Content Delivery in the Modern Era: Headless CMS

By Jake Lumetta August 21, 2017 Articles and Editorials

Being able to deliver content across channels is one of the biggest challenges a company faces in the modern era.

Thanks to the recent explosion of devices, apps and platforms, consumers are constantly finding new ways to consume content — and they expect their favorite brands to meet and greet them at every turn.

In the old days, you could get away with a traditional CMS for content management and design, because your audience only ever visited your website or app. But those days are well and truly over.

Get Ready For Even More Channels

If you think there are too many mainstream channels for your brand to handle at the moment, you’re in for a ride.

The landscape is set to change even more dramatically over the next decade, with technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and AI home assistants becoming ever more popular.

To survive, brands will need to pivot into these new technologies with speed and quality, all while maintaining their presence on “older” platforms.

With a traditional CMS, such a task would be impossible — and that’s exactly why the world is embracing the headless approach to content management.

What is a Headless CMS?

Before we discuss headless content management, let’s take a trip back in time to understand the shortcomings of the traditional CMS.

With a traditional (or coupled) CMS, the content management backend is completely tied to the frontend of the site. This effectively limits what both content publishers and programmers can achieve.

Taking this a step forward we have a headless CMS, one example being ButterCMS. In this model, the content management backend is totally separate from the front end delivery layer, meaning you can send your content anywhere, to be published in any way, using any technology. For example you can use ButterCMS as a Rails CMS, Node.JS CMS, etc.. This does give you more freedom, control, and security, however it still lacks some benefits of going completely headless.

Similarly, a de-coupled CMS also separates the content from the delivery layer, but it gives you the option of a delivery layer, too.

Benefits of Headless CMS

According to Gartner, we’re about to experience a shift in consumer technology that will rock any brand not ready for it.

The consultancy expects that, by 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality, while 30 percent of web browsing sessions will happen without a screen.

With a headless CMS, you can be ready for any new channel. Think of it as being channel agnostic.

However, that’s not all headless is good for. Take a look at what else it can do for you:

  • Greater Control: A headless CMS gives you and your developers greater complete control over your content; there are no limitations to any predefined templates or designs.
  • Everything In One Place: With a headless CMS, you have a single source to distribute all of your content from, which gives you the ability to easily maintain brand standards, no matter the device or platform your publishers are editing or publishing on.
  • API Ready: Your content is delivered through an API, so it’s less resource intensive and leads to better performance and speed.
  • Scale & Pivot at Speed: You can scale as high and fast as possible; the lightweight headless CMS allows you to publish as much content as you desire.

Who is Headless CMS For?

A headless CMS is for any company that wants to future proof its digital presence.

If this sound like you, or your business, then it might be time to consider adopting a headless content management model.

However, if you’re still unsure that all this applies to you, here are some more ways to know that you need to go headless:

  • The Omni-channel Brand: The web isn’t your only focus. You need to reach your audience across multiple channels and want to control the final result of the layout.
  • Brands Who Want Efficiency: You want to manage all of your content from a single location. You don’t want to manage multiple platforms or use dozens of tools just to get your content out.
  • Brands Who Want to Scale: You demand the ability to scale. You want to publish as much content as you’d like, without having to pour resources into backend maintenance or storage costs.
  • You Want to Personalize Content: The headless content management model plays into the hands of brands who are buying into personalization (so, pretty much everybody, right?). That’s because with all your content in one place, it’s easier to tailor before it reaches any front-end delivery layer.
  • Brand Who Want to Future Proof Themselves: With a headless CMS, it doesn't matter what the future brings in terms of new channels, devices or technology. Your content can go anywhere it needs to be.

With all that being said, a headless CMS is still not suited to every project in 2017. If publishing content isn’t a main focus and your website is generally static, the visual presentation of your content isn’t a big concern.

But even in that case, adopting a headless CMS may still make sense in the long-term. After all, you may not need to reach multiple channels and devices right now, but what about in the future? Making the switch before the pressure mounts could save you time, money and endless headaches.

The Future is Headless, Period.

Remember when smartphone web browsing overtook desktop browsing? Well, more technological shifts are coming, and just like before, brands will either pivot, or die.

However, buying a responsive WordPress template won’t save you this time. In this fascinatingly (and frighteningly) volatile world of IoT, taking a headless approach to content management is the only way forward. Period.

Channels like Alexa Voice and in-car interfaces are already among us, and the companies who show up on these channels first will be rewarded. And the same applies to whichever new technology is next in line to surprise the market.

Sure, being an early adopter of the headless CMS model can bring some uncertainty, but, the positives outweigh the negatives — especially in the long run.

Are you considering adopting the headless approach to content management? Are you experiencing any barriers to change?

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