The 5 Abilities of a Digital Application Stack

Developing single page applications? Mobile applications? Signage applications? You are developing digital applications, not websites.

Digital customers are driving websites toward digital applications and vice versa. The transition from sites to apps means the separation of front-end presentation components from back-end content services, interfaced with standard API’s. The app layout, presentation and front-end components are the responsibility of the front-end developer to design and implement using the CMS as a service.

Content is part of the site, part of the app requested and pushed to digital consumers. Out-in-the-wild development of sites and digital app development is over. We are transitioning to the next platform for building sites and apps together to deliver digital customer experiences.

To accomplish this, there are five abilities that an API-first digital application stack can leverage. We'll dive into them in detail in my next post. But I won't keep you in suspense. Here they are:

  • Flexibility
  • Usability
  • Adaptability
  • Reuseability
  • Scalability

But before we get into the weeds, let's go back to the big picture.

Digital applications are the next, main thing if you are part of a web development team targeting digital customer experiences.

Digital applications are the front-end experiences to your digital business: 7x24, 365 days a year. The new digital customer determines their experience of choice based on interest, and preferred digital interface, and expects more relevant content every step of their journey.

It is no longer just a great website that delivers the experience, engages the customer, and helps build meaningful advocacy. Most CMOs know their digital experience performance is fueled by compelling stories, emotional content, and the continuous drumbeat of the right experience at the right time, and the right interface for the right digital customer.


The Challenge: Princess Cruises wanted to fundamentally change the way their guests accessed information onboard their ships.

As mobile devices are such an integral part of guest's daily lives before they board the ships, it only made sense to extend and transform the Princess experience with [email protected].

Using the [email protected] digital application, Princess can feed content to digital signage onboard the ship, and to the guest room TV. Guests can use the application to communicate with one another, plan activities, and organize excursions.

It takes a digital experience application project team -- consisting of creative storytellers, digital marketing technologists, content editors, front and back-end developers, and IT -- to deliver digital customer experiences across any technology or channel digital interface at the right time.

As the need for a continuous stream of carefully orchestrated experiences grows, so does the need for emotion-generating, content-rich, digital applications. The larger the digital customer audience the more the need for a design and architecture that can deliver consistency, scalability, and the future-proofing necessary to not miss an opportunity to provide that next best digital application.

Enter the next big main thing... decoupled, digital applications.

No longer the role of just the web team, a digital experience application team requires designing, delivering, and orchestrating compelling digital experiences as a collection of decoupled digital applications.

Digital applications are independent front-end applications and API-first back-end cloud content services that together run your digital customer experience. Creating an open and standard front-end application and API-first back-end cloud content services platform is a key step in making the transition from building websites to building digital customer experiences.

Standard application programming interfaces (APIs) and standard services helps provide broader development access to the right content and application services, tools, and available skills required to keep the transition moving forward and focused on building the next best experience application.


Powdr delivers experiences to their digital skiers.

Any ski fanatic knows that variation in terrain or conditions can call for a different type of ski. The perfect powder ski doesn’t always translate to groomed terrain, and vise versa. To get the best experience, skiers need flexibility in the tools and hardware they bring to the mountain. Powdr Resorts, one of the largest ski resort operators in North America, required this same fine-tuned flexibility across all of their digital properties.

By positioning Drupal 8 at the center of their digital system, Powdr can power their flagship site, and other mountain sites, all on one platform. This provides front-end designers with flexibility, and allows them to customize their approach for each brand under the Powdr umbrella. This means that each resort can maintain their unique identity.

One important technology decision for digital application development are the APIs for providing the reusable components for content management (i.e. CMS) to digital channel delivery to the front-end applications.

APIs are the design point to leveraging decoupled, reusable frameworks and component services for application building. The right API-first strategy can unify the design, implementation, and platform of digital application development tools, components, and key devops processes -- and keep the team’s time and energy focused on creating amazing experiences.

As I mentioned above, there are five abilities for an API-first digital application stack to help get your team started. Remember them?

  • Flexibility
  • Usability
  • Adaptability
  • Reuseability
  • Scalability

We'll tackle them one by one next time. See you then.