2023 Atlas Year-in-Review

2023 was another year of exciting growth for Atlas, WP Engine’s all-in-one platform for headless WordPress.

Introduced in 2021, Atlas offers a complete headless stack designed for agency efficiency, developer freedom, and enhanced brand impact. While initial, post-launch efforts were focused mainly on foundational goals, the Atlas team broadened its scope in 2023, embarking on a range of enhancements aimed at refining the developer experience and upgrading tools to be more user friendly.

We’re excited to share all the details with you, and in this article, we’ll break down the major updates to Atlas in 2023, highlight some of our customers’ successes, and include important resources for developers starting their headless journey. Let’s dive in! 

Making Blueprints Better

Launched at DECODE 2022, Atlas Blueprints provide users with pre-configured, easy-to-install environments that serve as a starting point for learning and building with a headless tech stack.

In 2023, we incorporated even more builder tools into the Atlas Blueprints experience. The BigCommerce and Shopify Blueprints, for example, have become invaluable to headless eCommerce developers who want to embrace composable commerce without rebuilding their legacy stores.

Advanced Custom Fields (ACF), WPGraphQL, and Faust.js have also been seamlessly integrated into Atlas Blueprints, making it easier than ever for developers to get up and running on headless WordPress projects.

Simplifying Innovation 

2023 also saw significant enhancements to the Atlas platform as a whole, solidifying its position as a leader in headless WordPress technology. 

By focusing on enhancements to individual components, the Atlas team successfully elevated the entire platform, making it more intuitive and user friendly while fostering innovation and simplifying the development process. 

In 2023, Atlas platform improvements included:

  • Integration with Bitbucket and GitLab to provide Atlas users with a wider selection of Git vendors and greater flexibility and compatibility with different development workflows.
  • Build notifications. Atlas now offers enhanced communication by posting comments on a repository’s Pull Request page after a build completion. This feature supports multiple notification preferences, including email, Slack, and the WP Engine User Portal. 
  • Access logs created for Atlas projects to improve troubleshooting. Developers can request up to 20 access logs per Atlas environment every 24 hours. 
  • System environment variables, which can influence the behavior of the web application, providing a way to dynamically adjust its configuration without changing the codebase. Each value can be modified based on the specific Atlas environment.

Additionally, Faust.js, a framework designed to streamline the development of headless WordPress sites, has seen its own set of enhancements

As a JavaScript framework, Faust.js has become a valuable tool for both WordPress and JavaScript developers, and recent updates have been aimed at simplifying and enhancing the development experience for both. This includes: 

  • Introducing the WordPress Toolbar for Headless + New TypeScript types. The toolbar improves the workflow of content creators by making a headless backend seamlessly resemble that of a traditional WordPress site. The team also created two new TypeScript types (FaustPlugin and FaustHooks) which can be used to type check Faust plugins.
  • Enabling new Bug fixes (Windows e.g.) + Debug Mode which can be triggered by adding FAUST_DEBUG=true to the .env.local file. This new mode gives developers deeper insight to what Faust is doing behind the scenes, including debugging for remote calls and more.
  • Creating the React-Gutenberg Bridge which, in 2023, made huge strides in meeting the needs of both content creators who prefer the WYSIWYG editor and developers who want to harness the full potential of headless architecture.
  • Adding ten of the most popular WordPress blocks to an all-new Block Library for Atlas. These blocks allow you to get started with the most important functionality quickly and serve as an example set you can use to build your own block library filled with blocks most appropriate for your site and needs.
  • Introducing Next.js App Router Support, a new model for building applications using React’s latest features, like Server Components, Streaming with Suspense, and Server Actions.
  • Moving Faust Blueprints to ACF which allows developers to make use of existing ACF content structures much more easily and take advantage of the most powerful content solution in the WordPress ecosystem.
  • Building a showcase page to highlight Faust.js builds created by members of the community.
  • Creating a path to convert existing React components to WordPress blocks, improving workflows for developers coming to WordPress from another CMS. 

Community Connection

Another focus for the Atlas team in 2023 was educating and connecting with a larger community of developers interested in making the leap to headless. 

Community building is one of the most important ways we enable open source developers because collaboration is the best way to learn and grow.

Our Developer Relations (DevRel) team has created a treasure trove of both written and YouTube content which is popular among headless developers—the YouTube channel alone has more than 4,000 subscribers! The short-form content covers everything from image optimization in headless to building a new app using Faust.js, WPGraphQL, and ACF

The Faust.js team has steadily documented their process on the Faust.js blog, and just last month, they moved their project management to GitHub, allowing them to respond to issues and pull requests faster and more efficiently than ever before. 

On our Discord channel, the team has also been active in answering developer questions from our more than 1,600 community members and facilitating discussions on some of the most important topics surrounding headless WordPress. 

All Atlas-associated teams are continuously connecting with and asking for feedback from the developers who are experimenting with these products, so be sure to send questions and general feedback to the Faust.js team via their website or to the wider Atlas community on Discord

Altas Success 

We’ve already seen dozens of agile, highly performant site applications spun up with Atlas, and 2023 brought some of the most impressive projects to date! 

Agency experts at Wide Eye Creative built a healthcare directory site using Atlas which includes a membership platform for healthcare providers, a publishing platform for health resources, and an extensible API to enable robust provider search functionality, all while achieving lightning-fast speeds for end users.

WP Engine Agency Partner Wide Eye Creative used Atlas to build a highly performant healthcare directory site.

The Alameda County Food Bank used Atlas to refresh the online presence of its Food Now program while retaining a connection to data from its existing CRM and improving mobile accessibility for users in low-bandwidth areas.

When Gunnar Roofing contacted Click Here Labs to enhance their customer experience by creating a seamless, and user-friendly platform for obtaining roofing quotes and making purchases, the agency chose Atlas. The result was a site with improved performance and caching capabilities as well as added functionality, including a 3D visualization tool. 

Gunnar Roofing’s new 3D visualization tool created with Atlas helps their customers better understand the process of getting a new roof while also showing the myriad of options available to them

These are just a few of the projects we’ve seen built on Atlas in the last year, and we’re so excited to see what’s coming in 2024!

What’s Next for Atlas?

The innovation never stops on Atlas, and we’ve got lofty goals for 2024.

AI is on the minds of many developers, and the Atlas team is no exception. One area where the Atlas team is setting its sights is Smart Search, WP Engine’s scalable, intuitive WordPress search solution.

The Atlas team is already taking steps to improve Smart Search with AI enhancements, including new features that we’ll discuss in detail at DECODE 2024

Atlas will also continue to support many frameworks, including React,js, Astro, Next.js, and more to deliver on our promise of bringing all the best features into our premium headless WordPress framework, Faust.js.

All of our team’s current efforts and all of the work that’s yet to come are focused on one goal: to future-proof WordPress and keep the open-source community thriving!

Connect With Us

If you have feedback or questions for the Atlas team, connect with them and others in the community in their headless Discord channel or check out the State of Atlas 2024.

Or, if you’re curious about trying headless development for yourself, sign up for a free Sandbox account to start tinkering.