Last updated November 5, 2015. Created on September 28, 2008.
Edited by perihelion, yogeshchaugule8, gonzalam, Haarek. Log in to edit this page.

Occasionally, people who have previously used other editors (FrontPage, Dreamweaver) or CMS's (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" or known as what users see on the site itself.

  • In Drupal, there is no such distinction. It 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. There are modules available that allow you to view the site in different roles.
  • The look of Drupal is similar to both administrators/editors and anonymous users, but different features and menu items will be visible depending on permission settings.
  • Authenticated users, with appropriate permissions, will have an administrative menu and will see the 'edit' tabs on pages and blocks. That's often the biggest difference between editor and user experience. Anonymous users (those who aren't authenticated) might be denied access to some or all of the site and its functions, depending on what the permissions assigned by the administrator.

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 or Administer > Appearance in D7 and D8) 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 forums, or join #drupal-support in IRC.