Going headless with vertical slicing
Vertical slicing. A long and often spoken about approach to dividing up scope into chunks of work that vertically integrate the technology stack. While it gets a lot of airtime, it’s often not used well or at all in practice. We regularly come across horizontally driven scope of works that load up on risk, waiting until the last moment to link each layer of the architecture only to see mismatched assumptions drive defect counts, testing and remediation work load up, and ultimately delaying the achievement of the reason for the change in the first place.
eCommerce solutions are particularly amenable to slicing, and the infrastructure of the web makes them even more so. In this solution we looked at the smallest change that would enable the richest set of touch points as our first step. With a suite of platform changes to be made we placed a strong focus on establishing the integration and releasing the entire solution – albeit doing very little, in as short a period as possible.
With that in mind our first step was to place a reverse proxy in front of the existing site. Working with section.io we designed a split origin model that enabled us to carve off a small but critical part of the experience. Using this model, we are able to use the same domain root across both new and old origin servers, giving us access to the cookies that represent the active session and cart contents.
From here we’ve got enough control to inject a new cart and checkout experience, presenting us the opportunity to refine and improve a key step in the user experience, driving improved conversion through additional service provision or simply a better checkout experience. By landing these two key elements on the new platform and services, we’ve also immediately removed the integration and release risk associated with a platform migration.
Unfortunately – it’s not all roses and gummy bears. While it may seem simple to drop in a reverse proxy and get on with the route based origin selection – always check with your existing platform provider before you jump in. If they aren’t aware of the change, you may find customers shut out of your site as they interpret the incoming request behaviours – specifically the single source IP on all requests, as attempts to credential stuff or perform other nefarious tasks.
As always – an open and ongoing conversation with your platform supplier is part of a good plan!