The path to headless on Magento
The need to deliver customer experiences seamlessly across every channel and device is becoming central to driving growth and providing the best service. A microservices approach that is both cloud native and headless allows for several advantages that many businesses are now considering.
The days of deploying monolithic structures to support business needs are being challenged by the arrival of composable commerce. Magento have worked to mature their API but also have released a PWA version that supports a headless architecture, which means you can utilise Magento as a headless store.
With the rise of composable commerce and it’s new approach, people are starting to take a closer look at how quickly they can innovate within monolithic platforms. Several areas often pop up when we’re talking to retailers and brands, such as:
- The size of the application being too complex to implement changes quickly.
- Having to redeploy the whole application when releasing new features.
- Scaling monoliths can prove difficult due to development team silos
There’s a need for brands to be customer-centric and focus on adapting to constantly changing customer expectations. Headless commerce provides, in part, a solution for this. In short, a headless system can be broken down into three parts – A frontend, a backend and a middleware API communication layer that allows the frontend to talk to the backend.
Headless or API-based commerce attempts to decouple business and transactional logic from the presentation layer. Subsequently the frontend experience is separated from the platform itself and provides a headless architecture that integrates flexibility for channels and API touchpoints.
One term that arguably leads to confusion when discussing headless systems is that of microservices. Both can be used together, but ultimately, they do different things. In short, microservices are used in the decomposition of a system to represent a collection of individual services. These services are isolated from one another and can scale independently. This decomposition of the application into a set of services leads to faster development times by allowing services to be developed independently.
It‘s worth outlining the emergence of composable commerce as a development approach that leverages modern technologies in an attempt to combine them into a custom application. It also falls seamlessly into the MACH (Microservices, API, Cloud, Headless) approach for supporting a modular architecture.
Adobe Commerce has a very mature API that supports headless deployments. In addition, GraphQL, a data query language available since Magento 2.3, supports the ability to fetch data with a single API call. GraphQL APIs can also be extended with microservices.
In other words, Magento can be deployed as a headless system as the architecture supports the separation of the frontend from the backend. The ability to perform this decoupling allows all services and data to pass from the Magento store to third party services with the support of the GraphQL API layer.
The ability to decouple the architecture allows frontend teams more freedom when it comes to choosing a potential technology to use. React, Vue, Next.js and Nuxt are amongst the most popular frameworks. Allowing frontend teams to develop the frontend independently from the Magento store provides the ability to quickly develop and test new features. In addition, the store can be easily upgraded without affecting the frontend.
Key considerations before moving to headless
It may come as no surprise that developer costs could rise when adopting a headless approach as more skills will be required. For example, React to cover the frontend, PHP Magento skills for the backend and whatever skills may be required to support any corresponding API touchpoints.
Decoupling the current Magento frontend can take time but owing to the array of tooling that is now available, these transitions are becoming shorter and shorter. Modules that need to be migrated to a headless system must have API support so that they can be implemented as third party services. These points are not exhaustive but are worth considering before making a move.
Several frameworks can be used to implement a headless solution. For example, it is possible to build your own using Vue or React. There also exists Next.js and Gatsby that can be used as part of a headless approach. Adobe also has a Progressive Web App, or PWA called PWA Studio. The store utilises a default collection of presentational components called the Venia theme, and a library of logical components and hooks known as Peregrine. Magento’s PageBuilder is also integrated into PWA Studio to ensure CMS Pages built with native Page Builder content types are rendered correctly within PWA Studio apps.
Sites built in PWA Studio are cross-browser compatible and because content is cached in the browser, the user experiences a fast and responsive site. PWA’s also work offline and have an app-like interface. PWA Studio adheres to the RAIL model, which is basically a user-centric performance model for PWA sites. The idea behind RAIL is to represent four distinct parts of a web app life cycle. By using this model, a solid foundation is presented from which PWA Studio is built. Here’s a brief description of the four areas:
- Response – PWA is responsive, so the user feels like the interactions are instantaneous.
- Animation – Provide visual smoothness.
- Idle – Used to complete deferred work and cache content.
- Load – Optimized loading relative to the device and network to maintain user attention.
As many retailers push for the inclusion of PWA’s so the technology is constantly evolving and keeping pace, many system integrators, including Tryzens, offer a PWA Studio capability.
It’s worth remembering that PWA studio is built to work with the Magento commerce application. This provides an advantage in terms of compatibility as the commerce application and the head are both developed by Adobe Commerce.
Some might argue that that the future of ecommerce is headless as we see pure headless platforms, such as commercetools, move into the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce leaders.
One thing is for certain, and that is to stay ahead in an ever-evolving market, you need to understand digital commerce developments such as headless, and the impact it could have on your business.
At Tryzens, our team are equipped with the knowledge and skills to help brands develop and implement headless commerce into their business. If you would like to take the plunge into headless or have any burning questions on the topic, get in touch with our experts.
You can also read about the path to headless on Salesforce Commerce Cloud
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