Comparing popular Content Management Systems: Drupal, WordPress, and Squarespace
A client asked recently how these Content Management Systems compared: Drupal, WordPress (the self-hosted version), and Squarespace. A thorough answer merits a comparison chart with full details. Squarespace details are based on their website info, since I haven't used that CMS recently. Comments welcome!
|Extensibility||Highly extensible through over 30K modules, and/or with programming. In my experience, Drupal has many more options for implementing new features, especially complex ones.||Very extensible through over 30K modules, and/or with programming. However, most plugins offer only some features for free - more features must be bought from each plugin developer.||Limited. Some extensibility is provided by the Squarespace's official integrations. Further functionality can be found or created for external services that offer an API or widgets.|
|Ease of Setup||Moderate. Must be able to set up a database-driven site on a server and modify DNS. May need some mailserver or SMTP setup to get email working properly.||Moderate. Must be able to set up a database-driven site on a server and modify DNS. May need some mailserver or SMTP setup to get email working properly.||Very easy, which is the point. No technical skills needed (other than simple DNS mods).|
|Ease of Development||Moderate to difficult. The learning curve is steep but the development options are worth it, IMO.||Moderately easy to difficult, depending on how complex the website is.||Very easy for most use cases. If third-party integrations are needed, they are available based on widgets and APIs.|
|SEO||Excellent SEO features, some built-in, some must be implemented by the developer.||Excellent SEO features, some built-in, some must be implemented by the developer.||Appears to have a good range of SEO features, including AMP, built in. (link)|
|Price||Free for core and modules; Hosting costs. It will cost money or time to customize (almost always needed) and program (not always needed).||Free for core and lite version of many plugins; Hosting costs. Many plugin costs. It will cost money or time to customize (almost always needed) and program (not always needed).||Approx $12 - $46 / month for hosting and entire structure. It may cost money or time to customize.|
|Design||Unlimited; there are many good free themes, but customization is almost always needed.||Unlimited; there are many good free themes, but some customization is almost always needed.||Wide range of templates provided by Squarespace. Custom design of those templates is also an option.|
|Site Management||Wide range. This depends on how well the developer sets it up for the client. Dashboards and management pages must, for the most part, be built custom. There are some features for this built in to Drupal 7 and 8 but I rarely find them adequate.||Generally easy. WordPress was originally built for bloggers, and the straightforward backend (including its WYSIWYG toolbar) still reflects this. The existing interface can be used, or it can be customized with plugins or custom programming||Very easy.|
|Ownership||Owner (or developer) owns the site.||Owner (or developer) owns the site.||Squarepace owns the site (but not the copyright). Some content can be exported.|
|Security & Updates||Moderately easy to difficult. Some built-in security features; more must be added. For security, site must be maintained on a regular basis.||Moderately easy to difficult. Some built-in security features; more must be added. For security, site must be maintained on a regular basis. WordPress updates tend to be easier than Drupal, but updates to either site can cause conflicts or issues that require troubleshooting.||Very easy. Squarepace maintains the security features.|
|SSL & HTTPS||Moderate. HTTPS can be implemented with modules or .htaccess changes. SSL certificate usage depends on your server. I've used GoDaddy, Comodo, and free Let's Encrypt certificates (among others) with no issues on managed VPS.||Moderate. HTTPS can be implemented with plugins or .htaccess changes. SSL certificate usage depends on your server. Free Let's Encrypt certificates are currently working well with WordPress on DigitalOcean and Amazon's LightSail servers (on a WP multisite, no less!).||Very easy. Squarepace can implements this, but only using their own (free) SSL certificates.|
|Public plugin/module ecosystem||The Drupal modules at drupal.org - which is the vast majority of them - are free and open source. Any developer in the world is welcome to download and improve the modules. The openness and breadth of this ecosystem is my main reason for preferring Drupal.||Many WordPress plugins have a free and a paid version. While developers deserve to earn money, this business model makes for a far less robust development community (and weaker plugins) since each plugin's development mainly relies on one developer or team.||I don't think this exists - integrations are either developed by Squarespace or developed privately. More information here.|
For complex or enterprise websites, I would only recommend Drupal due to its extensibility. Technical companies, law and accounting firms, consultancies, media companies, etc are all likely to need features that can be implemented more readily in Drupal (an example).
For mid-sized businesses, organizations, indviduals, and bloggers, there are many benefits to having a WordPress site. Functionality you may want now or in the future is more likely to be available, in contrast to the more limited options of a Squarespace site. And without the development overhead of a Drupal site. (Also, developers have greatly increased the number of features that can be impemented on WordPress in the last few years, and even more can be accomplished with custom programming.)
However, if ease of setup, use and maintenance is the top priority, Squarespace can't be beat - and it has gorgeous design templates!