Headless CMS: Future Proofing Your Content

Over the past decade, headless content management systems have become increasingly popular because of their ability to deliver enhanced operational flexibility. Research indicates that right around 64% of all enterprise organizations were using a headless CMS in 2021, which marked a 25% increase from two years prior. The headless software market is also expected to […]

Bryan Miller
Bryan Miller

Nov 14, 2022 | 11 min. read

headless cms

Over the past decade, headless content management systems have become increasingly popular because of their ability to deliver enhanced operational flexibility. Research indicates that right around 64% of all enterprise organizations were using a headless CMS in 2021, which marked a 25% increase from two years prior. The headless software market is also expected to have a compound annual growth rate of just over 20% from now until 2032.

When used correctly, a headless CMS can provide you with a high level of speed, more flexibility, and better security when compared to traditional CMS solutions. Being able to deliver your content throughout numerous channels gives you the ability to scale properly. This article goes into more detail about a headless CMS and how your website can benefit from using one.

react library and next.js framework

What is a Headless CMS?

A headless CMS is a type of content repository that’s able to deliver content to all devices or front-end solutions with the use of APIs. When you use a headless CMS, you’ll be able to show your content in a digital format, on a native mobile app, or through a web page. Headless CMS solutions don’t have the same restrictions that a traditional CMS can have.

A traditional CMS is something like WordPress. While WordPress is still highly effective and is used by the majority of small businesses, there are some tangible limitations that site owners must deal with, which include everything from poor scalability and a lack of support to subpar security features and relatively low speeds.

Why Would You Need a Headless CMS?

There are a few reasons why companies should use a headless CMS. For one, headless architecture allows for quicker development and a more rapid time-to-market. Developers are able to continue building mobile applications and websites with their preferred programming language, development processes, frameworks, and tools.

They have complete control over the application and don’t need to interfere with the CMS code to gain this control. A headless CMS is also easy to integrate with your current systems. Since a headless CMS doesn’t have a fixed structure, developers can build code for all integrations.

Most developers find that headless CMS solutions are easier to use than their traditional counterparts. The ease-of-use provides developers with the opportunity to extend their content infrastructure without the complexities that come with front-end development. Content editors can also manage headless content with a variety of different techniques. When you use a headless API, it’s possible to specify content fragments and types with the inclusion of omni-channel readiness.

what is headless cms

What are the Advantages of a Headless CMS vs. a Traditional CMS?

To determine which CMS solution is right for you, it’s highly recommended that you understand the advantages that come with using a headless CMS as opposed to a traditional one.

Unify Content Into a Single Content Hub

Headless CMS solutions allow content to be endlessly reusable, which means that manual processes such as copy and pasting are eliminated. By getting rid of these processes, editing should be highly simplified. When you change an image or copy, the change you make will be applied wherever the content is currently located. Since all of your content is stored on a centralized hub, editors are able to edit a single time to update everywhere.

Enable Collaborative Workflows

When you separate the back end from the front end to more effectively organize content with relatively predictable content models, composable content platforms provide content developers and editors with the ability to work in parallel.

A content editor can update content through every channel without needing to receive support from a developer. Developers can complete work in the same system, which should allow editors and developers to reach the market quicker.

Increase Reusability and Scalability

Headless content platforms allow content to be reused without issue. In fact, reusability is an essential aspect of reducing the amount of resources that are spent to create content. If all of your content can be accessed through any digital endpoint, your team should be able to repurpose content on any channel and device. This content can also be scaled based on campaign or region.

Web CMS Architectures: Coupled, Decoupled, or Headless

Selecting the right CMS platform can be a challenging decision to make. Along with making sure that all of your company’s needs are taken into account, you’ll also discover that there are many vendors to choose from as well as varying architectures.

There are two basic types of CMS architecture, which include coupled and decoupled solutions. A coupled CMS is one where content and digital assets are made, stored, and managed on the back end of your website. This content is delivered from a database to the front end, which comes with built-in CSS and templates that are able to effectively display this content.

Both the front end and back end are predefined and tightly connected. The CSS, templates, code, and database that are found in the site’s theme are predefined. Making a change or customization to these elements takes a considerable amount of work.

