Contentful vs. WordPress vs. Drupal

A side-by-side comparison of Contentful® Composable Content Platform, WordPress, and Drupal.



Contentful takes an API-first approach to design that appeals to both developers and content creators. How is this different from using a traditional content management system? And what can Contentful offer developers that WordPress and Drupal can't? Let's dig into that a little.

Traditional CMSes

When most people think of CMSes, they think of WordPress. One of the main reasons is because WordPress has been around for more than 10 years. And in the world of computing, 10 years is seems like forever. Another good reason as to why so many people associate the term CMS with WordPress is because of its large user base and passionate developer community. The open source nature of WordPress makes it possible for developers to customize the platform and its content to their liking. WordPress is possible to run as a self-hosted solution so that you can take responsibility for application and security updates. To their account, WordPress powers 27% of the internet. WordPress is simply the giant that every other CMS gets compared to.

Another very popular CMS is Drupal. The Drupal community has over one million members and is steadily growing. Originally created as a message board, Drupal has grown to become a fully fledged CMS used and appreciated by many developers and content creators. Drupal also describes itself as a web application framework designed to launch, manage, and scale ambitious digital experiences. Just like Wordpress, Drupal is open source and can be modified in a myriad of ways. Also similar to WordPress, Drupal can be put into production using a self-hosted approach.

So, how is Contentful different from WordPress and Drupal and why should you care?

Contentful is a composable content platform — not a CMS

The way we see it, while Contentful can do everything a traditional CMS can do, Contentful® Composable Content Platform is a next generation technology going well beyond legacy CMS capabilities.

Take our Images API for example. Not only can you use it to weave images into your apps, you can also use it to resize, crop, reformat images, and change their background colors. This is just one example of how Contentful extends what you can do with your content.

If a page-centric CMS was the old way of managing and presenting content, Contentful is the modernized, developer-friendly way. With Contentful, you can develop apps using your favorite stack, language, and frameworks. We take care of the delivery and management of your content so that you have more time for your projects.

API-centric from the ground up

Contentful is API-centric. This means that you you can pull data in and out of Contentful using API calls — which is what edges Contentful into the category of a headless CMS. Contentful is a decoupled solution for managing content.

Writing applications that interact with Contentful is a bit like building something using LEGO. How so? It's all about modularity and composability. Contentful lets you easily configure reusable building blocks that support your application. In this sense, Contentful is not a deployment-ready, out-of-the-box solution. To clarify, Contentful is indeed deployment-ready in terms of storing and delivering content, but applications designed to fetch data from Contentful will still have to be crafted by a developer. This gives you a lot of freedom to build applications without being severely limited by the underlying platform. In short: your Contentful-connected applications will be built your way — by you.

A Forbes Cloud 100 Company

Looking for a new content soltuion? Adopt Contentful® Composable Content Platform, recognized in Forbes 2021 Cloud 100 list featuring top private cloud companies.

Everything JSON

One key concept of Contentful is that our adoption of composable content makes it easy for you to distribute your content to any device type. Be it desktop browsers, smartphones, cars or wearables, serving content to every platform and device is just an API call away. So, no matter what digital space you’re developing for, your data will be delivered as JSON in a heartbeat. Unlike working with Drupal or WordPress, you don’t need to install any plugins or third-party modules to be able to send JSON via our API, Contentful takes care of it out of the box. If you know how to handle API calls and JSON, you’ll be up and coding with Contentful in no time.

Now accessing and modifying data using API calls might not be everyone’s preferred way of doing things. Plenty of users, like non-developers responsible for managing content, prefer to edit content more traditionally with a rich-text editor. That’s why we built our Contentful web app. — which offers content authors and editors a feature-rich, user-friendly environment. The real beauty of it is that no matter how you get content into Contentful, it can always be fetched with an API call — good news for developers and non-developers alike.

Robust and reliable access

Contentful is a hosted solution. In our case, this means that when you use Contentful, your data is stored, processed and later served to you and your users via our reliable CDN. Depending on what type of data you request, our CDN architecture will ensure that the most suitable service is available. An example of this is that we use Fastly to deliver certain types of content. In other words, we’ll make sure that your users can efficiently access the data they need in an instant.

