When is a website too small for Drupal?

Drupal might be the leading tool for developing complex content managed websites but at what level does Drupal become a sledgehammer to crack a nut?

John Newton's picture
John Newton
Hammer on table

Two years ago, at the Drupal conference in 2017, Dries Buytaert, Drupal’s founder, discussed the ways in which Drupal could leverage its sophistication and power and not compete with small website building platforms that take care of all the design and hosting for you - eg Wix, Squarespace. Drupal has always excelled at flexibility, security, scalability and providing industrial strength websites. It set itself apart from its main rival in the CMS domain, Wordpress, by providing a more powerful and flexible framework approach, as opposed to Wordpress’ simpler out-of-the-box offering. Put simply, Wordpress has always made it really easy to set up a basic website but that comes at the cost of flexibility and power. Drupal sites can take longer to set up but then you have a more complete framework to build out your customisations.

Looking at 2020 however, the landscape for CMS providers is changing. It’s interesting that while Squarespace et al have carved out a significant niche in the CMS market, these platforms are not right for everyone. The offerings are extremely standardised (more so than Wordpress and certainly a lot more so than Drupal); you’re tied to one provider and their pricing model; if your site starts to get busy, you might have performance issues unless you pay more; if you aren’t happy with the service you are getting it’s really hard to move elsewhere; your data may not be stored in the UK or EU. That said, there are some great sites built using these platforms and they have their role to play.

For medium or larger sites, or where complex functionality is required, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Drupal. However, setting up a site with software as sophiticated as Drupal is inevitably more time consuming and I think there’s probably a cut-off point where small charity clients might want to consider an alternative approach. I'd suggest if your budget is less than £5,000 then Drupal may not be the best fit for you. There are plenty of rival CMSs that can do a good job of building a simple site, and as long as your needs are basic and you are not anticipating a lot of integrations with third party services or advanced functionality, I would say look at Squarespace first (pre-built, no need to pay for updates and security etc) and then Wordpress (more flexible but you'll need to factor in updates and support at considerably higher cost). If your needs remain stable, you can happily continue to use your Squarespace or Wordpress site until you need to restructure - this typically occurs after about three years - and at that point if you require greater flexibility, Drupal will give you all the tools you’ll need to import your content into a bigger system.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash