Debating use of a CMS, and if so, which one?

I’m looking to redo our website, and am trying to determine if I should custom code it, or use a CMS, and if I do use a CMS, which one. This is for a historic society.

Here are some thoughts I have on what I need/want in the final product:

  • Photo Album
  • Forum
  • Mail manager (mailing lists)
  • Membership payments via Eventbrite
  • Blog

The Photo Album and Forum would be used both by board members, and self-registered public users
The Blog would only be used by board members or invited guests
We would want “recent forum postings” on the front page of the website. Recent blog posts would also be there.
Our current forum is PHPBB 2.X, we would need Forum software which can import the contents of our current forum.
There are currently a few pages of DB generated content (ie historic sites at risk, sorted by risk level) along with some forms I’ve created using a formbuilder so that board members can edit the DB.
Ideally someone wouldn’t have to log in twice to post a message in the forum and upload a photo to the album, although I’m not sure how big of a deal that is.
Ideally we would use ‘free’ software, but might pay if the benefits are substantial.

Here is an example of the sort of page we’d love to emulate: (I believe this was done in Drupal)

I think that’s about it.

Thoughts on using Wordpress/Drupal/Joomla or custom coding?


Wordpress can easily do all of those things and seems to be intuitive.

Drupal will do all that you want. It is free but it has a learning curve for the developer so if you are the developer, get ready to learn. If you are looking for a developer, that talent (experience/knowledge/skills) will come at a cost.

Photo Album - Depending on how complex you want to get this can be handled with or without add on modules. I would look at Media Gallery + [URL=“”]Colorbox

Forum - Check out Advanced Forum… It’s a module that supercharges Drupal’s built in forum. There is also a Drupal Group for Advanced Forum and [URL=“”]Documentation.

Mail Manager - There are a number of Mail Managers available but I haven’t used them so I can’t comment.

Membership payments via Eventbrite - The Eventbrite module hasn’t been ported to Drupal 7 yet so you’ll need to tackle that or get a developer to tackle that.

Yes Heritage Toronto is Drupal, probably Drupal 6.

I don’t see anything that is impossible to do with Drupal but as I mentioned if you are going to do the development but don’t know the system, get ready for a learning curve. IMO, the benefits highly outweigh the trouble of learning it though. We’ve been a Drupal shop for almost 5 years now and I know we couldn’t perform the work we do without it. After our first successful Drupal project we chucked our our in-house CMS.

Good luck,

Thanks for the comments guys.

What’s interesting, is really the end solution is somewhat irrelevant, as I am sort of a software developer by day, but am actually more interested in Web Dev than the dev I do now, so I’d like to learn Drupal, Wordpress, AND custom coding just to have that knowledge under my belt. That said, I’d prefer to use whichever would be the fastest.

To be honest I’m tempted to use Wordpress as I hear it’s easier, and then once complete create the site again using Drupal so that I can contrast and compare.

What I don’t want to do is do it in Wordpress only to find out it can’t be done.

It can be done with WordPress. You’ll need a plugin here and there, but it’s perfectly doable.

Another CMS you could take into consideration is ExpressionEngine. It’s one of the best CMSes out there, but it is a commercial application.
The biggest difference in using EE is that you don’t have to fiddle with PHP at all, at least not for the tasks you have. This isn’t necessarily an advantage but can be a convenience. Also, the quality of the third-party add-ons is extremely high.

WordPress has filled out a lot in the last while but (my opinion) if you really get into industrial strength web development, you’ll outgrow it. Many sites can start as a WordPress site but if you get called in to add a CRM or integrate the GMAP API, consume information from a remote server for reports (or even for logging in against a national database) or if you need to create an intranet-like documentation system that only a certain level of user can access, you’ll be needing something with more firepower.

Drupal isn’t easy to master but it is amazingly flexible. Yeah, it’s got more than most sites need but you can dumb it down and then if you need to turn on the afterburners you can extend and expand the site as needed. We use it sometimes as a foundation for web apps. You can use it as the platform and build your custom app in a module and then integrate it into the site. Also if you’re an MVC developer you can use Drupal Promethius: [URL=“”]Link

Good luck with whatever you do and have fun too


Thanks Andrew. This initial project is one where I’d be happy to outgrow WP as that would give me a chance to use Drupal (or EE, thanks kohoutek I had forgotten about that).

Since WP, Drupal, and EE have all been proposed by different people in this thread, could you each suggest the best learning resource for each?


Another vote for Drupal if you’re going with PHP. I personally code in Ruby these days and would probably have written it using Sinatra or Ruby on Rails, depending on the future plans of the site. This because I enjoy Ruby a lot more than PHP, and I find it very flexible., the official website of Drupal, has a lot of great documentation (it has been around for a while and has a great community of developers) so that’s what I would suggest. I would also say that it’s fairly easy to get started with, and eventually master.

Good luck!

Does anyone have any experience with ocPortal? (I promise I won’t keep mentioning random CMS’)

Since you’re an application developer I would suggest that you jump in with both feet and grab a copy of Pro Drupal Development. I have the Drupal 6 version and found it highly informative. I wouldn’t recommend it to a non developer right off the bat but if you’re used to figuring out API’s and such, it should be a good place to get the dirt on Drupal. Also I like “Using Drupal”. It has a lot of exercises that get you started, making web apps that are useful.


