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6 Things Dissenters Don’t Know About WordPress

Yesterday I was asked to defend WordPress' against 400lbs gorilla Drupal at local marketing group LA2M. Having used both systems for some time, I have a strong sense as the pro's and con's of each platform (neither is perfect). Of course WordPress is my top choice and I do have reasoning to back it up which I communicated to the group of 70+ attendees. Interestingly enough, as the discussion was not so much a debate as panel that answered questions I noticed an interesting pattern. Much of the supposed benefits of Drupal were expressed in such a way that it made WordPress seem incapable of those benefits... which was not the case. Unable to rebut before the next question, many viewers (and the pro-Drupal speakers) didn't get to hear this. To address this I felt it would be best to outline these common misunderstandings in this blog post.

Here are the six things that dissenters don't know about WordPress:

1. WordPress is Incredibly Scaleable

There is a misconception that WordPress can only handle small sites because it was built as a blogging tool. If you need a large site with a lot of content WordPress will choke and die. Not true, sites like SmashingMagazine and TechCrunch have hundreds of thousands of pages of content and still run lightening fast. WordPress can be run on multiple servers if needed or integrated with a content delivery network if you have high amounts of traffic or a particularly large website.

Additionally, the hosted version of WordPress has over 20 million blogs running on a version of WordPress (using the multisite mode). If that doesn't demonstrate scalability I don't know what would.

2. WordPress is NOT Just Posts and Pages

While WordPress originated as a simple blogging platform that only had posts and pages, it has come along way with custom content types. Drupal has always been strong in this area, with the CCK (Custom Content Kit) allowing the creation of flexible data models and have now integrated that capability into the Drupal core. Unbeknownst to most Drupal developers, WordPress also has this capability built into the core (since version 3.0).

The custom post type gives developers the abilities to create content types that have have their own data structure that doesn't need any resemblance to  posts or pages. This content can be displayed anyway you wish and can be dissected, mashed up and output if you so desire. Additionally, with plugins like Magic Fields, Custom Post Type UI, PODS and Advanced Custom Fields this can all be done from the WordPress backend. Along with custom taxonomies content can take any shape, can be sorted, classified and output anyway you need it.

3. WordPress is NOT Just for Simple Sites

Many people gravitate towards Drupal because they think that it has more capabilities than WordPress. WordPress is thought of a "simple CMS for simple websites." In reality, WordPress is extremely extendable. In fact I have yet to come across a project that you outright couldn't do in WordPress (not that it is the best fit for all projects, just that it would be technically possible.) In fact here are some capabilities WordPress can easily accomplish:

  • Facebook clone
  • Forums
  • Digg Clone
  • Newsletter
  • Wiki
  • Customer Relationship Management System
  • Twitter clone
  • Invoicing system
  • Project management system
  • Calendar system
  • E-commerce website
  • Job board
  • Classified board
  • Real estate listing site
  • Business directory
  • Auctions website
  • Review website

And that isn't even all of them. With custom post types you could conceivably do just about anything.

4. WordPress Has Great User Management

I have no problem admitting that Drupal has really powerful user management capabilities. Drupal was originally a community based platform that has evolved into a CMS "Framework," so much of the user management capabilities have been left in the core. That being said, WordPress can have extremely powerful user management if you need it. I would say that the average website doesn't need complex user management capabilities, for most businesses you only have one or two people maintaining the website. If you do need more power there are plugins like User Permissions, User Access Manager or User Role Editor that can give you that functionality.

Those plugins allow you to create groups, restrict group capabilities on a detail level (including editing, adding or modifying plugins, etc...) restrict page editing to specific groups, etc... Pretty much anything you would need with a community based site.

5. WordPress Can Address Your Workflow Needs

It is likely that new web content will need to be approved before it goes live. This is described as workflow and it is the process of how the content must be created, reviewed and published. By default WordPress has a few ways to manage this, including private pages (you must be logged in to see), password protected pages and draft pages. If you need a more sophisticated system you can use Edit Flow, Zensor, User Submitted Posts, Peter's Collaboration E-mails or Peter's Post Notes to add the functionality you need.

6. WordPress Can Rock E-Commerce

In my presentation I made the mistake of saying that at some point you should use a full fledged E-Commerce system rather than WordPress. While I still believe that hard core e-commerce sites should run on an e-commerce specific platform, it did make WordPress sound like an poor candidate for selling items online. Through a handful of great e-commerce plugins, you can use WordPress to sell products online including the following features:

  • Real products
  • Digital / downloadable products
  • Tickets / event registration
  • Subscription / site access services
  • Real time shipping integration
  • Payment gateway integration
  • Product variations (colors, sizes, types, costs, etc...)
  • Quickbooks integration
  • Affiliate management
  • Custom fields / product types
  • Pricing levels
  • Wish lists
  • Recommend products
  • Discount codes
  • Stock management
  • Import / export capabilities

These capabilities exist in the plugins or through already available plugin extensions. No custom development is required.

Additionally WordPress has been able to integrate with outside e-commerce systems like Magento, ZenCart and OS Commerce since as early as 2008.

Summary: Why I Love WordPress, but Drupal is Great Too...

I love WordPress because it is kind to my users, the end client. WordPress was designed to make the management of your site easy and that is exactly what it does. Because of it's ease of use it has reached the level of fame that it now enjoys (powering over 60% of the top 1 million websites that have a CMS). This level of fame has lead to the endless capabilities that allow us to take this simple website CMS and turn it into complex web applications.

That being said I recognize that WordPress is not right for every project. There will be situations where Drupal is a better fit (or some other system all together). I don't think Drupal is a bad platform, I have used it enough in the past to understand it's capabilities. I just prefer WordPress because it makes it easier for me to build sites and my clients to manage them.

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