Why extensibility is the bedrock of composable content

We built Contentful to be extensible by design. Extensibility — the inherent flexibility of our platform — is what delivers the most value for customers.
November 3, 2022


We built Contentful to be extensible by design. Extensibility — the inherent flexibility of our platform — is what delivers the most value for customers.

While we’re undeniably proud of what we’ve built, without our ecosystem, many of the benefits of extensibility, and composable content for that matter, would be moot.

When the opportunity to easily connect to (or build) solutions that fit your unique needs is absent, you’re left with a platform that inhibits your ability to scale to meet market demands — placing your future growth in jeopardy.

How Contentful stands out from the crowd

If you’ve been following along with our blog posts over the past week, you’ve probably tuned into the fact that Contentful is leading the way toward composable content

While we may not be the only company building solutions for composable content, we are the one company doing it differently — and better. Seriously, this isn’t just marketing fluff. In addition to our market-leading composable content platform, we also have a composable ecosystem of partners, apps, and integrations you won’t find anywhere else. 

The Contentful® Composable Content Platform stands out from the crowd because it makes the most of composable architecture. By this, we mean two key things: 

  1. You’re in control of building the tech stack you need to create the work environment (aka the tooling) that supports the way your teams want to work — even if they don’t all work the same way. As that environment shifts, you have the power to adapt your tech stack, as often as you need to.

  2. We keep improving the platform based on what will benefit the majority of our customers. By continuing to expand and enhance our platform with new features, we save you from having to build out those functionalities or worry about maintainability, freeing developer time for more valuable priorities.

When making choices around how your teams work with and manage content — and the systems that support that work — there are a specific set of considerations that ought to be made. Such tools should provide: 

  • Flexibility of a near plug-and-play architecture — with software development tools that aren’t an afterthought.

  • Seamless and easy integration of other applications or services, and the freedom to work with APIs and frameworks of your choosing. 

  • A large catalog of ready-made applications, plugins, modules, and integrations.

  • A supportive community that allows you to gather skills and insight from passionate and knowledgeable developers and architects.

Build an app, browse an app

One of the core tenets to the Contentful ecosystem is the App Framework, which allows partners, agencies, and developers to create bespoke experiences within the platform.

In addition to this ability to independently build apps, the Contentful Marketplace is a powerful force in our ecosystem. There, you can browse the apps built by partners or community members to integrate with your composable content platform. Fresh apps offering new functionality are added every week, all built using the same App Framework, and contain solutions for a multitude of use cases. 

In the spirit of drinking our own champagne (or eating our own dog food, depending on the day), our developers have produced apps to solve customer requests. A recent example, which we announced and demonstrated at Fast Forward Live, is the Merge app.

Merge provides a visual interface for identifying and resolving the differences between environments’ content models. It was built specifically for developers to resolve the pain point of manually cross-checking content models for inconsistencies. It’s saving our customers’ time in deployments, and has already drummed up its own fanbase!

It is the App Framework that brings our composable content platform to life – we’ve even built new experiences like our Merge app on top of it!

As Karel Caste from DocuSign tells us:

“The Merge app really reduced our need to write our own migration scripts. This saved our team a significant amount of time and reduced the potential for errors that might have occurred. It’s great to see Contentful investing in tools that support the dev teams and give us a more robust set of capabilities, and we’re looking forward to seeing more capabilities that allow us to scale our Contentful instance faster to satisfy our business stakeholders.” 

The output of the App Framework continues to impress us and our customers alike. In order to continue delivering an experience that makes building that output enjoyable, we're constantly iterating on what's next for the App Framework. Over the past year, we’ve released a slew of updates that enhance user experience, which include: 

  • App actions, which allow individual apps to link up together and power complex workflows.

  • Cross-environment support, which opens the doors for building apps that tie together multiple spaces.

  • Customizable home screens for individual spaces, which users see when they first log in. This feature update allows that initial experience to be tailored to what’s most important to the user, to get started for the first time, and streamline their daily routine.

We also aim to ensure that what we put out into the market can actually be used by the whole world. To put it simply, accessibility is a focal point. With that, we’re happy to share that v4 of our open source design system, Forma 36, brings Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) level AAA compliance in all our React components, except for our color palette which is optimized for level AA. 

Meeting this standard means that your teams can enhance the Contentful Composable Content Platform with features that look native to what you might see out of the box. These can be customized to brand and functional needs without skimping on accessibility. 

Made possible with partners

One of the beautiful things about a composable content platform is the power it gives you to construct and deconstruct experiences with interchangeable components.

If the only thing that’s constant is change, then there will always be an innate need to adapt content, processes, and tooling at will. Content must be able to bend and stretch to match the life cycles of an ever-changing market. Composability is what facilitates this elasticity, making it easier to adjust on the fly.

Inevitably, shifting business needs will impact a shift in brand experiences as well. As the content within those experiences evolves, the infrastructure supporting the entire platform will also need to change. With the right partners making use of Contentful’s full, extensible ecosystem, navigating these shifts becomes more joyride than hellscape. 

Even with the many options in our ecosystem, you might not always find what you want or need. We built the App Framework with this understanding. It offers the option to build out custom apps and workflows.

Whether or not you have a capable developer team at the ready, it’s reassuring to know you can bring in a partner who can not only build what you need, but can build it correctly using best practices they’ve gained from working with Contentful. 

A graphic representation of two people shaking hands digitally.

One of our outstanding partners, Splendid Unlimited, leveraged the App Framework to solve a business-critical problem for a big client. Splendid Unlimited, featured at our Fast Forward Live event, developed a new digital platform for dealerships selling BMW and MINI cars in the United Kingdom.

Their approach to this request was to build custom apps that helped the BMW and MINI teams on one end, dealerships on the other, and incorporating official marketing content into locally managed websites. Splendid Unlimited used extensibility features to automate the setup and configuration of these websites. Dealerships weren’t staffed with location-specific web developers and needed a simplified process to ensure localized content was accurate and up to date. 

This delivery model allowed Splendid Unlimited to roll out 160 websites for BMW, and an additional 140 sites for MINI — the latter going live in just five weeks. The platform’s custom editing experience enables non-technical editors to create fresh and compelling content as needed for the individual dealerships. Overall, Splendid Unlimited’s work to replatform BMW and MINI to Contentful is increasing:

  • Test drive bookings

  • Financing quotes

  • “Contact Us” inquiries

As Stuart Barr, development lead at Splendid Unlimited so eloquently shared:

“The flexibility of Contentful’s App Framework gives us the confidence that we can leverage the platform to solve the specific business challenges our clients have in compelling ways. For BMW editors, the experience is seamless; they don’t know where out-of-the-box functionality ends, and our extensions begin.” 

The extensible ecosystem

Taking advantage of everything that comprises our ecosystem — the App Framework, our network of partners, and Marketplace — means fully realizing the power of content.

We build the core capabilities to support your composable content strategy directly into our platform, while giving your teams the tools they need to extend and reuse it across any given use case or business need.

Tools like these empower companies to work efficiently and deliver the most value and highest quality experiences to businesses and customers. To learn more about Contentful’s ecosystem, check out these resources: 

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