Backdrop CMS and WordPress are both content management systems (CMS), but with different philosophies, histories, and they each offer distinct user experiences. In this article, we will outline some of the key differences between the two platforms, covering aspects such as usability, functionality, community, security, performance, and flexibility with data.
1. Origins and Philosophy:
- WordPress: It started as a blogging platform in 2003 but has evolved into a full-fledged CMS. The focus of WordPress is on ease of use, allowing users to create and publish content easily. It has a large ecosystem of plugins and themes and places a strong emphasis on backward compatibility.
- Backdrop CMS: This CMS is a fork of Drupal 7 and was started to serve those who didn't agree with the direction in which Drupal 8 was going, especially regarding complexity, resource requirements, and dependance on more advanced developer tools such as Composer. Backdrop focuses on affordability and simplicity for small to medium-sized businesses, nonprofits, and education professionals.
2. Usability and User Interface:
- WordPress: Known for its ease of use, WordPress allows beginners to set up and manage their websites without needing technical knowledge. The interface is straightforward, and there is a massive library of themes for front-end design.
- Backdrop CMS: While it aims for simplicity, Backdrop CMS might have a steeper learning curve for individuals entirely new to CMSs, especially if they have no experience with Drupal. However, it's more straightforward than Drupal 8/9 and offers an intuitive interface once users get accustomed to it.
3. Customizability and Extensions:
- WordPress: Offers an extensive range of plugins and themes, both free and paid, allowing high customizability. This extensive ecosystem is one of WordPress's main attractions, although the quality of plugins can vary, and having too many can affect performance. Many plugins come with free functionality but require a paid subscription to access advanced features.
- Backdrop CMS: It includes several of the most popular Drupal 7 modules in its core. There are close to 1000 contributed modules (add-ons), but the library is much smaller than WordPress’s. The focus is more on integrated functionality with core and contributed modules undergoing strict review, leading to better performance and security. As of this time, there are no paid modules for Backdrop CMS, all contributed modules are available and fully functional for free.
4. Performance and Resource Requirements:
- WordPress: Websites may experience performance issues as they grow or if too many plugins are installed. It's often necessary to install additional plugins for caching or image optimization to improve performance.
- Backdrop CMS: Generally has lower resource requirements compared to more complex CMSs like Drupal 8/9, and it’s designed to perform well on shared hosting environments. Its performance is more efficient out of the box, especially for medium-sized websites.
- WordPress: Due to its popularity, WordPress is a frequent target for hackers. The platform is secure itself, but third-party plugin vulnerabilities are often exploited. Regular updates are released, and users need to manage updates for both the core system and any additional plugins or themes.
- Backdrop CMS: Security is tightly controlled, and because it’s less popular than WordPress, it’s less of a target. Moreover, the community takes a proactive stance on security, integrating robust security features into its standard releases and by working with the Drupal security team to address any shared issues.
6. Community and Support:
- WordPress: The Wordpress community is older and much larger and have built an extensive network of support channels, including forums, online tutorials, dedicated businesses, and more. This extensive ecosystem provides an abundance of resources.
- Backdrop CMS: Though smaller, the Backdrop community is active and passionate. Support often comes through community forums and chat channels and the dedicated efforts of its members. Given its shared heritage with Drupal, many issues can be resolved with insights from the Drupal community as well.
7. Development and Maintenance:
- WordPress: Often requires less technical expertise to maintain, though some complexities arise with major updates or if you have a heavily customized site. The strong emphasis on backward compatibility makes it easier to update between versions.
- Backdrop CMS: It aims to make updates more straightforward than Drupal and features configuration management in its core for easier deployment between different instances (like development, staging, production). This can make Backdrop CMS more appealing to developers familiar with Drupal’s complexity but looking for more straightforward maintenance and configuration.
8. Structured Data and Dynamic Views:
- Custom Post Types and Taxonomies: WordPress uses custom post types and taxonomies to allow users to create various content types. While the default installation comes with standard options (posts and pages), you can create an array of content types (e.g., products, reviews, team members) with custom fields and taxonomies using third party plugins that sometimes require a subscription. This system can get cumbersome when dealing with highly structured or relational data.
- Plugins for Advanced Custom Fields (ACF): To handle custom field data, WordPress users often rely on plugins like Advanced Custom Fields. This popular plugin allows you to add and manage custom field data across your website, enabling more structured data management within your content types. However, utilizing this requires a degree of manual setup and maintenance, and performance can be an issue with extensive data.
- Shortcodes and Page Builders: For dynamic display of data, WordPress has shortcodes and numerous page builder plugins (like Elementor and Visual Composer). These tools let you create elaborate, dynamic displays and layouts. They are generally user-friendly but can add bloat to the site and might not handle highly complex data interactions efficiently.
- REST API: WordPress includes a REST API, allowing developers to create custom solutions for very dynamic, app-like experiences. This feature is vital for advanced dynamic data interactions, especially for web applications requiring real-time data updates and interactive functionalities.
- Backdrop CMS:
- Content Types and Fields in Core: Backdrop includes more advanced content types and custom fields in its core compared to WordPress. It allows for a more nuanced control over data structures and relationships directly out of the box. You can define content types with custom fields without needing additional modules or plugins, which is advantageous for handling structured data.
- Views Module: One of the most powerful features Backdrop inherited from Drupal is the Views module, included in the core. Views allow for the creation of highly customizable listings of content based on various filters, field conditions, and relationships. This tool is incredibly powerful for sites that need to display dynamic data based on content relationships or specific attributes. It's more advanced and less bloated compared to using shortcodes or page builders in WordPress.
- Layouts for Content Display: Backdrop features a Layouts module in its core, allowing administrators and developers to create custom layouts for different content types, ensuring a more structured and customizable way to present data. This approach is less dependent on third-party extensions and provides a cleaner, performance-optimized way to handle complex content presentation.
- API and Framework: While Backdrop may not have as extensive an API ecosystem as WordPress, it does offer robust programming interfaces and a framework for creating custom modules. This aspect is crucial for developers needing to create bespoke functionalities around dynamic and structured data.
Each platform serves its audience, with WordPress being more suitable for beginners and those wanting extensive themes/plugins, and Backdrop CMS appealing to those looking for a more streamlined and developer-friendly experience, particularly those who have enjoyed working with Drupal 7.
When it comes to structured and dynamic data, Backdrop CMS provides more out-of-the-box control and advanced handling through its core modules like Views and Layouts, suitable for complex data manipulation and display. WordPress, while user-friendly, often requires additional plugins and tools for similar functionalities, which can lead to performance trade-offs and potential security issues. Developers seeking to build heavily data-driven websites might find Backdrop more aligned with their needs, especially if they require complex data relationships and dynamic, customizable content displays without relying heavily on third-party plugins.
Written with the help of ChatGPT. Edited by Tim Erickson.
Image by Dalle*3.