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CMS: Less is more

A headless CMS offers great flexibility, freedom of decision and autonomy in the area of maintaining and displaying content on any desired channel, in the system architecture as well as in business. However, it does not necessarily have to be the best solution for every web project.

From a Content Management System to the «experience» platform

In the past, Content Management Systems (CMS) had only one task: they enabled the content processing through a backend, and stored the contents in a data bank. That data was presented in templates, which prepared the stored contents for the Web.

With the increasing maturity and development of CMS systems and the growing requirements of the e-Business, those systems have transformed over the years into platforms, which can assume more and more tasks: sending out newsletters, performing the workflow management, marketing automation and personalisation to name just a few. With that said, those systems are today not marketed as Content Management Systems anymore but as «experience» platforms. Relevant investments are required for their launch, maintenance and updates.

Classical CMS tend to focus on one output channel – the website. This, in turn, leads to the situation where authors increasingly think in terms of websites and web layouts instead of concentrating on the actual contents.

The new generation of «Headless CMS»

A new generation of so-called «headless CMS» takes a different approach: headless CMS rely on a format-neutral Content Management. The publication is left to be handled by specialised services or channels. The headless CMS is responsible only for recording, structuring and making available of the contents – a return to the core of the CMS acronym. The content presentation is assumed by separate systems. In this process, with the use of a static site generator, a website, a mobile app or a JavaScript Framework such as React, Vue or Angular can be created. Any data required for this purpose will be supplied via API.

Content-wise, the «Content Model» becomes the core of a Headless CMS. It comprises all kinds of contents of a domain, for instance products, items or pictures and their properties. Authors can thus focus on the generation and maintenance of well-structured contents. The latter is then used to fill up websites, feed campaigns or deliver app contents.

Advantages of a headless CMS architecture

  • Autonomy: contents are maintained centrally, and provided with no formatting. This enables the operation of the content on any chosen output channel.
  • Focus: the emphasis is on the contents and the interplay between them. The authors can concentrate again on their core task instead of losing themselves in the displaying issues.
  • Architecture: separation of business processes and systems is supported in the optimal manner.
  • Freedom of decision: thanks to the separation of presentation and content, there is no pressure to choose any technology prematurely.
  • Microservices: since contents can be sourced from different systems, their separation into microservices has become possible.
  • Lower operating costs: many headless CMS, such as for instance Contentful, are offered as a Cloud service. The neat combination with other Cloud services usually leads to significantly lower operating costs when compared to traditional CMS solutions.

If, however, a headless CMS is deployed for the operation of a website only, the rate of the amount of work employed to the added value proves to be poor. For this reason, given the overall consideration, the challenges associated with the headless CMS should be taken into account:

  • Missing functions: the headless CMS focuses on the content management. If you expect a CMS to provide you with further integrated services, you need to plan them additionally as part of a headless approach within the architecture.
  • Many instead of one: it leads to a number of systems being able to be created out of one single system. Numerous systems can also produce a higher learning capacity.

Conclusion: less is more!

The drawback of the flexibility achieved thanks to headless CMS lies in the pressure on having to take one’s own architecture-related decisions. This freedom enables, however, the advancement of digital transformation in your own company.

Headless CMS are not necessarily the best solution for each web project. The possibilities and strengths provided by a headless CMS for microservice architectures and organisations supported by a strong content-related focus offer the potential for improving digital «experiences».