Down the Headless Rabbit Hole At Decoupled Days

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Author’s Note: No rabbits were harmed in the writing of this post.

This summer, I had the opportunity to attend Decoupled Days 2019 in New York City. The organizers did a fabulous job of putting together an extremely insightful, yet approachable, program for the third year of the conference to date.

In case you haven’t heard of the event before, Decoupled Days is somewhat of a boutique conference that focuses solely on decoupled CMS architectures, which combine a CMS like Drupal with the latest front-end web apps, native mobile and desktop apps, or even IoT devices. Given the contemporary popularity of universal Javascript (being used to develop both the front and back ends of apps), this conference also demands a strong interest in the latest JavaScript technologies and frameworks.

If you weren’t able to attend this year, and have the opportunity in the future, I would highly recommend the event to anyone interested in decoupled architectures, whether you’re a beginner or an expert in the area. With that in mind, here are a few of the sessions I was able to attend this year that might give you a sense of what to expect.

Christopher Bloom (Phase2) gave an excellent performance at his session, giving all of us a crash course in TypeScript. He provided a very helpful live demo of how TypeScript can make it much easier and safer to write apps in frameworks like Vue.js, by allowing for real-time error-checking within your IDE (as opposed to at runtime in your browser) and providing the ability to leverage ES6 Class syntax and decorators together seamlessly.

Jamie Hollern (Amazee Labs) showed off how it’s possible to have a streamlined integration between your Drupal site and a fully-fledged UI pattern library like Storybook. By using the Component Libraries, GraphQL, and GraphQL Twig contributed modules in concert with a Storybook-based style guide, Jamie gave a fabulous demonstration of how you can finally stick to the classic DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) principle when it comes to a Drupal design system. Because Storybook supports front-end components built using Twig markup, and allows for populating those components using mock data in a GraphQL format, we can use those same Twig templates and GraphQL queries within Drupal with almost no refactoring whatsoever. If you’re interested in learning more about building sites with Drupal, GraphQL, and Twig, Amazee Labs has also published an “Amazing Apps” repo that acts as a sample GraphQL/Twig sample project.

For developers looking to step up their local development capabilities, Decoupled Days features two sessions on invaluable tools for doing decoupled work on your local machine.

Kevin Bridges (Drud) showed how simple and straightforward it can be to use the DDEV command-line tool to quickly spin up a Drupal 8 instance (using the Umami demo site profile, for example), enable the JSON:API contributed module in order to expose Drupal’s data, and then install (using gatsby-cli) and use a local Gatsby.js site to ingest and display that Drupal data.

Matt Biilman (Netlify) also demonstrated the newly launched Netlify Dev command-line tool for developers who use Netlify to host their static site projects. With Netlify Dev, you could spawn an entire local environment for the Gatsby.js site you just installed using DDEV, which will be able to locally run all routing rules, edge logic, and cloud functions. Netlify Dev will even allow you to stream that local Gatsby.js site to a live URL (i.e., on Netlify) with hot-reloading, so that your remote teammates can view your site as you build it.

As usual, Jesús Manuel Olivas (WeKnow) is always pushing the Drupal community further and further, this time by demonstrating his own in-house, Git-based CMS called Blaze, which is a platform that could potentially replace the need for Drupal altogether. Blaze promises to provide the lightest-weight back-end possible for your already light-weight, static-site front-end. In lieu of a relatively heavyweight back-end like Drupal, Blaze would provide a familiar WYSIWYG editor and easy content modeling with a few clicks. The biggest wins from using any Git-based CMS, though, are the extremely lowered costs and lightning-fast change deployments (with immediate updates to your code repo and CI/CD pipeline).

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