Considering Composable? What to look out for
We’ve had a number of customers recently that are early adopters of composable architecture, and it’s clear they weren’t fully aware of what they were signing up for.
We’ve heard customers say “oh, I didn’t know I was making THAT decision when I decided to go composable”.
It doesn’t mean they regret the decision, it just means they didn’t fully understand the trade-offs. In truth, many people aren’t aware of the trade-offs because this architecture is so new. It’s important to know and buy into the benefits of composable from the start, so when issues present themselves, you aren’t surprised by them and end up regretting your decision.
Benefits of Composable
You’ve probably heard that composable will make your UI more responsive for your end users and that it can improve your performance and PageSpeed scores. Let’s review the key benefits:
It’s faster to incorporate new functionality by adding off-the-shelf functionality from third parties.
You have a more responsive UI.
You experience better performance (specifically PageSpeed scores which can benefit your SEO).
You have reduced infrastructure to manage
Your front end and back end are loosely coupled which allows developers to work more independently (and potentially in parallel). This allows you to be faster to market and increases your flexibility to deliver new features.
You have the ability to choose the vendors that work best for your and your business.
You have reduced vendor lock, because you are getting smaller bits of functionality from multiple vendors instead of everything from one. This is a benefit not just for today but also for three years from now. When a better CMS comes along and you decide to switch, you will have less to throw away than if you had a monolith and have to re-implement your whole website.
The benefits can be compelling for many organizations, but many developers and service providers have jumped head-first into the composable world without fully advising their business stakeholders about all the potential consequences.
Composable Ramifications on Marketing and Your Business
There are just about as many complications as there are benefits. These may not cause you to decide composable isn’t the right fit for you, but you should be aware of the impacts composable can have on your business.
- Your content editors will notice a downgrade in their tools. Unless they are using a hybrid headless, the born-headless vendors will have a noticeable drop in editor functionality. CMS vendors that have been around a long time have mastered multilingual content, version control, access control, workflows, content types, type inheritance, componentization, content relationships, etc. The born-headless vendors just haven’t had enough time in the market yet to mature their content management feature set.
- New pages will likely require MORE development than before. The answer to mitigate this by some CMS vendors and other third parties such as Uniform and Stackbit is to have ‘layout controllers’ also be headless. This is a way the back end can tell the front end how the layout should be structured so new pages are easier to construct by editors without as much development. However, these are very complex and brittle and won’t work for many common scenarios.
- URLs aren’t easy to specify. Editors have gotten used to being able to specify any URL they want, change it by changing the content hierarchy, and create redirects to any pages. This is much more challenging or even impossible when the UI is separated from the Content Management. The head dictates many of these things and can only be changed by a developer
- Managing simple things like sitemap.xml and HTTP security headers such as Content-Security-Policy are different than they were previously and more challenging to accomplish in a headless world
- Troubleshooting run-time issues in the production environment is different due to the multi-layered architecture. It can sometimes be difficult to narrow down where the problem is because there are so many potential culprits without a single funnel that everything goes through. Each component plus the head itself will have its own pattern for troubleshooting and investigation. This can sometimes cause delays in determining the solution to a problem
- Sometimes customers don’t realize there needs to be a host for the head in a headless environment. The hosting for the heads are called “rendering hosts” and there are different commercial solutions depending on what your head is built on (i.e. next.JS, Vue.js, react, straight JS and HTML, etc.). There are multiple environments to be supported as well. These rendering hosts cost money and must be procured as part of the solution and could become expensive depending on your traffic and page size.
These are just a few of the ramifications that we’ve compiled through our composable experience so far. We definitely expect more as we continue to implement composable for our customers. They may or may not be reasons to “slow your roll” on composable depending on your specific situation.
There are many benefits to a composable architecture. However, after going through a few composable implementations, we find some customers are not truly ready for all the ramifications that this new architecture entails. The key to long-term happiness with this architecture is to make sure you fully understand both the benefits and the potential issues with this type of architecture. The worst scenario is to spend a lot of time and treasure on this new architecture and find out one of these downsides turns out to be a deal breaker.
Build a Composable DXP With Oshyn
The journey from a traditional, monolithic architecture to composable DXP has been underway for a couple of years now, but it’s been picking up more steam as of late. If you’re interested in moving to composable, get in touch and we can help you determine if composable is right for you.
Oshyn is a recognized Optimizely, Sitecore, and Adobe partner. With our decades of experience in the CMS industry and knowledge of headless solutions we can analyze your business and suggest the best way forward after a technical audit.