GraphCMS Talks: Moving from Legacy to Headless CMS, a Drupal to GraphCMS Success Story

Emily Nielsen
Emily Nielsen
Bruno Michels
Bruno Michels

April 29, 2021

GraphCMS Talks: Moving from Legacy to Headless CMS, a Drupal to GraphCMS Success Story

Earlier this week, we caught up with Bruno Michels from one of our partner agencies, AE Studio to dive into a case that we know well, how companies can migrate from legacy CMS to a Headless CMS Tech Stack.

We put our industry knowledge together to give a well rounded perspective as both a vendor and implementation partner. To give a more concrete understanding of how the transition could look, we discussed one of the projects that GraphCMS and AE Studio collaborated on, BioCentury’s migration from Drupal6 to a microservice led tech stack with GraphCMS as a content hub.

Key Highlights

We first took a look at industry trends on companies hitting the limits of their monolith systems and how they knew when it was time to migrate to a headless system. Bruno described how companies can make a slow transition to a modular setup by starting with creating a new presentation layer where people interact with the content and then slowly replacing the backend systems. This gives users a chance to adjust to new workflows in the early days so that dev teams can get strong feedback from the users and ensure that the functionality they expect is present in the new system.

When teams are looking to modernize, Bruno stated that it is important what kind of content is being transferred, how much of that content needs to be migrated, and how flexible this content needs to be. Headless CMS offer a great degree of flexibility and a chance to work with modern tooling. Teams that are predicting that their website needs will not change very much in the future and are happy with the user experience offered with a browser-based website with relatively static content, may not need to migrate to a new tech stack. Teams that want to be innovators in user experience and need to be reactive to changes in content needs, should look at adopting a more flexible tech stack than a monolith system.

A Closer Look at the BioCentury Use Case

BioCentury is an online resource which publishes reports, conference overviews, news relating to the biotech sphere. They provide an industry overview of trends of where the biotech industry is currently and where it is going with over 50,000 indexed pages on their sitemap. BioCentury’s content ranges from academic articles, to conference talks, to whitepapers, to press releases and more, making it important to have a powerful system which manages the content and allows them to stay reactive to changing conditions in the industry.

Prior to migrating to a headless tech stack with GraphCMS as the content hub, BioCentury relied on Drupal6 for the core of their infrastructure. Because of the high quantity of content with the wide range of content types, the Drupal setup became difficult to maintain and the team did not have a good oversight of all of the content. The BioCentury team needed more flexibility and a better understanding of what content was available to provide the best UX to their users.

Bruno highlighted that the BioCentury team knew that they wanted to make this change and meet aggressive timelines. After evaluating which systems in the headless space could stand up to the demands of such a content heavy site, that was flexible enough to meet changing needs without sacrificing quality user experience, GraphCMS stood out as a reliable solution to serve as the content core with AE Studio building the new stack.

Read our case study with BioCentury to learn more about their process.

The Outcomes and Final Thoughts

The migration to a headless CMS tech stack ultimately proved to be a success due to the careful planning of implementation by the AE Studio and BioCentury teams as well as choosing the right tools for the job. The speed and flexibility of the team was put to the test with the sudden rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the new tech stack, BioCentury was able to deliver current information to their users quickly and reliably. This speed and flexibility would have been difficult with the previous, monolith setup.

In his final thoughts, Bruno once again highlighted the importance of understanding your content and where the industry is going as important factors in evaluating whether or not to migrate to a new tech stack. Not every use case will benefit from a modular tech stack; but those who want to have greater oversight, flexibility, and ability to innovate quickly could reap the benefits of making the change.

For more insights on this, check out our full conversation. To learn more about modernizing from legacy to Headless, download our eBook on modernizing projects for your clients with Content Federation.


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