And since Contentful is a hosted solution, we have freed you from the hassle of everything that comes with running an in-house hosting operation. From your perspective, this means no more security patching, no more maintenance windows and no more performance monitoring. Let Contentful take care of all of that while you focus on building great applications.

A side-by-side comparison table of Contentful, WordPress, and Drupal

  • API-based from the ground up
  • Clear separation between content and visual presentation
  • Reliably hosted and accessed via our CDN
  • Well-documented SDKs for the most popular programming languages
  • Easy to set up and use for smaller projects
  • Familiar to developers and users alike
  • Self-hosting possible
  • Open source
  • Countless visual themes for a modern look
  • Open source
  • Small projects can be deployed with little effort
  • Self-hosting possible
  • Has been around for years and has a large community of passionate developers
Things to consider
  • Development needed
  • Can’t be installed locally
  • Proprietary solution / code
  • Only available as a headless solution from version 4.7
  • Site owners must apply security updates
  • Historically built for webpage layouts
  • After installing a few modules, databases grow substantially
  • Generated client-side code is lengthy and hard to grasp
  • Getting started requires a reliable hosting provider (or you have to host the Drupal installation yourself)
  • Not an API-centric approach

Key comparison takeaways

A one-size-fits-all approach might work for making baseball caps, but it doesn't translate to building out digital content. Contentful is ideal for creating apps and services that work by fetching JSON data from API endpoints, breathing diversity into which platforms and devices your content (and brand) can live on.

If your goal is to quickly stand up a simple web page, Contentful might not be the right solution. WordPress might be a better choice as it’s easy and fast to set up. Also, trivial WordPress-based solutions can be built with almost no coding skills at all, as is the case for smaller projects that run on Drupal. The division in speed to set up and implementation support needed leads us to one of the most fundamental differences between the three solutions — the need for developers.

Contentful is not a one-stop shop for managing and presenting websites like WordPress. Remember the previously mentioned LEGO bricks? With Contentful, you'll need to do more of the coding yourself than you would if you implemented WordPress and Drupal. This is especially true if you’re looking to end up with some type of visually pleasing front-end solution.

Since both WordPress and Drupal were initially created around the idea of presenting web content in the form of a web page in a desktop browser, the two of them can do this right out of the box. And changing the visual aspect of the user experience is often as simple as applying or customizing a pre-existing theme. For example, Drupal’s official themes directory currently lists close to 2500 ready-to-apply visual themes. And the number of visual themes available for WordPress is even larger and growing by the day.

So why will a solution built with Contentful require additional hours of coding? If we stick to the front-end example mentioned above, the answer lies in the underlying architectural differences between the three platforms. In a nutshell, Contentful is designed to supply data via API calls and JSON. With Contentful you get to choose exactly how your content gets visualized since the only person responsible for building the front-end stuff is you.

It’s easy to see the benefits with choosing Contentful because of its API-centric approach, but it should in all fairness be mentioned that Drupal provides an API for content handling as well. Drupal’s content API was initially introduced as a third-party plugin with version 7. As of version 8, the content API is a core part of the application. WordPress can also be configured to provide similar functionality by using their REST API plugin (and keep in mind that the plugin is currently in beta). But even though both WordPress and Drupal can be configured to fit into an API-based architecture, they remain a page-centric solution. Their respective API functionality for content is in reality still an afterthought.


Using Contentful is the fast and developer-friendly way to make sure that your apps have immediate access to the content they need. Our vision of the ideal content management platform is API-centric. So regardless if you’re developing for wearables, smartphones or web apps, application content is always just an API call away.

We’ve made sure that our well-documented SDKs can help you build reliable applications using any of today’s top languages. Be it Android, iOS, JavaScript, PHP, Java, Python, Ruby or .NET, we’ve put a lot of effort into our SDKs so that your coding will be as painless as possible.

With Contentful, everything is JSON. So if you know your way around JSON and API calls, you’ll be up and developing apps the Contentful way in no time.

Contentful is a hosted, or cloud-based, composable content platform. This means our high-performing CDN is always ready to serve up your data so you can focus on building great applications. To learn more about how Contentful compares to other CMSes. Read more about the differences between Contentful vs. Contentstack.

With Contentful, you can do everything a CMS can do and then some.

What's next

A good next step is to run through a Contentful tutorial — like getting started with Contentful and JavaScript. As an alternative, you can explore our developer portal.

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