During a popular local Drupal meetup, volunteers presented CMS's as alternatives to Drupal, comparing them using Drupal terminology. (Review the background on the comparison. )

None of these evaluations are exhaustive. This is just documentation from what was discussed at our meetup.

Ruby on Rails

Compared to everything we reviewed previously, we "went off the rails" and jumped from CMS's with their pretty, out-of-the-box UI's to true development platforms, requiring a programmer to organize and develop your project. Nate Flint gave a great demo of putting together a site using Ruby on Rails. 

  • Learning curve. It must be emphasized that this CMS alternative is much more of a framework, and as such is really more for developers only. If you don't have any experience with the MVC development model (more on that below), this platform is going to be feel rather foreign. Once you figure it out though, everything seems to just fall into place.
  • Content types and fields. Like we mentioned above, Ruby on Rails uses the MVC (Model, View, Controller) model, the equivalent to content types and fields are models and attributes. Drupal is more of a Presentation-Abstraction-Control, or PAC, though this would probably change to a degree with the increased integration of Symphony into Drupal core.
  • Permissions and access control. Add on gems: Devise, Cancan. Gems are a type of packaging file used by Ruby for deploying code. As such, RubyGems is very similar to apt-get, portage, yum, and npm in functionality.
  • Community. Stack Overflow is a widely used Q&A resource for developers and is one of the most likely places to get help with questions here. Github is often used for tickets related gems.


  • Theming. You are on your own. There are some themes, but in some cases they really don't make any sense. It might be better to make your own theme as it is relatively simple to write your own markup.
  • Contributed ecosystem. As mentioned above, the "gems" paradigm is a somewhat related concept to the niche that contributed modules fill for Drupal.
  • Plugin/module development. The general design concept for Ruby on Rails is such that the whole environment is structured to allow you to add your own functionality.


  • E-commerce. Sure, there's a gem for that: Shoppe.
  • SEO. It's what you make it, in terms of providing for meta tags and linking, etc.


  • System requirements. Ruby 1.9.3+ and a database (MySQL, PostgreSQL or SQlite).
  • Scaling. Can be used to design apps of any size, though it excels at larger scales. Best for higher functioning web apps.
  • Other categories. Rails uses Gemfile to define versions of gems on a bundle (like a build). There is a CMS gem: Refinery.


I think it's fair to say that the developers in the room loved Ruby on Rails. The eyes of the site builders in the room glazed over. A site builder (non-developer) can put together a Drupal site just using the screens. This doesn't really seem to be the case with a framework like Ruby on Rails.

if you found this analysis helpful, be sure to check out the other CMS comparisons in this blog series.