It’s the big question. I’ve had the opportunity to work with all three of these Content Management Systems (CMS) in various guises, and in my view — from a online publishing perspective — there is a clear winner. Everyone has their favourite and there will no doubt people that vehemently disagree, but hear me out.
First on to Joomla and Drupal: Both Joomla and Drupal are complex CMSes, and I’ve felt that these are CMSes designed by techies for techies. When using these CMSes, you get the feeling that the publishing part of the CMS was priority 2 as opposed to its core function which is ultimately to get content onto the web. I’ve also found that the user interfaces and menu structures of these sites are clunky, busy and overly complex. (Admittedly I’ve only worked with earlier versions of Drupal.) Only use these CMSes if you have a good technical team and are happy to delve into the bowels of the thing every now and again.
Then there is WordPress. For a while, I’d never considered WordPress to be a CMS for a publishing site, as I’d always seen it as a blog-specialist platform primarily. But this doesn’t hold true anymore, and in fact WordPress can be a generalist CMS in itself, with the added blog functionality (such as trackbacks, pingbacks etc etc). In fact WordPress can be themed to work for a fairly complex magazine site or even a news site. It’s a new wave of using WordPress that has only really recently started to take off.
It’s WordPress’s simplicity and focus on the core functions of online publishing that makes it a winner as a CMS for me. It’s the zen, minimalist CMS geared towards the most important task at hand: publishing.
If you had to level some criticism: arguably you could say WordPress is too simple for big sites — and that is a fair criticism. For really big and complex sites, probably none of the three CMSes above are entirely suitable. In fact it’s prudent to build your own tailored CMS to fit the nuances and demands of your business, especially if it’s centred at the core of your business.
(Declaration: I published this post using WordPress. It has in no way influenced my decision!)