Hey, having worked with about 10 CMS’es including big corporate ones. I’d say if you want the best supported one, I’d go with Wordpress. We use wordpress for a lot of our projects and it’s a diddle to work with, also, you can customize as you please; in fact you can change it all, it just makes it easy to manage the website (also for not so technical persons) and you can program any features you want in there or otherwise you have the support of thousands of plugins. Either way, for the best supported and most flexible CMS, I’d go with Wordpress hands down

For EE, there are really useful resources at Mijingo and [URL=“”]TrainEE. There are lots of other sites, such as [URL=“”]EE Insider, and of course the [URL=“”]Docs, too.

Just so you know, I’ve used Drupal, while it looks attractive, for the novice or even an experience developer it’s not user friendly (don’t even bother with Joomla) and from my experience there are regular bugs plus not SEO friendly (apart from it not being well supported). I’ve no experience with expressionengine so can’t give you any heads up on that. The best resource for wordpress is It has a million resources, video’s, forums etc. Good luck!

Yes it is difficult to get a handle on Drupal but I urge you to keep at it… It is well worth the effort. Once you’ve mastered Drupal, you will find that you no longer need WordPress (other than to maintain existing WordPress installations) because you can scale it to the needs of the project. Sure MIT, Warner, Disney and various government website’s use the scalability and flexibility Drupal provides but that shouldn’t stop a small business from having those capabilities too. Use what you need.

  • I’ll bet I can build a small scale site in Drupal as fast if not faster than I can in WordPress. The install in Drupal 7 is blazing fast and if I Drush everything I could write a script and have it all done while I go get a coffee. Creating the Theme can be time consuming but it’s no more complicated than writing a theme in WordPress so I don’t see an advantage. The reason I would however use Drupal is because later down the road my client may decide he/she wants an inhouse documentation system or a full on CRM (or a partial CRM) or a section that contains self managed mini-sites, or they want to use a webservice at some data-warehouse to manage all user login/accounts, or some other thing I can’t imagine at the moment. When that happens (those are real examples), I want to have the most flexible system I can get my hands on so I can say definitively… Yeah, we can do that.

BTW: Any bugs you may have found are likely in modules that are still beta or release candidate… I don’t believe any stable modules have bugs and all community modules/patches are unit tested to safeguard that. Do you have any issues in particular that you can cite?

Also: Any reason you think Drupal is a poor prefromer in SEO? Any specifics? SEO is such a tenuous subject because everyone and no-one is an expert. Lots of opinions get tossed around about what way is the best way to achieve SEO nirvana and I’ve defended WordPress in a few discussions because I believe it is as good or better than a static website but I don’t believe it has an edge on Drupal. If anything they should be about even.

Now if you’re looking for Drupal SEO tools, I think if you look at the SEO Checklist, Nodewords, XMLSitemap as well as pathauto provide a great start for SEO. Here’s a good resource to start with. It’s good but by no means complete:

I prefer Wordpress. If you do not want to complicate things and want to keep everything simple, go with Wordpress.

Drupal is the most powerful Content Management System, but it’s not easy to master.

I use WordPress, but I hope to get into Drupal. Take it from somebody who’s been there, Drupal is not a walk in the park. I personally feel that WP helped me understand some core CMS concepts which I can easily migrate to when using Drupal. I will probably go directly to Drupal 7, as it’s installation is known to be easier.

Maybe you can learn WP and from there learn Drupal, depending on how easy you find Drupal. Whatever you do, nothing really is a waste of time as we all learn from our experiences.

I came from a corporate environment with our own CMS. It was very similar to WordPress, this made migration easier for me. Drupal is different in it’s setup, I love that the core files are separated from the user files, plus the file replace makes the CMS very expandable.

What I would love to see in Drupal, which I now have in WP is an easy plug-in installation which can download and instal plug-ins with a click of a button on the CMS.

Hope this helps.

Ok, so you want one button module and theme installation… Give me a second… Ok, try Drupal 7 now :wink:

One of the killer features of D7 for me was installing modules from a web URL or uploading a compressed file from your desktop. You go to a module or theme page at, copy the link location and paste it into a text field in the install module page of your site admin. Click “Install” and the module is transferred to your site unpacked and installed. From that point all you have to do is activate the module.

The second part of that killer feature is that you have one button (or maybe 3 or 4) updating of modules. You go to the available updates reporting page in the admin pages (that’s two clicks) and you can see any outdated modules in the list, then you click the update tab and you can select all or only specific modules that you want to update. It’s a bit of a wizard type of process as you will be prompted to update the database (click of a button) once the module code has been updated and then you’ll be directed back to the homepage or admin pages.

  • You can get similar functionality in Drupal 6 with the Plugin Manager… It provides tools to install and update modules and works quite well.


Thanks, I think I have to try D7 for myself now. I’ve got 2 projects to finish, once I’ve finished with them I will get started with D7. Thanks again!

I am using a combination of wordpress and vbulletin for sites that need to work like this. WP is excellent for articles/blog/presentation and VB, while I am not a huge fan, does an amazing job as forum platform.

This is actually quite important to me, as I feel that my initial failure when I dabbled with Joomla a few years back was due to not quite having a handle on the structure and basic concepts of the system I was working with.