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How Acquia Site Studio Can Deliver Marketing Campaigns Quickly & At Scale

Kris Graham

Solution Architect

Seth Gregory

Head of Drupal Practice
Blog

Today’s consumers demand consistent and relevant content-rich digital experiences across multiple channels. As a result, enterprise leaders need to find ways to build, maintain and launch hundreds, if not even thousands, of sites at an accelerated rate.

To achieve these goals, many organizations are turning to low-code solutions like Acquia Site Studio (formerly Cohesion) that offer dynamic layout and design controls in a single application alongside content management capabilities. One of the most common use cases involves the deployment of new marketing campaigns that extend beyond simple textual content and involve styling, unique layouts or changes to the existing look and feel of a website. Let’s explore how Acquia Site Studio compares to a traditional or decoupled website in this example.

Traditional CMS Theming

In a traditional content management system (CMS), the visual ‘look and feel’ of a website is defined using the content management platform’s built-in templating system. In the Drupal community, this is often referred to as ‘theming’ and is achieved via the Twig templating language, combined with traditional HTML, CSS and JavaScript front-end skills. This pattern can also leverage community-contributed modules, which build upon the theming layer to further extend a website’s capabilities. No additional infrastructure is needed when following this pattern, reducing barrier to entry and overhead. However, effective theming does typically require both front-end development expertise and familiarity with specialized skills unique to each CMS and its back end. In terms of process, adjusting elements in the theme requires marketing to communicate those changes to a development team who will then update templates in code along with any related back-end structure, following a standard software development release cycle and deployment process.

Campaign Deployment

In a traditional CMS workflow, the same developer can make both front-end and back-end changes.

Going Headless

Unlike sites that use traditional, built-in CMS templating systems to provide the front-end experience, an application built on the headless or decoupled pattern abstracts the front end from the back end and relies instead on APIs (typically RESTful or GraphQL) to send data back and forth between them. This approach offers maximum flexibility for a front-end development team to create a bespoke interface with its framework of choice while reusing a single set of back-end content APIs to drive websites, kiosks, native mobile applications and other distribution channels. While specialized skills are still required to make front-end changes, the flexibility for frameworks offers organizations more options when recruiting and deploying front-end development resources. The headless pattern typically sacrifices the reuse of pre-built and integrated CMS features and increases the overall project complexity to obtain front-end flexibility. However, since the website presentation layer is a separate application, changes to its style and layout in support of a marketing campaign can often be limited in scope to the front end, if no changes are required to the data itself.

Campaign Deployment

In a headless workflow, the front-end and back-end development tasks are usually handled by two different resources or teams. For some changes that may only require front-end effort, if data is not currently available via existing APIs (such as a particular field), a back-end developer will need to make a change to the API to expose this field.

Low-Code Site Building with Acquia Site Studio

With a low-code approach enabled by solutions like Acquia Site Studio, developers provide a set of building blocks that are used by marketers to create engaging websites. In the same vein as many popular front-end frameworks, Site Studio is structured around the use of a component library to ‘compose’ pages. However, unlike most component libraries, Site Studio can be used by marketing professionals to create and deploy unique experiences on the fly, with ‘drag-and-drop’ ease, and without the need for any specialized skills or developer intervention. This enables marketers to deploy campaigns and content more quickly while also freeing up developers to focus efforts on higher value, mission-focused technology needs. As an integrated solution, it also eliminates the need for hosting and maintaining any external component library infrastructure. 

Campaign Deployment

With Site Studio, marketing professionals have more flexibility in the types of changes they can make to content. They have access to all the native features of Drupal but can also use the built-in drag-and-drop component library. In many circumstances, this eliminates the need for any code deployment at all.

Site Studio also provides the ability to reuse components and design elements across multiple sites, offering flexibility for marketers while ensuring organization-wide brand consistency. Components are built and styled to reflect brand design standards so they can be combined on a page in any number of ways without sacrificing design conformity. In addition to the out-of-the-box components, businesses can configure, extend or add new components that can be dragged and dropped into place easily. Combined with capabilities like inline editing and the ability to preview responsive layouts across devices, marketers are empowered to independently edit and publish content at scale. 

The Bottom Line

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ option when it comes to selecting a front-end framework for your project. In addition to considerations like available skill sets, cost, and technology trends, it is important to examine not only who will consume your application, but who will generate content and maintain it. This is especially important given the increasing complexity of technology choices, the ongoing need for marketing agility and consumers’ demands for more engaging and interactive experiences. There may be arguments for choosing traditional or decoupled site building in certain scenarios. A traditional ‘themed’ site may work best for a relatively static web presence where change is rare, and the layout and design changes can wait for a development workflow. Alternatively, a headless site may make more sense for organizations with an agile front-end development team without the requirement for marketing professionals to exert direct control over the front end or in situations requiring multichannel experiences. However, in increasingly frequent scenarios like that of our marketing campaign example, Site Studio offers advantages over both approaches. Instead of involving one or more development teams, with low-code site building, a marketer can rapidly assert robust control over not only content, but also layout and design, to independently create and deploy unique campaign experiences.

Acquia Site Studio does not completely replace the necessity for a development team to build custom functionality or components specific to your organization’s needs, but it does neatly bundle a built-in and extensible component library with drag-and-drop tooling that drastically extends the breadth of experiences possible for marketing professionals to create themselves – without invoking a development workflow. In an increasingly fast-paced digital world in which speed is the new scale, this accelerated publishing cycle is invaluable.  

If you’d like to learn more about how a low-code approach can benefit your organization, watch our webinar on Acquia Site Studio.

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