Quick guide to choosing a CMS

with the comparison of Drupal, WordPress, and Enpressa

Prepared by Boris Motusic and the United Experts team

Introduction

Your choice of CMS will have a profound impact on the success of your organization’s digital efforts.

Don’t make a mistake that has a profoundly negative impact

Most business relationships at United Experts start with troubleshooting web projects in trouble. Over 23 years we witnessed many projects gone horribly wrong, and all mostly due to a stunningly wrong selection of CMS. That’s why it’s crucially important that you do not get wooed by sales pitches or just go with a choice of technology that’s a default for your organisation. Instead, you should make and informed decision that best serves your objectives and steers your project to success. 

This is a non-technical guide that’s designed to give you the most relevant knowledge needed to make that decision and choose the right solution for your project.

Scope of information presented
This guide first presents general concepts and ideas related to CMS decision making. After that, we compare CMS platforms with which we have extensive experience as a digital consultancy, namely Drupal, WordPress, and Enpressa.

Who this guide is for
This guide has been written to help anyone involved, or likely to become involved, in a CMS buying decision for their organization. You may be an IT director, a developer and architect, a VP of digital marketing, a web content manager, or someone else entirely.

About the authors
Boris Motusic and the United Experts team have over 23 years of experience in CMS implementations for brands such as Microsoft, PwC, BNP Paribas, Best Western Hotels, Hitachi, and many others.

How to use this guide
We review all relevant concepts and share crucial insights in a very brief and straight to the point form. So, we strongly recommend that you read this short guide in full which will effectively help you to get on the right track with your digital project.

Executive summary

Nowadays, everyone involved, from customers to marketers and content editors expects a super-fast, effortless experience. Content management systems and the entire way that we develop and manage digital projects went through a seismic transformation in the past few years.

Two significant macro trends drive this change:

  • Rising customer expectations
    Spoiled by convenient, tailored experiences provided by tech giants, customers today expect the same from every digital interaction. They expect hassle reduction. They expect every digital interaction to be super-fast and effortless.
  • Operational efficiency and technology savings
    To stay on top of the digital game, organizations have to adopt an entirely new way to deliver and manage their digital efforts. It is now more important than ever to publish content fast, experiment with variations, and implement functional changes with minimum cost, effort, and time. Thus, business users need to easily accomplish what was previously handled by a tech team.

Not too long ago, Drupal was a dominant force in the non-profit sector. Today the trends have changed dramatically and WordPress has become the most dominant CMS in the world, not just for non-profits, foundations, and social impact organizations but across every sector of the business world. However, the huge ecosystem, flexibility, and vast options with WordPress also create a lot of confusion and feeling of overwhelm when some organizations evaluate WordPress. Enpressa is an answer for organizations that love WordPress but wish to have an optimized platform and a defined package of functionality and services.

Drupal has not been able to stay competitive in the broader CMS space, and because of this, it has consciously moved towards being primarily an enterprise solution. From a technical perspective, Drupal continued to increase the complexity and weight of its codebase. This translates into an increased cost to develop and maintain websites and a level of infrastructure bloat that is unnecessary.

Drupal is not necessarily a bad platform from a code perspective, it’s just overly complicated, which means your organization will spend a lot of extra money building and managing it.

Drupal ecosystem and market share are much smaller compared to WordPress. This means that there are very few resources available in comparison to WordPress. Lacking ecosystem resources such as plugins and services mean inflexibility in customization and an additional cost for development and maintenance.

Most importantly, Drupal does not have a modern, easy to use editorial and marketing functionality like WordPress. Drupal interface looks dated, overly complicated, and will not empower content editors and marketers to easily manage their everyday work.

WordPress usability, extensibility, and mature, robust development platform make it a popular and secure choice for enterprises, such as CNN, USA Today, Sony, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and Microsoft. For such large businesses, according to Forbes, WordPress is the “promised land — a standard, easy-to-use, multimedia-friendly platform — after a decade of lurching through clunky, expensive, jerry-rigged content management systems.”

WordPress has a huge ecosystem and a marketplace of over 50,000 extensions/plugins that expand its functionality. You can think of WordPress as an operating system of the web. Just like you get Windows or macOS and then you install applications that you need for your work and play, you do the same with WordPress; install WordPress and customize it with the kind of plugins that you need. Some of those plugins have a huge user base and big companies behind them. Elementor, for example, is a plugin for a streamlined creation of professional-grade content by non-coders and non-designers. It has 5,000,000 users and it gives you an alternative way to deal with your content. WordPress is all about choices.

WordPress being about choices means you get a super solid platform with great security, performance, and development features. You take that platform and you get a great opportunity to streamline your custom development or to take some of the plugins from the vast marketplace. However, this huge flexibility and choice with WordPress also create a lot of confusion and feeling of overwhelm when some organizations evaluate WordPress. Instead, those organizations would prefer to have a defined package of functionality and services. That’s exactly why at United Experts we created Enpressa.

