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.
This is really helpful feedback. I appreciate your taking the time to share it in the detailed format you did, with background about yourself as a user (also very helpful).
I would argue that you are exactly the kind of audience that Backdrop CMS is trying to reach.
Personally, I've been trying to increase my teams contributions to Backdrop over the past few months. One of the things I like about the Backdrop CMS community right now is that if I report a problem or submit a pull request I often see concrete action taken within weeks, sometimes within days. Any feedback you submit will get noticed and much of it will result in actual changes. As the community grows, this may become more difficult.
As a Backdrop CMS user, I'm impressed with the number of modules that are available and the slow but steady increase of ported modules from Drupal. I can think of at least 2-3 modules that I was looking for a few months ago which were not available for Backdrop CMS, but have since been ported from Drupal. I would like to think that my requests help motivate others to port these modules (along with their own needs).
Points #2 and #3 are known issues that must be addressed and are being discussed. I think there are things that I could personally do to help with these issues and will try to put some more of my time in that direction.
Here are some important ways that people like you can help move Backdrop CMS forward with relatively little work:
1) Continue to post feedback and questions in this forum. If you have questions, please post them here. If you find the answer on your own, answer your own question for the benefit of others.
2) Post issues in Github if you are having trouble with existing contrib modules. Post a request for better documentation, information about problems you are having with the module, and/or specific bugs that you have found. I believe that the contrib space needs more user feedback of the type you have already provided. Thanks.
Note: there are quite a few modules seeking maintainers for Backdrop. I suspect that some people might step forward if they see users posting bugs and feature requests. It's motivating to see that users are interested in the modules, using them, and providing feedback on their experiences.
Thanks much for this feedback.