How Contentful Builds Performant Sites at Scale
Contentful is a good fit for the Jamstack for a lot of reasons: it treats content as data, which means it can do much more than create web pages—it can repurpose any content to create omnichannel digital experiences. It’s API-first and has a great developer experience, helping digital teams to innovate, iterate and go to market faster.
But how does the Contentful team build performant sites at scale? With the Jamstack, of course! In a recent webinar, Netlify sat down with Jani Komulainen and Moritz Guth of Contentful to discuss how the Contentful marketing team ships new web content. They walked through their very own implementation of Contentful, Gatsby.js as their framework, and Netlify, and how the powerful combination of Contentful and Netlify helps them ship quickly with confidence.
The Challenge: Ship cross-team content, fast
With a team of more than 500 people (and still growing quickly), there are a lot of contributors to Contentful.com. Everyone from Product Marketing to Developer Experience to Documentation needs to make content updates, create microsites, and build landing pages. It’s up to the Contentful marketing team to ensure everyone is enabled to do just that.
It might be surprising, then, that the marketing team only has three developers on staff. Jani Komulainen, Contentful’s Manager of Marketing Web Development, and his two teammates, are responsible for:
- Managing Contentful.com’s production, staging, and preview environments
- Ensuring fast site recovery in case of failure
- Maintaining strong performance metrics across the site
- Enabling content teams to create new pages and iterate quickly with features like A/B testing
With so many non-technical editors making changes to the site, that makes for a lot of responsibility for such a small team of developers. So how does the team get everything done, and still have time to innovate? By utilizing Contentful, Gatsby.js, and Netlify to streamline workflows and automate the grunt work.
Why Contentful Deploys to Netlify with Speed and Confidence
As Jani Komulainen puts it, deploying their Gatsby.js site to Netlify, while using Contentful, leads to a lot of benefits, including the ability to iterate quickly and empowering a large team to edit and deploy content without developer assistance.
Here are some of the benefits of deploying with Netlify.
#1 Instant Rollbacks Give Developers an RTO of 0
As Jani says, “It’s inevitable that things break.” And when they do, Netlify’s instant rollbacks feature makes it so that Jani doesn’t have to worry. Every Netlify deploy is atomic and all updates happen instantly. Browse all prior versions and rollback to any point in time—no maintenance window required. Instant rollbacks make Contentful’s recovery time objective (RTO) nearly zero.
“It’s inevitable that things will break… I really like the fact that when that happens, you can just roll back to a previous deploy with Netlify. This allows us to ship with confidence. If something breaks, it isn’t going to be broken for very long.” \ \ Jani Komulainen, Contentful
#2 Deploy Previews make it easy for teams to QA Contentful pages
Contentful is an incredibly powerful tool for organizing content, structuring content that users can reshare and reuse in different places across the site. A landing page might pull from the Help Center, Documentation, and recent webinars, for example.
This flexibility is part of what makes Contentful such a popular tool; a content editor only needs to make changes once in order for those to appear in every relevant place across the site. But it also means that content editors have a lot of QA’ing to do, in order to ensure their content looks correct across the site. This is where Netlify comes in.
“Contentful is for organizing content, not previewing content. This is where Netlify comes into play... [with Netlify], content editors can make changes and get previews in a very short time.”
Moritz Guth, Contentful
Netlify allows content editors to immediately QA their work, directly with deploy preview URLs. There’s no need for the development team to spin up extra dev environments and assist with each time someone makes a content change. The editor simply goes in, changes text or an image, and a preview is triggered. The content editor gets to see exactly what the user will see.
“Having quick previews for people who contribute to the website is essential for us to collaborate. We can’t be on standby of an organization of a couple hundred people… they just have to push the button, see the preview, and do their job autonomously.”
#3 For Developers, Editors, and more: Netlify’s Workflow Works
Another major benefit for Contentful’s team is Netlify’s development workflow. Rather than having to spin up servers and new development environments for each new microsite, Netlify takes care of all the infrastructure for the team.
“People can just connect their GitHub repo, and webhooks get the build going. We’re really happy to have such a tool…. It really gives us peace of mind.” \ \ Jani Komulainen, Contentful
Netlify’s integration with Contentful’s content editor makes the editing workflow really easy for content writers and editors, as well. When deploying content changes from Contentful to Netlify via continuous delivery, editors can track the progress of the build process from within the web app.
Next Steps for Contentful + Netlify
“[It’s a] company-wide effort… more teams are already moving towards Netlify.” \ \ Jani Komulainen, Contentful
With only a handful of developers, the Contentful web team is able to empower the entire company to make content updates to their ever-changing site. They’re able to do this because their Jamstack tools—Contentful, Netlify, and Gatsby.js—do much of the heavy lifting for them. Netlify’s ability to handle everything from servers to staging environments allows Jani, Moritz, and the web team the freedom to work on complex projects, rather than the operations work of running a massive website.
As Contentful grows, the organization is taking notice of the effects Netlify is having on the team, and more teams are also starting to deploy on Netlify in search of the same superpowers that the web team has.