Getting to Grips With Headless Architecture

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Lorcan

May 20th, 2021

As technology advances, the core requirements of speed and performance remain as important as ever. As the events of 2020 have demonstrated, the entire marketplace environment can be rocked to its core, often without warning. The need to be able to respond rapidly to such changes can truly be the deciding factor between success and failure for a business.

Old and outdated processes like those under a monolithic system can be exposed and their inefficiencies all too apparent under stress. For marketplaces, the sudden increase in demand may have presented significant challenges - especially for those companies using systems that no longer truly suited the requirements needed. However, there is an alternative, one which manages to alleviate any pressure on system components and allow for far greater flexibility - it is known as Headless Architecture.

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Monoliths - The Symbol Of a By-Gone Era

In order to best understand what exactly is meant by the term “Headless”, it is necessary to understand what it has been designed to replace and that is the all-encompassing “Monolith”.

Simply put, a monolith is an all-in-one, jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none system architecture - in the early days of ecommerce, this approach worked well. All aspects of the business were integrated together, the frontend and backend like payments, inventory, shipping, etc. Quite often, these systems were sold essentially as templates for Enterprise companies - they wanted a system that mirrored that of a close competitor that had been shown to work.

One key issue with monoliths is that all often, they produce websites and systems that are simply too indistinguishable from each other - the obvious solution would be to attempt to customize and therefore differentiate your site further but not so fast. Perhaps the core issue with a monolithic system is that, due to everything being attached to each other, simply “tweaking” one element can result in a collapse of the entire system. A simple change on paper came to become a massive operation in reality.

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Developers often found themselves essentially performing software surgery, being careful not to upset or damage any other elements of the stack which was often very difficult to do. To accommodate one small change means having to change everything, initially, limited updates were issued to facilitate some changes but these often only complicated the situation further as layers upon layers of updates now needed to be navigated to get to the core element itself. Often companies will try to update their monolithic systems, which can be a costly and time-consuming endeavor.

One of the main issues is that these companies will choose to make repeat and frequent upgrades to their systems rather than make one large change and save themselves hassle down the line.

Think of it as akin to a large supermarket choosing to keep repairing their old and battered stock elevators which require frequent maintenance, instead of opting to replace them entirely with newer models which won’t require maintenance for years and which will quickly pay for themselves in terms of improved operational efficiency. This is the very same error many companies make when assessing their current software stack.

Monoliths soon began to show their age and their lack of flexibility and overly fragile nature motivated developers to seek an alternative for ecommerce systems.

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What is Headless Architecture?

Headless is a type of approach to software architecture that seeks to remove the restrictions that often prevent true customization. For instance, creating a separation between your front-end (i.e what your customers see when they go to your website) and your backend (all the nitty-gritty moving parts in the background that make your website work).

API’s allow for this separation and help create more overall flexibility. When discussing the topic of “going headless”, one other term that often comes up, often interchangeably is microservices. So what exactly are these?

Microservices are software applications that have been created to act independently of one another, with each designed to perform a particular task or purpose. As they operate independently from other elements, they can be scaled or adjusted without needing to perform similar adjustments on others in tandem. Such modular components make launching integrations far easier.

The concept first really came to prominence due to Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos who issued the famous “API Mandate” decree to his developers in the early 00s. This decree focused on several ideas but perhaps the most influential was the idea that “All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions.”

This opens up the API to external developers, allowing them to adjust it to their particular needs and requests. This means ultimately that organizations can respond faster to changing market conditions and launch new integrations faster. As speed is of the essence in a highly competitive environment, it is clear to see why microservices have grown so rapidly in recent years.

Every service must have a well-defined interface that can be integrated with 3rd party systems

What Are the Advantages of using Headless Architecture?

There are many advantages of opting to go down the headless route, however, these three can be summed up as the primary examples:

1. By opting to decouple your frontend and backend, you can provide a powerful brand experience that will help to provide real value to your customers as well as creating a differentiated experience.

For a marketplace, brand and user experience can be just as important a variable as the end price of a product. A clunky, uninteresting, and finicky user interface and website will only deter potential customers - by opting to go headless, you can create a unique experience for your customers which helps set you aside from the competition. Create a user experience that truly tells the story of your brand.

2. By choosing to use a headless architecture, developers can launch their integrations far faster than before - the cumbersome need to cautiously tiptoe around fragile components is removed, meaning developers can focus on a single component without needing to adjust others. You can scale one element independently if you need to.

As has been demonstrated on many occasions before, being first can provide your business with a key advantage. By cutting out much of the crossed fingers and praying, developers can quickly deploy new integrations which can ensure your marketplace is ahead of the competition.

3. Enjoy true customization and flexibility, only opting for solutions and tools which truly fit your particular needs and requirements and which don’t require to comprise your goals.

A headless approach affords the opportunity to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach and choose exactly what your marketplace needs, allowing you to quickly implement customer trends as well as even pre-empt them.

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Use Jetti’s Headless Architecture to Power Your Marketplace

As you can see, clearly a headless approach is the way forward for marketplaces. Jetti has powerful headless capabilities, designed to allow clients to customize their own setup as required. Every marketplace is different and this is something Jetti understands deeply- that is why we have focused on developing modular components that foster innovation and performance to our users, allowing them to make adjustments as per their particular needs.

In Jetti, you’ll find software that manages to compass all aspects of a multi-vendor marketplace, from order routing to inventory management, product publishing to complex shipping rate calculation and vendor commissions. A truly all-in-one solution - why not sign up today for our free 14-day trial and see for yourself?