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Site builder shootout: Drupal vs. Joomla vs. WordPress

By Brian Proffitt
September 14, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Commerce tools

I was not looking forward to adding the e-commerce portion of the Happy Flights site. I have worked with e-commerce tools before and "pain in the you-know-where" is usually the phrase I took away from such experiences.

Happily, that was not the case here.

Drupal

Ubercart was the e-commerce tool most recommended over the others, so I would have been remiss if I didn't take a look.

Drupal
The Ubercart checkout screen.
Click to view larger image

I have to say, once I installed it I was quite impressed. The Ubercart e-commerce shopping cart had an excellent feature set, and I had complete control over every aspect of each transaction, right down to options that would calculate shipping costs between ZIP codes based on the weight of the objects ordered.

There were two hitches here. First, in order to get full capability in Ubercart, you have to download a lot of modules to support it. Not hard, but time consuming, and a bit irksome if you forget something.

Second, adding a new product to the catalog is not intuitive. Luckily, I was able to find a third-party blog that walked me through the process, and once I got the hang of actually adding items to the product database, things got much easier. But there really should be an "Add Product" button in Ubercart somewhere to make things even simpler. (Afterwards, I did see that Drupal had added a Product content type to the Add content screen, which would have been nice to know earlier.)

Joomla

After the bumps in site configuration, I was expecting less-than-stellar results for the shopping section. Not so, thanks to the JoomShopping module.

Joomla
The JoomShopping checkout screen.
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JoomShopping was easy to install, easy to activate and simple to use. That simplicity came at a cost: Configuration of the base JoomShopping elements was harder than other e-commerce tools, but it did the job it needed to, and slipped into the Happy Flight site with ease. Adding products to the catalog was much simpler than in Ubercart, which was much appreciated.

WordPress

Getting a shopping system on WordPress is easy to do -- provided the plug-in is compatible with your site. I had initially tried to install the WP e-Commerce plug-in, only to find that it would not install onto my WordPress site. It may have been the newness of my WordPress version that was throwing the plug-in off.

WordPress
Payment options for eShop.
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Daunted, but not stopped, I moved to eShop, which installed quite cleanly. eShop adds its own configuration screen to the site's Settings menu, so it was easy to access the controls to configure the catalog.

I was impressed by the depth of control and the way the plug-in fit in with the existing site. It took a little bit of effort to discover how to add products to the catalog, but once learned, the workflow was easy to do.

Bottom line

This one is close to call: I have to give props to tools like Ubercart for the completeness of its features, but JoomShopping and eShop made it easier to build a product catalog.

I think I have to give the nod here to Ubercart. Like the Drupal CMS, the learning curve is higher, but the long-term payoff is a better overall experience.



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