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How GraphQL can add speed and flexibility to your content development process

example of GraphQL code in Brightspot CMS

With consumers spending more time across various devices and sites, a key element to content success this year will be the ability to quickly publish a steady volume of content to these many different channels. In 2021, it’s predicted that content success will be increasingly scrutinized and tied to the bottom line, making it all the more important for content teams to focus on multichannel efficiency.

A headless CMS can be one of the best tools to accomplish these timely goals, as it allows writers and marketers to create and publish content the way they want, whenever they want. The popularity of headless is clear, with one survey forecasting that the headless CMS market will grow to $1.6 billion globally in 2027 (up from $329 million in 2020). In order to succeed with headless, development teams need to understand GraphQL, a query language that enables flexible connection with programming APIs that support headless CMS integrations.

We’ve already explored the basics of GraphQL and key learnings in other posts, so we’ll now look specifically at how GraphQL supports two of the most important factors in content development, speed and flexibility.

How GraphQL promotes speed

In the fast-moving world of 2021, brands must push out timely content quickly, or consumers will move on before they even start to truly engage. The “behind the scenes” of pushing this content out quickly, however, is made much easier with GraphQL.

When GraphQL isn't in use, developers often make requests to an API endpoint, parse out the data received, and depending on its structure, call yet another API. Each time a request is made, the server opens and closes an HTTP connection. This process continues until the developer finds the data they actually want.

GraphQL simplifies this process and saves time by enabling the developer instead to make a single request and get exactly the data they need. No more time spent parsing data or making phone calls to other developers trying to understand their documentation—GraphQL is easily readable; a developer can simply show up and begin using it.

Additionally, if a developer needs to make improvements or hide aging fields, they are enabled by GraphQL to do so quickly and can use a single, evolving version to give access to new features and encourage good code. Applications themselves may also benefit from greater speed on slower mobile network connections.

In short, GraphQL enables developers—and their organizations at large—to push out the content they want without ever having to slow down, which means that content teams will see desired changes and new content types launched to different channels faster than ever.

How GraphQL promotes flexibility

With so many organizations producing content, consumers have grown used to getting well-presented content wherever they are—from looking at a mobile app while walking to sitting down in front of a computer. Headless enables content to show up well regardless of the front-end system, and GraphQL can help power this flexibility.

That's because with GraphQL, APIs do the majority of the work, so teams can be flexible and evolve without having to rely as much on back-end changes and technical team members.

This is huge from a development standpoint and brings great benefits to organizations overall.

If an organization with a coupled CMS, for example, discovered one day that they have been storing their data in a bad format, the sheer undertaking to correct the mistake could be a gargantuan effort, lasting many weeks or months. There may be millions of records that need to be updated as panicked conversations about large-scale migrations start to take over.

With a headless CMS, though, this becomes much more manageable; in this scenario, the back end is not telling the front end how the latter should work, enabling developers and their organizations to use new frameworks and open-source libraries to produce exactly the kind of experience they want to produce.

A process that, before GraphQL, could be characterized by frustrating conversations between back-end and front-end developers is now one where the two sides don't hold one another up; each now has the flexibility to work on their side without interruption—and the content team and larger business organization reaps the benefits from streamlining this process.

Brightspot’s CMS makes working with GraphQL and headless CMS simple

Brightspot’s GraphQL has a self-describing type system, where APIs are organized in terms of types and fields, not endpoints. This makes it possible for developers to easily discover what data types and fields are accessible from the API. If a new field is added to a content type, for example, the editorial interface for that type also updates so that an editor can quickly publish that field.

Brightspot's GraphQL implementation takes this functionality a step further by ensuring the GraphQL schema and user interface remain in sync with one another. In other words, if a new field is added to a content type, it will automatically be reflected in the GraphQL schema that gets generated. For deprecated fields, Brightspot translates them into deprecated versions of their GraphQL counterparts, giving applications continuous access to new features from the platform.

The future of headless CMS and GraphQL

Due to its many advantages outlined above, the demand for GraphQL is growing. The 2019 State of JavaScript report found that nearly 39% of respondents had used GraphQL and would use it again, and another 50% would like to learn it. A recent RapidAPI report also identifies GraphQL as an emerging technology trend.

Speed and flexibility are key to content success today, yet getting this right can seem daunting. Headless CMS technology, supported by GraphQL, makes it easy to produce multichannel content at a quick pace, which is why it is growing in popularity. While many CMS offerings are not fully equipped to offer it yet, Brightspot’s platform puts GraphQL and headless front and center. More information can be found in Brightspot’s new resource center dedicated to GraphQL.

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