Headless CMSes are touted as an evolutionary step in managing and distributing content. Many businesses are gradually making the switch to both Headless CMS and Static Site Generators like Gridsome, Nuxt or Next.
For many other businesses the question is How do they work, and can they help your business scale?
In this post, we’ll look into and answer these questions and more.
What is a traditional CMS?
Content Management Systems (CMS) have become fairly common. You’ve probably already interacted with the likes of WordPress and Drupal. Here, the backend is tightly coupled with the frontend. This is why you’ll also hear them being called Coupled CMS. The layout is simple, as well as the general functionality of the site, since there is no API (Application Programming Interface) needed between the front and back-ends to handle their communication. So, if you’re dealing with a typical blog or simple marketing site, then the traditional CMS will suffice.
But in the IoT (Internet of Things) era, there is a growing need to deliver content across multiple devices simultaneously while still improving user experience. This is especially for business hosting multiple sites, apps, and even single page applications (SPAs). That’s where the headless CMS approach comes in.
What is a headless CMS
We have previously discussed what is a headless CMS but we’ll elaborate a little further here.
If we think about the Traditional CMS as a Body and the Presentation layer such as the templates and front-end framework, would be the Head. Take this off, and you have a headless CMS.
So here you have a platform that lacks the default front-end system i.e., website, that dictates the presentation of the content to the end-user. Instead, the raw content can be published through any framework.
Content Management Systems have always been about making the delivery of content more efficient for its creators so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the code. As such, the traditional CMSes feature “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) editing, like previewing tools. Chopping off the head takes away these features, but opens you up to numerous new benefits.
The headless CMS thus becomes a data source just for content, which can be pushed through as many heads as desired – whether it’s a website, billboard, mobile apps, or even smartwatch. It does this by responding to API calls to deliver seamless display across the different devices.
Headless CMS Vs. Traditional CMS
The very structure of the traditional CMS is to enable the content creators publish their images and text onto webpages. The database of the CMS is integrated with the presentation layers so that content creators would have to deal with the HTML or FTP (File Transfer Protocol). There are also systems that come with plugins which enable the site’s users to share the content on different devices. However, the coupled nature of this CMS limits the scalability of the systems, and also tends to be more vulnerable due to the security risks that come with having a single front end.
With the headless CMS, emphasis is on the content repository. The CMS will store the content data, but this won’t get displayed like the traditional CMS. The benefit here is that it allows for more flexibility for the web developers, as they will be able to use the preferred programming languages and design tools without being tied to a single source. That way, the content can be simultaneously published on multiple platforms, while remaining responsive on the user’s device. So, while the traditional CMS limits you on the kinds of devices that you can use and has a linear workflow, for the headless CMS the content can be viewed across unlimited types of devices, and it has an agile workflow.
What Are Decoupled CMSes?
You’ll see these pop up when headless CMSes are being discussed. While they feature similar attributes, they are not the same. They aim to leverage on the flexibility that comes with the headless CMS, but also the ease-of-use that is common with the traditional CMS – making them a hybrid of sorts.
As such, the decoupled CMS will have the API delivery and database that’s with the headless CMS, but also give the content creator a formatted version of the content. What’s the catch? In spite of having the website rendering capacity of the traditional CMS, the APIs of the decoupled CMS are influenced heavily by the models which have been designed for a single website, restricting the flexibility of the platforms that the content can be suitably published on.
Pros And Cons Of Headless CMS
With a headless CMS, the editors get an interface through which they manage the content; and this is then availed to developers through APIs which they can query and use to build applications.
It ultimately boils down to the customer experience, and they’ll benefit greatly from you implementing a headless CMS system. You get to deliver your content as needed through an API on the different customer touch-points – without having to rewrite content or reprogram as these touch-points change across devices and evolve with the IoT. You will be in a position to publish your content faster, remaining relevant to your audience and streamlining your messaging.