The Difference Between Coupled, Decoupled, and Headless CMS Architecture

In the last couple of years, headless CMS platforms have been rising in popularity. Some argue that a headless CMS is better for everyone, while others believe the traditional CMS architecture is far less cumbersome.

If it’s time to redesign your digital properties, it’s important to know the difference between traditional (also known as coupled), decoupled, and headless architecture. Selecting the right structure will ensure you not only get what you want, but what is best for your entire team—editors, developers, designers, and marketers alike.

So how do you know which architecture is the best for your business? To help you answer this question, we’ll outline the distinct differences between the three.

Is your CMS platform holding you back? Find out what you could be missing in our eBook 5 Things Every Modern CMS Should Deliver.

Traditional CMS Architecture

With a traditional or coupled CMS, the architecture tightly links the backend to the frontend. Content is created, managed, and stored—along with all digital assets—on the site’s backend. The backend is also where website design and customization applications are stored. This content management backend and database is bound within the same system that delivers and presents content to devices and end users (frontend).

So with a traditional CMS, your editors are writing and publishing on the backend of the same system your website visitors are viewing. Blogging platforms, such as WordPress or Squarespace, are examples of traditional CMS architecture.

To recap, a traditional CMS is comprised of:

  • A database where content and digital assets are stored (backend)
  • A content management backend where content is created (backend)
  • An application where publishers and designers create and apply design schemas (backend)
  • A frontend that displays published content on HTML pages

REQUEST YOUR BRIGHTSPOT DEMO


Traditional CMS Architecture


Decoupled CMS Architecture

Compared to traditional, decoupled CMS architecture separates—or decouples—the backend and frontend management of a website into two different systems: one for content creation and storage, and another for content delivery and presentation. In a decoupled CMS, these two systems are housed separately. Once content is created and edited in the backend, this approach takes advantage of flexible and fast web services and API’s to deliver the raw content to any frontend design on any device or channel.

Even though the backend and the frontend application function independently of one another, the frontend architecture is predetermined with a specified delivery environment (for example, React or React Native). Thus, the two systems are tightly linked and can function as one.

From a technical standpoint, a decoupled CMS is comprised of:

  • A database where content and digital assets are stored (backend)
  • A content management backend where content is created (backend)
  • An API that connects the content management backend with the frontend
  • A default content publishing frontend
Decoupled CMS Architecture

Headless CMS Architecture

To understand headless CMS architecture, it’s important to understand how it is connected to decoupled architecture. Headless architecture is actually a subset of decoupled. Both have a content management and storage backend and deliver content from that database through a web service or API. But the key difference is the presentation layer: unlike decoupled, headless does not have a defined frontend system or presentation environment.

An easy way to understand the difference is to think of decoupled as proactive and headless as reactive. Decoupled prepares the content on the backend and then can proactively deliver and present formatted content to various channels. Headless, on the other hand, is a content only data source and has no functionality within the CMS to present content to an end user on it’s own. Content is created and managed, but it just sits there, available and waiting to be called upon by an API and delivered to applications and systems.

This means that a headless CMS is “API only, UI anything”; it can push 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.

From a technical standpoint, a headless CMS is comprised of:

  • A database where content and digital assets are stored (backend)
  • A content management backend where content is created (backend)
  • An API that connects the content management backend to any device or channel
  • The ability to connect to any publishing frontend, allowing organizations to have the frontend technology of their choosing
Headless CMS Architecture

Each CMS architecture has its pros and cons and is more appropriate in specific environments than others. Many consider decoupled to be the best of both worlds: you have templates to work with like in a traditional CMS, but you have the flexibility of a headless implementation. To learn more about the benefits and tradeoffs of each, check out our blog The Pros and Cons of Coupled, Decoupled, and Headless CMS Platforms.

Today's modern CMS revolution is driving up demand for more flexible, scalable, customizable systems that deliver the experience you want, and your customers expect. At Perfect Sense, we believe in frontend freedom of choice. That’s why we’ve designed our Brightspot CMS to operate as traditional, decoupled, or headless–depending on the specific needs of each customer. Natively multi-site and omni-channel, Brightspot makes it simple to publish content once with a single authoring point and deploy it anywhere you want with less stress and mess.

Want to learn more? Schedule a consult to learn more about the options available and which is best for your company.

REQUEST YOUR BRIGHTSPOT DEMO

Be the first to comment on this article

About Brightspot

Brightspot empowers the art of digital storytelling with its next-gen CMS platform. Designed to simplify the lives of content producers, editors, developers, and marketers, Brightspot enables the fastest time to implementation through a natively decoupled, extensible, and pre-built backend.
Call 1-877-795-1203 to speak with a Brightspot consultant.