John Faber of Web agency Chapter Three is the evangelist for the company’s open source product, Next-Drupal. He doesn’t hesitate to call out products and tell you exactly what he thinks about them.
He insists that Drupal needs to be a headless CMS. Not coincidentally, this is exactly what Next-Drupal does, building the front end for Drupal’s content management system by using the popular React framework Next.js. Faber claims this creates a better developer experience and a more performant solution than using Drupal alone.
“Drupal’s front-end has always been its weak point, so people have never been able to see its shining star on the content architecture platform because Drupal’s stupid front-end is always in the way,” he said. “Chapter 3 has been working [with Drupal] Over the years, we decided to change the paradigm to match what was happening in the rest of the world, namely decoupling Next.js. “
The New Stack recently spoke with Drupal creator Dries Buytaert about his company Acquia’s new “open source, headless starter kit” announced as part of the Drupal-based Acquia CMS. Faber reached out and told us that the Acquia Next starter kit was developed by Chapter 3 and uses Next-Drupal as its foundation. He added that Next-Drupal, released last November, is now being downloaded 2,000 times a week.
“It allows us to create these production-grade front ends on a very lightweight React framework that’s built around instant access,” Faber said. “Next was built from the ground up to provide instant access to data in remote areas.”
Decoupled frameworks are often a premium. Many commercial products offer headless CMS, but Faber believes the problem is that when companies use these hosting solutions, they’re essentially building their content infrastructure on locked platforms that charge premium prices to scale.
“They own your data, right? That gets more expensive when you get bigger,” Faber said. “You could be a little blogging site that gets something viral and all of a sudden you’re paying $5, 6, 7k a month.”
Next-Drupal and everyone else
Drupal is targeting the enterprise space, he said, rather than WordPress, which tends to appeal to small and medium-sized businesses. Businesses need new technology, and Next-Drupal offers a new, headless CMS approach in open source tools. He added that while WordPress is easier to use and faster to deploy, it’s more about page building than Drupal’s focus on structured content and content architecture.
Gatsby is another open source option that supports headless through plugins like Contentful, Ghost, and Prismic; Faber calls Drupal-Next a “Gatsby killer,” adding that Next-Drupal can do everything Gatsby does, but faster , the cost is lower.
He admits that some people hate Drupal, but he thinks it’s based on earlier versions of Drupal, specifically version 8, which utilizes Twig. Twig was difficult and slow to work, he said. But since then, Drupal has been improved to use JSON API calls out of the box.
“This is where we kick WordPress… [in] Drupal 9…everything is 100% API accessible,” he said. “You put anything into Drupal, you can pull it out with a JSON call, and you’re good to go. “
He compares Next-Drupal to Faust.js, which separates WordPress’ backend from its frontend.
“Essentially it does a very similar thing,” he said of Next-Drupal and Faust.js. “People want to get rid of the WordPress front-end. Trust me, the WordPress front-end is crap and always has been. If you decouple it, it’s beautiful now.”
He said Cal State Bakersfield was a site that switched from Drupal to Next-Drupal in an attempt to make their site faster. Faber claims that with Next-Drupal, they have reduced hosting fees by 33%.
Stacey Childress is Director of Marketing and Systems for Extended Education and Global Outreach at Cal State Bakersfield. Childress told The New Stack via email that the school considered a headless approach a few years ago, but found the technology “unstable and riddled with technical issues that outweighed any gains we could have made in terms of speed and overall user experience. Big”.
Childress said their experience with Next.js was very different.
“The Next.js platform and our specific use case worked out very well for us,” Childress said. “As has been the case in the history of Drupal, we can customize the backend experience to our liking for the content editor, with few restrictions, but we can use the headless/Next.js architecture for our future students – our user/client.”
Users have noticed an increase in speed, and content editors are satisfied with the content editing experience and “the speed at which they can make and test changes,” Childress added.
Faber wants the world to know that WordPress isn’t the only product that solves the front-end developer experience problem.
“We’re a true open source and a true composable stack,” Faber said.
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