Save for this year’s ongoing dialogue from the tech evangelists and their attempts to ‘define the metaverse’ – the crown for the most over-hyped and chronically mis-understood buzzword in the lexicon of websites is the Headless CMS.
This lethal duo, combined with the industry’s predilection for lionising the new and shiny, can result in many organisations selecting a CMS because it is on-trend, rather than whether it is fit-for-purpose. Whilst recognising that nobody likes being tech-splained to, we thought it was important to demystify the technology and provide some guidance on whether it is a viable option for you and your organisation.
Let’s start with the basics. A Headless CMS is a content management system (i.e. CMS) that does not have a front-end (i.e. head). It is a technology platform that allows you to manage all your data as per a standard CMS solution but is not built to natively ‘display’ to an end user.
This capability provides an organisation with a number of practical use cases for taking a headless CMS option.
A traditional CMS such as WordPress or Drupal, provides a solution that is rigidly hooked-up to a front-end framework. This is great if the goals of your website and the associated functionality fit nicely within the constraints of that set-up, it is easier to build and will deliver on your intentions.
But what happens if your website’s requirements eventually expand beyond the boundaries of what the CMS framework can deliver? Or you wish to build a mobile application to complement your website? If a traditional CMS framework does not provide the means to do so, it would require a decent amount of refactoring to ‘make it work’ – or alternatively it would require moving to an entirely different CMS solution. Either option is a significant investment of money, time and resources.
Single Data Source
Goodbye copy/paste patterns and synchronisation issues.
So long to the same data being managed by separate repositories and separate applications.
Farewell double-handling and increased chance of human error.
A Headless CMS option can be the engine to handle all your organisational data requirements over and above supporting your website. If you do decide to expand your website’s functional requirements you can simply refactor the front-end framework, knowing that the underlying headless CMS (and your data) will remain stable and untouched.
With budgets continuing to feel the squeeze and with so many communication channels hungry for more and more content; marketing teams need to be ever-more resourceful when it comes to manipulating and publishing data, content and media.
With a Headless CMS solution you are provided with methods for retrieving and sending data that can be used for a wide assortment of applications – including websites, mobile apps, social channels and third-party systems. Feature rich APIs and device specific SDKs provide easy-to-develop solutions for getting data between your CMS and your endpoints.
At Humaan, we work with both traditional CMS solutions and headless options but never make a recommendation until the conclusion of our technical discovery. Only by applying the insights from your organisation, your customers, your current stack and your future ambitions – can we confidently recommend a solution that will help drive your business forward.
However, as a barometer, ask yourself what your organisation needs now and what is on your digital roadmap. If you simply want a website for the here and now, with little intention of expanding beyond its primary content requirements, then a traditional CMS presents a practical and robust investment. But if you believe your organisation has the digital maturity to develop into something broader and more complex further down the line, or you foresee moving into other areas of data distribution, then exploring what a headless CMS can provide may be the most optimal way to head.
Lee Karolczak is Head of Development at Humaan