The Business Case for Going Decoupled: Part Two

Jamie Hollern / Sep 9, 2020

At Amazee Labs, we’re experts in decoupled - using Drupal and frontend technologies such as React and Gatsby. Decoupled projects can mean independent Drupal backends, modern frontend web apps or any combination of both working together as full-stack applications. In the first part of this blog series, we explored the advantages of headless Drupal and its applications to various industries. Now we’ll take a look at the frontend advantages of decoupled projects as well as examples where a fully decoupled website can meet all the needs of an elegant complex website.

What are the business cases for a decoupled frontend?

Page load speed

According to CDN provider Cloudflare, numerous studies show that page speed results in increased customer conversions1. Walmart found that for every 1 second of improvement in page load speed they experienced up to a 2% increase in conversions2. At Amazee Labs, the main framework we use for decoupled frontends is Gatsby, which is specifically designed to be lightning fast. Running a Google Lighthouse performance audit on a Gatsby v1 starter website returns a 100/100 rating for performance3, which gives your business the very best possible foundation to successfully convert visitors into sales.

Rapid development

Decoupled frontends encourage rapid prototyping and development iterations, meaning functioning features are delivered regularly and the state of a project’s progress is clear. This ties in very well with agile development methodologies, giving the customer clear control over development prioritisation that accurately reflects the needs of the business. It also means that potential changes and adjustments to the original plan can be made early with minimum technical debt, saving money down the line while still delivering a rich and robust feature set.

Granular control of markup

If you’re building a decoupled frontend application, the backend provides the data and the frontend provides the HTML/markup and one cares not about the other. This means that you can optimise your markup for search engine optimisation (SEO), leading to higher brand visibility and conversions in the world’s most competitive advertising arenas. Control over the HTML output of your web application is also great news for entities to whom accessibility is a high priority, such as government departments and agencies. 

Backend agnostic

A Gatsby frontend doesn’t care where the data comes from, as long as the data is available. This means that you’re not tied to any one backend system or technology stack and this allows you to choose the backend system that best suits your business needs. This also allows for incremental backend replacements, since GraphQL is simply a wrapper around any number of data sources and APIs that can be swapped in and out. Fewer dependencies means more flexibility, allowing you to focus on what matters most to your business.

Image of Backend technology stacks that work with Gatsby. Namely, Drupal, Contentful, Wordpress' Rest API and Netlify.

Who should use a decoupled frontend and when?

This option is best for companies who already have a backend system, or who wish to choose a backend system independently of the frontend so as to avoid sacrificing the granularity and flexibility a bespoke frontend provides. It also suits companies who want to be light on their feet when it comes to decisions around features and development spending, enabling them to prioritise what’s most important to their business while staying within budget. Companies who care about SEO and/or accessibility will benefit hugely from the control over HTML output and retaining huge flexibility in the selection of a backend system.

What are the business cases of doing a decoupled frontend and backend together?

End-to-end development needs

Amazee Labs offers an end-to-end concept, design, build and deployment service for those businesses who want to leverage the full extent and power of our in-depth experience of building high-quality web apps. We offer UX, design, and branding services with our talented team of creatives led by our highly experienced Creative Director, Thomas Schröpfer. Other services include prototyping, information architecture and content strategy. Coupled with our front and backend development skills, with the possibility of running your apps on our sister company’s Lagoon hosting platform, every part of your online business needs can be handled by Amazee, saving you time and money across the length of the project. This significantly reduces collaborative friction between the various moving parts of the project, since all of our internal teams across the companies are used to the same cohesive manner of working together, thereby increasing development efficiency and reducing associated costs.

Planned future growth

You may have a rock-solid business plan that needs some technical expertise to help guide your digital journey from start to finish, keeping future business growth and important KPIs at the forefront of your mind. We can help to identify business opportunities and growth possibilities when scoping, planning and executing your web apps. 

You probably have big plans in the short, medium and long term and our experienced product owners and business development team can help to identify further areas of growth and improvement from a technical perspective and help you make the most informed, data-based development decisions. Making use of the full range and breadth of our experience with both backend and frontend development, our team can guide you through smooth phased development iterations and milestones over multiple territories, markets and frontends in projects that can span weeks, months or even years meaning that your online presence is in a safe pair of hands, leaving you time to focus on building your actual business.

Migrations and maintenance

Many of our “full stack” decoupled customers come to us with some existing combination of an ageing, slow frontend and often difficult to use, buggy and unwieldy backend that seems to rack up maintenance costs associated with longstanding technical debt and the inflexibility of ageing systems. Because of this, we’ve become experts in migrating large amounts of content and other business-critical data between older versions of Drupal (and other non-Drupal based systems) to properly architected and designed instances of Drupal while replacing the frontend with something modern and fast that also looks the part.

At Amazee Labs we have hugely experienced maintenance and extensions teams that can handle replacing your web application component by component, while constantly improving the quality and reliability of your codebase. This enables you to retain the best parts of your web app outwardly and reduce technical debt and bugs, saving money to deliver actual features that provide a return on investment for your business.

Progressive decoupling

Sometimes our clients want to leverage the power of decoupled architecture but don’t wish to go fully decoupled straight away, as we help them assess and plan their next strategic moves in the digital space. In these instances, Amazee can deliver our unique “progressively decoupled” Drupal instances that offer all of the power of a well-architected Drupal application with the flexibility and granularity of a modern and abstracted frontend4. The business benefits of this are very clear - keep the technical requirements of the project simple and low cost while at the same time, allowing the system to be extended, improved and adapted quickly and easily with any number of options in the future. This option encourages agility in decision making since the initial decision is lower risk and opens up numerous opportunities for growth in the future.

Who should use a full-stack decoupled app and when?

It goes without saying that the advantage of going fully decoupled combines most of the advantages of building both standalone front and backend applications in a cohesive package. Instructing Amazee Labs to build your full stack decoupled web application allows you to leverage the 100+ years of development experience within our various multidisciplinary teams, meaning a unified vision, rock-solid requirements on a business and technical level and all of the efficiencies in terms of cost and time savings thanks to our close-knit product and development teams. 

At Amazee Labs, we believe in using the right tools, processes and paradigms for the job at hand. We also understand that our clients rely on us to not only offer them a first-rate technical solution but to understand what potential solution offers the best overall value to their business. The business cases for a decoupled frontend are clear and obvious. The keyword here is speed, but not just because your content will be served to your customers lighting fast. 

Decoupled frontend applications help us streamline development and the associated processes, enabling us to deliver more robust features much more quickly. Thanks to this iterative nimbleness during development, your business requirements and technical requirements become more aligned, meaning fewer costly changes further down the pipeline.

Beyond their many technical benefits, full stack decoupled applications - those that leverage Amazee Labs’ full breadth of experience in developing both front and backend systems - really come into their own in terms of cost-effective development and return on investment. The reasons for this are simple - we have straightforward and collaborative architectural and development processes that our internal teams and client teams all adhere to, meaning clear communication of expectations and high-quality requirements shared between all stakeholders. 

Of course, having an agency of experts on both sides of the decoupled divide also means knowing that your project development is in a very safe pair of hands, especially since our developers are supported by an incredibly experienced and talented team of project management, UX, design, strategy and business development personnel. 

We offer all of these services to our clients so you can get the right people from our side embedded in your processes. Let us build your decoupled website and your decoupled web strategy so that you can get maximum value from your development team and save time to focus on driving your business. We’ll build you the decoupled web experience you want and need, and make it worth your while too. 

Ready to talk about your project? Get in touch with us today.