The Headless CMS Phenomenon and Why You Should Care?

Decoupled CMS architecture also known as “headless” CMS is an interesting phenomenon that has surfaced recently in the digital landscape. Since the channels and devices that businesses use to connect with their target audience have grown exponentially, content management and delivery are not quite what they used to be in the early 2000s. To deliver a relevant and fulfilling customer experience, with more personalized and contextual content ‘decoupling’ of architecture is required. Decoupled CMS allows agility and flexibility to deliver these experiences.

But what does “decoupled” mean?

Decoupled is a reference to the separation between the back-end of your website and the front-end(s). Unlike monolithic CMS setup – a headless or decoupled CMS allows developers the flexibility to build the website without re-implementing the CMS. It sets front-end developers free from the conventions and architecture of back-end. Some good use cases for decoupled CMS are websites and web apps that use JavaScript frameworks such as React, Angular JS and VueJS, mobile apps, websites built using site generator and online ecosystems that need to republish the same content on multiple channels. It is not restricted for use on websites because it is essentially a content delivery system and it can do so anywhere on any device.

This is good news for developers, agencies, and digital marketing departments. Decoupled architecture can provide a dynamic, agile pivot for your company’s marketing, branding and lead generation efforts. Let’s run through some benefits that emerge from decoupling your CMS:

1. Agile content delivery

Decoupled CMS lets you add new content or update existing content types without impacting the front-end of the website. This means testing updates on a staging server and publishing to the delivery layer only when you are ready. This helps organizations that have a clear marketing focus and digital marketing calendar to have more control over design and content and publish on schedule.

2. Headless WordPress and Headless Drupal

WordPress and Drupal are traditionally monolithic CMSs and would benefit a great deal with decoupling. For WordPress, it is possible to install JSON API or JSON REST API plugins on top of the CMS and use it exactly like a decoupled CMS. These are third-party plugins, which means that there is no official support and they might offer limited capabilities.

Drupal includes a RESTful Web Services module in its core. Decoupling allows leveraging Drupal’s core web services to provide data to the front-end and pushing content to other places. This helps to implement the “Write Once Publish Everywhere paradigm”. Once you publish content in an element it can be re-used several times including mobile apps, IoT devices, various feeds etc.

3. Security

Separating creation and delivery enables you to add a firewall between the staging and live environments protecting your network and restricting third-party access. It also mitigates the risk of Distributed Denial of Service(DDoS) attacks because the content delivery software is distinct from CMS database.

4. Performance

Since there is no CMS application overhead on every web server, your distribution and delivery speed improves, allowing you to scale your website with commodity hardware. This, in turn, helps your sales and other campaign conversions. Just as Firefox reduced average load time by 2.2 seconds and increased downloads by 15.4 percent. Speed and conversion are directly proportional.

5. Future-proofing your digital ecosystem

Decoupling frontend and backend make it “future-proof” and cut down on the time, money and effort spent on full re-designs or site rebranding. It also allows for rapid evolution and changes of the website. Content enabled apps and use case scenarios are increasingly part of the new digital media. The ability to roll these out at the speed of business is what makes the difference.

In conclusion

There is no right or wrong route or a CMS approach for every use case. Decoupled website management shows an exciting potential for delivering richer, faster and more responsive user experiences. But if your organization’s purpose is served well with a traditional, vanilla CMS, decoupling might not be the answer. Get in touch with a professional organization with expertise in Drupal web development services or other traditional CMS to know if you can benefit from a decoupled approach. What other benefits can you foresee with the ‘headless’ CMS? Do let us know in the comments below.

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