Headless CMS Explained

Should you adopt the newer “headless” approach to content management known as a Headless CMS ? Or stick with a traditional, monolithic system. One of the problems with typical websites is that they come with standard features and plugin options. This means you may need to compromise on what your website can do or how it works into your other business systems. Imagine a world where you have total control over the components, so that your site will be future proof? Or one in which you can pull and push data from different sources such as accounting or inventory software, and display content in an internal training system for some employees? It’s called Headless CMS; it could change marketing efforts for companies forever.

Headless CMS vs Traditional CMS

A traditional website has a hierarchical structure where, for example, navigation tabs and dropdown boxes define how users navigate around your site. The frontend and backend are intrinsically connected with content stored in the backend of the website. And although this type of structure is flexible enough to make basic changes, this type of web design won’t cope with significant modifications and usually requires new websites when transitioning from one platform to another, such as e-commerce. As technologies develop and marketing platforms increase, many businesses find they need new websites or CMS systems just to keep up with their evolving environment; Headless CMS systems fix this problem by being highly scalable while still staying agile because separating the frontend from its backend allows you use different tools than before without making any significant structural changes…

Headless CMS systems provide a highly flexible and agile structure for your website. In particular, the frontend and backend are separate which means you use the Headless CMS system to create, store and manage your content. Then you choose the API (Application Program Interface) tools that are best for your business so you can display that content.

As a result, Headless CMS allows you to fully integrate your website with other business software like your customer data management system, mobile apps, accounting software, inventory management systems, online booking software, staff roster management systems etc.

From a marketing perspective, it means your content can be used on any device and channel without limitation. That includes mobile apps, email marketing campaigns, multiple websites, online chat boxes, augmented or virtual reality experiences, electronic point-of-sale displays etc. As well as any new
platforms that come onto the scene.

Why go Headless?

Headless CMS systems are ideal for businesses:

  • Who want to grow their e-commerce abilities
  • Are content rich or have content that requires rapid changes
  • Experiencing rapid growth
  • Planning to maximise their omni-channel marketing options
  • Who have multiple sites or independent operations that require better co-ordination of customer experience, uniform branding and integrated operating
  • That understand changes to technology and channels should not require an entire re-work of your business model.

A headless CMS gives editors an interface for easily managing content, while providing APIs for developers to build applications, making it simpler and faster to store, edit and publish content.

Our team has been building high-performance, headless, decoupled, progressive web applications since 2014. We leverage the latest frontend frameworks, build advanced REST services, and host our applications on a scalable serverless cloud architecture to create the best user experience possible. The 2 most popular CMS platforms we use in a headless build are Wordpess and Drupal.

Headless WordPress

The overall premise of a headless WordPress project is to utilise the REST API.

The REST API was introduced to WordPress core in December 2015 as a way to extend the classic usage of the CMS WordPress.

It allows external websites and applications to interact with the CMS remotely via JSON objects.

WordPress core includes endpoints of data for much of the default data sets. For instance, posts and pages.

You can further customise the API depending on your projects’ requirements.

Technically, this can be done using existing plugins or by creating a custom plugin.

A purpose-built headless WordPress plugin could bring the following to your API:

  • Custom post type data.
  • Custom taxonomy data.
  • Custom field/meta data within your post objects.
  • Bespoke object structures for each post type.
  • Firing of other WordPress functions upon requests to your API.
  • Third-party service integrations.

From a development point of view, the REST API allows you to use WordPress in a more modern, resilient, scalable, secure and performant way.

From a content editor’s perspective, the REST API is a gateway to the content you have in your WordPress admin panel.

It allows your data to be consumed by any type of (and number of) channel(s).

Lots of enterprise-scale projects are moving towards headless architecture because of its scalability.

Headless WordPress can help your website scale easier than is standard. As your back end and front end is separated you can scale each in order of priority as you grow. This can be beneficial if you’re looking for a quick time to market. Headless WordPress makes it possible to publish a piece of content once and have it go live across all your websites and apps at once.

Headless Drupal

Like WordPress, Drupal is a free and open-source content management system that provides a back-end framework for at least 13% of top websites worldwide, ranging from personal blogs to government websites. It is flexible and highly scalable, and that’s why organisations like The EconomistTesla Motorsthe Australian Government, etc., use Drupal as their trusted CMS.

With its module extensions and native features, Drupal offers many options. You can create mobile and integrated digital applications and help users gain a seamless content experience every time they interact with your content. Drupal stands out as the robust flexible, API fist solution with a mature community, predictable release cycles, a plethora of contributed modules and a clear vision into the future.

The cons of using a headless CMS

Headless or Decoupled adds an extra layer of complexity, an additional codebase to maintain, an additional skillset for your development team to master, and if you’re running a straightforward marketing site, it may slow down the launch of new features as a result.

We only recommend a headless or decoupled approach for teams already skilled in development with modern JavaScript frameworks and one of the above use cases.

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