Content systems: Joomla! vs. Drupal

Since 1991 I’ve been the list owner / moderator of Milton-L, a discussion list on the life, literature and times of the poet John Milton.  In 1994 I created The Milton-L Home Page as a support site for the discussion list.

I’m now ready to take the web site to the next level, allowing the community of Milton scholars to contribute events, publication notices and more to the site.  It’s my hope that the site will become as useful as the discussion list has been.

The current site is on a static (i.e. non-cgi enabled) web server.  This server is slated for some big changes and I know the web address for the site is going to change.  A few months back I purchased the domain, and I plan to use this domain for the new site.

When I first started with hosted servers, I looked at several of the open source content management systems. I settled on Joomla! because both the front end and back end were intelligible not only to me but to the community that will use the site.  I also liked the theme templates that are available.

In the back of my mind, though, Drupal has always been lurking as the best solution.  D’Arcy loves it. NMC switched to it.  It seems infinitely configurable, but that makes it seem infinitely complex, to me and the community.  Unless I could wrap my brain around it all and architect the site well.

The most recent upgrade of Joomla! broke both of the installations I was using.  Users can no longer log in on the front end.  So now I’m really looking at Drupal.  Here are my questions:

  • What’s the state of spam and spam protection for Drupal?  Is there a Spam Karma 2 equivalent to keep me safe with a minimum of effort?  I plan to create user roles carefully, but I’d love to have a good security system in place.
  • What are the best plug-in modules for Drupal?  I’m already looking at the Events module, since I need to have that kind of content on my site.  But what are the best plug ins overall?  I’ve always appreciated blog entries listing WordPress plug ins – love to see a Drupal list too.
  • Do you have any theme recommendations?  I want to keep things simple, but Drupal’s default themes are a little plain.
  • Other than, what are some good web sites for Drupal admins to follow?
  • What am I not asking that I should?

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12 Responses to Content systems: Joomla! vs. Drupal

  1. Hi Kevin
    First a sites to get started with drupal – there you can find tutorials and podcasts that can help you to get started. really offers a great community and a huge amount of information but I found it a bit overwhelming at the start and still dig deeper in in although I am working with drupal for quite a while now.
    This is probably also something to note, when I used joomla I always was searching for out of the box solutions and took the module which seemed to fit more or less like it was. Well with drupal you can’t work like that, you’ve got to follow the road that drupal leads you for a while until you really understand drupal cause there are things that seem quite a bit complicated at first but are easy to use and very powerful once you understand them. CCK & Views ( & ) is a good example for that.

    Spam – There are a couple of modules that you can use to prevent spam from your site:
    There are more security modules and solutions but these are the modules I have used so far.

    It’s hard to say wich modules are the best for you but here are some that we use on pretty much every site:
    # page_title

    # nodewords / Meta tags

    # update_status

    # spamspan

    # globalredirect

    and here are some that we use often:

    # custom_breadcrumbs

    # nice_menus

    # sifr

    # gsitemap


    # Feedback

    # Pathauto

    # CCK

    # Print Friendly Pages

    # Bad Behavior

    # Simplenews (Newsletter)

    # Views

    # CCK

    Here are two lists where I found a couple of great modules:

    Regarding the theme, Drupalsites provides a good overview over what is possible
    And here is a post at mashable
    There are certainly not as many free high quality templates out there for drupal as for wp or joomla so you probably need to do some theming work if you don’t want your site to look like thousand others.

    Hope I could help you a bit and hope my English is at least understandable.


  2. Hmm my comment has been eaten up, please take a look in the trash or write me an email.


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  4. Kevin says:


    Sorry your first comment triggered SK2 – too many links apparently, but I’ve rescued the comment.

    Thanks for so many great resources. It’ll take me some time to dig through them all, but I get the feeling that Drupal is worth the learning curve.



  5. Alan says:


    It’s not an easy decision. Proponents of systems can get overly religious about their virtues, when in the end, on a functionality level, they more or less can do the same things. We went with drupal at NMC for a variety of reasons- the kinds of sites we saw using it that seemed similar in scope (Academic Commons was a model), the extensibility, and the large development community.

    But what happened for me was I really did not have the time to wrack my head around the drupal architecture and flow- it is really different in approach from the tools I was comfortable with, and in the end, we hired some people to do the architecture and module tweaking. But the amunt of that needed depends much on the kinds of things you need the site to do. I run about 4 of NMC’s other sites all as WordPress, though only 2 are really blog like in format.

    Daniel has give a great list (I’m bookmarking quickly!

    Some ones we also use are:

    JS Calendar
    GMap (creates a dynamic google map of NMC organizations)
    Community Tags
    Captcha – creates a simple math captcha for forms
    Views- views really rock, I have gotten good at creating many different kinds of contents pages and blocks
    CCK – very powerful

    And we have a raft of custom ones for our new online conference registration system

    The hardest p[art is making sense of categories and taxonomies… still working on that!

  6. Gardner says:

    I’m overjoyed to see this project, Kevin, and I know my fellow Miltonists will be too. Best of luck. I’ll be watching and taking notes–and once again marveling at the way the community steps up with great information. Full Drupal-grok is a stealth ambition for me: part of me feels I’ll be able to run with the big dogs (at least for short distances) if I can ever achieve it.

  7. Eric says:

    Kevin this is very useful information. Thanks. I’m thinking about building a site and was going to research which of these two content systems to use and now I have a great starting point.

  8. Kevin says:

    Alan – Thanks for your comment. I didn’t realize AcademicCommons was running on Drupal; it’s well done. I’ll be investigating the plug-ins you mention too. Question: are any of the registration system plugins you’re using available? I would love to use Drupal as an on-campus registration system for training classes and Center events, but I haven’t seen that functionality anywhere.

    Gardner – It’s time to get this project going, once and for all. It won’t be long until the old URL isn’t working anymore and there’s no point in moving twice. So I’m going to put some focus into this project in the short term. And I may be soliciting volunteers from the Milton-L list – grad students looking to contribute – to help manage the site. Part of that depends on the workflows around new articles (pardon me, “stories”).

    Eric – Lots to review here, eh? Let’s please stay in touch as we both work on our sites. I’d love to hear what you’re learning.

  9. Great lists of plugins. er. modules. whatever. I use the Events module, Views, and CCK on every site I build. For event registrations, I use the Signups module – lets you track both members and anonymous registrations for events. Works great. If a user is logged in, they get a list of events they’re signed up for, and it takes care of email reminders and attendee lists.

  10. Gene Roche says:

    My Educational Technology Class is working on a project to support undergraduate research initiatives at Q&M. At the heart of the project is the capability for students to create research notebooks where they can share their experiences about the process of doing research. Since we’re looking at having a fairly large number of journals that could get pretty complex, we chose Drupal as the tool. (We liked the theming of Joomla better, but found the interface even more complex than Drupal.)

    It’s been tough sledding so far. Our experience has been much like Alan’s: “But what happened for me was I really did not have the time to wrack my head around the drupal architecture and flow- it is really different in approach from the tools I was comfortable with,…” We’ve been working for a month and still don’t have a prototype that I’m ready to show to the client.

    Thanks to Sebastian for the link to (and for all the others). We” be watching the progress that others are having and we’re hoping to be learn enough to make some contributions of our own before too long.

  11. Tom says:

    It looks like you’ve got more than enough already but this post came up on the front page of recently and it covers 30+ Joomla tools/resources. It seems like a pretty thorough big picture view.


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