The Advantages Of Headless Content Management Systems

By Pete Czech

The Advantages Of Headless Content Management SystemsNew Possibilities Group

The traditional Content Management System (CMS) actually does more than manage content. It not only delivers content such as articles, posts, and page footers but controls their appearance. It’s a solution that covers almost all of the bases of managing a website. However, it is also limited in it’s application to a business’s operations.

Good software aspires toward the Model-View-Controller or MVC model. Its idea is to decouple the core framework or logic (the model), the way it's presented (the view), and the functionality (the controller), making it easier to update each part without changing the others. Often this is more a hope than a result due to the limitations of a traditional CMS.

To achieve more freedom in use and application use a "headless" or "decoupled" CMS.

Traditional Vs. Headless CMS

A traditional CMS offers a database, an API for accessing, modifying, and displaying information, and a management console. With a headless CMS, the API deals only with accessing and modifying the data. The display is clearly separated, and typically a different programming team, if not a completely different business, writes it.

The traditional CMS is convenient. It provides everything for creating a website in one place. At this same time, it's limiting. It has its own ideas for how a site should look, and no matter how much customization it offers, its sites tend to look generic. A headless CMS with a separately developed front end offers a higher level of flexibility.

One decoupled CMS can provide a back end for multiple websites that have nothing in common except the data they operate on. This allows close cooperation between independently managed sites.

The Benefits Of A Headless CMS

A headless CMS can serve as a back end to websites and downloadable applications. The CMS looks like a web API, so anything with Internet access can use it. A wearable device or smart appliance might make use of the same CMS as a website. Nothing requires the content to reside on the same site or server as the front end.

It's possible, to some degree, to use a traditional CMS as a headless CMS. The independent front end can include calls to the API while bypassing or hiding the displayed portion, and then it can put the results into whatever HTML is appropriate. This is rather clumsy, though, working against the CMS's intended use. The API may not be suitable for retrieving data without displaying it.

A headless CMS that's designed the way described above, as opposed to a decapitated one, is generic enough to use for many purposes. It doesn't have to make assumptions about how the front end will use the content. This allows putting all the customization effort into the front end, creating a site or application or device that looks exactly the way it should.

The Future Direction Of Headless CMS

A cloud-based decoupled CMS is an example of Content as a Service (CaaS). Taking this approach, there's no need to pigeonhole content; apart from how it's displayed, there's no real difference between a page, a post, and an aside. From a management perspective, this means that one team can concentrate on creating content, and a different group can focus on how to arrange and present it.

A growing trend is putting functionality into the web page, using technologies such as Angular, rather than into the web application. A CMS that just delivers data works well with this approach, allowing a lightweight presentation layer on the server side and the complexities in the JavaScript.

Is the CMS of the future headless? It's unlikely that the traditional CMS will go away; it's an effective approach to building quick and simple sites and blogs. For more complex sites, though, the clean separation of the CMS from the presentation level offers significant advantages and allows better-looking websites.

We offer custom CMS development to create the sites that will best meet your business's needs. Please contact us to learn more.

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