When it comes to popular open source content management systems such as Joomla, WordPress and Drupal, disagreements over the pros and cons of each can take on almost religious or ideological overtones. Or sound like the conversation blindfolded people might have in describing an elephant. One of my favorite UI designers, Coryndon Luxmoore, once said “There are a million CMSs… and they all suck.”

By their very nature, content management systems are designed to put web content publishing into the hands of non-technical users, and making the complex simple involves trade offs. When it comes to sorting out what works best, or sucks less, for you and your needs, it’s important to be able to decipher which part of the CMS elephant different voices are talking about.

Drupal: The Developer’s CMS

The first perspective you hear most often and loudest is that of the developers.

For developers, they want something that can easily accommodate what they are best at – which is programming. Drupal is much more solidly built with a much longer history than WordPress or Joomla for helping developers successfully modify the tool. Drupal is a great choice if you have significant custom needs and your own in-house development staff or a solid relationship with and budget for outsource. Copy writers and coders often have a challenge learning how to make the CMS work the way they work.

If you think of building a web site or web application as analogous to building a car, it’s optimal for developers to be able to machine a part they need in house, pop it into the “vehicle” and be able to test and modify quickly and easily. This is why many if not most developers prefer to work in Drupal, which is the Mack truck of CMSes – built for enterprise level deployments that need to handle large amounts of content and large numbers of visitors.

WordPress: Pretty and Easy

Coders  and copywriters, on the other hand, tend to prefer WordPress for the ease of controlling how the content on the site actually displays. For smaller sites in particular (under 50 pages), with limited to no customization required, WordPress has evolved enough over the past two years in particular that it is a great choice for content driven sites. The development community has also grown to the point where a non-technical marketing staffer can generally find good freelance help for one off needs. There are also more and more web design and development firms adopting WordPress as a primary CMS platform if your company has more sophisticated customization needs.

Extending the automobile analogy, WordPress is the Toyota Scion of the mix – very configurable on purchase and set up. Designed for efficient delivery of smaller content footprints. Easy to drive. Easy to service.

Joomla: The “Just Right” Choice

Joomla is a good in-between choice, particularly if your organization requires some customized functionality without the outsource budget or internal resources to build from scratch. What developers tend to hate about Joomla is that the modularity that allows non-programmers to “plug and play” different functional components makes it more difficult to program the tool to do exactly what they want it to do. What marketing departments tend to love about Joomla is the ability to go from idea to execution most times without having to go through extensive requirements gathering, documentation and development. Joomla couples the ease of content creation of WordPress with the scalability of Drupal. Joomla is also sometimes a necessary choice if your site architecture is more complex than WordPress can handle.

Using the automobile analogy, Joomla is the Volkswagon. Easily configurable on initial purchase, like the Toyota Scion, with the added bonus that you can add “aftermarket” functionality and tweaks. But just like any prospective DIY project or purchase of third-party add-ons, results can vary. Fortunately, there are also good options, either with web development firms or freelancers, to provide whatever level of help you need.

Which is right for you?

Deciding which of the more popular content management systems is right for you should take into account both your current and future needs. If you have a basic site with fifty or fewer pages, and basic forms, CRM conversion and metrics needs that can be accommodated by existing third party tools, such as Hubspot, Marketo, Salesforce, Wufoo (for forms), WordPress is probably the best choice for you. If you are integrating your web site in fairly complex customized ways with homegrown ERPs or CRMs, don’t think there is anything off the shelf that meets a functional need, and have reliable development resources available to meet those needs, Drupal may be the way to go. If you fall somewhere in between – with some more complex functionality desired that looks like it could fit an “off the shelf” Joomla component, Joomla can often optimize your ROI.

eMagine itself is not a zealot about any one CMS. We work with you to determine what the better value is for your specific needs.