WordPress technology company WP Engine recently announced new plans for Atlas, a “headless” site and application management framework. With the headless approach, the WordPress software is used strictly as an interface for writers and content editors – it has been decoupled from presentation (design) and publishing (build and deploy). Headless technology isn’t new, but in an interview with The New Stack, WP Engine co-founder and CTO Jason Cohen said most web developers aren’t using it.
“Much of the incredible innovation in digital experiences today comes from headless architectures,” he said. “We found that many developers were excited about headless but didn’t know where to start. This announcement is a direct response to customer feedback, market gaps, and internal innovation to make this possible.
What headless technology can mean for developers
By definition, headless technology stores, manages, and delivers a variety of content on a website, but without front-end delivery. For web developers, a headless approach provides flexibility when creating visual components for backend data. In this online age, when you can consume information on anything from a mobile device to a refrigerator door, that is very valuable.
Without the front-end system in place to dictate how content is presented and where it is hosted, web developers are allowed to separate content creation from presentation and create and customize customer-facing elements in their own way.
The Internet of Things and the devices we use to access it are constantly evolving. Smartphones, watches, and even computers are sure to see significant UX design change over the next five to ten years. Adopting a headless solution can be considered “future proof” since the essential backend is kept in place while the frontend can be thrown away and redone.
“Headless allows developers to decouple the frontend and backend of a site,” Cohen said, “so they can have the flexibility to create high-performance, dynamic user experiences. It allows developers to use frameworks and modern development tools outside of the main CMS, and take advantage of the fact that almost all SaaS services today have APIs.
A new way to design
With countless frameworks and templates available for use in the WordPress ecosystem, new competitors need to bring something special to the table. Cohen asserted that the two main differentiators of Atlas are that it is “a complete headless solution (providing a platform for both the CMS and the decoupled front-end) and it is the the most efficient solution on the market”. He said that “Atlas provides all of these elements of a headless, yet already connected project, from a single vendor, with one company to call for support and pricing.”
Because Atlas controls all the layers, he continued, “it’s the only headless solution where the frontend and backend work in harmony to deliver functionality that isn’t possible when other solutions are sold. separately and not grouped together”.
As for Cohen’s claim that WP Engine is the best performing headless solution, he says it’s “because it leverages WP Engine’s existing CDN (which is the fastest among WordPress platforms according to Google’s Chrome Real User Experience report), and provides the fastest, most scalable content API between the frontend and WordPress, unlike any other solution.
Faust.js and Blueprints
Additionally, Atlas offers the option of an Atlas Sandbox Account, a free environment where you can learn and play with all of Atlas’ features. Cohen commented, “Our sandbox accounts are a living example of the ‘give first, get later’ rule. Simply put, we really want to help people become headless WordPress developers, so we provide a free sandbox account that doesn’t expire, with pre-made sites to get started with and tons of educational materials.
Additionally, Atlas offers “Blueprints”, which are more complex than the average WordPress template. Blueprints are React-based front-end websites that come with pre-installed plugins for headless WordPress publishing.
“Blueprints are complete, functional, headless WordPress sites containing front-end code, data models, data, and plugins that are quickly deployed, so developers can start learning how to put their projects together by looking at a working site. “, Cohen said. “They could use the Blueprint as a basis for their project or just to learn and tinker with. As we all know, it’s much easier to “modify” than “write”, easier to modify something that works than to create something from a blank sheet of paper (or an IDE empty).”
Headless won’t replace the traditional WordPress CMS system anytime soon, but its use is growing. “The internet is a huge space,” Cohen commented, “with room for many different kinds of technologies with a range of trade-offs. A traditional CMS will still be the right choice for millions of websites, as it is. today, although in ten years there will also be millions of headless sites.
The New Stack is a wholly owned subsidiary of Insight Partners, an investor in the following companies mentioned in this article: Real.
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