The Web Is Changing: Introducing Experience Express

At no point in the history of digital content has there ever been such a dizzying proliferation of devices in our lives, and experiences we encounter and consume. Long the most critical element of an organization’s digital presence, the website is increasingly treated as just a single facet in a kaleidoscope of content channels and form factors. Many of today’s users, in the course of acquiring content or data, never touch a desktop web browser at all.

How do we address this channel explosion and the issues that ensue as it continues? If the architectural shift we are witnessing — from monoliths to microservices — is truly as monumental as it sounds, is Drupal ready? More importantly, how can you use Drupal to ensure that your digital experiences are prepared for the omnichannel future? And what's happening on the ground and in the minds of developers, marketers, and business decision-makers?

This blog post marks the beginning in a journey across the stack, across the world, and across the past, present, and future of content management and Drupal. In this new column, titled Experience Express, we'll dig deep into the trenches of Drupal in search of the best techniques and tools to build ambitious digital experiences. We'll crisscross the planet, venturing to conferences straddling diverse communities and ecosystems to identify what makes new web development trends tick. This column is the start of our trip together into the core of decoupled Drupal and omnichannel digital experiences.

Confronting the channel explosion

On a daily basis, users interact with a staggering array of different clients: native mobile applications on smartphones, native desktop applications on personal computers, over-the-top systems on televisions, chat applications in the form of chatbots and voice assistants, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications on lower-level hardware. Today, these clients tend to interact with a server which acts as a content repository or data store and can communicate with other servers and systems by leveraging the same mechanisms — rather than remaining inextricably tied to a locked-in monolithic architecture.

This phenomenon has upended architectural paradigms and foregoing approaches across the industry. Traditionally, websites, especially larger ones, are administered through a content management system (CMS), software which at its core enables the creation and manipulation of content and its formatting and layout. Many traditional CMSes, having long specialized in website administration, are simply underprepared for the ongoing explosion of content channels. But Drupal is bucking the trend.

Drupal is readier than ever for the future

Drupal is a notable exception to this pattern. In fact, in recent years, Drupal has been recasting itself as a CMS which can be employed not just as an end-to-end system for traditional websites, but also for communication with clients ingesting data and other servers — and a cohesive hybrid of both. This portends exciting new possibilities for one of the most commonly used content management frameworks in existence today.

Thanks to the efforts of the API-first initiative, contributed modules like JSON API, GraphQL, and RELAXed Web Services are revolutionizing the ways in which developers of all backgrounds can take advantage of Drupal's content management features. With JSON API slated for inclusion in a future version of Drupal core, Drupal has taken a big step toward a more universal future focused not solely on the web but on experiences of all shapes and sizes.

Introducing Experience Express

Experience Express is Acquia's first column focused on decoupled Drupal and experimental approaches with Drupal. But this isn't simply a column extolling the benefits of Drupal and Acquia — it will be a highly technical guidebook for developers and a barometer of what's happening both inside and outside Drupal and Acquia. Most of all, it's my hope not only to dig deep but also to provide a personal connection to the contributors making all of this possible, the developers building applications consuming Drupal, and the businesses doing amazing work in this arena.

In short, Experience Express will aim to be a human look at the future of Drupal, up close and personal, even as it maintains the technical heft we know you value in Acquia's content.

In the blog posts to come, we'll inspect concepts and ideas in decoupled Drupal from the minutest details, such as how to issue requests which yield desired responses on the client side, to the bigger picture, including the implications of decoupled Drupal on the future of Drupal and CMS architectures in general. In the process, you'll gain an idiomatic understanding of Drupal’s APIs and their consumption and how they can be used to successfully build simple content applications in a variety of technologies. You'll also hear from me at conferences where decoupled Drupal is a hot topic. And you'll learn how you can use Acquia's products and Drupal together to help your digital experiences shine.

Hearing from you

I'm excited to begin this journey exploring ambitious digital experiences, but I can't go it alone. This column will only be successful if I hear from you: the reader. What would you like to read more about when it comes to decoupled Drupal and Acquia's decoupled Drupal story? What are the issues and topics you care most about when it comes to decoupling Drupal on your own or with Acquia's help? Reach out to me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter at @prestonso.

Next week, I'll start by zooming all the way out to the big picture and taking stock of how far we've come when it comes to the ongoing channel explosion. Just like the Cambrian explosion in our distant past that led to the proliferation of life on our planet, the potential implications — and challenges — of these new form factors on Drupal's future, your digital ecosystem, and your fickle users cannot be understated.

All aboard the Experience Express!