WordPress, Drupal, Sitecore and other traditional content management systems (CMSs) have long been considered the industry standard of website development. Also referred to as monolithic, regular or coupled, they were created to more easily manage online elements like content, images, HTML and CSS. But as brands continue to expand their content infrastructures, they need a much higher level of flexibility and scalability that those systems can’t currently accommodate. Simply put, when content is organized solely in webpage frameworks it’s impossible to adapt it to external digital platforms like mobile websites, apps, digital displays and beyond.

Enter the headless CMS. The name is based on the concept of cutting off the frontend from the backend. In other words, the website from the content repository. It’s built from the ground up, storing content in a raw and unformatted state until it’s delivered via a RESTful API such as JSON or XML. Once displayed, its appearance is flexible. Brands can structure their own content as needed for use across virtually any digital platform.

The Value of Centralized Content 

Instead of organizing it by page, a headless CMS typically works from a single, centralized hub where content is classified by type and those types are defined by how they relate to one other. This approach eliminates the need for seemingly endless copy and pasting and ultimately improves brand consistency and compliance across channels. It also enables simultaneous collaboration, replacing the often-sluggish waterfall approach with an agile framework that allows developers to work in parallel. This is ideal for brands that rely on rapid deployment. Finally, it makes reusability simple. When all content is accessible for use on any digital platform, brands can maximize personalization and localization.

Why Developers Love a Headless CMS

A website can’t be built with a headless CMS alone. It requires a traditional CMS or custom development. This is a significant task, no doubt, but there’s plenty of upside. By cutting the CMS off from the frontend, a developer can leverage any technology to complete the build. He or she can also avoid the bugs that inevitably come with an existing system, more easily optimizing pages and relaunching portions of the website without worrying about content. Other benefits of a headless CMS include:

  • System independence
  • Cross-platform support
  • Localization
  • Code simplicity
  • Smoother migrations between platforms
  • Easier integrations with external data sources

When to Consider a Headless CMS

  1. You want to develop a website with familiar technology
  2. Your websites and apps leverage JavaScript frameworks such as React, Vue and Ember
  3. You’re looking to flesh out product information on an ecommerce website
  4. Your website was created with static site generators such as GatsbyJS, NextJS and SapperJS
  5. You manage multiple native mobile apps 

Best-in-Class Headless CMSs

 Traditional CMSs like WordPress and Drupal are working their way into the headless CMS market. But there are plenty of dedicated options worthy of consideration depending on your brand and goals. Here are some of the best headless CMSs in 2021:

  • Sanity.io
  • Contentful
  • Netlify
  • Prismic
  • Directus
  • Kentico Kontent
  • Bloomreach
  • Magnolia
  • Butter CMS
  • CoreMedia

For more information about headless CMSs and how they might benefit your brand, contact us.