Do you remember when the only place you’d consume digital content was on a website? Now, there are so many new devices and delivery methods. You’ve got cell phones, tablets, phablets, digital assistants, smart watches, kiosks, and almost endless options with the Internet of Things (IoT). But much of the content we consume doesn’t change based on device, and it’s nightmarish to think about managing a dedicated content repository for each one, so we’re increasingly proposing that businesses looking to take the next step in digital transformation consider the headless CMS option for content management.

What’s a headless CMS?

CMS is short for Content Management System. Many modern website platforms (e.g., WordPress, Magento) are backed by some sort of CMS. A CMS is a repository for digital content that gives content editors a user-friendly interface to make and publish everyday changes without having to ask a developer for help.

Content managed in CMS has to eventually go somewhere. Traditional CMSes like WordPress and Magento are what we call “tightly coupled” to how that content is presented (usually a webpage). If you think of a CMS as a “body,” where content is stored, created, and edited, the “head” is where content gets delivered. WordPress-authored content mostly ends up delivered and consumed on WordPress sites. Same with Magento and many others.

Most bodies have heads that are firmly attached, but here’s where a headless CMS is different.

A headless CMS doesn’t care where you use the content. It’s just a back-end repository. Content within it is delivered via an API, and fully decoupled from where it may eventually be used. That’s the beauty of headless CMS – you don’t need a head at all. Or maybe you need six heads. It’s your call, and the headless approach allows you to pick the places you want to output your content, using your preferred programming tools and languages to build the user interface.

Benefits of headless CMS

Faster time to market

Projects that use traditional CMSes require spending design and development resources on both content editing and content rendering. Because content rendering is handled by a more specialized part of your tech stack, you can get up and running with content editing on a headless CMS much faster, and without built-in dependencies on where your content will be delivered.

On the content rendering side, designers can freely design the interface that will work best, because developers won’t have to worry about tying into existing frameworks proprietary to traditional CMSes. All this flexibility and loose coupling between content editing and content rendering can ultimately make it easier to get your product to market quickly.

Manage content once; deliver anywhere

Headless content isn’t tied to any presentation method. It’s there waiting to be useful for websites, apps, Alexa skills, smart refrigerators, etc. Basically, any interface that can tap into an API can benefit from headless content. All it takes is for a developer to build an endpoint that knows how to pull the content in via the right API calls.

Beyond the flexibility to deliver content from a single repository to any number of places, this centralized management is highly efficient when it comes to content changes. Whether a typo, an update to an existing description, or a product rename, making the change once in the headless CMS means it will flow automatically out to all of your delivery endpoints.

Increased scalability

Because the CMS is separated from where content is delivered, you can change developer tools whenever you need to, send your content to any number of cloud-based hosting services to maximize performance, and, if your CMS has performance issues or requires maintenance, it’s easier to limit effects on your delivery endpoints.

The flexibility and minimized dependencies mean you can be nimble with business decisions and respond to changing needs without worrying about introducing legacy problems.

Enhanced security

Many attacks start in the interface. The separation and decoupling between the headless CMS layer and the presentation/rendering layer creates a much smaller area of attack, meaning your back-end content stays safe.

Easier, faster, and more flexible development

Because of the API delivery, developers can build interfaces using whatever languages or tools they know best. They’re not limited by proprietary development constraints that can often be a factor with traditional CMS. The decoupling of the content from how it’s rendered also keeps the headless CMS safe from regressions (errors, bugs) that might be introduced by shifting approaches on the tech stack.

Is headless right for you?

Headless CMS implementations can offer significant, lasting benefits when applied to the right kinds of projects. But it’s a big decision, and one best made after a careful assessment of your business and digital goals. If you’re curious about whether a headless CMS might be right for your next digital initiative, we’d love to help you assess if it’s a good fit for your needs. Contact us today to learn more about our headless CMS experience and how we might bring it to bear for you.