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What to consider with a Headless CMS

What to consider with a Headless CMS

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When you think about a CMS, you may picture the front-end interface you engage with. Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla - these are some common CMS tools that Marketers use to update their websites, manage SEO and create content.

If you were to ask a developer what their favourite CMS is, they’d probably say none of them!

This is because, while a CMS may seem ok to the end-user, it can be a pain to develop and maintain in the back-end. With many out-the-box CMS solutions, the developer needs to cater for multiple devices, needs and use cases within the limitations of the CMS.

From a user perspective, the CMS may start out as shiny and new, but after a while it gets older and clunkier, more bugs appear, updates cause mayhem, it doesn’t work well on new devices and operating systems and users become frustrated with the limitations of the platform.

So, what’s the solution?

Go headless. That’s right, don’t over-prioritise the front-end presentation of your data, build a really seamless data layer that interacts with any front-end via an API.

A headless CMS does just that - and it’s growing in popularity as a future-proofed solution for evolving technologies, devices and user needs. Instead of having one CMS for your website, one for your mobile app and so on, you can now have all bases covered.

You could think of it as an open source data repository that can interact with any front-end layer, across any device. When you consider the multitude of marketing channels that content creators use these days, it would be hugely labour intensive and painful to have a separate CMS for each. With a headless CMS, you don’t need to.

How does it work?

With this technology, the APIs do all the hard work. Once you’ve created the data layer, built in whatever coding framework the developer chooses, the API presents that data in the correct format on whatever front-end layer you need it to; from websites and apps to chatbots and VR environments.

You’ll need to plan how you map out existing content, then set the rules for presenting it. As long as you work closely with your development team and get the planning right, the development of your headless CMS will be a success.

Benefits of a headless CMS

This technology benefits developers and marketers alike. For developers, it’s a single source solution that allows them to use their preferred coding language without being limited to a proprietary CMS.

It’s also an opportunity to include developers at the strategic stages of a project, instead of the more ‘Waterfall’ approach of content creators and marketers defining what the CMS should look like and do.

Because it de-couples the back-end data layer and front-end presentation layer, it can be integrated with any emerging technologies, so it’s a truly future-proofed solution.

This is more important than ever as technology companies continue to launch new and improved devices. It’s equally important as consumers’ expectations continue to grow in terms of the range and capabilities of marketing channels available.

A headless CMS is also more scalable than a traditional CMS, because it’s not limited to a single presentation option like a website or app. In any development team, it’s common for front-end developers to be blocked by the back-end development, which needs to happen first. In this case however, there’s no dependency for the back-end or front-end developers, so everyone in the team can work on their parts of the project concurrently, which means quicker completion and fewer blockers.

Finally, a headless CMS is a robust software solution. Using APIs over out-the-box software means you’re less prone to bugs and security issues that characterise some of the third party CMS options available.

Where to begin

The concept is still relatively new, and many teams will need to spend time understanding how it works before they can begin building in this way.

At the moment, many companies outsource their development of the CMS to a third party who has significant experience in this field.

Until recently, Digital Detox have done the same. We partnered with Contentful, a leader in this space, to develop a headless CMS for some of our clients.

This is a hugely exciting time for us, and our clients, and we’re already seeing tremendous value from the projects we’ve completed thus far.

If you’d like to find out more about this technology and how it can benefit your business, do contact us today!