Going Headless, The Future of Content Management

One of the largest challenges facing companies today is the ability to deliver content to multiple channels while ensuring the message is consistent. Considering the investments that many companies make, it's vital to get this right.

If your company needs more than a brochure website, a headless Content Management System (CMS) is the key to managing to your content. A headless CMS is a CMS, which serves data through an Application Programming Interface (API) rather than embedded in predefined HTML templates and stylesheets. A standard CMS may not cover all the needs of your content, especially when you have multiple different systems that need to simultaneously consume your content with different layout or design constraints – e.g. web browsers; mobile apps; search engines; smart watches; virtual or augmented reality apps. Alternately, a headless CMS allows you to define and take control of your content, whether its content structure, blog posts, videos or even language translations. If this type of CMS intrigues you, one of our favorites is: Contentful

Headless CMS Architecture to the Rescue

Working with a headless CMS has four basic steps:

  1. Define. Define the structure of your content within data models (they’re usually called models or content types). Although this might sound complex, it’s pretty straight-forward: if your articles needs a header, body and some images, you define the model for your articles to contain just that — two text fields and one image field.
  2. Develop. Web developers construct the system around the content you’ve created and modeled.
  3. Publish. Publish your content, creating them based on the models you defined while also following the preset editorial workflow you have also defined.
  4. Deliver. Applications consume your content through an API, such as a RESTful JSON-based API, and then it displays on the various platforms of your choosing.

The Pros

The advantages of using a headless CMS really stand out when there is a need to deliver content across multiple platforms (websites, social platforms, ad networks, etc.), especially when dealing with native application development and heavily customized designs. However, they also provide benefits in many other ways. Take a look at some of the benefits below:

  • You are in complete control of your content and not limited by predefined structures.
  • The content is served through a lightning-fast API with smaller overhead and processing needs, optimizing speed and performance.
  • Your entire content ecosystem can follow design guidelines and best-of-brand technologies to present your content across multiple platforms, allowing you to use the  same data source to deliver all of your content.
  • Editing content can be managed from one service, minimizing learning curves and training costs, as well as reducing costs and minimizing the risk of maintaining multiple CMSs.

The Cons

Although the benefits of using a headless CMS greatly outweighs the disadvantages, there are still things to consider if thinking about going headless:

  • It adds complexities to your system. Not only do you need to deal with your CMS, but you also have to deal with the system(s) that render your content on the front-end. This means your team’s expertise has to cover a large set of technologies.
  • It increases the amount of code that needs to be managed by your team which can increase the risk of regression (a return to a former or less developed state of code), in your systems.

When you find yourself outgrowing your CMS or are in a need for a CMS redesign, you should ask yourself the following question: does moving to a headless architecture solve my problem and outweigh the added complexity? In most cases, yes it does.

At LMO, we have helped our customers address the complexities of delivering and managing content across highly dynamic cross-platforms without sacrificing quality for more than two decades. Contact us to see if we can help with your content management needs

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Stevan Fickus

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