Going headless without loosing your mind

Explore the pros and cons of traditional and headless content management system

The headless CMS is one of the most exciting developments in digital content management. In current digital circles, there aren’t many subjects more hotly debated than traditional versus headless CMS. Whether you prefer your content managed by a system that offers simplicity and full front-end visibility (traditional) or a decoupled, cloud-based solution with the flexibility to add new applications and integrations (headless), it’s likely your company has already discussed it – or will be very soon. 


“Going headless means you will be ready for the future”


As the content demands of all departments within a successful business increase, the agility of a company’s digital systems must keep up. Consumers now need to access a company’s content on all channels at all times, while marketing campaigns are becoming more complex in their targeting, as well as data gathering and analysis. All this requires a CMS that will take you forward into the future, growing with your business and adapting to the evolving technology landscape. If this all sounds familiar, you’re likely moving towards the headless option. But what does ‘headless’ mean? What can a headless CMS do? And what advantages will it give your company?

The problem with a traditional CMS

In short, a headless CMS separates the back-end content functions from the front-end. While a traditional CMS links content creation, management and storage with presentation and delivery, the headless option breaks that link. Content is stored in the Cloud rather than on a server, and you’re not tied to proprietary software and applications. One of the key drawbacks to the traditional CMS is its one-dimensional approach to content. It may be OK for a small company working at a local level with a single website that only occasionally needs updating, but anything beyond that can quickly become complicated. Redesigning any element of the front end is complex, with a developer not only required to create a new front end but also migrate the content across while reusing content for different channels needs whole new systems built and managed.


“With a headless CMS, your content is stored in one place and can be connected to any part of the front end,” explains Štefan Cvejn, Digital Business Consultant at ACTUM Digital.  “And if you decide to redesign any part of your digital ecosystem, you just need to create a different layout and connect your content where it should go. It’s much easier and much less expensive.”


The content-first approach

Going headless offers forward-thinking companies the freedom to explore a vast range of applications that can be easily added to their digital systems. One look at Kentico Kontent’s list of integrations and extensions (https://kontent.ai/integrations) immediately shows the huge variety of functions on offer, from content personalization and translation to e-commerce and workflow automation.

While the traditional CMS is designed purely for the internet, with its server, browser, website structure, the headless CMS has a content-first approach. Its centralized model means that content only needs to be updated once for a number of locations, rather than changed for each individual destination, while new channels can simply pull content from the CMS without having to build an entirely new system. This ‘create once, publish everywhere’ approach not only cuts down on the time and expense taken to produce and distribute content but frees up your digital and marketing teams to concentrate on improving the quality of the content and analysing its performance. It also provides the opportunity for your developers to keep your front end fresh and modern, redesigning your channels to increase customer loyalty and keep up with your brand values.


“In a traditional CMS, redesigning a website is a complete pain,” says Actum’s Štefan Cvejn, “as you basically need to create an entirely new version of your website then move each piece of content. With headless, your content is in one place, so it will quickly and easily migrate without much effort.”


How to prepare for headless

Once you decide to go headless, your main challenge will go from how to cope with an outdated digital system to choosing which applications to add and how to get the most out of them. As with most large-scale changes, the key to a great headless strategy is preparation and an understanding of your content requirements. Do you require personalized content? Content in different languages? Content for social channels? E-commerce content?

You also need to consider your internal processes and how your new CMS can make them more efficient. Since many companies keep their content in silos, with disconnected tools processing duplicated content, a headless CMS can radically change this approach, improving productivity across the company. Whether it’s customer data, product brochures, presentation documents, training manuals, images, videos, or any of the thousands of different files a successful company needs for its day-to-day operation, a seamless CMS can cut hours of searching and updating from the working day.

The future-ready solution

With the size, complexity and demands of the modern CMS increasing every day, it’s clear that headless is about to become the dominant content technology for most medium-large companies around the world – as well as a few small ones. The digital world moves quickly and demands that companies move fast to keep up. Lag behind and you risk not only losing efficiency but also customers, who will simply switch to your rival if your digital ecosystem is slow and unresponsive.

Analysts around the world agree that business agility is fundamental to future success. You have to be able to move rapidly, understand your customer, and react quickly to their needs. That not only means providing a seamless and efficient external service, but a smooth and effective internal operation. Moving to a headless CMS will go a long way towards achieving that.


“Going headless means you will be ready for the future,” says Štefan Cvejn. “Voice search, mobile-first, virtual reality, the Internet of Things, augmented reality– the headless CMS is prepared for all these major developments. All content management is moving towards headless and every company needs to seriously think about changing if they don’t want to be left behind.���


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