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What Is A Headless Drupal CMS ?

By admin January 27, 2015
Blog, Web Development 0

Headless websites and architecture are growing in popularity from both developers as well as clients. Majority of web developers who are familiar with what it is are excited about the opportunity that it presents. They are 2 main headless CMS systems that come to mind, one is Drupal and the other one is WordPress. A Headless Drupal CMS allows you to use the core functionalities of Drupal such as user management, content management, custom content types with lots of web services but most importantly use the awesome JS front-end framework as the presentation layer of your website. Let’s first go through what in terms of Drupal development does a headless CMS (Content Management System) actually mean and why you should perhaps use one?

1. With Headless Drupal, a website visitor will not actually interact with the Drupal CMS directly anymore.

2. A website visitor will see webpages that have been created with Javascript frameworks such as Backbone.js or Angular.js for example. What it means is that, they will no longer see a traditional Drupal theme and this is where the word “Headless” comes from, meaning that the traditional Drupal theme/head is missing.

3. Drupal as a result is being used mainly to store data that is then read by the framework such as Backbone.js or Angular.js for example. The old/normal Drupal interface is still used by users to add or edit content that will then show on your website. This is a major difference when it comes to your Drupal development.

4. For Drupal development purposes, what this means is as follows:

a. Freedom – Front-end developers are free from dealing with the structure/conventions of the back-end of a Drupal-based website. It allows from a front-end developers/designers perspective the ability to have complete control of a user experience using their native tools that they are accustomed to using day in and day out.

b. Speed – It shifts the display logic to the client side and streamlines the back-end of the website for hardcore Drupal development. If there is an application that is specifically focused on delivering content for example, it will be more responsive that one that is created with formatted responses using pre-determined rules.

c. Interactive Experience – The back-end of your website for Drupal development becomes the system of the record and the front-end is for users/front-end developers giving you the ability to provide a rich user experience to anyone that visits your website.

5. By shifting the responsibility for the user experience completely into the web browser with a headless Drupal system during the Drupal development phase, it provides the following:

a. Richer user experience
b. Faster website
c. In-browser API’s
d. Highly interactive

Below, is a self-explanatory diagram that explains a Headless Drupal CMS versus its predecessors:
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*Source www.getpantheon.com

Some Possible Problems With A Headless Drupal CMS
1. Layout controls by editors are much harder.
2. UI localization can’t rely on Drupal.
3. Sometimes, it may be harder for admins to make tweaks without front-end work.
4. Headless Drupal sometimes lead to loss of flexibility when it comes to Drupal development.
5. It also limits the options available to those using the site via the normal Drupal admin. Area.
6. It relies heavily on the skill of front-end developers.

Summary
What headless Drupal development allows is the ability to unleash the power of your creative front-end developers as well as the ability to deliver more responsive, faster and a rich user experience which is ultimately a win-win for both clients and website visitors. If you are looking to really unleash the power of Drupal and make life easy for both your front-end and back-end developers during your Drupal development phase, then you should seriously consider using this system. Yes, they may be downsides but that’s the case really with any CMS. The pros in our opinion outweigh the cons. If you need any help or are looking for advice for any of your Drupal development related queries, please feel free to reach out to the team at Mind Digital Group.

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