Currently over 1,000,000 sites run on Drupal, including digital customer experiences of several Fortune 500 companies. While the open source content management system undoubtedly has powerful back-end capabilities, its restrictive front-end capabilities have led around 5.2% of all Drupal 7 and 8 sites to adopt decoupled Drupal distributions.

Decoupled Drupal architecture enables breakthrough interactive user experiences, giving enterprises the flexibility to innovate, and providing limitless options on what they can create, regardless of the interface. Teams can use React, Angular, and a host of other frontend technologies to deliver digital experiences.

However, it may not be what every enterprise needs. An evaluation of the pros and cons of the various options of decoupling will help you decide what your enterprise truly needs.

When does decoupled Drupal architecture work best?

Decoupled architectures work best in two scenarios:

  • A traditional Drupal site, powering one or more sites or applications
  • A Drupal site without a front end, powering multiple sites or applications

It may not be suitable for standalone sites and applications with largely static content. In such cases, it may just end up duplicating workflows and obstructing the benefits of a coupled Drupal architecture.

To identify the Drupal architecture suitable for your enterprise, you should first evaluate your key requirements.

Enterprise Requirement

Ideal Drupal Architecture

Primarily editorial needs

Coupled Drupal architecture

Balance between editorial needs and
developer needs

Progressively Decoupled Drupal architecture

Primarily developer needs

Fully Decoupled Drupal architecture


Besides this basic rule of thumb, decoupled architecture may be an appropriate choice when your requirements are any of the following:

  • Setting front end developers free - A decoupled architecture gives your front end specialists full freedom from the conventions of the backend, thus allowing them to structure and display the data using their native tools.
  • Speeding up the site - It significantly reduces the application load time of your site by shifting display logic to the client-side and streamlining the back end. An application which is focused on delivering content would be much more responsive with a decoupled architecture than one that assembles completely formatted responses based on complex rules.
  • Building true interactive experiences - It helps you build a truly interactive experience for the users by powering fully functional in-browser applications in the website. In such a case, the backend serves as a content repository while the real-time interaction happens in the browser.
  • Omnichannel delivery - The content that you publish on the website can be made available for use in many different places including, multiple mobile applications, IoT devices and various feeds at the same time.

How to decide whether you need a decoupled Drupal architecture

Once you have decided that decoupled Drupal is a great choice from a technology standpoint, you also need to check whether it is feasible from an implementation point of view. You need to evaluate whether your enterprise has any of the following logistical constraints:

  • Budget: Decoupled Drupal is expensive owing to the planning and structuring requirements of the business. It may therefore, not be an optimum choice for projects like education and editorial sites that are easily achievable through a unified Drupal CMS. However, if your projects involve larger systems like gaming or multisite structures with a bigger budget, your enterprise is likely to benefit from a decoupled Drupal solution.
  • Team: Your enterprise should have a self-driven, disciplined and structured team consisting of strong developers and testers, or your project is likely to go downhill.
  • Timeline of the project: Building a decoupled Drupal architecture is a time consuming process because of the detailed planning involved. So if your project has a short deadline, it may not be feasible for you to deploy a decoupled architecture.
  • Flexibility: With a Drupal frontend, editors have the flexibility to manipulate page content and layout without help from a developer. There’s also the flexibility of in-place editing, adding contextual links, and leveraging Drupal’s accessibility features. Once you decouple, you give up a significant amount of editorial independence and flexibility. So you need to take a call on whether backend or frontend flexibility is the key goal of your project.
  • Maintenance: Fully decoupled applications are written in JavaScript and require Node.js-based stacks, such as MEAN (MongoDB, Express, Angular, Node.js) or MERN (React in lieu of Angular). Using another hosting stack may thus not be advisable if you are a company with modest means. Also, fully decoupling Drupal will require you to research and determine the right actions for the security of your applications rather than relying on Drupal, as in case of coupled implementation.

Decoupling is not easy or cheap and requires efficient planning to eliminate the complexities of its system. If your enterprise doesn’t have the need and the resources for maintaining it, pushing for decoupled Drupal can further complicate your project.

At Srijan, we have expert Drupal teams to help enterprises assess their current architecture, and identify if decoupled is the way to go. Post assessment, we work to set up a complete decoupled Drupal architecture, based on your exact business requirements.

Get ready to deliver immersive online experiences across customer touchpoints. Let’s get the discussion started on implementing decoupled Drupal for your enterprise.

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