Any business using a traditional CMS should at least consider how a headless CMS could simplify and accelerate the way they share consistent content with audiences across multiple platforms.
This is the simple message from Omavi Walker, Senior Software Engineer at Brightspot, who explains the benefits of hybrid and headless CMSs in our latest webinar, Why Content Teams Should Consider a Headless CMS.
What is headless CMS?
Before getting into the pros and cons of a headless approach, Walker takes time to explain the difference between a traditional and headless CMS.
"A traditional CMS manages your entire web application end-to-end and usually dictates the technologies used throughout from the creation and storage of content to the presentation of that content on a website," he says.
"There is very little flexibility in a traditional CMS as the data and presentation layers are tightly coupled with very little technical freedom, as you are required to use the technologies of the CMS," Walker continues. "Moving off such a system usually requires rebuilding your entire web application from scratch."
Explaining how this differs from a headless approach, Walker adds during the webinar: "Headless CMS removes the presentation system altogether and instead just delivers data, usually via JSON. In this model you have complete front-end freedom. You can use whatever front-end technology you would like and if you decide to migrate to a different headless CMS later on, you do not have to rewrite your entire front end."
Benefits of a headless CMS for content teams
Splitting the content creation and presentation processes gives organizations complete control over their content and lets them be more flexible in its use.
For example, once a news story has been written, media organizations using a headless CMS can then publish that single piece of content on a website, a smartphone, a social media platform or broadcast it via a smart speaker. They do not need to reconfigure the content for these different channels and/or devices.
Walker says: "Your published data can be used on any device, leaving the team focused on storytelling and engagement rather than content delivery."
Headless can help by keeping developers in a constant position to iterate so they can focus on adding new experiences rather than focusing time on implementing the same solutions on different platforms. Your editors can focus on their content rather than repetitive publishing of it.
And this flexibility leads into another major benefit of a headless CMS approach as Walker explains.
He says: "Your content also becomes inherently more future-proof, since any new platform using different technologies can be immediately taken advantage of using your existing infrastructure.
"Developers appreciate this flexibility as it allows them to utilize their favorite frameworks and technologies and to provide their best work as efficiently as possible."
A headless CMS also lets teams focus on what they do best. For example, developers can spend more time on adding new experiences to the front end and coming up with more ways to publish the content. They do not have to spend time working out the best way to publish the same piece of content across existing platforms.
Similarly, editors can focus on creating the content instead of tweaking and repurposing it for different channels, platforms and devices.
Walker says: "A headless CMS empowers your business to future-proof itself and remain relevant in the changing digital landscape."
The content you have created is always available and can be migrated to a new CMS or published by new technologies as they are developed and brought to market. In a traditional CMS the content stays within the confines of the system and so becomes siloed and most likely obsolete as time advances.
Complete control over your content means that your published data can be used on any device, leaving the team focused on storytelling and engagement rather than content delivery.
Headless CMS considerations for content teams
Depending on the amount of content you are creating and publishing, however, and the range of audiences you are trying to reach, a headless CMS may have too much firepower for what you need.
To get the best out of a headless CMS, your organization will need to co-ordinate the work done by front- and back-end teams and ensure the appropriate planning and collaboration is in place.
There is also an upfront cost associated with a new system, but the investment will generate significant positive returns going forward and means future integrations are much easier, faster and cheaper to implement.
There are also hybrid CMS systems available that offer you wide-ranging functionality, pre-built content types and website themes, while also maintaining the ability to add headless APIs as the need arises.
Features include custom workflows and dashboards, content analytics, tag auto-suggestions and management, rich-text editing, live preview, notifications, scheduled publishing, version control, site search, image editing/cropping and auto-tagging, audio and video transcription, SEO tools, auto-generated site maps and content translation.
This is not an exhaustive list and all the features can be customized to suit your organization's specific needs.
If your organization is using a traditional CMS, Walker says it is worth, at the very least, exploring what a hybrid or headless CMS offers.
He says: "Is your business feeling difficulty adapting to new technologies and the ever-changing landscape of digital experiences? Do your creators find themselves creating the same content multiple times for different devices? Is there messaging inconsistency between your channels?"
If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then watch the webinar to get you a step closer to solving your problems.