Hybrid CMS explained

Learn more about hybrid CMS and how this approach to your content management setup might be the best approach for your digital goals.

Decoupled and headless architectures have paved the way for the hybrid model. With a hybrid CMS architecture, organizations and publishers have the ability to mix presentation or front-end choices. The hybrid approach offers an environment that allows users to deliver different experiences to a browser window or a device, where both decoupled and headless CMS architectures can be combined.

A hybrid CMS architecture enables organizations and publishers to mix presentation or front-end choices. This approach allows users to deliver different experiences to a browser window or device and to combine decoupled and headless CMS architectures, offering advantages and productivity gains. With a hybrid-headless CMS, content can be delivered to one experience through a decoupled CMS architecture, while a brand can use its frameworks of choice to develop and maintain a separate front-end codebase. Each implementation draws from the same content repository via a set of headless APIs.

A hybrid CMS architecture is ideal for complex content delivery workflows, especially when a business needs to deliver its presentation layer from multiple systems. A hybrid approach also provides the most flexibility for content distribution, enabling the combination of systems for the delivery of a presentation layer. Finally, like headless, a hybrid CMS architecture promotes great content reuse.

The success of a hybrid system architecture depends on the vendor's implementation and ability to execute across a range of technical areas. If a business has light content needs, a less complex CMS architecture may be more appropriate. It is recommended to do research before contemplating a CMS upgrade to determine which architecture is best for specific needs.

A hybrid CMS architecture is best for complex content delivery workflows.

Choosing a CMS isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every business. If your business requires you to deliver your presentation layer from multiple systems, it’s likely you would benefit most from a solution with a hybrid architecture. A hybrid CMS offers the ability to mix presentation or front-end choices, allowing for the most flexibility. Day-to-day business operations involve enough hard decisions—with a hybrid digital asset management system, which CMS framework to choose for your content creation and distribution doesn’t have to be one of them.

One of the best use cases for a hybrid CMS framework architecture is when a business needs an integrated e-commerce and content or video-rich experience. The headless side of hybrid works well for single-page applications like e-commerce, while the decoupled aspect supports content-heavy websites that allow for rapid design iteration. Therefore, if a business wants e-commerce and rich content on a page, this combination will provide the best of both worlds. Hybrid is also the best choice when an organization wants to take a headless CMS approach with mobile apps but use decoupled for the front-end content side of the website.

Here are some common questions about hybrid CMS—and how Brightspot helps solve them.

What is a hybrid CMS?

When we talk about a hybrid CMS, we are referring to an environment in which you are delivering different experiences to a browser window or a device, where both decoupled and headless CMS architectures can be combined. Before understanding how both of these work together to benefit businesses, we’ll look at them separately.
  • Decoupled CMS architecture: In a decoupled environment, the back end and front end of a website are split—or “decoupled”—into two unique systems that are managed separately. One system handles content creation and storage, while the other is responsible for taking that input and presenting it to the user through a chosen interface. A decoupled—opposite of traditional, or “coupled,” CMS—gives businesses freedom by having a back end that doesn’t have to rely on what the frontend is doing. Some systems are elegantly integrated to allow control of the decoupled front end in the CMS. While managed separately, a key component of a decoupled approach is that both systems are tightly integrated by an API that connects the content management back end with the presentation layer, giving you additional controls and benefits like template changes and a full preview of your presentation in the editing experience.
  • Headless CMS solutions: While a subset of decoupled architecture, “headless” solutions differ in a big way. With a headless CMS platform, there is no fixed front end—instead, the solution acts as a content-only data source. Because of this, headless is known to be the most flexible and developer-friendly CMS option, allowing developers to use a combination of their favorite tools and frameworks to determine where and how content appears. The ability to mix and match front-end content offerings means businesses can deliver the best user experience across every device, channel and touchpoint.

How do I choose between headless CMS or a hybrid CMS?

If a headless CMS offers all of the same benefits of a decoupled one and is more flexible, the question becomes, “Why wouldn’t an organization just choose this approach?” Knowing which CMS solution is best for you depends on your business’s content goals, and should be chosen accordingly.

When does choosing headless CMS make more sense than a hybrid approach?

A headless-only approach is the best option for organizations with robust development teams who know their way around additional technologies required to establish the front end. For editors and writers, in a headless CMS environment, there also isn’t a natural preview of the content. This is another situation in which additional development from a technical team would help to build out a front-end preview.

When does it make most sense to choose a hybrid CMS framework?

A hybrid CMS is built for organizations that want to have a greater level of control. One of the best use cases for a hybrid CMS framework architecture is when a business needs an integrated eCommerce and content- or video-rich experience; the headless aspect of a hybrid CMS works well for single-page applications (SPAs) like eCommerce, while the decoupled approach favors content-heavy websites that allow for rapid design iteration. Combined, these give you the best of both worlds if you want eCommerce and rich content on a page.

Another example of when hybrid content delivery makes sense, is when an organization wants to take a headless CMS approach with mobile apps, but use a decoupled solution that specifies a front end for your website. Ultimately, whether you want to use an existing front end or data alone from your CMS, a hybrid approach offers the most flexibility for content distribution with the ability to combine systems for the delivery of a presentation layer.

A hybrid CMS solution also still allows for important functionalities like WYSIWYG authoring, template management and workflows when you need them. This flexible "content-first" approach encourages content reuse across different experiences and channels. Beyond the screen, a hybrid CMS system fosters collaboration between marketers, developers, publishers and editors as opposed to leaning heavily on one team versus the other; this is because each party can build in permissions and workflows tailored to their specific needs and environments, increasing collaboration and decreasing downtime.

What is Brightspot? A headless CMS? Decoupled CMS?

With Brightspot CMS, organizations don’t have to compromise. We help you determine the right CMS solution for you—whatever that may be—to move your business forward. Companies like Lionsgate have relied on Brightspot to increase brand consistency across platforms with a headless CMS to power their front-end experience. Others, like Televisa, streamlined their digital platforms into one multisite, giving developers full control over the front end of the platform and editors the ability to publish content more quickly. Our platform can be used decoupled, headless and in hybrid CMS environments, leaving you with what’s most important: options.

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