Considering Decoupled Drupal? Things You Need to Know
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Considering Decoupled Drupal? Things You Need to Know

author By Urvashi Melwani Mar 31, 2020
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With our clients, we are continuously experiencing a growing demand for delivering more interactive web applications and personalized content across platforms.  

We have noticed there has been a significant rise in the adoption of decoupled content management architecture or at least there is curiosity as to how the concept would make a difference to their business. 

Among other things, there is some apprehension among the marketers on how decoupled architecture would impact their work and performance. While we know that through decoupled architecture marketers can actually use the freed-up content anywhere across devices and platforms without remaining handcuffed to the front-end of your website design. There is still some haze over its impact on SEO. 

Through this blog, we attempt to answer when to consider decoupled architecture, its pros and cons, and some tips to boost SEO while going decoupled.

Advantages of Decoupled Drupal

Decoupling Drupal offers plenty of benefits. They are-

 

  1. Developers can focus on innovation

    The decoupled technique facilitates developers to use the leading frameworks and tools of their choices, such as Angular.js, Backbone.js, Meteor,js, Node.js, or Ember.js. Besides it is also possible that they might be interested in using the React library for creating user interfaces, Redux for tracking state and use Google’s AMP or Polymer tools for mobile applications.
    On the other hand, traditional CMS confine developers with the language and frameworks built into the CMS.
  2. Enables omnichannel delivery

    With content available as a separate entity in a decoupled CMS, content managers and editors can easily create and push content while developers focus on presenting content for omnichannel delivery, such as native iOS and Android apps,

    Wearable devices such as smartwatches, streaming apps, and new voice-activated virtual assistant devices, like Amazon’s Echo Alexa or Google Home, and the Internet of Things.
  3. Improves reliability and performance

    A traditional CMS compels you to be satisfied with whatever your CMS vendor provides or not. In such a scenario, it becomes difficult to repurpose your content for multiple front-end platforms.
    However,  scaling is much more effective in a decoupled CMS since it eliminates all the bottlenecks that are likely to be encountered in a traditional CMS. In fact, many CMses can automatically adjust the cloud infrastructure to match demand and improve performance significantly.
  4. Saves time

    The separation of content from the presentation layer allows developers to update and redesign the site in as little as a day, without impacting the content editors. Besides, while upgrading a decoupled CMS, it is only the back and front-end of the CMS application which is updated, and not the content and your website.
    This signifies that the content team can simultaneously work on creating and editing your site, thereby saving loads of time and money of both developers and content editors.

Disadvantages of Decoupling Drupal

SEO requires a basic understanding of how sites are indexed and crawled by search engines. This works differently for different CMSes due to the varying process of creating pages and storing data.

Proper SEO means you are following the guidelines set by search engines from both technical and on-page perspectives. This is especially crucial for Drupal due to its focus on infinite functionalities and the limitations that can quickly arise when implementing advanced features.

 

  1. Restricts metadata outputs 

    The foremost challenge that comes up with Decoupled Drupal systems is the data fed to default metadata editor won't be visible to search engines. For instance, Drupal 8 has a built-in meta tag module, but in the case of decoupled Drupal, the data doesn't get pushed to the front-end as it should be. 

    This makes it difficult for search engines to index the pages and content except when the developer restores the functionality of the particular module.
  2. Sitemaps & URLs with decoupled Drupal
    Typically, decoupled websites prefer using a third-party XML sitemap application because recreating such kinds of features and functionality through custom development can be exorbitant and may go out of budget.

    Irrespective, search engines don’t know how to reach your site, crawl it, and figure out what to index.


    five circles linked to each other                                                        Source: DrupalCon


  3. Increased complexity
    Re-writing the front-end of your website from the ground up indicates that you are already losing out on CMS’s presentation layer by default. Thus, you need to discover how your front-end would interact with your back-end CMS, thereby setting up a strong demand for Drupal experts to configure your CMS and front-end developers with totally different skill sets to deliver the actual end-user experience.

When to Consider Decoupling?

There is no right or wrong time to go decoupled but you must consider all these factors before implementing the solution. Should you be able to meet the requirements, then certainly it’s time to move ahead-

 

  • Your Team
  • Interacting with your data
  • Hosting
  • Serving content to multiple clients
  • Metadata
  • Redirects
  1. Does your team possess the right set of skills?

    Decoupled Drupal can be accomplished if the developers in your team are comfortable with splitting the project into multiple codebases which later can be naturally coalesced around their part of the tech stack. These sub-teams will have to communicate effectively with others to negotiate request/response interaction contracts.

    You’ll also have to keep a tab on developers’ skill levels like their expertise and experience levels is evenly distributed, whether project managers can handle multiple projects with separate teams, and your DevOps team can handle the extra complexity of satisfying the infrastructure needs of different applications.

