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How Optimizely is evolving to support headless publishing and the composable DXP

  • By 3chillies

If you’ve been following the market for content management systems (CMS) and digital experience platforms (DXPs) like Umbraco and Sitecore you’ll likely to have come across the concept of the “composable DXP” – the ability to get different solutions that cover various aspects of digital experience to work together in one system. Theoretically, this means you can build up a portfolio of best-of-breed solutions that make up a coherent whole, delivering benefits such as improved flexibility and agility compared to a more traditional, monolithic platform.

Over the past eighteen months vendors have been scrambling to better support the composable DXP, chiefly by turning their existing platforms into a series of SaaS-based products that can be deployed independently.

Another significant development has been a corresponding growth in support for headless publishing, where the back-end CMS that stores your content is decoupled from the solutions that deliver the front-end experiences across sites, apps and more. Again, this supports more agility, better performance, the ability to use the same content across multiple experiences, often more solid approaches to managing content and more. A fully composable architecture will usually be headless by design, so platform advancements and enhancements invariably support both of these evolving concepts.

The latest platform to evolve their platform to better support composability and headless publishing is Optimizely, a feature-rich DXP that we’ve been proud to work with for a number of years. Recently there have been a number of key product announcements from Optimizley that present a significant step towards supporting composable architecture and headless publishing. In this post we’re going to explore some of the latest Optimizely developments and what this means for the platform.

Optimizely’s core CMS is now available on a SaaS basis

The most significant announcement is the news that Optimizely’s core CMS will be available on a SaaS basis which supports both headless and composable scenarios. This is a core step towards supporting composable architecture, and follows a similar move from Sitecore last year. There’s no confirmation of when exactly this will happen, but Optimizely has opened up a waiting list for the beta preview.

One thing which will please existing Optimizely customers is that they have also confirmed that they will continue to commit to supply the existing core CMS on a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) basis “for the long term”, providing some certainty for customers. From our point of view providing this statement is a positive step, as some other vendors have been a bit vague about their plans. It also means new teams considering replatforming to Optimizely can choose the composable route or the PaaS option, with latter allowing for a more customizable experience.

Extension of Optimizely graph

In the Summer Optimizely announced a new Graph QL API branded as “Optimizely Graph” that is described as a “multi-tenant SaaS service that allows you to search, query and deliver content anywhere.” To deliver global performance is it powered through Optimizely’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) and also supports full-text indexing and search.

While this new API is a significant step in being able to support headless, Optimizely Graph is now being extended to be able to synchronize data from external sources, and allow developers to manage it all from a single hub. Again, this will help to deliver more integrated experiences and support a composable set-up. The new offering is also available for both SaaS and PaaS customers, again reiterating the continuing support for the latter group.

A new Visual Builder helps marketers

“Low Code No Code” has been a direction of travel for software development in general, and CMS and DXP vendors have been keen to ensure that their offerings can be used by digital marketing teams and business users independently from their colleagues in IT. This has meant that most providers have invested in creating new interfaces that empower non-IT users to achieve more sophisticated outcomes that previously would have needed developer input.

Optimizely’s latest announcement concerns a new “visual experience builder” that provides an enhanced editing experience with drag-and-drop, on-page editing, previews and embedded personalization. It also integrates seamlessly with the Optimizely Graph. Again, it is good to see that Optimizely is continuing to invest by modernising the interfaces that marketing teams and content creators are going to be using every day.

Brand templates

There are also other new developments that will welcomed by marketing teams, including the launch of a Brand Templates feature that allows central design templates to be stored that can then be accessed and deployed by content creators, with some governance that can be applied to lock down certain elements. This not only will help speed up content creation but also supports on-brand content and will be particularly useful for organizations operating a number of different brands or sub-brands.

Composability across the platform

Along with the core CMS, composability is also being supported across other parts of the platform. In particular, Optimizely Commerce has a number of core composable modules including payments, promotions, search etc. and is now set to roll out a set of additional modules, some of which are developed in partnership with third parties. Again, both SaaS Core and PaaS Core customers are supported.

There’s also a series of other enhancements on the roadmap that are being rolled out across other parts of the platform including Optimizely Feature Experimentation, Optimizely’s Content Marketing Platform and Optimizely Web Experimentation.

Optimizely continues to evolve

The latest round of updates from Optimizely are welcome. They keep the Optimizely platform competitive with other market leaders who are focusing on composable and headless support, but we also welcome that Optimizely is sending a strong message that PaaS will continue to be offered and supported, offering parity with the new set of updates. This gives customers the choice. It’s also always good to see active investment with improvements that offer something for both marketing and IT teams.

If you’d like to discuss Optimizely and the latest updates, then get in touch!

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