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Powering React Native applications with ButterCMS Headless engine

Posted by Abhishek Kothari on December 23, 2019
  1. Understanding the need for the backend
  2. Identifying the components around mobile applications
  3. Powering up your application with ButterCMS
  4. Benefits of opting the headless way
  5. Final Takeaway

The trend of standalone mobile applications

Numerous organizations these days are switching to a “mobile-only” model for their online business. They prefer to keep their maintenance low and keep user experience perfect at the same time. With a standalone mobile application, the user is able to perform almost every activity right from the mobile application. Although organizations now have the benefit of not having to manage a website, they still need to build applications for different mobile OS. 

As a result, Hybrid application development technology like React Native is on the rise. React Native enables the developer to build an application for multiple OS using a single codebase. With the power of React Native, the developers are able to simplify the complete mobile application development. The normal mobile application architecture is split into three major parts:

  • Frontend - UI design
  • Backend - API for data exchange
  • Database - For data storage

In a competitive, cut-throat market, developing applications in a cost-effective manner is very important. With React Native applications, the frontend development has surely been simplified. However, backend development and storage management still pose challenges. 

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In this article, we guide you with an approach to resolve this problem with the help of ButterCMS.

1. Understanding the need for the backend

Backend development handles behind the scene functionality of an application. The code connects the mobile application to a database, manages user interactions, and powers the application itself. The back-end works in tandem with the front-end to present the final product to the end-user.  

With the onset of mobile apps, the current shift not only includes developing an efficient application frontend but also a well-optimized backend. The mobile backend development task ensures proper database design, scripting, and the architecture of the application. The primary purpose of the backend is to run continuously and listen to the user requests while serving back the response as needed.

The mobile application backend can perform multiple tasks like serving static files, processing data requests, authorizing the user requesting for data and providing APIs for data transactions. These operations could take variable time depending on the complexity of the required features. Moreover, just like we build the frontend of every application from scratch, in most cases, the backend is built from scratch too.  

2. Identifying the components around mobile applications

Now, let us try to understand the minimum components required around the mobile application to make sure it runs. A mobile application is normally packaged in the form of a setup file that installs onto the mobile device. This application package can contain the majority of the static data that would be required by the mobile application. 

In order to render and process dynamic data or inputs, the mobile application would require three major components:

Static file server for mobile application

A static file server provides the static files to the mobile application remotely. This server is required normally to keep the installation package size smaller than usual. With a static file server, a mobile application can easily download files from the server over the internet when it is being used. 

Backend Data-processing server

A backend server for mobile applications will provide API endpoints for the mobile application. The mobile application can request the server for data exchange and the backend server will process the same and send the corresponding response. The majority of the time, companies focusing on mobile application based business models tend to keep it simple on the backend. They generally have simple database schema design and minimal features. 

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Storage for preserving data

Data storage and processing is the end goal of any mobile application. The data storage creation normally goes through a two-step process:

  1. Create the database design 
  2. Link the design for data consistency

This process is performed afresh for every new mobile application that is developed by the organization. Thus, it also adds to the cost of development.

Overall, the development and maintenance of each of the above add to the cost of mobile application development and maintenance. Imagine reusing the complete backend and data storage design - wouldn’t it be a great saving? This is precisely what we will talk about in the next section. 

3. Powering up your application with ButterCMS

A headless CMS engine like ButterCMS will provide you with a backend that can last extensively across different projects and scale up automatically. It is an API-First CMS and standard blogging platform to set up your company blog easy. ButterCMS provides you with push-button functionality that is designed to integrate right into your existing application, regardless of tech stack. It is a headless CMS tool that can integrate with any framework or language. The powerful interface helps you to customize every element of your website or blog without any trouble. Butter CMS offers to hybridize from traditional CMS boundaries and get away with custom coding in lines.

With ButterCMS, you will have things working in seconds. There’s nothing to host, so you don’t need to apply any upgrades, which help to improve security. Butter employs the advantage of Fastly for advanced caching and Amazon CDN to instantly deliver your content, including built-in with SEO features.

a. Understanding ButterCMS features

ButterCMS is a platform for building CMS-powered websites, blogs, dynamic pages, and more in any programming language. Let us have a brief overview of the features of ButterCMS before integrating it in your application:

  1. The Version Control allows the project team to share the same source code repository and keep changes in sync between workstations. 
  2. Approval Process Control allows us to approve or reject the content before publishing.
  3. Document Management can store and manage various information and documents in electronic format.
  4. Rich Text Editor allows writing content directly with rich text formatting.
  5. Multi-language Support multiple languages to support global customers.
  6. Drag and Drop Editor lets you customize the elements like image, web form, tables, boxes, etc. by simple drag and drop interface.
  7. Content Blocks allows editors to build and edit dynamic pages without any developing knowledge.
  8. WYSIWYG Editor helps to edit in real-time while building the website using the software.

 b. Integrating with your application

ButterCMS has an elaborate list of tutorials for almost every programming language, including React Native applications. The tutorials provide easy start guides for integrating ButterCMS into your application. ButterCMS has its own plugins and libraries to provide easy to use functions for getting the data. 

Integrating a headless engine like ButterCMS not only gets you the benefit of a ready-to-use backend but also provides your team with a UI for entering data at any point of time. This UI is easy-to-use and responsive. This is a perfect fit for applications focused on publishing images, news, blog articles, stories, quotes and other content of this nature. 

4. Benefits of opting the headless way

A headless CMS comes with a substantial dose of flexibility. It delivers all the content seamlessly through an API to any device, in any context. Choosing a headless CMS is similar. The backend provides the content to an Android or iOS mobile app, a virtual reality (VR) experience, a kiosk, or any other medium your business claims.

A headless CMS offers you the ability to innovate swiftly by tweaking your front-end without affecting the backend, which saves you time and resources.

Developer-friendly

The headless CMS offers a simple user interface for content editors. The web pages appear as content items and can be easily edited, added, or removed. The process of adding, approving, and publishing this content by the appropriate development team is easy and saves a lot of development costs.

Security & Scalability

The headless CMS offers high scalability and security due to dividing responsibilities of the authoring and delivery system. The authoring part is entirely hidden, and the delivery part is separately scaled, and not accessible due to company firewalls.

Future-Proofing

A headless CMS delivers content via a dynamic API, meaning the actual system for content managing is entirely separate from the front-end of the site. This indicates that there is full flexibility in terms of what framework and languages are used on the front-end. In the future, it will be notably easier to change the design of the site when needed.

Speed

This is a content-first approach to the entire project timeline, as it means that high-quality websites can be built in a brief span of time. A headless CMS provides a system to store and edit data quickly but with simple API to consume it and follow a specific way to publish the data.

Almost Zero Maintenance Costs

By decoupling your content from the frontend,  time and money spent on re-designing your site is reduced. A headless CMS dramatically brings down the operational and technological costs for cross-platform projects. Paying for content management and/or maintenance on diverse platforms for mobile apps can be avoided.

5. Final Takeaway

Nowadays, A headless CMS is the norm but creating a headless blog is on the rise. ButterCMS is that alternative that allows development teams to add a CMS and blogging functionality into their own native codebases using the ButterCMS API reducing significant time and money in both the short and long term.

We hope this post added to your knowledge of opting for a headless content management system and understanding the need for it. 

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