  2. How do you interact with data?

    While decoupling Drupal, you should be able to decide whether Drupal should be the owner and mediator to manage your content or not. The problem does not arise when your content is in Drupal, but when other services complement your data and your front-end application wants to communicate with other services directly or through Drupal API.

    So, a decoupled approach works only when you have a strong grasp on your data needs and the roles are clearly defined for which services are responsible for each piece of data.

  3. Does your hosting partner support new architecture?

    Evaluate if your current hosting provider can support the decoupled architecture in the very first step. Dig more details on security restrictions, data migration restrictions and any existing long term contracts that may obstruct this process. 

    This separated hosting offers the ability to put the backend application behind a VPN or firewall to prevent any unlawful entry.

    So, a decoupled approach comes handy when your hosting provider can host a non-Drupal front-end, add caching between the various parts of the new architecture, and lastly, you want to restrict editorial access to users within an internal network.

  4. Do you serve content to multiple clients over multiple platforms?

    Decoupling Drupal ensures that you can create content once and publish it on multiple platforms, however, it adds to the complexity of the architecture. For instance, if there is a need to allow editorial control for a custom color scheme per client site, will content be displaying the same title, published date, etc on all the sites and the same URL alias on all sites? If yes, then how will duplicate content impact SEO, and how will canonical meta tag values be sent across sites.

    Decoupling can be thought of as an option when you need to create and manage content in a single application and disseminate it to various platforms. Or when you have an editorial process that demands a low degree of layout control and you are prepared to handle the complexity of managing canonical alias values and other metadata to meet your SEO needs.
  5. When metadata is crucial

    There are plentiful metadata used to build every web page on the website. This can consist of ad targeting values, meta tag values, and other microdata such as JSON-LD. These web issues might fall under front-end issues but if the content is supposed to be used on multiple platforms, they need to be included in back-end concerns too.

    So, decoupled architecture should be considered when content shares ad targeting data logic and other metadata across multiple consuming platforms.
  6. When no redirect control required by editorial team

    Redirect logic is an essential part of routing architecture that becomes complicated by going decoupled. This holds especially for those sites having multiple or complex redirect needs that must be managed in a single redirect or where editors demand more control over the redirects.

 

Therefore, the decoupling approach should be considered when there is no redirect control asked by the editorial staff with all redirects being taken care of by broad server-level rules. Besides, you should have an architecture that supports combining multiple redirect rules into a single redirect.

Tips and Tricks to boost SEO

There are a few tricks mentioned that can help you boost your SEO-

  1. Language differences

    Using different coding languages at front-end results in different interactions of web elements. Given this, SEO can have a huge impact on it - the way a site is crawled and how users interact with it.
    Per this  report, JavaScript is the most favorable among developers with 69.8% of respondents followed closely by HTML and CSS.

    Thus, it is essential to understand how JavaScript can affect SEO as search engines often fail to use JavaScript or other complex code properly. This could lead to potential loss of rankings and page value.

    Developers should focus on executing coding best practices and not simply opt for a mess of CSS styles and JavaScript implementations. 
  2. Content parsing with structured data (Schema)

    Well- structured data from schema.org’s microdata vocabulary enhances the way search engines evaluate the content of your website. Website owners need to highlight content and define its context.

    By doing so, the probability of displaying content in featured snippets (rank zero) increases extensively, thus improving user experience.

    There are two ways to implement Drupal schema. Either you can initiate the markup process manually or can implement it automatically through the installation of a module.
    By choosing a manual option, you’ll have to do HTML code tagging with schema properties alongside defining a relevant schema.org page.

    And for implementing it automatically, simply install the Schema.org  Metatag module. It will facilitate content authors to add schema values as JSON LD in the head of the web pages.
  3. Site speed is important

    Site speed should be of prime importance for websites too as the way it is for search engines. There are 3 major areas from SEO point of view that can result in quick and calculable site speed increase-

         a. On-page asset delivery
         b. Page design
         c.  Hosting infrastructure

    However, with hosting, it has become significant to have a competent system operations admin behind your infrastructure to benefit the most out of it.

    For example, caching helps in speeding up page delivery while applications like NGINX and Varnish, though tricky to configure,  help speed up asset delivery.

    Thus, you should focus on time to render and time to the activity. This will provide you the metrics that really impact the user experience.

Summing-up

Decoupling Drupal may not be the right solution for everyone because it certainly brings some challenges with it like increased development time and blown-up budget.

However, if you want to revolutionize your users’ experience through compelling personalized journeys, make your business secure, scalable, innovative, and future-proof by integrating with the latest technologies; then decoupling Drupal is worth trying, considering the challenges overshadowed by its benefits.

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