Enpressa is a package of WordPress enhancements for high-end projects that brings additional functionality, streamlines development, and brings best-in-class support services. Developed by United Experts, Enpressa is an answer for organizations that love WordPress but wish to have a defined package of functionality and services.

Enpressa functionality includes marketing automation, personalization, omnichannel, AI-augmentation, A/B testing, advanced workflows, content staging, audit trial, multimarket, omnichannel, and more. Modern development platform supports MVC, dependency management, continuous delivery, and cross-platform development with PHP, C#, Vue, NuxtJS, Microsoft .Net, and Microsoft .Net Core!

Enpressa Professional Services offer simple to order packages for implementation, integrations, training, consulting, and best-in-class support.

Table of Contents

What is a CMS today?

Nowadays, everyone involved, from customers to marketers and content editors expects a super-fast, effortless experience. Fortunately, a new kind of CMS is here!

Content management systems and the entire way that we develop and manage digital projects went through a seismic transformation in the past few years.

Deliberately ignoring current industry buzzwords, we wish to highlight two significant macro trends driving this change:

Rising customer expectations
A nice design is no longer a differentiating factor. It’s a default expectation no one really talks about any longer. Whether you are making digital efforts for a business or public service, you will have to think way past design and usability.

Spoiled by convenient, tailored experiences provided by tech giants, customers today expect the same from every digital interaction. They expect hassle reduction. They expect every digital interaction to be super-fast and effortless.

For instance, when users open a website for an arts theatre, they expect to immediately see the play that they want to see, click and buy a ticket in a matter of seconds. This example is not wishful thinking for the future. It’s made possible by interconnected systems and smart software that do a lot of automation and personalization while dramatically reducing or completely eliminating the need of any user to do anything, to put any effort. What’s more, this technology is now widely available and affordable.

But we do need the right kind of CMS.

 

Operational efficiency and technology savings
To stay on top of the digital game, organizations have to adopt an entirely new way to deliver and manage their digital efforts. It is now more important than ever to publish content fast, experiment with variations, and implement functional changes with minimum cost, effort, and time. Thus, business users need to easily accomplish what was previously handled by a tech team.

Marketers and content editors wish to deliver the same amazing digital experiences as seen from tech giants. This cannot cost much and no one wants to wait for developers and their complex development and deployment procedures. Effortless system maintenance and updates are also expected. After all, that’s how we update our mobile apps 😉 Fortunately, the digital world moves fast, and we have a new kind of CMS that makes this possible, enjoyable, and safe.

Last but not least, the worldwide pandemic accelerated this change and catapulted us years forward into a new world where every organisation has to adapt or disappear.Let us show you around. Let us take you there.

Features you need in 2021

Every project has its own unique requirements. However, here we highlight some of the most important CMS features that apply to any project in 2021.

Great editorial functionality

As a minimum requirement, a suitable CMS should give you the tools to easily create, edit, and deliver content. Below are the most important editorial functionality requirements. 

Comfortable user interface

Marketers and editors spend a lot of time in a CMS. You wish to make their experience productive but also pleasant and comfortable. By all means, a CMS should have a decluttered, intuitive user interface. Modern CMS will also feature an app like, a snappy interface that loads fast without reloading pages. 

Content block templates

Page templates are an assumption. However, look for a CMS that supports templating for individual content blocks, page sections, and everything else you need to publish. By having templates for individual elements, you help writers and editors create content faster and with fewer mistakes. Imagine just having a predefined template for an FAQ section, call for action section, pricing table, etc. A content editor would just fill in the actual content. It’s very important to demand a feature where a content editor can easily make adjustments to predefined templates.

HOT: Visual content builder

Modern marketers simply demand more control over the content and prefer to avoid costly and slow implementations of changes by developers.

Visual content builders allow non-technical people to create a rich high-end content design in a quick and easy way without coding. Simply drag, drop and customize. Start with a ready template and if desired, have full control to easily change the layout, size, colors, animation effects, or any other content setting.

Visual content editors first emerged as a trend with small businesses and bloggers but it didn’t take long before those tools became a popular choice for convenient content creation in large teams and enterprise-grade websites.

However, beware, for enterprise-grade projects with page builders we need a proper, properly configured CMS which would make this approach performant and secure.

Easy management of special content

This is where most content management systems fail although marketers are often desperate to quickly and easily add special content. Yes, we are talking about popups, cards, flip-boxes, sidebars, counters, charts, cool buttons, infoboxes, special sliders, etc. Usually, the way to get this done effortlessly by non-technical people is by using the above mentioned Visual content builders.

Streamlined media management

A CMS should automatically resize images when uploaded by content editors. It should create multiple image sizes which will be loaded on different website parts and different devices. In terms of audio and video, you should look for easy and robust upload functionality. Video files can be large, so smooth and uninterrupted upload is essential. 
Support for media storage on a CDN (Content Delivery Network) will greatly improve website performance. If relevant to embed content from external providers such as YouTube and Vimeo, make sure that a CMS has an easy way to do this through a dedicated widget or similar.

