This blog post is a slightly edited version of the video transcript.
Backdrop CMS is a powerful and flexible tool for building a wide range of websites, from very simple sites to very complicated sites. Whether or not Backdrop is right for your project depends upon your specific needs and your skill set.
While a complete beginner might find it a challenge to build anything more than a basic website with Backdrop, someone with limited skills and the ability to learn new things may find Backdrop a powerful framework on which they can construct a robust and dynamic website without the need to write any custom code.
As an active contributor to the Backdrop CMS project and a member of the Project Management Committee, I am clearly biased in advocating for Backdrop CMS. But, whether or not Backdrop is right for you is a personal decision.
In this blog post, I'll say a little more about what Backdrop is, what it does well, and talk a little about the necessary skills to help you get the most out of Backdrop.
At its heart, Backdrop CMS is as its name suggests, a Content Management System. A content management system is a tool for structuring, managing, and delivering content to the web, often but not exclusively in the form of a website. I would argue that the more content you have and the more managing your content needs, the more Backdrop CMS might be the right tool for you.
Backdrop CMS is a fork of Drupal 7, this means that Backdrop CMS is built upon the exact same code base as Drupal 7. For those unfamiliar with Drupal, Drupal is one of the three most popular open source content management systems and at its peak was used to build over a million websites ranging from small personal websites to large robust web applications for well known corporations and household brands.
This is all important, because Backdrop benefits not only from its codebase that originated with Drupal, but from the many tools, modules, and extensions available for Drupal.
There are over 600 modules currently available for Backdrop CMS, most them were ported from Drupal to Backdrop. More are being ported every week. There are potentially over 10,000 modules for Drupal 7 that could be ported to Backdrop at some point in the future. All of these modules are available for you to use for free and each of them adds specific functionality to your Backdrop CMS website.
By the way, if you currently have a Drupal 7 site be sure to look up the documentation on how to do a direct upgrade from Drupal 7 to Backdrop CMS or visit BackdropCMS.org to find out more about why you should consider Backdrop CMS an alternative to Drupal 8/9.
What does Backdrop CMS do best?
In my opinion, the two most important features of Backdrop are its flexibility in terms of building and displaying custom content and its very powerful permissions system. If your site requires either of these features, then Backdrop should be on your short list of possible tools.
Let’s start with the Dynamic display of your content
If you are building a website with lots of content and have the need to build custom displays of that content with various sort and filter options, then Backdrop should be high on your list of possible tools. Backdrop contains tools that allow a moderately experienced user to create complicated custom displays of their data without any custom coding.
What this means is that if you are building a website with 100’s of different ski boots, you can relatively easily create a dynamic view or block that allows users to filter by category, audience, or brand. Mastering the art of building this kind of content view is not trivial, but it is something that any individual can learn in a relatively short time if they are motivated and generally comfortable navigating online tools and user interfaces. It helps to have a basic understanding of how databases work.
Next, let’s talk about Roles and permissions
If you have a site that requires visitors to login and verify their accounts before accessing certain content or features. Backdrop comes with a detailed and flexible permission system that allows you to create as many “roles” as you would like and set very detailed rules or permissions about who can do or access specific features or content.
Examples of sites that need this kind of functionality are:
- Membership sites
- Publications with many contributors
- Education sites
- Event sites that require registration
Backdrop comes with lots of other features that you might find beneficial, such as a:
- powerful taxonomy system
- multilingual capabilities
- configuration management
- flexible layout templates
- responsive design
- it’s build for speed
- and more...
See some of the other videos in the TeamTriplo channel for more information on these features.
Backdrops strength in most areas is that it is HIGHLY customizable and does not make broad assumptions about the kind of site you might be building.
If you are unsure of your future needs and want to start simple but keep your options open to add more complicated functionality in the future, then Backdrop is a great place to start.
Backdrop CMS is Open Source
If you are not familiar with open source, here is why this is important to you.
#1) Backdrop CMS is free, in more ways than one. It’s free in that you can download and install Backdrop anywhere on the web for free. Backdrop CMS is free and all 600+ modules available on BackdropCMS.org are free. By free, we mean free. At the time of this recording, I can’t think of a single Backdrop CMS module or theme that offers a limited version for free, but then charges for the premium features. You have access to all the modules and all the features for free.
It’s also free in that the source code is open for anyone with PHP skills to review and/or modify, it’s easy to modify and customize Backdrop by creating custom modules of your own. While PHP skills are not necessary to build a powerful Backdrop CMS site, even a limited amount of PHP coding skills opens up a much wider range of possibilities.
Because of its historical connection with Drupal, any developers with Drupal 7 experience, and there are a lot of them, should be able to step in and work with Backdrop quite easily.
With Backdrop you are not locked into any proprietary software or hosting platforms. You can easily move your site and/or customize it as your needs change in the future.
As an open source project, Backdrop is supported by a community of developers, site owners, and site architects for whom Backdrop is more than a product. For many of us in the Backdrop community, Backdrop is a collaborative project that we work on together and put out into the world as a tool for non-profit organizations, individuals, and small businesses to achieve their goals and potentially make the world a slightly better place.
As a community we are committed to providing what help we can to site owners and others in the community to successfully use Backdrop towards those ends. We make ourselves available in the https://forum.backdropcms.org/Backdrop CMS forum, our Zulip chat rooms, and on Github to answer questions, solve problems, and grow our community. Three times a year, we host a virtual Backdrop LIVE event for anyone to participate in and learn more about Backdrop and the Backdrop community.
Our mission statement says:
“Backdrop CMS is for the small to medium sized businesses, non-profits, educational institutions, and companies or organizations who are in need of a comprehensive website for a reasonable price.”
By simply using Backdrop CMS, you become a small part of that community with the option of getting more involved anytime you have the motivation or need. The future of Backdrop is shaped by the people who use the product and participate in the community. We hope that you will consider joining us.
On a more personal note, my company, Triplo, is a strong supporter of open source software in general and specifically a supporter of Backdrop CMS.
We offer a wide variety of Backdrop video tutorials in our TeamTriplo channel on Youtube. We also provide a hosting platform, Simplo.Site, specifically for Backdrop CMS that is targeted at folks who would like to build their own website, but may need a little help and support along the way.
Good luck on your web project. I look forward to seeing you in the issue queues!