Why I chose MODx over Drupal, Part One: Because I’m Lazy, Stubborn and Anti-Social

“I stereotype. It’s faster.”

– George Clooney (as Ryan Bingham), Up in the Air

MODx is sleek, sexy and clean.

Drupal is bloated, high-maintenance and a hot mess.

Okay, did that get your attention?

Now let me quickly admit that I have no business whatsoever making judgment statements like these about either MODx or Drupal,  neither of which I’ve used enough to make such sweeping generalizations.

Bereft of any substantial personal experience on which to base an opinion, I have fallen back on certain prevailing stereotypes about MODx (positive ones) and Drupal (negative ones).  Heck, I’m so lazy I even populated those links  by doing Google searches to supplement the adjectives I had chosen. (Although I should note that this was all too easy to do, and that does say something).

So yes, I’m being unfair.  I’m focusing on the CMS community’s consensus “best views” of MODx and “worst views” of Drupal.   I could just as easily slant this in the opposite direction:

“Drupal is mature, powerful, and extremely popular.”

“MODx is poorly documented, feature-deficient, and sits alone in the cafeteria at lunchtime*.”

Okay that wasn’t quite as easy to do (especially the MODx part), but my point stands:

  • I recognize that you can find anecdotal evidence to justify any conclusion you’ve jumped to
  • I recognize that this often isn’t the right way to go about doing things
  • I recognize that I’ve largely done this in my MODx-over-Drupal decision

Now that I’ve publicly confessed these sins, I think the next question becomes “why do those particular pro-MODx and anti-Drupal narratives appeal so much to me?”   Here are a few answers to that:

  • I like clean code. It just feels right.
  • I like immediate rewards. I’m not a delayed-gratification sort of guy.
  • I hate software that requires me to slog through tons of features that I have no interest in at the present moment in order to find what I’m really looking for.
  • I strongly prefer writing my own solution (even when I know that a year later I’ll look at it and be shocked at how terribly I wrote it, and want to do it over again) to an off-the-shelf solution.
  • I’d rather crawl across broken glass than spend the next six months learning how to use a content management system.  I’ve invested years mastering HTML, CSS, JavaScript, JQuery and PHP. I really feel like that ought to be enough to get the job done.
  • I have an innate distrust of any system that feels like an invasive species; so all-encompassing that its presence will henceforth dictate every decision about the direction of my website.  Whether it is real or imagined, Drupal very much feels like that type of system to me.
  • I love the feeling that I am getting in on something great before the rest of the world discovers it.
  • The Drupal community scares me a little bit, both in their size and in their zeal.

Looking at that list, the only reason that seems remotely virtuous is the first one (and even that has pretentiousness written all over it).  The rest of my reasons boil down to laziness, stubbornness, and sociopathy.

But hey, at least I have reasons, right?





*I couldn’t readily find a web link that supported this sentiment, which is basically the converse of the “Drupal is good because it has such a large community” argument: “MODx must not be as good, or else more people would be using it.”  I guess this isn’t a widely held belief, probably because most Drupal users don’t spend much time trying to make a case against MODx.  I guess I’ve only really heard this from the Drupal users in my office who were lobbying for their preferred CMS.


17 responses to this post.

  1. I find your writing hilarious. Keep writing. And we’ll keep working on making MODx better document, more feature-rich, and maybe someday, we’ll get to eat at the cool kids table.


  2. Thanks Shaun, and thanks for replying so quickly on the message board the other day. I’m really looking forward to getting to know the MODx team as this project moves forward.


  3. Posted by pong on February 5, 2010 at 7:14 am

    I think that Drupal is for the moment a best choice for some projects because it has powerful features like workflow, multilinguism, revisions etc… Also, today cck is a lot more powerful than template variables. And last point, i think that drupal is more on a right way with “content types” than modx with “template variables”. Why variables should be linked to templates ? It means that if you want an new form, you need a new template to bin your new TVs. There’s something wrong with that.

    But excepts thoses points, i feel that modx is a greater tool than Drupal, he just need maturity with revolution and developpers to build nice features.


