Thursday, December 10, 2009...5:09 pm

Website building: Drupal vs WordPress

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Posting has been light on Freelance Unbound this week, mainly because I’ve been drowning in PHP in an attempt to code a web site.
So far, the process is:

  • Tweak the code
  • Break the site
  • Undo
  • Tweak again
  • Refresh
  • Repeat until something works

I’m enjoying it, in a strange kind of way. Though I’m finding it hard to resist finishing my sentences with “endwhile”.
I’ve also seesawed between putting the site together in Drupal and using lovely, cozy WordPress.
I started in WordPress, and then was put off by the PHP coding required (I’m not just tweaking someone else’s site – it’s more gutting and restoring than painting and decorating).
Then I realised you can achieve much the same results using Drupal’s Views module – using a menu-driven system to manage the content on the site. Fantastic, I thought – all my problems solved.
And then I realised that creating design themes in Drupal is a nightmare taken from one of the circles of hell.
Luckily, after all this, I’m back with WordPress – and suddenly it all makes much more sense. (It helps that I’ve been taking journalism students through a WordPress-based group magazine project at UCA in Farnham.)
Aside from the theming, another clear difference between Drupal and WordPress is in the Codex.
WordPress has a wealth of information on the PHP it uses, with an abundance of code snippets and advice on how to use them in your site.
But while Drupal has got extensive documentation, there seems to be nothing on the actual code it uses. In fact, all the code for a Drupal page seems to be summed up in “$content”, which is less than useful for a newbie like me.
[UPDATE: Thanks to Kevin O’Brien at web developer No Warning Label for the link to Drupal’s API development site. Which, frankly, looks scary as hell.]
Drupal has clear advantages over WordPress for a big, multi-user site, that needs highly customisable content. There’s just such a potential Drupal project on the cards early next year that I’ll report on as it gets going.
But for now I’m going to stick with WordPress. It has its limitations, but its ease-of-use and active and helpful user community more than make up for them.


  • Just FYI,
    Most of the code docs are found at I agree though that Drupal is ot easy on a newbie. Take some time to read Using Drupal and a PHP Book and lots of blog posts (shameless plug for my own: ) and eventually you will be on the ball. You got to give it about a month before everything really sinks in, but the powerful features you gain are worth it.

  • Thanks Kevin – the API site is one I missed. Though I still don’t see where the code is actually stored in the Drupal template files. Knowledge will come, I guess…

  • Finding the same thing. Drupal Views is magical, but theming is ghastly.
    I’m moving to Expression Engine. Some brief experimentation has shown it’s much, much easier to understand.

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