Why hasn't WordPress caught on in government?

While WordPress is the global leader in content management on the Web, it lags far behind Drupal for federal government websites, according to a report.

WordPress is the content management system for about two-thirds of the world’s top websites, according to the latest statistics from BuiltWith.

However, Drupal is six times more popular for federal government domains, reports Ben Balter, a blogger and open source expert who recently conducted his own analysis of federal .gov domains based on publicly-released information.

“Drupal powers twice as many federal [websites] as every other Content Management System combined,” Balter wrote in a March 5 blog post about the report. “That is more than six Drupal sites for every one WordPress (site in) .Gov alone, not to mention the Joomlas, MovableTypes, and SharePoints of the world.” 

The Drupal software currently powers about 150 federal website, including WhiteHouse.gov, Recovery.gov and Energy.gov, according to a Drupal-sponsored wiki.

According to Balter’s analysis, WordPress is in a distant second place in the .gov domain. WordPress is used by the Health and Human Services Department, Consumer Protection Agency, Commerce Department, and several others. Both Drupal and WordPress are open source content management systems.

Balter and other experts are questioning the basis of Drupal’s skyrocketing popularity for government and wondering why WordPress is falling behind.

“When you stack the two side by side (or against any other CMS for that matter), WordPress is objectively the prudent choice,” Balter wrote. “On paper, you’d be hard-pressed to make the case for anything else. But, it’s not a technical problem. It’s a human one. It seems that WordPress’s greatest asset – ease of use that has resulted in widespread adoption by a largely non-technical user base – is threatening to become its greatest liability.”

For government purchasers, Balter suggests, WordPress may be suffering from an image problem.

“Among those empowered to make purchasing decisions, there seems to be a sense that WordPress is what you use on the weekends to post pictures of your lunch while Drupal is what you use for 'serious' business,” he added.

Balter also said marketing by Drupal to government clients may be a factor.

Other experts also have questioned the disparity, suggesting that while WordPress is lower in cost and effective, more organizations want to follow the example of the White House and use Drupal.

“We have many clients requesting that we build them a Drupal site just because whitehouse.gov is written in Drupal. One thing that these clients don't realize is that the White House has a big available budget, financial resources, and a team of experienced web programmers available to manage, customize and maintain the whitehouse.gov site,” wrote Web developer Bernard Kohan in a recent blog post.

 

 

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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