Uniform blog/8 criteria for unlocking composable websites
Andrew Kumar
Andrew Kumar
Posted on May 15, 2024

7 min read

8 criteria for unlocking composable websites

The battle between open visual workspaces and closed page builders is ongoing in digital content creation. With the rise of composable tools, this debate gains new significance as creators seek the most efficient and flexible platforms for their projects. 
What sets these two approaches apart, and which one holds the key to unlocking the full potential of composable design?
This post explores eight critical criteria for unlocking composability, from design systems to scheduling, and navigating the complexities of digital experience management in open and closed ecosystems. We also examine each approach's strengths, weaknesses, and implications in shaping the future of digital experiences.

1. Experience management

Two distinct approaches emerge in visual workspace ecosystems: open and closed ecosystems. The open ecosystem visual workspace boasts a rich visual editor interface that prioritizes user-friendliness, structure, and power. A visual workspace also provides a comprehensive preview across various sources and channels, enhancing the user experience and streamlining content creation processes.
Conversely, the closed ecosystem visual editor, or page builder, is typically web-only, offering limited to no capabilities for supporting content from other systems. This restriction confines users to a narrow scope of available resources and limits their ability to integrate content seamlessly across different platforms.
The impact of this divide is significant. By nature, closed visual editors have limited flexibility when accommodating sources and channels outside their ecosystem. As a result, users might rely on expensive custom development solutions to bridge these gaps, leading to longer development cycles and a slower path to production.

2. Design system and components

The open ecosystem visual workspace prioritizes component insertion, a robust component model, and adherence to the customer's design system. It offers users access to component models, schemas, and APIs for creating catalogs of component models and patterns.
In contrast, the closed ecosystem visual editor features component and content models that can be intermixed, complicating the component management process for authors. Additionally, the absence of a component preview feature makes it challenging for users to place and locate the desired components accurately within the experience. Furthermore, closed ecosystems typically lack APIs, which further limits the platform's customization and extensibility.
Additionally, closed visual editors frequently rely on custom templating languages or require payload transformations to map content to components accurately. Alternatively, they may necessitate content types to match components one-to-one. These constraints reduce content and design reuse, leading to duplicated efforts and increased costs. Consequently, this approach contributes to a slower production path and inhibits the scalability of content creation processes.

3. Content management

The open ecosystem visual workspace offers incredible flexibility in modeling and configuration, seamlessly accommodating various types of content sources. Users can incorporate local content, decorator content, global content, and mixed sources within entries, facilitating a versatile and dynamic content creation process. Typically, content management system (CMS) fees are included with the visual editor, simplifying cost management for users.
Conversely, the closed ecosystem visual editor is designed to serve as the sole source of truth. This often results in cumbersome processes, including copy-paste duplication and content migration, as well as reliance on custom plugins, unmanaged plugins, or references to large content objects. Additionally, users can encounter additional fees for the visual editor, which are typically separate from content management fees and add complexity to cost structures.
The impact of these differences is significant, particularly for enterprise-level content supply chains. A closed visual editor might struggle to meet the robust requirements of such environments, leading to the need for expensive custom development solutions. These challenges contribute to a slower path to production as users grapple with the limitations of the closed ecosystem and seek workarounds to achieve their desired outcomes.

4. Ecosystem extensibility

The open ecosystem visual workspace stands out for its unparalleled flexibility and enables users to easily integrate numerous sources, digital assets, integrations, and references (e.g., dynamic tokens). This empowers users to bring content and data from upstream systems into visual experiences and content records, streamlining workflows and enhancing efficiency.
Conversely, closed ecosystem visual editors are ill-equipped to handle such capabilities. Closed visual editors lack built-in support for integrating content from external sources, often requiring the use of workarounds or custom plugins to achieve similar functionality. This limitation inhibits users' ability to leverage content from diverse sources, constraining their creative freedom and productivity.
Moreover, a closed visual editor's inability to support content reuse from other sources results in a reliance on expensive custom development solutions. Users can face prolonged development cycles and a slower path to production as they navigate the complexities of integrating external content into their workflows.

