Everything you need to know about Headless Drupal in a few minutes
By Mayank | August 19, 2019 |
headless drupal

Traditionally, Drupal-based websites tend to be monolithic, which means that the entire project resides inside Drupal. However, Drupal’s API-led approach has been providing new dimensions to how developers can use their tools of preference to build outstanding web experiences. Separating the content from the presentation layer, it ensures that countless pieces of content are ready for the right user at the right time, and in the right place. Basically, you can optimize your entire web ecosystem using the best front-end tools for the job, without ever worrying about what can go wrong in the back-end.

What is Headless Drupal?

Decoupling is the separation of a website’s front-end presentation from its back-end architecture. Decoupled Drupal, also known as “Headless Drupal”, refers to the strategy of using the platform as a content management system without a presentation layer. Hence,there are no public-facing themes and templates; only the content and the administrative UI. Drupal then exposes the API for other applications to consume, which opens the floodgates on a wider range of technologies to both absorb and display content.

Decoupled Drupal uses the “Waterwheel ecosystem” in which SDKs are designed to accelerate development of back-end applications across a variety of technologies such as Javascript Swift, etc.

There are two types of decoupling Drupal:

Progressive decoupling: Use the rendering system and JavaScript frameworks to boost rich web interactivity

Full decoupling: Completely separate the Drupal’s front-end and back-end

Headless Drupal architectures are likely to work the best in the following two scenarios:

- Traditional Drupal site that powers more than one site/app

- Drupal site, without a front-end, that powers multiple sites/apps

Is it time for you to go Headless with Drupal?

Let’s first talk about three scenarios that may have you thinking about Headless Drupal. But the truth is that these may be the wrong reasons to consider!

  • Lack of skilled front-end resources
  • Elimination of development or migration complexities
  • Mere data protection and sanitization

Without understanding the implications of adopting a decoupled architecture, you may even run into challenges that affect your business priorities. So, before you lose your head with Headless Drupal, ask yourself important questions such as:

- Is it the right fit for my team, and do my resources have the necessary skills to communicate and collaborate effectively?

- Can my current hosting provider support a decoupled architecture?

- Have I come to terms with Drupal being the sole owner arbiter of all my content repositories?

- Can I smoothly manage content-based metadata to meet my SEO needs?

- Can my architecture combine multiple redirect rules into a single redirect?

Decoupling the good, the bad and the future

When you opt for Headless Drupal, you are committing to build a separate back-end system that is independent of the front-end. For this, you need the right resources who are capable of building, delivering and managing both sides. Collaboration is key since it takes more than just one team to make sure that things run smoothly. Remember, your technical heads, web developers and project managers are in it together.

Some of the challenges you may face include:

  • Lack of situation-based administrative features such as preview workflows
  • Loss of contextual features like in-place editing and toolbar configuration options
  • No display and layout manipulation due to default settings
  • Possibility of downtime in private Drupal
  • Complexity of onboarding new users
  • Additional point of failure for consumer applications

The agility and flexibility of Headless Drupal solutions are growing increasingly tougher to ignore in today’s customer-centric web environment. With the rewards of quick content publishing becoming clearer, many are considering decoupled Drupal to be the best of traditional and modern CMS worlds.

Some of the benefits are:

Give front-end developers more flexibility and freedom than ever before to use native tools. With a decoupled approach, your developers no longer have to worry about being handcuffed to conventional back-end barriers.

Blaze up your web, mobile or other device-enabled experiences. With Google’s decision to give priority to speed in relation to mobile search rankings, headless Drupal can play a big role by reducing application load time and pushing highly responsive content.

Deliver a fully interactive web experience with flexible JavaScript for front-end developers to create a beautiful presentation, and a powerful API-first CMS for them to create robust content workflows; including the integration of the latest in-browser apps.

Bypass omnichannel delivery inconsistencies of full-stack solutions. With API-first Drupal as your central data service, you can deliver the right experience for every user, irrespective of the channel - from mobile apps to wearables and IoT.

So, should you opt for Headless Drupal?

Historically, Drupal has been championing the new era of scalable systems that give developers and users all the tools for enabling great front-end and back-end experiences. Bridging the gap between developers and content editors, a Headless Drupal can empower you to create and publish content for a variety of screens and technologies.

However, the answer to “Should you opt for Headless Drupal?” is complicated because it depends on what you are trying to build, and how much you are willing to change in order to achieve it.

We hope that, through this blog post, we were able to do our bit to help you think long and hard about it. If you need further help in assessing how headless Drupal can fit into the road to achieving business/technology goals, please do reach out to us.

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