A new contrib theme for Backdrop CMS - Tatsu

Posted on: Sunday, October 27, 2019
Posted by: Tim Erickson

As we have made clear on numerous occasions, we’re big fans of Backdrop CMS. For most of our projects, we tend towards custom designs and themes and have been creating sub-themes based on Basis (the default core theme for Backdrop CMS). This works fine for us. 

However, it’s pretty commonly accepted that one of the drawbacks to Backdrop CMS for folks who don’t have the ability to create their own theme with their own custom CSS, is the relative lack of available contributed themes. 

If you are primarily a site builder and hope to configure your site by simply enabling and configuring a combination of core and contributed modules, your choices for themes are limited. There is quite a bit that a site builder can do with Backdrop CMS and Basis, without a contrib theme, however in our view there are a number of frustrating limitations as well. 

We created Tatsu as a sub-theme of Basis to address the limitations we found with Basis and to extend support to some really useful contrib modules and our own Configuration Recipes experiment. Our goal is to create a contributed theme that along with a few contributed modules, will allow sites builders to go a long ways towards customizing the look and feel of their site, without any custom CSS or the need to create their own sub-theme. 

We first released Tatsu in July of 2019 under the theory of release early and release often. At this point it is still relatively rough and limited in features, but we are hoping that others will give it a try and provide feedback or help in extending it. 

We recently enabled Tatsu on our own site and are attempting to update and improve the look of our site, as time and resources allow, only through the use of Tatsu, configuration in the UI, and contrib modules. Any customizations we make to the CSS will be added to Tatsu for everyone to use. Any bugs or limitations of Tatsu will also effect us directly. Anything you see on this site can be done with Tatsu and other contributed modules. I realize that this is not saying much today, but hopefully our own site will continue to get better along will Tatsu. 

Here is how you can help make Tatsu better and improve the overall state of contributed themes for Backdrop CMS:

  • Install Tatsu (version 1.x-1.2.x - not yet released)  on your site or a Sandbox site and create bug reports for any problems you find. 
  • Look through our issue queue and comment on any of the existing open issues or add your own feature requests. 
  • Please, feel free to submit a Pull Request to help us clean up our CSS and/or add any of the requested features in the issue queue. We’ll do our best to respond quickly and incorporate your work into Tatsu. 

Our roadmap for Tatsu includes:

  • Add SASS support for those who do write their own custom code
  • Provide a sub-theme starter kit
  • Provide support for Config Recipes another experimental project we started. 
  • Improve Color Module support for color configuration in the user interface.