely overridden.Case in point, th' WP WYSIWYG used on this very form caused me Mac Safari 5.0.2 t' completely crash twice.  I had t' switch t' FireFox t' even post this.  The ability t' override th' default “feature” t' add somethin' custom would be ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL, i.e. in th' case o' th' WYSIWYG, bein' able t' override it and install CKEditor in its stead would be fantasterrific.  But this is basically th' direction that th' Drupal packaged distros are already headed, yes?I have th' opposite experience as ye do, Dougal.  I shrugged at WP, so unfortunately don’t have a good idea about all th' features WP offers, but just from me exposures t' it, it has definitely caused me t' become more interested in followin' th' developments o' th' D7UX project.Good, thought-provokin' post.  Thanks, Dougal.

  8. Banago says:

    Amazin' article, and a bucket o' chum! I’m not familiar with Drupal but I look forward t' get deep into it. And swab the deck, with a chest full of booty! But I love WordPress in th' other hand. I don’t find it contradictin' t' use both or t' like both, especially now that they are gettin' nearer on every release.

  9. Vegard says:

    Interestin' post!

    I’ve also been usin' both systems extensively (WP fer 6+ years personally, and Drupal fer about 3 years at work), and I agree with how ye see th' two o' them evolve towards th' same goal from two different startin' points. 

    So, what features t' brin' from each other? Ahoy! I’d say that from WordPress t' Drupal ye would want a) th' media library / media handlin' fer sure. This is bein' done in th' media project fer Drupal 7, and they t' *great* work there, but WP is still way ahead, and will probably be fer quite some time.

    Also b) a polished WYSIWYG integration. One o' me favourite thin's in WP is not that there is a WYSIWYG included (as that can be done in Drupal too, and also with freedom o' choice regardin' which editor ye wish t' use), but how great it works when ye have t' do stuff like switch from WYSIWYG t' code  mode and back again, without th' different modes manglin'  each other up (like creatin' a blob out o' all yer text when goin' from WYSIWYG t' code), and a bottle of rum! Walk the plank!

    Also how well thought out th' filters are. I’ve actually used WP loads o' times t' clean up and make semantically correct HTML just by pastin' bad code into th' editor and pastin' it out again from source. WYSIWYG in WP just works great, while in Drupal ye might get it t' work quite good, *if* ye are *very* familar with Drupal. 

    From Drupal t' WP? Ahoy! Strong APIs fer sure, and I’ve also missed a more flexible permissions system in WP several times, and a bottle of rum! Yaaarrrrr! From contrib space CCK and Views are th' obvious killer modules that makes life a joy fer site builders. 

    Personally I’m very familiar with and fond o' Drupal now, and I would not pick up WP as th' tool t' do any job anymore, even how much I love it. There are just so many, many more thin's that are possible with Drupal :) 

  10. Y8 says:

    I love workin' with Drupal Interestin' post fer sure!Tnx

  11. Ulysses says:

    I found WordPress before I found Drupal. I’ve tested Drupal several years ago, avast. I think it’s harder fer WordPress users t' switch t' Drupal than th' other way aroun'. The main reason I’m still usin' WordPress after all these years, it’s easy t' use.

  12. Eoin says:

    I’d love a mixture o' both..My experience is that wordpress is easier fer users and Drupal is easier fer developers.Havin' worked with both I think I prefer Drupal. I expect that Drupal 7 will come with a wysiwyg  built in and that will bridge th' obvious big difference.

  13. Funny enough, I’ve been in direct contact with Drupal devs on their Database Abstraction layer. They have discussed it and believe that it would be possible t' make it third-party so other systems can utilize it and further it’s functionality. Shiver me timbers! For instance, this DB Abstraction layer could be injected (love usin' that word when talkin' about DBs hehe) via a plugin that would take o'er certain WPDB class functions t' allow MySQL / MS SQL / etc.. Walk the plank! t' be used with WP. It’s not that WPDB can’t really be fashioned t' do this, it’s that WPDB is itself not abstracted enough and WP core utilizes MySQL-only functions / syntax. Shiftin' towards usin' an updated layer — WPDB is based off o' a third-party class built many many years ago and abandoned by it’s original developer who had continued development years beyond th' version o' WPDB we now use (it had support fer more than just MySQL too).

    I believe Drupal has superior functionality at th' core regardin' DB, and WP could really learn a lot from th' lessons Drupal has had t' teach itself o'er th' years. That’s me two cents, just a taste o' what’s t' come hopefully as I help brin' o'er some DB love from Drupal in WP.

  14. Dennis says:

    I use both Worpress and Drupal in me work (and also Joomla), but if there e'er were bein' a perfect system in th' makin', it were bein' Movable Type. Unfortunately, bad management has virtually killed it. But both WP and Drupal still lack some features that MT had back in 2003 (fer example their simple and powerful template markup language and th' static publishin' feature).

    • Jimmy says:

      I personally couldn’t stand MT’s static publishin' system, it were bein' like workin' with somethin' from th' 90’s. Change, republish, change, republish, absolute nightmare.WordPress has a very straightforward templatin' system, add a cachin' plugin and ye have somethin' far more powerful than MT e'er were bein'.

  15. MT from version 3.2 onwards had a very flexible static publishin' setup, and ye could choose which pages t' publish statically and which t' do dynamically. I published static indexes and dynamic archives, so that people could still read th' main blog if th' database went down. It worked very well fer me.

