When it comes to building a digital experience platform (DXP), there are three main architectural approaches to consider:
Each approach has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, and the right choice for your business will depend on your specific needs and goals. The composition and skillset of your team is also a major factor in which solution is best for your business.
Monolithic architecture is the traditional approach to building a DXP. A monolithic solution is one where all of the components of the platform, including the front-end, back-end, and content management system (CMS), are tightly integrated together. This approach is easy to understand and maintain, as all of the components are located in one place. This approach is also relatively easy to develop and deploy, as all of the components are integrated together.
However, there are also some considerations for this approach. Monolithic architecture requires solid prior planning and future thought for scaling the platform, as all components are tightly integrated. Monolithic architecture can in certain circumstances be more challenging to update individual components, as this may require the entire platform to be updated. This of course is dependent on how the application has been built/developed and what framework or platform has been used to build it (such as Drupal, Kentico Xperience etc).
Headless architecture is a more recent approach to building a DXP. In a headless architecture, the front-end and back-end of the platform are decoupled, allowing them to be developed and deployed independently, which can offer great flexibility, and strong scaling capability.
There are drawbacks of course, such as the complexity to understand and maintain a headless system. It can be difficult to update or add new functionality without modifying the entire platform. Again, this of course is dependent on how the application has been built/developed and what framework or platform has been used to build it (such as Kontent, Optimizely etc).
Composable architecture is also a recent DXP approach and it is certainly gaining plenty of popularity. A composable solution is made up of a collection of independent, reusable components that can be combined and recombined to create new functionality. This approach allows for the platform to be extended and customised via the use of additional tools and applications to meet the specific needs of an business.
Composable solutions of course also come with some drawbacks. Composable architecture requires that you understand multiple applications in order to get a working solution up and running, as the platform is made up of a collection of independent components. The speed, strength and reliability of the API connections can also present problems in this architecture, leading to performance issues on the front end for site users. Again, this of course is dependent on how the application has been built/developed and what components have been selected to build it (such as Contentful, Segment, etc).
When it comes to deciding which approach to take, it’s important to consider the specific needs and goals of your team and your business. Monolithic architecture is the easiest to understand and maintain, but needs to be architected correctly from the start in order to scale well. Headless architecture offers great speed/performance and excellent omnichannel capability, but can be more complex to understand and maintain. Composable architecture is also very fast, nimble and able to scale at the pace an business wants the system to, however is also complex due to it requiring multiple applications bundled together to form a complete solution, and comes with potential performance issues as a result of API requirements.
Another important consideration is how you plan to manage and update the selected platform over time. If your business needs a platform that is straight forward to build and easy to update and maintain, a monolithic architecture may be the best choice for you. If your business has depth in its technical team, with multiple resources, that have the time to re-skill and learn new platforms and technology and can invest the time into managing more complex environments then composable or headless architecture might be the right choice for your project.
At Newpath, we have spent years working with our clients advising them on the most appropriate technology stack and architecture for their business needs both now and into the future. We’d love to chat with you about your next project and whether composable, headless or monolithic architecture is best for your goals.