  4. @pong,

    Thanks for the very insightful comment. It gets to the heart of a few really important topics that I hope to write about in the near future. Right now I really do not have a clear understanding of how the Drupal CCK works, and what if anything is the equivalent in MODx. Workflow and revisioning are also areas I need to sharpen my understanding on.

    I don’t think that Template Variables are meant to be MODx’s equivalent to “content types”, nor are they meant to be the solution for everything. I’m by no means an expert yet, but in your example of creating a new form, my sense is that the best approach would be to use a chunk or snippet, which can be embedded into an existing template (no need to create a new one, not necessarily anyway). But right now, I’m not grasping much beyond chunks and snippets; I haven’t yet got my head around when a TV or a Plugin is useful or appropriate.


  5. Keep these awesome blogs coming. I had barely ever heard of MODx a couple days ago, and today I went so far as to even look at some API documentation. A few more good guffaws from you and I might go download it.



  6. […] About « Why I chose MODx over Drupal, Part One: Because I’m Lazy, Stubborn and Anti-Social […]


  7. Really great blog post. I enjoy your writing style, look forward for more to come in the future. Glad you found a CMS that suits your needs. I considered going with MODx awhile back when I was evaluating which CMS to focus my efforts on, I chose Drupal. I really liked the feel of the community, sorry we scare you. Keep up the good work.


  8. I just want to say…. amen brother. On all points.

    I spent a year trying to acclimate myself to Joomla and Drupal before pitching them cheerfully out a window and developing (slowly) my own cobbled together cms…then I found MODx and discovered someone else had already been writing my code! Making -my CMS!! – You cannot imagine my joy. Even though I had obviously been chipped. (Chip inserted in my brain. I suspect Ryan Thrash but cannot verify this or figure out when he did it)

    Anyhow, keep writing and MODx’ing. I have a client I can no longer accommodate and they are all a-panic because no one knows about or develops with MODx and I keep saying… “It will be okay, really. Just find me someone who knows html. That’s all that is needed for future mods. ” And they don’t get it. It can’t be that easy.

    Yes. it can.


  9. Posted by Greg McKay on February 18, 2010 at 6:25 am

    I am loving this blog, even though I started reading it back to front ( came in via RSS from Marys site), Mary is my hero because her tutorial cracked the ice for me in “getting” MODX.
    I still have a long way to go with it but this blog is going to make the journey much more enjoyable.


  10. […] throwing this one in while Modx is on my mind …  ” A CMS less Travelled” a blog I  subscribe to and […]


  11. we try both modx and drupal. we find modx right for simple website, but for web based erp only drupal can help. the power of cck and views not similiar on modx. drupal works fine with wkhtmltopdf. and imagecache also not similiar on modx.

    tv in modx is just a content-type but not a cck!


  12. I installed Joomla this morning. It’s already uninstalled. Not because it was deficient, but it had SO MANY features. It’s obviously very powerful with so many options including a feature to shave your head with the click of a button – oh my!

    I am an ex-programmer. I say “ex” because I try to stay away from it, but it’s always lurking around the corner like a psycho “ex”. LOL. I do enjoy programming when it’s worthwhile. I am looking for something simple and clean.

    After reading your article, it’s made me want to definitely try ModX… so here we go!


  13. Posted by Carl Erling on February 27, 2012 at 10:43 am

    I am at a point with Drupal where I need to rethink my investments of time and efforts.

    Stepping back from my daily work and searched for s.o. like “praised Drupal sites” to find their top notch websites, to see where it can go design wise.

    Imho, what people often do with Drupal looks very *ugly*, bloated, clunky and unintuitive; especially user menus are a problem. That makes me think. 🙂

    By the way: If you chose Modx, why is this blog in WP?


  14. big LOL! I’ve been in that road with same results: Drupal haigh learning curve, modx: moderate learning, but can have your site running in a few hours the first time, and in minutes for the second.!!!


  15. Hello from Usa! This was a fantastic post and I loved studying


  16. Amusing! Amazing publish


  17. Hi, This is one nice post, thank you.


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