Findings from D8 UX study: Moving between site and admin interface (overlay alternative)

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For this study, wanted to learn how well content editors could move between admin and non-admin pages, using the patch proposed in Issue #787896, an alternative to Overlay. We recruited 7 participants with experience building or managing content in CMSs. Their Drupal experience ranged from none to many years, but all of them were satisfied, neutral or unaware about the Overlay (that is, none of the participants were dissatisfied with it).

Executive summary

We can conclude from the data that the “Back to site” button works as intended. No major issues were found. It supports the interaction model of being able to quickly go back to the content page and seems to do so with equal success as Overlay. The study also uncovered some areas of improvement of the Drupal 8 admin UI, such as the Blocks admin area and the admin menu information architecture .

‘Back to site’ button findings

Overall, participants were comfortable with “Back to site” button and used it to navigate back to the content without hesitation.
People were often using it without thinking about it.
When asked later, 5 of 7 participants noticed the Back to site link.

Participants did not immediately notice that the Overlay was gone, and were largely positive about the “back to site” button.
In total 4 participants liked the button, and 3 were neutral. None responded negatively to the “back to site” button.

3 of 7 of participants were confused by the ‘Back to site’ button changing into ‘Home’ when landing on the front end.
It is not immediately clear to participants why this is better than clicking the logo or other “home” links.

Contrary to behaviour with the “Overlay”, few participants decided to “reset” from where they were (back to the home page) and instead continued looking around.
However, a few of the participants used the breadcrumbs to go up a level in the admin interface.

Overall findings

Overall, participants reacted positively to Drupal 8, liking the changes with the toolbar, in-place editing and content creation screen.

6 of 7 participants used the “Add content” and “Add custom block” links in the default block. 1 participant went to shortcuts, then “Add content”.

  • Many existing usability issues around Drupal’s site building tools surfaced.
  • Finding the correct configuration page is occasionally very hard.
  • Participants are a little disheartened by the experience around creating and placing blocks. They expect a more WYSIWYG/drag and drop like experience.


  • Proceed with the Back to site button.
  • Amend the ‘hover tip from ‘Home page’ to something that reflects the page user was previously on before, such as “Return to previous content page”, “Return to site content” or “Exit admin screen”
  • Discuss the usefulness of providing a “Home” button when navigating content pages. The usefulness of this button was disputed by 3 of 7 participants.
  • Ensure that if user looks at block demonstration within a theme, then clicks “exit from block demo”, then clicks Back to site, they’ll be directed to the previous non-admin page. Currently they are directed to the Block demo page again. Watch from 8:31-8:57 on


Moderators: Lisa Rex, Erin Cummings and Bojhan Somers
Note takers: Marcus Morba, Roel Guldemond, Heather James, Nikolous Kakourous and Lisa Rex
Environment hosting: Theodore Biadala
Thanks also to Spyros Kapsaskis, Ruben Teijeiro, Karen Leach and Tom Bamford for volunteering, as well as the 90+ people who signed up to become participants, note takers and moderators.


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