Headless CMS solution isn’t for everyone, but it’ll dominate content for years to come

Headless CMS solution isn’t for everyone, but it’ll dominate content for years to come.

Companies have become accustomed to using CMS (content management systems) to easily create, manage and update content. Until recently, they only came in one form, where the text and graphic content were tightly connected with the website on which they’d be displayed. However, companies actively using digital sales channels can no longer afford to wrestle with the complex process of managing functionality, design and content across a whole host of separate presentation channels.

In light of this, headless solutions have become the gold standard for content creation.

Headless CMSs free companies from the nightmare of traditional releases where even simple changes require months of forward planning. A Headless system allows users to take a modular approach as the content is stored entirely separately and retrieved using APIs. This means that the content can be accessed by a web engine, an email campaign distribution platform, alongside all manner of other similar tools and services.

The name “headless” refers to the separation of the content from the design and other elements. The “body” takes the form of a backend content database which is entirely detached from the “head” where the content is presented to the user.
The “head” itself can be any number of things from the front end of a website, a mobile app, an email or a social media post. Once the content has been created, it’s incredibly easy to deliver to users on multiple platforms without the need to copy the text or graphics.

Likewise, updating content in a headless environment is relatively hassle-free as it can be done without having to interact with the code directly. Additionally, going headless can also save developers’ time as new software can be linked to an existing content database the entire process is easier, faster and ultimately cheaper.

"We can't say that headless is a one-size-fits-all solution for every company. It will be especially appreciated by larger digitally mature companies that can get the most out of the granularity of a headless structure alongside the ability to flexibly combine the power of specialized tools. However, smaller companies will still probably prefer a traditional CMS system as they can handle most functions using built-in functions without needing to connect specialized tools," explains Václav Novák, headless practice lead & pre-sales engineer at ACTUM Digital.

Quickly, but carefully

Though the new approach to CMS in general confers a lot of advantages the most important, in Václav Novák's experience, is speed. The time required to bring a digital solution to the market is shortened in a variety of ways when using a headless CMS

One of the primary benefits of a headless CMS is that allows for the parallelisation of a huge number of processes including work on design, backend and frontend development. In traditional development, these steps have to be taken sequentially with only a single team working at each stage. According to Václav Novák " the parallelization of processes allows companies to develop faster, or to allocate more time to a given part of the CMS system without hindering other teams."

Because teams are no longer forced to develop sequentially, each waiting for their turn, headless development time is significantly shortened to just three to four months as opposed to the six to nine months that using a traditional CMS would entail. Furthermore, the impact of unexpected delays from third-party deliveries, e.g. server installations, are mitigated when compared to traditional solutions. In ACTUM Digital's experience, headless development also has a positive impact on the motivation and overall satisfaction of the whole team from developers to graphic designers. As no-one is forced to wait on someone else’s work, everyone is free to concentrate solely on their own responsibilities.

In addition to improving the speed of development, a headless solution also increases the speed at which users can access the final content. In the example above the difference in load speed is clearly visible.

As website responsiveness plays a key role in search engine rankings, a headless CMS will achieves far better results as it doesn’t need to be patched with dozens of additional plugins that slow it down. Furthermore, headless solutions can fully harness state-of-the-art concepts such as Jamstack and MACH Architecture, whilst meeting all SEO requirements.

Content updating is also substantially easier when with a headless CMS. As the content is kept completely separate from the front end, changes that are made to the source are automatically deployed to the various end points. Taking changing an employee's profile photo as an example Václav Novák points out that “you can just upload the new file to the central repository and let the headless CMS system update the photo on the company page, on all of the employee’s blog posts and in the chat application."

Finally, headless solution are also significantly faster than a traditional CMS solution when it comes to upgrading. With a traditional solution, whenever a new update is released it requires up to two months of work by a team of developers to successfully implement the upgrade. Conversely, a headless CMS allows for upgrades to take place in the background without needing the attention of a developer.

Putting the Client's Interests First

By taking the headless approach companies are afforded the power to respond quickly and accurately to changing customer requirements. Also, they can choose to use whichever state-of-the-art tools fit their needs without a lengthy development period. Whilst technical debt is always a concern, when compared to a traditional solution updating or replacing individual elements in a headless CMS is significantly easier.

"I feel that the headless approach is pushing teams towards different development habits. They can now spend a much greater portion of their time looking at their client’s concerns and needs. They’ve a much greater latitude to consider the client's business goals, and this is definitely a shift for the better," says Václav Novák. Digital communication is increasingly reliant on an omnichannel customer experience with a strong unified message across all channels, and as a result of the headless approach, we can expect this trend to continue long into the future.


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