Last updated December 11, 2014. Created on September 28, 2008.
Edited by jencalbear, lingbo, mgifford, tsbah. Log in to edit this page.

Occasionally, people who have previously used other editors (FrontPage, Dreamweaver) or CMSs (Joomla, etc) ask how they access the admin area or "back-end" of Drupal. Sometimes they ask how they can preview their changes and see the "front-end".

  • In Drupal, there is no such distinction, it just provides a unified interface.
  • If (as an administrator, themer, or coder) you are looking at the homepage of your website, you are previewing it from the perspective of that role. Log out and you get the full 'anonymous' experience.
  • Drupal usually looks pretty much the same to anonymous browsers as it does to editors, only with different features and menu items available.
  • Authenticated users, with appropriate permissions, will see the 'edit' tabs above their pages. That's often the only difference between editor and user experience.

We find that people who have never used a CMS before are often much less confused about this approach than people who have previously used systems where the 'input' screens look totally different from the 'output' screens, according to the Drupal usability tests from the University of Baltimore in 2008. It's an un-learning thing.

However, if you want, you can still set an 'Administration theme' (in the settings Administer › Site configuration > Administration theme ) so that your admin pages look different from the front end. ... It still actually behaves the same way, but it may help if your public presentation theme is highly graphic or stylized.

Looking for support? Visit the Drupal.org forums, or join #drupal-support in IRC.