Orbiting the Future: Why BFJ Adopted Headless WordPress Before NASA

NASA headless WordPress Banner

At the end of August during the 2023 edition of WordCamp US, NASA revealed its completely revamped flagship website adopting a Headless WordPress solution. Just like BFJ did years earlier, more companies and brands are switching over to a decoupled architecture and having WordPress as their primary CMS option. But what motivated NASA to transition to a Headless structure, and why did BFJ adopt it well in advance?

 

Why NASA Went Headless?

NASA was one of the first US governmental companies that launched into the web back in 1994. Since then, NASA has accumulated an extensive quantity of articles, blogs, stories and discoveries published across many different websites and subdomains utilising various templates and designs which created an uneven experience.

With a sprawl of content over numerous places, it was hard for users to cohesively navigate and easily encounter what piece of content they were looking for as well as for editors to coordinate and concisely create new articles and manage content.

Along with all that, in 2017 the US government approved an Act that enforced public-facing websites to adopt 8 specific requirements:

US Web Design Act

Source

 

After over a year of research, tests and demos, the NASA team decided that a Headless WordPress solution would best align with the government requirements and their needs.

 

How BFJ Did Differently?

BFJ is always at the cutting edge of the technology market, exploring new technologies and analysing the industry movements. As a top-tier Brisbane Digital Agency, we decided to transition to a headless architecture early on, with a few key points we’re looking forward out of it, such as:

  • Quicker page load times reducing bounce rates and improving the overall user experience;
  • Higher web vitals scores and performance resulting in better SEO ranking and authority;
  • Rapidly conducting big layout changes and launching marketing campaigns — as a fast-paced digital agency, this was pivotal;
  • Uptime and security enhancements, by decoupling the database from the front-facing website;

After many improvements and revisions, BFJ Digital launched in an all-new headless architecture, elevating the editor, developer and user experiences to a new quality standard. If you want to dive deeper in each one of those aspects, take a look at our Headless WordPress article, where we explain further the benefits of a headless architecture.

Two main factors were key in our decision of having WordPress as our Content Management System. Firstly, our team had accumulated years of valuable content, imagery and data already stored in WordPress, making the migration to a different CMS a difficult task. This highlighted the necessity of separating the content and database from our front-facing website, therefore, leading us to adopt a decoupled architecture.

Secondly, the familiar WordPress dashboard and editor interface were already well-established within our team, reducing the learning curve and enabling us to efficiently manage and update content. This familiarity not only saved us valuable time but also ensured a seamless transition to the decoupled architecture, allowing us to leverage WordPress’s strengths in content management while optimising the performance and flexibility of our website.

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NASA’s API-First Approach

Despite the fact of adopting a Headless WordPress Architecture, NASA’s approach was very different from BFJs. With over 200.000 pages spread across many different websites and subdomains and having to migrate most of them from a different CMS (Drupal) to WordPress NASA had a huge challenge ahead.

After months of extensive research and data collection, NASA developed an ideal UI visual system capable of unifying all their articles, resources and pages into one composable structure. The design follows a dynamic block-based skeleton, enabling their editors and contributors to easily create and modify layouts and broaden their creative horizons.

The primary objective NASA pursued in transitioning to a Headless Architecture though, was to establish an API-first content system, bringing the power of multi-channel integration and enabling rapid, seamless content delivery.

 

Nasa Web Modernisation

 

By centralising all of their content and serving it from a single distribution point, NASA significantly enhanced the experience for their content creators, writers, and editors. This improvement was achieved through the seamless integration of their new website with various other channels, including NASA+, their recently launched streaming platform, and the brand-new NASA app. This integration not only streamlined content management but also expanded NASA’s reach and accessibility across multiple platforms.

 

What Were the Outcomes?

NASA’s bold transition to a Headless WordPress Architecture and their commitment to an API-first content system yielded several significant outcomes:

  • Block-based dynamic layout, with fluid page creation;
  • Composable and organised content, removing many duplicated posts;
  • Use of moderns frameworks enabling interactive visualisation of 3D models;
  • API-first approach for multi-channel distribution;
  • Editor, Developer and User experience Improvements;

In summary, NASA’s strategic shift to Headless WordPress Architecture and an API-first content system not only addressed their complex challenges but also propelled them towards a more agile, versatile, and user-centric digital presence. These outcomes have positioned NASA to continue advancing its mission and outreach in the digital age.

Take a look at the refreshed NASA website here.

 

Go Headless With BFJ Digital

The switch to a Headless WordPress Architecture can bring many improvements to a business website and systems, enhancing its performance, speed, security, scores, uptime and making new integrations and transformations possible. Overall, Headless Architectures tend to perform better in most of the situations, however, like everything else, it also comes with some trade-offs that can not be well-suited for your business specific needs. Contact our team at BFJ Digital and get a personalised solution.