5. Orchestration and payloads

The open ecosystem visual workspace shines for its content and data reuse flexibility. Users benefit from seamlessly integrating content and data from remote sources, facilitating efficient workflows across channels. Furthermore, the platform maps content to front-end components without the need for cumbersome glue code, streamlining the development process and enhancing productivity.
On the other hand, closed ecosystem visual editors present challenges in content integration. They often require users to use custom query languages or GraphQL queries to access external data sources. Users may find themselves manually copying and pasting queries into front-end applications or writing code to transform the schema from query to component. These complexities hinder workflow efficiency and increase developer dependency, ultimately slowing the production path.
A closed visual editor's lack of optimization for front-end application consumption also requires expensive glue code. This dependence on additional development resources adds overhead to projects and increases time to market, hampering competitiveness in fast-paced digital environments.

6. URLs and hierarchy

The open ecosystem visual workspace stands out for its tailored features, which are designed to manage nested experience structures across web and mobile platforms. Users benefit from functionalities such as dynamic routes, dynamic page URLs, localized routes, and redirects, which facilitate seamless navigation and enhance user experiences across devices and locales.
In contrast, closed ecosystem visual editors exhibit limitations in this area. While digital experience platforms (DXPs) might offer some coverage for web environments, support for localized and dynamic routes can vary by platform. In particular, headless CMSs are constrained by manually typed slug fields and often lack features for hierarchy management or redirects, limiting their versatility and adaptability.
Adding to these disparities is the closed visual editor's lack of robust capabilities for localized and dynamic URLs, which can require custom plugins and expensive custom development efforts. These additional requirements introduce complexity and overhead to projects, hindering production and the brand’s ability to respond to evolving user needs and market demands.

7. Personalization and experimentation

The open ecosystem visual workspace enables users to activate external data sources such as customer data platforms, enrichment tooling, and analytics. Moreover, the visual workspace boasts native personalization, experimentation, and analytics capabilities, complete with a full visual preview feature that empowers users to create dynamic, data-driven experiences.
Conversely, the landscape of closed ecosystem visual editors is varied. While some DXPs offer advanced capabilities, others rely on third-party plugins to augment their functionality. Similarly, certain headless CMS platforms might require additional plugins to unlock advanced features, creating a mixed landscape of capabilities and dependencies.
The impact of these differences is substantial. A closed visual editor's lack of support for external data sources, channels, and advanced capabilities limits users' ability to innovate and differentiate their digital experiences. This limitation often results in costly custom development efforts to bridge the gap, resulting in a slower path to production and increased time to market.

8. Scheduling and experience ops

The open ecosystem visual workspace shines for its flexible scheduling capabilities. Users can schedule compositions across multiple data sources, channels, customer segments, and experiments. This flexibility enables users to orchestrate their content and experiences seamlessly, optimizing engagement and driving results across diverse digital touchpoints.
Conversely, closed ecosystem visual editors offer limited scheduling functionalities. While they may support basic content scheduling, scheduling experiences across various channels and customer segments remains challenging. Generally, personalization and experimentation capabilities are underdeveloped or require additional setup, restricting users' ability to deliver dynamic and targeted experiences.
The closed visual editor's lack of support for diverse sources, channels, and advanced capabilities hinders users' ability to execute sophisticated marketing strategies. As a result, organizations can incur additional costs and face production delays as they seek custom development solutions to address these limitations.

A visual workspace that simplifies digital experience management

Unlocking composability in visual workspace ecosystems demands a comprehensive understanding of these critical criteria. From flexibility in content management to robust scheduling capabilities, each criterion plays a vital role in shaping the effectiveness and efficiency of content creation processes. 
Whether opting for an open or closed ecosystem, organizations must carefully evaluate their requirements and objectives against these considerations to make informed decisions. By doing so, brands can leverage the power of composability to create dynamic, engaging, and personalized digital experiences that resonate with their audiences and drive meaningful results.
Request a demo to learn how the visual workspace can help you gain greater flexibility, agility, and scalability in today’s market.