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2018-01-04 13:203 minutes read IT education

You've spent weeks or even months working on your new website, and you've spent a lot of money. However, after about 4 years, your site is outdated. That's just how it goes. Which technological developments help you to keep your website up to date? Sneak preview: headless websites.

What do we mean by "outdated"?

Every year, web standards change. If your website doesn’t meet these standards, then it quickly looks outdated.

But how do you have to interpret this? A website is outdated when it no longer fulfills the expectations of the visitors. Those expectations arise in 2 ways:

  • Visitors end up on sites that are up to date with the latest trends
  • Visitors got used to certain behavior, like Google Search

Mostly, all technical requirements are still advanced enough. It's especially the look&feel of your website that should be updated. Let's compare it to an older house: the roof is still in good condition, but the wallpaper reminds you of your grandparents.

What trends did emerge over the past 4 years?

Does your website date from 2013 or earlier? When building it, you probably didn't take into account today's omnipresent mobile visitors. But also the cookie legislation has changed, Facebook and Google launched Mobile Accelerated Pages, and chatbots are talking (semi)automatic to your visitors.

Furthermore, it's becoming increasingly important to consider your visitors as individuals and to personalize your website for every user thoroughly. Did you know that today, we use the term immersive websites rather than informative websites? Immersive websites focus on brand experience.

And as we told before, most visitors probably end up on your website through a search engine like Google Search. They expect your site to support the same search behavior.

One way or another, all these trends affect your website. Do you want to update your site? You can easily add some trends afterwards. Other trends will require structural changes.

Let's use the house metaphor once more: a new carpet easily brightens up your house, while replacing the old kitchen takes more time. Just like making your website responsive requires more work than updating the layout of your blog articles.

Headless websites: decouple backend and frontend

Distinguishing between the frontend and the backend is important. The frontend includes the interfaces that your visitors immediately come into contact with, while the backend represents the underlying information systems. Mostly, it's only the frontend that looks outdated.

By decoupling both, and by letting them exchange information via a smart standard, it's possible for the frontend and backend to evolve at different rates. You don't have to redecorate all rooms in your house at the same time, right? Websites that have a decoupled frontend and backend are called headless websites.

It allows you to follow the latest trends by redesigning your frontend on a yearly basis. You don't need to update your backend systems this often, and they can focus on stable data storage and processing.

Up to an evolutionary model

Will you forever have to rebuild your website every 4 years? Maybe not.

The popular content management framework Drupal adjusted its innovation model. The CMS now commits to small incremental improvements over a longer period, instead of large updates every 2 years. Drupal also fully commits to headless.

Moreover, new IT architecture models like micro-services are emerging for approaching IT systems flexibly and evolutionarily. This model divides software into small isolated components, called services, that communicate with each other to form a greater whole.

One of the most important advantages is that every part can be created independently and can evolve at its own pace.

Another advantage? A service that slows down can be provided more than once. That way, the software becomes very flexible and scalable. It works like this:

  • Services are placed in "containers". If 1 service goes down, the other services keep working, although damaged.
  • For deploying, maintaining and controlling these containers, more and more technical solutions are being built, like Docker.

What are the main lessons?

When building a website today, it's important to make sure it's future-oriented and can easily be adapted when a new trend arises. You want to make sure that your website is evolutionary. Therefore it's best to develop it with decoupled services, preferably inside Docker containers, and to at least separate the frontend and backend from each other.

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