2022 Atlas Year-in-Review

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WP Engine’s platform for headless WordPress, Atlas, has seen incredible growth over the past year, thanks to a full suite of products supported by many of our internal teams.

Throughout 2022, those teams and products led the way as WP Engine made significant strides in the headless WordPress space.

We’re excited to share some of that work with you, and below, we’ll break down last year’s key launches and improvements to the Atlas platform, Faust.js, WPGraphQL, and more.

Bonus: We’ll also give you a sneak peek at what we want to build in 2023! But first, let’s dive in with Atlas platform improvements.


Getting Started With Atlas is Easier

Since its launch in 2020, the Atlas platform and its growing ecosystem have taken aim at the hurdles to headless development, making the headless building experience more accessible and streamlined for veteran developers as well as those who are new to headless.

2022 was no exception as our teams focused on updates and improvements that make it easier than ever to experiment with and create a headless WordPress project.

Atlas Sandbox Accounts

One of the biggest launches of 2022 was the addition of Sandbox, or trial accounts for Atlas, which provide developers with a free and feature-complete environment where they can learn more about headless technology and start building quickly.

We’re thrilled to provide our customers and technology enthusiasts with a secure place to start new projects, and alongside Atlas Sandbox accounts, WP Engine also extended Atlas plans to businesses of all sizes in 2022.

Atlas Blueprints

At DE{CODE} 2022, we launched Atlas Blueprints, which are pre-configured, easy-to-install environments that give Atlas users a starting point for learning and building with a headless tech stack.

Atlas Blueprints dashboard
Atlas Blueprints are pre-configured, easy-to-install environments tailor-made for learning and building with a headless tech stack.

Blueprints allow developers to speed up learning and save time that would otherwise be spent reading documentation, installing the tech stack, and learning how to piece together headless sites from scratch.

Instead, you can use Atlas Blueprints to spin up a templated headless site in minutes and focus your efforts on building your next headless project.


The Atlas Platform is More Intuitive and User-Friendly

2022 also saw our teams shore up the core Atlas platform, running through the following punch list of updates, additions, and optimizations, which all make Atlas easier to use and navigate.

  • Domain-level redirects added to the User Portal. Atlas users no longer need to manage domain-level redirects through their DNS host or with custom code.
  • Runtime logs and real-time build logs were added to the User Portal, making this information easier to access.
  • Rebuild and Clean Rebuild webhooks added to the User Portal. Unlike “regular” rebuilds, a “Clean Rebuild” purges all previously cached folders and only then pulls the latest commit from your branch before rebuilding the environment. Users can now generate a webhook that will let them initiate a Clean Rebuild.
  • Github integration improvements including the ability to delete a branch, rename the repo, subdirectory support, and more.
  • Password Protection enabled to provide an additional layer of security
  • Cancel Build functionality added. Instead of waiting for a build to complete or time out, users can now cancel a build and queue up additional builds (with status indicators) in the User Portal!)
  • Ability to quickly roll back to previous successful build (if broken images, errors, etc. are present).
  • Portfolio Blueprint and new BigCommerce Blueprint added in 2022.
  • Monorepo support. The Atlas build system now supports the ability to select a subdirectory in Github when choosing the repository. This allows builds to have multiple JavaScript apps in a single repo, and have the JavaScript app in a subfolder of the WordPress repo.
  • Atlas Debug mode enabled, which helps developers troubleshoot better (and faster).
  • Domain revalidation button added, and domain status lights added to the User Portal, making it easy to update and revalidate DNS records quickly.
  • Direct .zip upload via API now available, allowing developers to upload code to Atlas directly using WP Engine’s API credentials.
This Atlas Blueprint has a BigCommerce connector that enables eCommerce for headless WordPress, helping you get your first store to production faster.

Pull Request Preview Environments

Another Atlas improvement that will make your Atlas workflow easier is the ability to dynamically create new Atlas environments to test your changes from GitHub pull requests, all without having to go through the configuration steps in the User Portal.

If you decide to turn this feature on, every pull request opened to a branch used as a source branch for your Atlas environment will create a preview environment based on the branch that is being compared to your source branch. Closing or merging the pull request will shut the environment down.


Faust.js is Even More WordPress-Friendly

Faust.js is an open source framework sponsored by WP Engine, built on top of Next.js and React. Faust is a complete library that will reduce the development time needed for headless WordPress sites while also bringing forward all the power of WordPress to the frontend application.

In 2022, we focused on improvements to Faust.js that re-imagined what a headless WordPress library could and should be. We rebuilt it from the ground up with WordPress developers in mind and with the goal of making sure Faust.js is the right library for all types of headless WordPress sites.