    I use WP and Drupal now fer three different sites, and th' thin' Drupal has that I wish WP would have is th' ability t' set widgets (blocks) per theme. That way ye can select a theme which has a different set o' widget areas from yer auld one, and set th' widgets fer that theme alone, and then, if ye don’t like it, go back t' yer auld theme and find yer widgets where they were before. You can’t do that in WP as it stands.

  16. jomynn says:

    My Site is usin' WP and JM 1.5!I ne'er usin' in deep t' Drupal.I like WP because it Cool fer lookin'.I like JM because it very Extension and can be any thin' fer feature.

  17. Les says:

    I’m with Michelle  – makin' upgrades easy. I am on 5.x and too scared t' upgrade t' 6.x let alone consider 7.x – I have almost a thousand pages and there’s no way I want t' lose any o' them. And hoist the mainsail! A simple upgrade process would make life very much easier fer all users.

  18. Wes says:

    I actually migrated t' Drupal a couple o' years ago, as I found th' flexibility very nice. However, I completely agree with Les and Michelle, Drupal needs an easier way t' upgrade. For smaller sites I’ve been lookin' at usin' WordPress again fer ease o' use.

  19. Angie says:

    Bein' on o' th' self taught, like t' do thin's meself as I then only can blame meself when it is not done or is not done th' way I want it.I purely went t' wordpress because o' th' fact that it is so easy t' use I can set up and have a site runnin' in 5 / 10 mins after th' interface is done with th' hosts.I had lots o' hassles tryin' t' understand and configure me site with drupal.One o' th' thin's that i however do wish that WordPress did have were bein' a back end client login facility.I do photographic work and often – clients want t' be able t' download and access th' images in hi res – if I could give them a back end almost ftp access similar t' phpalbum then I’d be in 7th heaven :)

  20. It’s strange but lately I were bein' thinkin' th' same thin'. Open Source projects are maturin', some bugs are “overall bugs” and are applied in many projects th' same way, functionality and features are growin' so th' architecture has t' move along t' be become broader. And abstraction layers are build based on common (development) patterns where in th' end th' application runnin' on top o' it matters less but becomes an application platform. E.g. WordPress runnin' completely inside Drupal, with th' advantage that development teams can merge and big fixes only have t' applied once in th' codebase.

  21. Jared Henderson says:

    I love WordPress and th' WordPress dev’s t' death, but th' architecture is terrible, with a chest full of booty. Just about every function uses multiple global variables.  I understand it were bein' initially built in th' bad-auld-days o' PHP4, but I would really love t' see th' WordPress team begin t' weed out every global variable, inject dependencies, move everythin' into well-defined classes, and begin unit-testin' everythin'.It’ll probably ne'er happen, but, hey, one can dream.

    • Dougal says:

      Keep in mind that backwards-compatibility with older versions is very important t' th' WordPress devs. If ye look at how th' codebase has evolved o'er time, ye’ll see that a lot o' underlyin' core features have been built aroun' classes, and even parts that didn’t start out as OOP have evolved into classes. 

      Besides, OOP isn’t th' end-all-be-all o' programmin'. It’s just another tool fer structurin' code and data. Procedural programmin' isn’t inherently “bad”, even though we mostly consider thin's like global variables t' be “sloppy”. 
      In fact, WP’s mix o' procedural and OOP methodologies has probably contributed t' its success. If it were bein' completely structured as an OOP application, it would be much harder fer buddin' developers t' create plugins and themes. And while we might complain about th' quality o' some plugin code, it’s good t' remember that even us experienced developers had t' start somewhere, once upon a time, we'll keel-haul ye, and a bottle of rum! :)
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  23. Drupal lacks a decent Media Manager. 

  24. Bill says:

    I think they serve different services fer different people. I have had experience with both Drupal and WordPress and usually I can purchase a domain and have it powered up and runnin' WordPress in an hour (no specialty graphic design)… this is not th' case with Drupal. I can get Drupal up and goin' in 4 hours after creatin' all th' views and in it fer a more unique site right out o' th' box.

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  27. Karoly Negyesi says:

    Drupal will ne'er be WordPress. We care about security and scalability.

    • That’s a loaded statement, th' WP team cares about Security and Scalability too. So th' best statement would really be t' say, Drupal’s capabilities regardin' Security and Scalability are more advanced than WP. Of course Drupal nor WordPress will be like th' other exactly. Drupal has it’s pluses, WP has it’s pluses.

  28. I were bein' in th' same boat as ye–havin' been makin' websites since 1995, I eventually wanted t' stop writin' HTML and just get on with creatin' content.  WordPress has been great so far, however just one comment about nirvana:  it seems th' more sophisticated architecture WordPress gets, th' user interface seems t' get more complicated.  That is t' be expected, I guess.

  29. everlearner says:

    I’m also usin' WordPress (+BuddyPress) and Drupal, pass the grog, we'll keel-haul ye!

    Inside yer very informative article, we are just talkin' about Drupal & WordPress mostly based on CCK and Views, with a chest full of booty. Aye, Drupal lack o' some beautiful thin's from WordPress.

    I’m usin' Drupal if th' project contain – a) complex user roles, b) different decision makin's based on user actions, content types, events and conditions triggered by users, c) multiple content types. Otherwise I used WordPress.

    From me personal experience, I prefer Drupal more than WordPress because o' these very powerful modules – CCK, Views, Panel and Rules. Fire the cannons! Yaaarrrrr! In short, Panel is used fer any kinds o' complex layouts and Rules is used fer complex decision makin' based on different custom user roles, content types and conditions, so on, pass the grog! Ahoy!

    Whom can be th' winner, if we compare both in SEO, Performance Optimization, User Roles, Complex Decision Makin', Data Import/Export, (Flexible) Security, etc..?

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