Seems like every day this month I've answered the same question: Why should I use Drupal instead of WordPress? And this is the answer I've come up with. They are entirely different applications, about as different as Microsoft Word is from Microsoft Excel.

WordPress is first and foremost a blogging tool, and it has become widely adopted by designers who are trying to make pretty-looking sites. There's no shortage of beautiful WordPress sites, and if what you need is a relatively simple marketing site with rich content, it's a great tool.

Drupal, on the other hand, is more like a general purpose database tool that can be skinned to look great, but that's not its strength. Much like Excel, it's great for managing lots of items that have the same characteristics. And it's built to work extremely well for this purpose -- managing scads of information.

If you're making a flyer for a yard sale, you wouldn't necessarily pick Excel -- Word is quick and easy to make something like that, and you can pull in all sorts of designs, paste it all in and make something that looks pretty good. You can make a table to show the differences between a couple products, but if you have hundreds of products you start to run into problems.

You can create a bunch of comparisons in Word. There's a full blown macro system built in -- you can certainly do most of what you can do in Excel using Word -- but that doesn't mean it's a good idea!

Wait a minute. WordPress is a CMS, and has a database!

Yes, WordPress calls itself a "content management system." And it has the basic architecture necessary for a publishing workflow. There's an API for creating different post types, adding custom fields, and all the same stuff that Drupal can do.

But... There is no user interface for creating these fields in WordPress core -- you either need to get one of many different (usually proprietary) add-on plugins, or have a developer write code to set up these post types.

In contrast, creating new content types, adding fields, and adding relationships between content types is all in Drupal core, and is the fundamental starting point for building a new Drupal site.

In WordPress, your first decision is typically to pick a theme, and a lot of themes come with a bunch of extra functionality that help you actually build the site. In Drupal, your first decision is how to organize your content -- the theme can be tacked on towards the end of the process, and easily changed at any point.

But everybody says to use WordPress! Are they wrong?

It's not wrong to use Word -- it's a matter of choosing the right tool for the job. Are you creating a brochure? That's way easier to do in Word than Excel. Are you trying to keep track of who has registered for an event? You can do it in Word, but if you do it in Excel you can add filters and calculated columns to keep track of which registrations have been paid, and which you need to collect payment at the door.

You might well be able to find a plugin to help you to do this in Word -- but now suddenly it's not really Word you're using to do your registrations, it's some obscure plugin -- whereas tabulating data is the essence of what Excel does.

That's exactly the difference between WordPress and Drupal -- when you get beyond the core layout, blogging, and basic site functionality that comes with Word, you are suddenly in plugin land, and the core functionality is no longer shared by tens of millions of WordPress users -- only by the other users of that specific plugin.

And when you need a different plugin for different functionality, you need to cross your fingers that it doesn't blow up your site, have some weird conflict.

Drupal is built for this kind of integration of different kinds of things. Need to show events by date? Add a calendar. Need to show them by location? Add a map, and set up geolocation. Need to charge for them? Add commerce. Want your users to rate them? Add a voting module. Everything works together in Drupal, and builds upon everything else -- instead of being one-off islands of functionality that may or may not work with the other things you need.

Ok, I lied. Drupal isn't like Excel, it's more like Access.

A lot more people are familiar with Excel than Access, because it's useful in so many different situations. Access is more of a general purpose database -- compared to Excel, it's a bit harder to prototype things in, but way more powerful. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Access (and competitors like Filemaker Pro) were popular tools to build out entire business operation systems for many small businesses and non-profits.

This is exactly the kind of thing Drupal can do extremely well. It's even organized the same way -- it's really not hard to take an Access database and port everything in it over to Drupal -- and bring the entire application to the web, make it available to your mobile devices, tablets, remote workers, etc. The same business analysis skills even apply. For a huge number of scenarios, most of the work is that of an administrator -- you only really need to bring in a developer to make it look good, or add automation.

Drupal is not "just" a CMS -- it's a general purpose database system you can use to revolutionize your entire business operations. And it can be your website, too! This is particularly useful if you want to remove barriers to how you interact with your customers, organize your internal business processes, or automate some painstaking operational task.

If you would like to learn more about how to make your business run better using Drupal or similar technology, give us a call! We'd be happy to explore some ideas with you.

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