Friday, April 14th 2023
Incremental migration from WordPress for a dev-first approach
Navigating the agency world can be complicated, with each agency claiming to offer the most innovative solutions. Enter Gearbox, a five-person team that crafts stunning sites and apps while empowering their clients to retain complete control over their brand. The secret to their success: a "dev-first approach" that sets them apart from typical marketing and design-focused competitors.Flexible enough to power both their small team and larger brands, Next.js and Vercel are Gearbox's go-to solutions—even for clients who may not be ready to transition to a headless stack all at once.
Features to power an incremental migration
When he first founded Gearbox, CEO Troy McGinnis served his clients using WordPress, which was the tech he was accustomed to from his previous agency. After two years of working around security, maintenance, and performance issues with Wordpress—the Gearbox team endeavored to move to a headless tech stack.
Coming from the WordPress world to the Vercel world, everything in our life has become more efficient. Things like cloning an existing project or onboarding a new developer used to take many hours. Compare this against Next.js and Vercel, which takes less than five minutes. We clone the repo from GitHub, hook it up to Sanity CMS, and then we are up and running. It’s insanely fast.
They initially chose Gatsby as their frontend framework. But “Gatsby and WordPress were still too restrictive. Gatsby was falling off the radar. That’s when we found Next.js and Vercel. We loved it from the get-go, and with all the recent features, it just keeps getting better and better.”
Going headless at the edge
Gearbox uses Edge Middleware to incrementally adopt Next.js. One advantage of this is in managing blog redirects, to maintain SEO. With Edge Middleware, the new posts automatically rewrite to an existing WordPress blog under the hood, filter traffic, and point to other services and websites—all while masking the URL and without complicated server setup. Eventually, they will move everything from that WordPress blog and this allows the team to incrementally migrate in phases and manage scopes accordingly.
The Gearbox team deeply values the security of their clients’ apps and sites. Security vulnerabilities are common with legacy WordPress sites, so the team often pushes clients to migrate to Vercel with this in mind.
McGinnis shares, “We actually just had a client run a penetration test with their legacy WordPress stack, and it failed within a few hours. The first thing that popped into my head was, ‘if this was on Vercel and Next.js, we wouldn’t be having this problem.' We’d be locked down on security, and Vercel would be handling all this for us.”
With Vercel, sites are secure by default: requests are handled in isolation and content is replicated globally, ensuring stability by design.
Getting to production faster
The Gearbox team also loves Vercel Preview Deployments. “I was just raving to our team that it’s so nice to have Preview URLs. Previously we would have to pull down the database from the server to be able to view development content, or hook it up to another database and then pull down files, and it was all very time consuming even just to review code," says McGinnis, "whereas with Vercel and our Preview URLs, it’s just there. It’s so integrated into our workflow.
A revamped workflow for continued success
Gearbox has been all-in on Vercel and Next.js for almost three years now. They have a growing and diverse client base, from breweries to government agencies. Even if their clients can’t switch to a composable tech stack all at once, they experience the benefits of Next.js and Vercel with each increment of their migration.
“It has completely reshaped how we approach development workflow,” says McGinnis.