The headless approach is increasingly popular. But why? What is a headless CMS actually, and what are its benefits? Find out in just 5 minutes!
What is a headless CMS?
To understand what a headless CMS is, it helps to understand the plain old CMS. Here’s how a traditional CMS works, and what makes the headless CMS variant different.
You’ve probably heard of a CMS. You may even use one – or several. A CMS (content management system) is basically a storage and management location for text and images that are published on a website. In practice, the CMS is also known as ‘the back end’ of a website. You fill in a kind of form with input fields for text, images, video and other elements that then appear on the ‘front end’ of the website. With a traditional CMS, the front and back ends are inextricably linked. Well-known CMS brands and players include WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Typo 3 and Umbraco. These are mainly used for content. Other CMSs, such as Woocommerce, Shopify and Magento, are used for e-commerce. With over 400 CMS brands, there is something for everyone.
How does a headless CMS differ from a traditional CMS?
The biggest difference? With a headless CMS, the back end of the website, where you add the content, is disconnected from the front end of the website. The focus here is much more on content creation and management. It’s the place where you enter, create and publish content. With a headless CMS, you don’t just publish on the website itself. A headless CMS makes it possible to work omnichannel. You can customize the content you enter in the CMS and publish it on various channels. For example, on a website, the associated app and social media channels such as LinkedIn and Instagram.
Everyone has their own online experience
The headless CMS, or the back-end, can then be linked to various systems that can offer a unique, optimal user experience at the front end. This is also called a DXP, a digital experience platform. Each visitor gets to see their own unique view based on, for example, the behaviour of the visitor on the website, their geo-location, and other data sources, such as past purchases or visits to other articles or product pages on the website or app.
Headless CMS in brief
In a headless CMS, just as in traditional CMS, you can enter and manage content in the back end; but in the headless version, you are not tied to just the front end of a website. That has been replaced by links and APIs, so that you can publish content from one CMS on multiple channels. The CMS no longer only focuses on a website, but can publish to other channels. Of course, you have to optimize that content per channel. This is partly automated, because the content in the headless CMS is structured content. It is already provided with the correct HTML structure suitable for publishing on online and offline channels – perfect for an omnichannel approach.
A headless CMS doesn’t just benefit the content creator
What are the advantages of a headless CMS?
As a publisher and content creator, you benefit from a headless CMS in various ways. Here are a few of the advantages:
- You can efficiently create content (on your own, but also together), provide feedback on content from teammates and edit content.
- You can easily find all content assets on the same subject in the system, both in a grid and in a content calendar. You can provide all assets with a category and tags such as campaigns, content pillars and other characteristics. This makes searching, filtering and scheduling easy.
- Reusing content is easy. Give your old content a refresh in the CMS. For example, change the mortise or channel and reposition it.
- A headless CMS immediately adds the correct HTML tagging (structured content) to your content assets. So you don’t have to manually indicate what the H1 tag is and what part of the text is a paragraph.
A headless CMS doesn’t just benefit the content creator. There are also advantages for developers, and your website functions better technically. For example, the loading speed of pages is faster and developers can work on both the front end and the back end, without hindering each other.
Which tools or systems can you use?
The great thing about a headless CMS is that you can completely customize it based on your preferences. Do you want to link one or more websites? Are you going to post on social media? Is there an app? Depending on your situation, you can choose a specific tool or system. You can link all these systems to APIs (application programming interfaces) that translate your content to the desired platform – including offline channels.
Broadly speaking, you can choose one of the following options:
- Major brands such as Sitecore, Contentful, Adobe Experience Manager, Bloomreach and Optimizely. These brands often also have extensions such as a DXP (digital experience platform) and CDP (customer data platform).
- The smaller, pure headless CMS and open source players such as Strapi, Netlify, Kentico, Kontent.ai and Storyblok.
- The ‘in between’ tools such as StoryChief, CoSchedule, DivvyHQ and Gathercontent. These are tools that distribute and/or publish content with a (headless) CMS and/or social media channels.
Another headless CMS advantage? If you want to switch tools or system for whatever reason, you have the flexibility to do so. As always, switching remains a task, but it is still easier than with a traditional CMS.
‘Switching to a headless CMS feels rather like sneezing while juggling a cup of hot coffee’.
Our experts are happy to help you
Did we mention that the headless CMS is the current CMS way to go? In any case, we’re firmly convinced of that. At the same time, we can well imagine that switching to a headless CMS feels rather like sneezing while juggling a cup of hot coffee (pretty awkward!).
But we are here to tell you that nothing is impossible. Our team of experts is eager to make a start with you.