Full site editing

Non-technical people should be able to easily edit the entire website, including header, footer, navigation menu, and any other element without coding.

Responsive editing with content preview

Look for multiple preview modes for different devices. You want to be able to quickly preview how your content looks like on phones, tablets, and desktops. And if you plan on delivering personalized content, it will be handy for your content teams to see what specific audience profiles will experience.

HOT: Copy Paste

Ability to quickly copy any element and paste it to a different place on the page, or to an entirely different page on your site is super convenient and time saving.

Copy and paste formatting styles

Ability to copy the entire styling from a widget, column or page section and paste it to another element in the same or different page with just a click is also supper convenient and time saving.

HOT: Save any content block as a template

You should be able to save any page, page section, widget, and any other element as a template and reuse it freely within your website.

Layout editing

Content editors should be able to adjust layouts in a non-technical way. Change number of columns, column width and height, gap, margins, paddings, etc. Also, to set background images, videos, gradients, etc. All of that should of course be editable for multiple devices and screen sizes.

In-line Editing

You should look for an in-line editing feature to type and edit directly on page that you are viewing.

Content scheduling

Automated publishing and/or unpublishing is essential for most teams. Make sure that this functionality is available for all content types, not just for pages.

Safe editing features

Revision history with ability to revert changes is a must. So is the “bin folder” functionality where you can see all deleted content before it’s permanently deleted. Undo function on page, widget, or any page element is a nice convenience. No more need to click save. Your work should continuously be saved and backed-up automatically.

VIDEO: WordPress vs Drupal

WordPress and Enpressa are clear winners when it comes down to ease of use and overall editorial features. Drupal interface is overly complicated and it looks dated.

WordPress & Enpressa combined with Elementor plugin, feature a mind-blowing content editing experience. Producing professional-grade content is stunningly easy for non-coders and non-designers.

Rock solid security and performance

Your CMS project is likely not going to be successful if you omit almost any one of the suggested by this guide features. However, if you fail with security, we are not talking about a failure but a disaster. Performance in any respect is also a very significant success factor. Both security and performance depend significantly on system configuration and developer implementation. However, we outline the most desired CMS features that significantly improve security and performance.

OWASP Top 10 checklist

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is a community dedicated to web application security. The OWASP Top 10 list focuses on identifying the most serious application security risks for a broad array of organisations. The Top 10 items are selected and prioritized in combination with consensus estimates of exploitability, detectability, and impact estimates. Both Drupal and WordPress perform well with OWASP Top 10. See details for WordPress and Drupal

Dual factor authentication

Two-step or dual-factor authentication is a good and easy way to additionally protect your CMS admin area.

HOT: Automatic background updates for security releases

Unless you are using WordPress, security patches cannot be automatically applied; they are time and resource consuming, and require complex development and deployment workflows. Applying a security patch is in most cases comparable as a procedure to a version update. However, the WordPress Security Team can identify, fix and push out automated security enhancements for WordPress without the site owner needing to do anything .The security update will be installed automatically. This is a huge deal for the reasons outlined below. In fact, it is so huge that many enterprises state this aspect as one of the main reasons for migrating to WordPress.

Precompilation of static content

Every time a user opens a web page created in your CMS, that page gets generated dynamically and possibly combines data stored in the database, files, and programming code. That’s also an opportunity for hackers to intercept this process with malicious code. However, WordPress can also precompile (create) all or selected pages and store them as static HTML files. With static pages, your server doesn’t need to ‘render’ your site each time someone visits it. Instead, it just sends them simple HTML and CSS, so it’s harder to exploit your website. Apart from improved security, static pages generally load faster since your server doesn’t need to generate them on the fly. Drupal also has a form of content caching but not nearly as flexible and powerful as static page precompilation with WordPress and Enpressa.

Separation of admin from public site

The most effective and dramatic way to secure your website is to completely separate your admin (backend) and public site (frontend). This way, any public, including potential hackers or malicious software will be completely cut from gaining control of your website. Generally speaking, any CMS that supports RESTful API and decoupled architecture could make this possible. However, to make it work the dev team would have to invest considerable time in custom development. Enpressa streamlines this configuration with the option of RESTful API-based architecture or sync between separate instances where one is only configured for frontend functionality.

Compiled code

Another super powerful option for both security and performance is to compile your website code and make a deployment to your server without PHP source code. Enpressa makes this possible through the implementation of the powerful PeachPie compiler. Because all WordPress PHP code is compiled into a single Microsoft ASP.NET framework distributable, the architecture does not allow for unsafe practices, such as making changes to the code on the server. If one wants to modify the source code, it has to be re-compiled and re-deployed on the server. You’ll thank us later.

COMPARISON: performance and security

We are still working on this content!

We believe that great things are created with collaboration. As this guide is still in writing, we would love to hear about your ideas on what you would like to see here, change, or improve.

At the moment we are planning to add the following sections:

  • Marketing functionality requirements
  • Maintenance and development requirements
  • Ecosystem requirements
  • ROI and TCO guidelines

Please give us your feeedback