Joomla vs. Drupal — A Comprehensive Comparison - Mobile Support and E-commerce

By Justin Kerr
March 15, 2014

Table of Contents

Support for Mobile Platforms

With mobile Internet usage soon to eclipse that of traditional desktops and laptops, a mobile-friendly version of a website has become a necessity for effective communication and marketing. A leading tactic for enabling mobile capabilities comes via “responsive web design,” whereby a single web template leverages CSS, HTML and Javascript to selectively adjust page layout, sizing and interface elements according to the pixel size and orientation of the viewing device. Both Drupal and Joomla employ similar tactics to support mobile web display, and both suffer from similar problems.

Drupal iconDrupal

The bulk of a Drupal site’s capabilities for mobile support will probably be enabled through a Theme that is optimized for responsive website display: This can be hand-built or acquired from a third-party Theme developer. A couple contributed Drupal Modules also support aspects of mobile website display, including device detection and alternative, mobile-specific Themes, and may be an effective option for a mobile-friendly Drupal site.

Drupal suffers from the problem of non-optimal HTML source code generated from specific Modules: At this point, very little has been optimized for mobile display, so extensive overrides (and possibly some PHP hacking) are needed to mobile-optimize the HTML content that Drupal feeds into the web page output.

Joomla iconJoomla

Similar to Drupal, Joomla tends to enable most of a site’s mobile capabilities through the Template used to render the site design. Many off-the-shelf options and custom design approaches are available, including responsive design capabilities through hand-built or third-party Templates.

Just like Drupal, Joomla also suffers from HTML content that does not necessarily support friendly mobile display options. Joomla’s HTML override system allows for precisely adjusting the output, but this can be a long and tedious process, especially for complex Joomla sites that leverage many third-party software extensions.

Dollar sign iconCost Conclusions

Proper implementation of mobile capabilities in a website is a significant project cost, not only in the practical implementation of responsive web design, but also in the planning required for a successful mobile strategy. That being said, both Drupal and Joomla offer similar capabilities and approaches to mobile support, as well as the same overhead related to overriding default HTML content output with mobile-friendly code. For similar sites with similar requirements, the costs are effectively the same.


A website’s e-commerce features can range from simple integrations with outside payment systems to complex and custom implementations of massive product catalogs, subscription systems and reseller networks. Both Drupal and Joomla rely upon third-party, plug-in solutions for many e-commerce needs, and integration with outside web applications for complex e-commerce deployments.

Drupal iconDrupal

Drupal’s Ubercart system is third-party plug-in software that many sites use to support e-commerce features. Ubercart requires not-inconsiderable development time to configure and implement, however, it offers a fairly full set of features and many options for integration with other parts of the Drupal system, content or data. Ubercart has become the de-facto way that many Drupal developers look to implement e-commerce.

Joomla iconJoomla

Joomla also relies on third-party software to enable e-commerce features, however, the Joomla ecosystem offers a wider variety of plug-in e-commerce software than Drupal, from simple donation buttons that link to a PayPal account to full-blown catalog and shopping cart systems. Although some of Joomla’s e-commerce options may require paid licensing for access to the software, the costs are usually nominal.

Dollar sign iconCost Conclusions

Both Drupal and Joomla tend to solve e-commerce needs by integrating third-party plug-in software. Due to Joomla’s structure and the wide variety of its third-party software options, Joomla tends to require much less time for implementing simple e-commerce features. Third-party software can also enable full shopping cart and online catalog functionality in both Drupal and Joomla, however, Drupal’s Ubercart tends to be more full-featured and capable than any Joomla option for accommodating specific shopping cart and catalog requirements.

Many Joomla and Drupal sites with advanced or complex e-commerce needs will instead integrate an entirely separate e-commerce web application, such as CSCart or Magento, to accommodate the features which are impossible or too expensive to effectively implement within the CMS.