What is a Headless CMS and how can my business leverage it?
Every business wants to deliver seamless experiences across all platforms, devices and channels with minimal time and effort for staff to update and maintain content. B2B customers now have an expectation that their experience should be the same standard as if they are transacting as a B2C customer. Now is the time to lift your game and invest in a solution that will help your business to deliver exceptional connected experiences that are frictionless.
Emerging technology and new devices have put pressure on businesses to deliver more content to more channels.
As a business to meet these future demands your business should look at investing in a CMS like Sitecore that is flexible, unified, scalable, and customisable to what business outcomes you want to deliver. Separating your front and back ends, with either a headless or decoupled cms implementation, can help organisations to increase speed to market and improve content delivery timeframes.
Headless CMS architecture provides a way to author content, but instead of having your content coupled to a particular output (like web page rendering), it provides your content as data over an API. Implementing a Headless CMS is essential to addressing the content challenges that businesses are facing. Headless CMS architecture allows you to maintain content across all devices from one unified source. It means content creators can focus on creating and publishing content and less time building pages or distributing it.
The concept of "Headless CMS" is not a new concept but has recently gained traction in the business community, leading to the renewed excitement around a content management model that can help brands handle the relentless number of emerging devices and channels. Headless CMS implementation is an API and the User Interface (UI) can be anything. Headless CMS architecture can publish content to any device or channel with internet access. It can publish the same content to a website, an app, a wearable device or any device connected via Internet of Things (IoT) because the content isn’t bound by a predetermined user interface.
The headless CMS differs from the traditional CMS approach where the backend is only used for managing content and the frontend (“head”) is disconnected, leading to the name headless. With Headless CMS architecture Developers are free to create as many delivery layers as needed, (in whatever language they prefer) to push content to any new channel imaginable.
Headless architecture is actually a subset of decoupled architecture. Both have a content management and storage back ends and deliver content from that database through a web service or API. But the key difference is the presentation layer: unlike a decoupled CMS, a headless CMS does not have a defined front-end system or presentation environment.
What devices can interact with a headless CMS?
The beauty of a headless CMS is that it exposes content through an API, instead of through HTML in a template, this opens up the possibility for content to be consumed by much more than just a web app or website. This means that your brand can potentially distribute content via the API to any of the below devices:
- Native Mobile Apps (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile application)
- Website Chatbot
- Facebook Chatbot
- IoT devices
- Smartwatch apps
- Smart TVs
- Smart fridges
- Voice-enabled devices
According to Statista by 2022 our homes and offices will host over 40 million IoT devices. That includes everything from the smart speakers on our kitchen countertops, to the AI enabled devices on our wrists to the touch screen kiosks at your local shopping centre.
Benefits of Headless CMS
When you leverage a headless CMS in managing your content, you get the following benefits out-of-the-box:
- Omnichannel Approach: Omnichannel can pose quite a bit of challenge for marketers because they need to create great content that cuts across all touchpoints. A headless CMS allows you to orchestrate a seamless experience that covers all user touchpoints while maintaining consistency and relevance.
- Keeping pace with user experience: Headless commerce has many advantages over traditional systems by enabling companies to keep pace with rapidly changing touchpoints and user experiences.
- Improved Security: Headless CMS typically provide content via a read-only API and there is no database to secure. In addition, many allow integration with a via high-performance CDN rather than directly from the database which lowers the risks of DDoS attacks.
- Scalability: The approach of keeping the frontend and backend decoupled means there limits or eliminates downtime and you can scale, upgrade or customize your website without performance rundown.
- Flexibility: The headless approach is more flexible for developers because they have the freedom to build with a frontend framework of choice that fits the project they are working on while, with the traditional approach, the level to which a developer may customise is often limited, which can get frustrating.
- Unified data into a single headless content hub: Content infrastructure eliminates endless copy and pasting work, enabling organisations to unify all content in a centralised content hub. This makes editing way easier — change the copy or image in one place, and that change applies everywhere the content is located. Unification improves brand consistency and compliance, and enables editors to nimbly update content across all channels, making campaigns a breeze.
What CMS platforms are Headless?
Currently there are many enterpise CMS platforms on the market where a headless approach can be implemented. Below are the ones we reccomend using when you're considering a Headless CMS:
Contentful is an API-driven headless CMS designed to create, manage and distribute content to any platform. Unlike a traditional CMS, they offer the ability to create your own content model so that you can decide what type of content you want to manage.
Optimizely is a software company offering web content management, digital commerce, and digital marketing, through the Episerver Digital Experience Platform Cloud Service. Episerver CMS has a powerful presentation layer, and as such is not a headless CMS. However, there are situations where a headless approach is preferred, to provide the ability to pull raw content from outside the presentation layer and this is where the Episerver Content Delivery API can be used.
Umbraco Heartcore is a headless CMS that's friendly for editors, and flexible for developers. It's built on top of an open-source CMS that powers over 500,000 websites all over the world. With its RESTful API, Umbraco Heartcore is the centre for any content you need to make available to your frontend - whatever that front might be e.g. apps, smartwatches, screens, smart speakers...anything really! Using fancy marketing lingo this means it's built for "omnichannel delivery".
Sitefinity was developed with headless practices from its inception and has long been recognized for its flexibility and capabilities to integrate with multiple technologies. With its decoupled architecture and robust APIs, Sitefinity delivers content to any device—mobile phones, smart watches and even refrigerators. All content types are automatically exposed through OData services and with the help of an SDK, your time to market is significantly reduced.
Liferay DXP’s headless REST APIs follow the OpenAPI specification and let your apps consume RESTful web services. What’s more, you can consume these APIs without being tied to Liferay DXP’s UI (hence the term headless). This gives you a great deal of freedom when designing and developing your apps.
Headless Drupal allows front-end developers to have full control over the presentation, UI design and UX of the website. The combination of a great client-side framework and a seasoned front-end developer can get you a website with a rich, faster, application-like user-experience, and seamless interactivity.
Shopify Plus Headless commerce separates your front-end design from your back-end infrastructure, empowering you to publish to and from virtually any platform. The Headless commerce solution by Shopify Plus gives you full creative control across all your touchpoints for a cohesive customer experience. Powered by the Shopify Plus commerce engine, you can plug in all your business tools and content management systems to create custom storefronts as expressive as your brand.
Atlas by WP Engine includes dynamic Node.js and Headless WordPress in one package with your choice of a modern framework. The full power of the REST API in WordPress came with version 4.7 on December 6th, 2016. Using the WordPress REST API you can now interact with your WordPress installation remotely by sending and receiving JSON objects. WP Engine’s Atlas is the complete Headless WordPress platform, enabling exponentially faster dynamic sites with the flexibility and security that comes with headless solutions.
Need help assessing if headless is right for your business?
Speedwell is well versed in CMS platforms and Headless CMS architecture with over 20+ years of experience. We've worked with many of our clients to extend their CMS to iOS & android apps, digital information screens, apple watch apps and smart home devices. Our digital roadmap workshops that we do with clients are based on data driven decision making and ensuring the path they are taking is matched to their digital maturity and business goals that they are wanting to achieve.
Where appropriate, we encourage our clients to invest in enterprise platforms like Sitecore Experience Cloud, Optimizely, Sitefinity, Umbraco Heartcore, Drupal/GOV CMS, Liferay or Shopify Plus to achieve their business objectives.
When partnering with Speedwell you can be rest assured that our team are focused on developing integrated, best in class B2B and B2C solutions.
|John King, Digital Marketing Technologist, Speedwell