Decoupled CMS solutions are ones that separate the front end and back end into two systems. One of the systems controls content storage and creation. The other system displays this data to the user via a device or interface, which can be a mobile app or web browser.

Even though a headless CMS functions like a decoupled CMS, these solutions can be either coupled or decoupled. Content that’s created with headless CMS technology can be delivered in an XML or JSON format, which is what allows the content to be requested and shown on many different channels.

cms architecture decisions

What are the 3 Best Headless CMS Platforms?

While there are dozens of headless CMS platforms at your disposal, the following are three of the best platforms you can use to manage the content on your website.

1. WordPress VIP

WordPress VIP is a decoupled CMS that provides users with the ability to take a headless, hybrid, or single stack approach when developing content. This solution is hosted via Automattic and supports Node.js hosting. It also uses REST, Cache, Gatsby, Next.js, and REST APIs.

A couple of the top companies that currently use the WP VIP CMS include USA Today Sports Media and iOne Digital. This platform is fully integrated with D20, WooCommerce, Salesforce, and WebSocket Connections. Plans begin at around $25,000 per year. However, a form must be filled out to obtain a price quote.

The main benefits of using WordPress VIP include reliability, fast performance, and an uptime rate of nearly 100%. The primary issue with this platform is that the costs can be too high for smaller companies.

2. Quintype

Quintype is a solution that provides a headless CMS as well as Accesstype and Metype technologies. These technologies are able to assist users in publishing and distributing their content without needing to manage technical issues. The platform’s data repository can be accessed through GitHub. It also supports such frameworks as Node.js, Bridgekeeper, Malibu, and React.

The integrations that are available on Quintype include Alexa, Google Analytics, Instagram, AWeber, and Drip. Some of the publishing companies that use this platform include Bloomberg Quint, The FreePress Journal, and Fortune India. The products you use determine what your pricing will be. For instance, the Bold CMS can be obtained for $75 per month. Live blogging and customizable workflows are supported.

3. Hygraph

Hygraph is another popular headless CMS that centers around Content Federation. The platform claims that it provides developers and editors with full independence. The Hygraph codebase can be accessed on GitHub by developers and editors alike. Support extends to Gatsby, Sapper, Apollo, Vue, and Next.js.

Platform users can select where to host their content. Hygraph stores user data across nearly 200 Edge CDN nodes all over the world. Some of the companies that benefit from Hygraph include Philips, Samsung, Telenor, and Shure. There are four pricing plans you can select from, which extend to:

  • Community – Free
  • Professional – $399 every month
  • Scale – $899 every month
  • Enterprise – Custom pricing

What are APIs and How Do They Work with Headless CMS?

APIs are designed to connect two applications for data exchange purposes. Content that’s present in a headless CMS is then delivered with APIs to be displayed on any device, digital touchpoint, or website, which is why the content is reusable.

This solution differs from coupled CMS solutions that keep users locked into certain display components. The primary role of a headless CMS is to manage and store content. You can, however, do whatever you want with this content. APIs connect headless CMS solutions to front-end systems like websites.

what are apis

What is Structured Content and How Does it Support a Headless Approach?

Even though headless CMS solutions allow you to display content without the restrictions that come with a coupled CMS, it doesn’t resolve the issue of unstructured content. If your content is unstructured, you can’t effortlessly reuse it across multiple channels, platforms, and projects.

Structured content involves content that’s separated into smaller building blocks that are classified with metadata and organized predictably. By taking a structured approach to development, you can turn every element of a webpage into a distinct component.

These components can be anything from the title and author to images and definitions. Product pricing and eCommerce info can also be separated into individual components. By keeping these components separate in a headless CMS, you can reassemble them in many different ways to create numerous iterations of a webpage that are customized for specific audiences and campaigns.

When you opt for a headless CMS, you can display your content across multiple channels with ease and will be able to reduce development time by allowing developers and editors to work on the same content at once. If you’re trying to find a headless CMS platform that’s right for you, the three listed above are the best and most feature-rich solutions on the market.


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