Re-introducing Faust.js

We relaunched Faust.js in 2022, thanks to great customer feedback that a WordPress-focused JavaScript framework would be impactful for enabling primarily-WordPress developers.

Faust.js Made Headless Development Easier for WordPress Developers

Faust.js introduced the WordPress template hierarchy into headless development, allowing users to control their headless templates as easily as they would a classic WordPress theme. This saves time and energy for teams by allowing for much faster integration with WordPress’ content management.

Faust.js Made Headless the Ideal Platform for Agencies and Enterprises

Faust.js also introduced two new features to headless development, the Apollo client and Faust.js plugin that, together, allow Atlas to be the ideal platform for sites of all sizes by letting developers build exactly what they need throughout the entire cycle of their headless application.

The Faust.js plugin also provides useful options for headless sites, including the ability to hide “theme” admin pages, redirect public route requests, and rewrite WordPress URLs to front-end URLs in queried content.

WPGraphQL is Smarter and Faster!

The best GraphQL API for WordPress got even better in 2022. WPGraphQL is a free, open source WordPress plugin that provides an extendable GraphQL schema and API for any WordPress site.

While it’s already widely used for building rich JavaScript applications with frameworks such as Next.js, Gatsby, Vue, and Svelte (and it plays a key role in the larger Atlas ecosystem), improvements to WPGraphQL over the past year will no doubt encourage an even larger set of use cases.

SmartCache

One of the most important updates to WPGraphQL in 2022 was the release of SmartCache, a WPGraphQL plugin that allows you to cache your GraphQL requests from WordPress.

Once those requests are cached, they no longer hit the WordPress server and instead go through WPGraphQL SmartCache. This provides you with better performance while using fewer resources! The plugin is engineered so that it works specifically with your WordPress hosting platform’s network caching layer.

New Custom Post Types and Taxonomy Registration Options

WPGraphQL also makes it easy to expose Custom Post Types and Taxonomies to the GraphQL Schema. As of October 2022, WPGraphQL offers new options for how your post types and taxonomies are added to the WPGraphQL Schema.

This enables developers to use WPGraphQL in different (easier) ways with less code. For example, this update helps bring more compatibility between tools like WooCommerce and WPGraphQL.


Search is Unlocked for Headless Projects

Atlas Search Beta Release

Headless WordPress sites that use the native REST API or WPGraphQL to perform searches without any other performance optimizations might experience issues such as unexpected search results, the inability to search more than one word at a time, and a lack of support for custom data.

Atlas Search was released to change that, and provides a search solution tailor-made for headless WordPress, with greater functionality and customizability than default WordPress search.

Atlas Search beta was made available free to all Atlas customers in the spring of 2022 as part of our Beta program, but stay tuned for updates on Atlas Search General Availability!


Content Is More Performant on Atlas

Headless architecture offers a new experience for website builders and content creators, but it can also provide dramatic performance improvements to the way websites and content are delivered.

Android Authority, the largest independent publication dedicated to Android OS, achieved dramatic improvements to SEO and the browsing experience for its 50 million monthly readers— including a 6x boost in page speed— after adopting a headless architecture with a WordPress back end.

Georgian College, an Ontario, Canada-based College of Applied Arts and Technology, saw its website jump from 23rd to second place in search results after converting to a headless build using Atlas.

Other Atlas users, from high-traffic digital publishers to enterprise consumer brands leveraged the Atlas platform and ecosystem in 2022 to deliver content more effectively, across more channels and digital touchpoints, with speed and precision for internal and external users alike.

“Headless adoption has been ramping up for some time now, but as it continues to grow, and as more business leaders understand how this approach can help them meet their digital demands, we’re seeing more customers benefit from headless architecture than ever before,” WP Engine Director of Product Management, Jason Konen.

“Content is more performant on Atlas, full stop,” he added. “If creating content is a central part of your business, building it with WordPress and using the frontend frameworks your developers prefer to use is just such a game-changer. But don’t take my word for it—try it free using an Atlas Sandbox account to experience the headless difference firsthand.”


Looking Ahead in 2023

We’re doubling down on our commitment to Atlas improvements in the coming year, and are excited to announce a few new tools and features launching at our virtual DE{CODE} conference for developers!

You won’t want to miss the excitement so reserve your spot now—for free! You can register here.

And stay tuned— we’ll continue to share some of the projects we’re looking into for 2023, including improvements to the CI/CD experience, updates to our new search feature, integrations with Advanced Custom Fields (ACF), and of course, ongoing performance optimization.

What else would you like to see us build? Let us know in the comments!

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