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Graham Carr
Jun 4, 2024
(3 votes)

A day in the life of an Optimizely Developer - Introduction to Optimizely SaaS Core

What is SaaS Core

Optimizely SaaS Core is a cloud-based, headless, and API-first version of the Optimizely CMS (Content Management System) and Commerce platform. Unlike traditional platforms, SaaS Core provides customers with a complete package - both the operating environment and the application itself - without the need for extensive coding or technical expertise.

The Challenge: Complexity in Composability

Composability has traditionally meant complexity, especially for marketers. As businesses strive to build custom tech stacks tailored to their unique needs, marketers often find themselves navigating intricate systems designed primarily for developers.

Key Features of SaaS Core

  • Low-Code/No-Code Development: One of the most attractive features of SaaS Core is its no-code approach to template building. Users can define content types, specify properties, and configure data types all through a user-friendly web interface, eliminating the reliance on developers for “basic” site customisation.
  • Always Updated: Optimizely takes care of infrastructure, monitoring, security, and upgrades to core components. This ensures that users benefit from the latest features and improvements without the hassle of planning or executing upgrades.
  • Headless Architecture: SaaS Core adopts a headless approach, storing content in a presentation-agnostic format accessible via APIs. This allows for greater flexibility in creating custom front-end experiences across various digital channels.
  • Low-Code Integrations: Pre-built integrations ("connectors") simplify data exchange between CMS/Commerce and other systems. Customers can set up integrations with just a few clicks, reducing as much dependency on custom development.

How does Optimizely SaaS Core differ from PaaS Core

Whilst both products are built on the same foundational CMS they do differ in several different ways. SaaS Core is headless, versionless and composable whilst PaaS Core is highly configurable and customisable.

SaaS Core

PaaS Core

Automatic and versionless updates

Partner managed updates

API-First approach

Supports hybrid, headless or coupled

Do not need to worry about installation

Partner managed installation

JS Frameworks and No .Net Core

JS Frameworks and/or .Net Core

No-coding approach

Ability to modify code for extensibility

No add-ons at this current time

Customisations can be done via add-ons


Related Technologies

Optimizely Graph

Optimizely Graph is a SaaS service built on GraphQL, designed to transform how users query and deliver content. Here is a summary of its key features and benefits:

  • GraphQL: Optimizely Graph leverages GraphQL, an open-source data query language, to generate unique schemas for each site, enabling efficient content querying.
  • Semantic Search: Utilises AI for semantic search, understanding contextual meaning behind keywords to deliver more accurate results, such as recognising "The Windy City" as Chicago.
  • External Data Integration: Allows querying of both CMS and external data sources, enabling data linkage across multiple sources via a single endpoint.

How It Works:

  • Content Sync: As content is published in the CMS, the GraphQL API dynamically generates schemas based on synchronised content, ensuring performance through Cloudflare CDN edge nodes.
  • External Data Integration: Define content types via API, sync data in JSONL format, and push it to Graph via API for seamless integration and querying.
  • Querying and Search: Access an interactive GraphQL page to build custom queries within the CMS, perform standard or semantic searches on properties defined as "searchable."

Visual Builder

Optimizely's new feature, Visual Builder, is described by Optimizely as a standalone "visual experience builder" designed to empower content creators with an intuitive editing interface. Here's a summary of its key points:

  • Purpose: Visual Builder enhances content composition by providing a streamlined interface focused on assembling content blocks and enabling easy previewing before publishing.
  • Key Features:
    • Improved visual aesthetics emphasising content composition without CMS scaffolding.
    • Template creation without coding.
    • Integration with Optimizely Graph for content manipulation.
  • Base: Visual Builder is ideal for Optimizely SaaS users who prefer a decoupled approach to content creation, allowing flexibility in editing interfaces and adaptation to various digital channels.
  • Positioning: Positioned as the primary visual content composer within Optimizely SaaS, Visual Builder offers flexibility for content management independent of presentation layers.
  • Integration: Works in tandem with Optimizely Graph's APIs, transforming Optimizely SaaS into a headless CMS for composing, modifying, and distributing content.
  • Availability: Expected to launch in H1 2024, Visual Builder will likely be a cloud-based add-on service integrated with both CMS and CMP content composition.

Visual Builder provides a user-friendly, standalone tool for content creation within Optimizely's evolving SaaS and headless initiative, offering enhanced flexibility and control over content management and distribution.

Who Should Consider SaaS Core

Optimizely SaaS Core is ideal for:

  • Composable Flexibility: Organisations seeking a flexible CMS/Commerce platform that allows for component-based customisation.
  • Time-to-Market: Businesses requiring rapid deployment of simple campaign sites, pop-up stores, or event websites.
  • Structured Data Management: Those looking to store content in a clean, structured format for seamless synchronisation across digital channels.
  • Frontend Freedom: Developers wanting to create custom frontends using preferred frameworks, independent of traditional WYSIWYG editors.

Do I Still Need an Optimizely Partner?

While SaaS Core reduces the technical complexity associated with template development and setup, partnering with Optimizely experts like 26 DX remains valuable. An experienced partner can optimise platform setup, streamline integrations, and provide strategic guidance to maximise ROI.

In conclusion, Optimizely SaaS Core represents a major step towards democratising web development, empowering businesses to create, manage, and optimise digital experiences with unparalleled ease and flexibility.


Graham Carr, Lead .NET Developer

I am an experienced Lead .Net Developer with over 28 years’ experience in a wide range of products and technologies. I have helped companies deliver their digital vision from concept all the way through to delivery. I have a particular passion for DXPs (Digital Experience Platforms) and am a certified developer for products such as Optimizely, Umbraco, and more.

Jun 04, 2024


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