I just want to share some feedback on Backdrop CMS after exploring it for a while recently.
First I will tell a bit of my background so that you understand the context in which my judgement occurs.
I am not a developer or web designer. I am an artist but a tech savvy one. I can setup a hosting, a database and install a CMS. I have some basic understanding of CSS and HTML but I consider coding as a sort of emergency measure or a way to get some very specific functionality and I expect that a CMS allows me to create a site without writing a single line of code. At the moment I help to maintain five web sites belonging to my friends and relatives. These sites are either for freelance designers or small design studio businesses. To run them I have been using a very narrow specific CMS that is focused on displaying image galleries and it does it really well. But recently the need for more feature rich functionality became apparent and I started to explore WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. And I came here from Drupal.
So here are the things that I really like about Backdrop:
1. Structure inherited from Drupal. Though it takes an effort to understand it, I really enjoy the flexibility of the CMS. Creation of custom content types with fields and various displays types and ability to sort, filter and output it via views all seem to me very very powerful. The core is awesome!
2. I read and liked the Backdrop Philosophy and it seemed to me the development goes in the right direction compared to Drupal (where I quit once I saw a core update and read installation instructions ). I can see the difference in how the modules are installed and updated - much easier than in Drupal. Dependencies are managed in a very convenient way.
3. I really like the concept of layouts being a separate entity and not a rigid part of a theme. That seemed to me a pretty obvious idea but only here I found it brought to life.
4. I very much like how different sizes for a single image are supported in core via image styles and Adaptive Image module. Easy to setup and works very well. Considering that images are the most important and heavy content for the type of sites I am running, it is essential that they are rendered effectively.
Now the downsides and difficulties that I came across:
1. The major point is about modules. There are not many available at the moment (and I can understand that due to a short history of Backdrop). But in those that are present there are often quite a lot of issues with settings and functionality. Here is just an example. I was trying to create a gallery using views and Masonry Views module. The masonry layout basically worked but I couldn’t get how to control space between images (the "Gutter width" parameter doesn’t seem to work at all). With “Load images first” turned off all images are displayed overlapping each other. I also couldn’t get rid of the white frame around the images and it doesn’t seem to be controlled by a theme. And there are many more smaller bugs and need for tweaks.
I was also unable to find any equivalent of Drupal Quick Tabs and I even couldn’t make standart views tabs work. So basically lack of fine tuned user friendly modules was a show stopper to me. It seems to me that using them properly requires quite a lot of extra coding from user side.
2. Searching for modules is very unintuitive. There should be a search by category at least.
3. Themes and module descriptions lack visuals/demos that would tell about its functionality. That is especially crucial for the themes as there should be at least some screenshots showing how they might look like. Also I often come across dead/broken links in modules/themes pages. It would be better to remove them as it makes a bad impression that modules are no longer supported or neglected. May be it worth to build in broken link report functionality. I understand that it may be difficult to track broken links while community is not very large yet.
4. I couldn’t find the way to use the same image file for different content types. I see there is an option to “choose from library” when inserting image into page or post body. But when using image field for custom content type it is only possible to upload image.
To sum up, my impression is that Backdrop CMS has a huge potential and goes in a right direction, but yet it is hard for me to practically build a site that would look and work the way I want.
It may appear that I am not from the audience this CMS is targeting at, but I thought my feedback may be helpful at some point.