The Drawbacks of Drupal and WordPress as a CMS

Cristina Ferrandez
Cristina Ferrandez
Aug 5, 2017

Regardless of how you choose to look at it, content marketing is truly "today's marketing" for a wide range of different reasons. Not only does it cost approximately 62% less than traditional marketing methods, but it also generates nearly three times the volume of leads in the long-term according to one study. It's so important that an estimated 73% of major organizations have hired at least one person to help manage their larger content strategy over the last few years.

If content marketing is all about getting the right message in front of the right person at the right time, it is essential to understand that your overall strategy is only as strong as the content management system (CMS) with which you use to build it. In an effort to save money and increase efficiency, many have turned to solutions like Drupal or WordPress in recent years in order to get that job done in as straightforward a manner as possible.

As always, before making any type of decision (especially one that will affect you on an ongoing basis), it is important to look at some of the possible drawbacks that are associated with such services. In terms of both Drupal and WordPress as a CMS, there may be more than you realize.

Security Concerns

Perhaps the most significant drawback of using Drupal and WordPress as a CMS is one of the security concerns that are inherent to an open source platform.

In terms of security, though, it leaves a bit to be desired. Any developer anywhere in the world that is even remotely familiar with the code of the platform could easily identify security vulnerabilities you may be unaware of. Especially if your site deals with sensitive or personal information, this is something you do not want. If you deal with payment information on an eCommerce site, for example, open source vulnerabilities could pose a very significant risk.

Your Development Needs

Another one of the major drawbacks of these types of solutions ultimately comes down to your long-term development needs. If you require a feature on WordPress that doesn't already exist as an add-on plugin, you'll need to hire a developer to build that. The feature may be incompatible with your current site, requiring additional integration between the two. That in itself may require platform upgrades, all of which makes even the seemingly simple process of adding a new feature or two shockingly time-consuming and expensive.

Simply put, it's expensive to develop yourself - which means that in this situation, you may not always be able to take advantage of new features that competitors are adopting.

In terms of Drupal in particular, the backend is notoriously complicated for less tech-savvy marketers. If you (or your developers) aren't proficient in HTML, PHP and other programming languages, you'll quickly find yourself at a serious disadvantage. 

On the WordPress side of things, even simple operations like removing a date field often require some understanding of PHP. Key tasks (like creating custom post types) involve writing a lot of complicated technical code that you may not have the time or the ability to do. WordPress as a core solution also needs to be updated frequently, leading to issues with your existing plugins and to more development needs you might not have been planning on.

The Customization Problem

Both Drupal and WordPress also pose a challenge for some in terms of customization. Drupal doesn't have many modules available for customization and while there are certain free options, most of the more popular and widely-used ones require an additional fee. Upgrades themselves are often an issue as if they break one of the plugins you're already using, additional development work will be required.

Plus, there is the issue that you cannot upgrade a site built with Drupal 6 to Drupal 8. If your site was built with the aforementioned version, you're essentially starting from scratch. 

Upgrading in WordPress often isn't much better, as you're likely dealing with upgrades that cause issues with existing features, templates and other important elements.

Support, Or a Lack Thereof

Many people don't realize that when you're working with an open source solution, one of the most immediate problems you run into is one of support. Open source programs aren't owned by anyone, meaning there isn't any company behind it. If you need development or support work, you and your staff will have to handle it. You can't pick up the phone and call someone when you get stuck. If your site goes down, it's up to you and your employees to fix the problem. Period, end of story.

Having a solid foundation of support means that if you encounter a bug or get hit with downtime, these issues will be fixed faster - if they actually occur at all. You get immediate access to the people who built the features you're experiencing issues with and who know it like the back of their hands. The importance of this is something that you cannot put a price on, especially when every second of downtime is costing you money.

Remember that according to one study, the average hourly cost of an infrastructure failure is about $100,000. The average cost of a critical application failure per hour is often between $500,000 to $1 million. Literally every second that your systems are down, you're losing money - to say nothing of the long-term damage that is being done to your reputation. Now, consider the fact that if this happens it is up to you and you alone to get things back online as quickly as possible. Are these the types of expenses that you really want to take your chances with?

Flexibility and Scalability

Finally, many often find flexibility and scalability as two of the major pain points when working with a solution like Drupal or WordPress as a CMS.

Neither of these solutions were built to be extended indefinitely. They're not built to be easy to integrate with other important systems that you may already be using. If you need to build an API to get your CMS to interact with another solution, you're going to need to do it yourself - all of which leads to additional costs and resources used.

With Drupal, if you're on the hunt with a new vendor you'll likely be limited to only those who are already proficient in Drupal development. Because this niche is so specialized and their technical knowledge is so specific, this can often get very costly very quickly.

In terms of scalability, there are also limitations that stem from the fact that neither Drupal nor WordPress were designed to be enterprise grade solutions. Are your traffic volumes getting larger and larger as your business continues to grow and get more successful? That's terrific - but it's going to cause you to run into problems with your CMS. Any hosting changes that you're encountering are your responsibility to manage.

These may seem like small issues on their own, but when you start to experience multiple issues with scalability and flexibility at the same time they can quickly add up to a massive headache and a troublesome situation that you shouldn't have found yourself in to begin with.

In the End

One of the most important things to understand about all of this is that there is ultimately no "one size fits all" approach to what you're doing. Just as the content you're creating needs to remain malleable, allowing you to better service on the needs of your audience as they continue to grow and evolve, the CMS that you're using needs to do the same. There is no one "right" tool for every job - there is only the right tool for the right job at the right moment.

For some, options like Drupal and WordPress may very well be the right tool for the right job. For others, they will be woefully inadequate in a number of key areas. Open source solutions that operate on a code readily available to everyone on the web may get the job done for some, but not for others. If all the features you require already exist as add-on plugins, terrific - if not, the additional development needs may cause some of that money you thought you were saving to dry up before you realize it. Customization, support, flexibility, scalability - these are all essential criteria to look at and only you know how a solution like Drupal or WordPress does (or does not) line up with what you need and when you need it. 

To be clear, absolutely nobody is saying that Drupal and WordPress are "bad services." Far from it - they're incredibly popular for a reason. It's just that when you consider what they offer in the context of the potential disadvantages, they may not be right for you. 

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