Benefits of Using GraphQL for Your eCommerce Business
Whether you’re designing a new eCommerce platform or looking to upgrade an existing monolith application, it’s worth evaluating GraphQL and the benefits it provides over similar technologies like REST.
To begin, it's essential to make sure we understand what GraphQL is. It's a technology developed by Facebook in 2012 to address their issues with mobile platforms. One of the technologies they were trying to use, REST, was not performing well in their particular setup, so they decided to replace it with a homegrown solution. GraphQL was the result. A few years later, the GraphQL specification was made open-source so that anyone could potentially benefit from it and contribute to it.
GraphQL is a query language for APIs (application programming interfaces) and a server for executing those queries. APIs are the means by which computer programs communicate with each other to exchange and manipulate data.
REST is the most-used API architecture by far (as Postman's recent API report shows | graph is below); however, GraphQL adoption is on the rise, and many already are using it in place of REST to facilitate communication with all the different APIs that an application may have to talk to.
In traditional RESTful services, endpoints are predefined, often leading to over-fetching or under-fetching of data. Over-fetching can be a waste of bandwidth and resources, while under-fetching might necessitate additional requests, adding to the delay.
With GraphQL, queries only request and retrieve what is needed, and no more. Unlike REST, you don’t have to pull up a customer’s entire record to fetch their name. This leads to improved performance, which creates a better experience for users and developers.
GraphQL queries are able to follow references between resources. While REST typically has to make separate calls to endpoints at multiple URLs, GraphQL exposes only one endpoint that can access everything it needs at once. This allows for increased efficiency and reduces network traffic.
GraphQL is strongly typed, meaning that the way the client and server interact is clearly and strictly defined. This reduces errors and improves network performance. With introspection, the strongly typed schema can generate documentation about itself. This makes development faster and easier, lowering costs.
GraphQL is especially beneficial amid complexity. It can easily combine data between multiple vendors and platforms. It scales well to large numbers of users and can deliver more relevant experiences to each. Since it’s platform agnostic, it’s also a great choice when attempting to convert a sizeable existing monolith application into microservices.
GraphQL's advantages make it especially useful for headless eCommerce platforms and customer-facing applications in particular. The fusion isn't merely a convergence of two tech trends. It's a harmonious integration that capitalizes on the strengths of both, creating systems that are efficient, adaptable, and primed for future innovations.
A headless architecture is one where the back end is decoupled from the front end(s). A single source of truth (backend) can be leveraged by multiple engagement platforms (frontends). GraphQL's strong typing allows for just this sort of architecture. With frontends developed independently of one another and with GraphQL's single evolving API, frontend development becomes easy. Releases can occur more often as a result.
With multiple frontends leveraging GraphQL's performance advantages, you can reach customers where they are, eliminate channel silos, and ensure everyone has an optimal experience regardless of how they interact with you.
Whatmore, GraphQL has inherent support for batching multiple queries into a single request. This consolidation minimizes the overhead associated with multiple HTTP requests, which can be particularly beneficial in eCommerce scenarios where diverse bits of information might be needed simultaneously, like products, reviews, and user profiles. Additionally, because GraphQL queries are more deterministic than their REST counterparts, they lend themselves better to caching mechanisms, ensuring faster response times for frequently fetched data.
Finally, by reducing the payload through precise data requests and possibly minimizing the number of requests, GraphQL can enhance performance, especially on slower networks. This can be particularly advantageous for e-commerce platforms targeting regions with limited bandwidth or for mobile users on the go.
The number of calls to the back-end API is a super-important point when designing highly performant front-end architectures. On top of that, it allows you to select precisely what data you want to have transferred, resulting in smaller payloads and a more responsive API. With that in mind, we opted out of GraphQL for our APIs.
Check out the GraphQL API Explorer we created to aid in query testing and to see the JSON results while using Crystallize.
Of course, GraphQL isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There will be circumstances when REST will make more sense. A decision like this will depend on factors such as current architecture/platform, developer skill set, data quality, requirements, and the number of current and future users.
However, GraphQL offers a lot for eCommerce platforms and is always worth consideration in decision-making.
If you’re looking to take your eCommerce platform to the next level, why not give Crystallize a try?
It’s a PIM, DAM, and CMS solution that will be the ideal backend for your headless architecture. It’s free and easy to get started.
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