By Benjamin Keyser & Frederik Lölhöffel, on Feb 25, 2020

Launching the App Framework: Assemble and scale your digital experience stack

Blog post header for App Framework launch

Contentful has always been a platform for builders. Our hackability is core to our success so far: We’ve given developers more capabilities over time to customize parts of our platform and seen our community create really amazing solutions. But so far, that hackability has been limited to teams that had the time to build from scratch.

Our biggest concern over the last few years, from an extensibility perspective, was how to get our ecosystem of developers, partners and customers to the point where they can easily build or integrate solutions that solve their specific problems and are adapted to their needs. What could we enable if we opened up the whole platform, defined even more interfaces for customization, and wrapped it all up in a neat package with guidelines that inspire, not dictate, what you can create?

The answer to this is our App Framework, launching today.

Building blocks for your scalable digital experience stack

End customers increasingly expect brands to deliver digital experiences that are fresh and synchronized across all devices and touchpoints. This requires building a digital experience stack, where you can add the best services for the job while keeping content flowing consistently. This need for agility can’t be met with monolithic legacy suites.

The App Framework is a new, agile way to assemble your digital experience stack. With it, teams can easily integrate market-leading third-party services with the Contentful platform, or build custom integrations suited to specific business needs.

Create more value from your tech investments

Integrating services with Contentful through apps means that you can create a stack that’s seamlessly connected, bringing all relevant tools into the context of your editorial UI. Whether it’s for optimization, deployment and delivery, analytics or collaboration, you can mix and match exactly the right services and be sure they all reference the same set of durable content on Contentful. By combining data from multiple services, you create more value than just the sum of their parts. Check out our marketplace of ready-built apps that you can add to your organization today, extend your capabilities and build brand new digital experiences.

Future-proof your stack against changing demands

Recently, we wrote about how we’re designing Contentful in a shifting space. We recognize that the tools you use today might not be the ones you need tomorrow. All apps are modular and encapsulated (more on the technical side below), so the Framework makes it easy to switch services in and out. For example, if you need to change your targeting platform in the future due to changing consumer demands or improvements in targeting technology, it’s easy to swap it out. Apps are decoupled from your content through an API — something that’s impossible with monolithic suites.

Tools for deep customization

Experience has shown us that every customer has different needs, from editorial workflows to architecture to technical requirements and preferences. As part of the App Framework launch, we’re releasing two new API endpoints, 15-and-counting open source apps which can serve as blueprints and inspiration, and libraries for common app use cases. Our goal is to equip you with a more extensible platform and make it easy to build a new integration — without weeks of custom development and testing.

Scale services across your organization

Whether you’re adding existing or custom-built services, our new API endpoints for app definition and installation allow you to package your custom integrations at the organization level. This means you can distribute apps from a central place and give your teams quick access to custom functionality within their spaces, helping you to scale your Contentful-powered stacks.

Illustration of the benefits of digital experience stacks versus monolithic suites

Digital experience stacks beat monolithic suites when it comes to agility and scale

The App Framework is designed API-first

Products like Lego are universal and playful because they’re based on a clearly-defined, modular system. This has a few major advantages: You know how pieces will interlock, you have a booklet of instructions that show you what the finished object can look like and how to get there, but most importantly, you can ignore the instructions and rearrange the blocks to look exactly how you want them to. This is how we’ve designed the App Framework: modular, API-first and with room to safely experiment.

Extensibility was always a big part of what drew developers to Contentful. With the App Framework, we’re lowering the barrier to entry and empowering teams to build better integrations quicker and manage them at scale.

Little by little, we’ve opened up more parts of the platform for customization through our UI extensions. The App Framework continues this process in a mindful way: Apps are encapsulated modules to package customization so you can scale, swap and share as you like. You can compose and install an app programmatically with APIs, just like with every other building block on the platform. You can find out more in our app documentation, and check out the new components in brief below:

What’s new: components

  • Two new API endpoints for defining apps at the organization level and installing apps into space environments. Apps are the successor to our very popular UI extensions and the result of a much longer process of opening the platform and making it more extensible.

  • 15-and-counting open source apps to be used as blueprints to build similar capabilities and inspiration for what’s possible with apps. Some of these apps previously existed as extensions and have been upgraded to apps; others like Jira, Commercetools or Smartling are brand new.

  • Two new libraries for two common types of apps — digital asset management (DAM) and ecommerce apps. These abstract some of the core functionalities of DAM and ecommerce so you can integrate a new app in no time with very little coding.

Illustration of new features included in App Framework launch

The basis for our expanding ecosystem of partners

As part of the App Framework launch, we’re also relaunching our partnership program. We’re a content platform — that means we focus on what we do best and rely on our ecosystem of partners, customers and developers to enrich our platform with new and exciting custom capabilities.

The App Framework is the technical basis for our expanding ecosystem. It’s also a new way for our partners to engage with their customers and help them add more value to the content they already have in their stack.

On the horizon for extensibility

Extensibility isn’t about pushing us into the future — it’s about helping customers push their digital experiences into the future. The App Framework lets you do more with Contentful while getting more out of the technology and services you already use. In the coming months, we’ll expand our offering even more, with deeper support for backend apps, subscription to events, and new developer tooling to make building great apps even easier .

Being a platform means being part of an ecosystem. There’s no one-size-fits all CMS, so we’re going to double-down on our role as the builder’s content platform. We’re excited to see what you — the community — will build!

Our partners help businesses build DXPs — see how in our March 10 webinar

If you want to learn more about how working with the App Framework can level up the value of your tech investments and drastically increase the speed at which you create digital experiences, join our webinar on March 10 with our solution partner Publicis Sapient. They’ll discuss how they used Contentful’s extensibility to build a luxury brand experience across channels for client Bang & Olufsen.

Developers, stay tuned — we’ll host a second webinar soon focusing on just the technical capabilities of the App Framework.

Benjamin Keyser

As VP Product at Contentful, Benjamin Keyser helps the product teams bring flexible, scalable, and thoughtful content management capabilities to developers and enterprises. Before Contentful, Benjamin has held product leadership roles at Zendesk, Intercom, and Canonical.

Frederik Lölhöffel

Product Manager at Contentful. Frederik works with teams making the platform more extensible, creating new ways for developers and platform owners to integrate and customize Contentful at scale.