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Benefits of Headless CMS vs a Traditional CMS

The time to choose a headless CMS over a traditional CMS couldn't be more clear.

Gabriella Pirrone
Gabriella Pirrone
September 9, 2019
Headless CMS vs Traditional CMS

There are some very clear and obvious benefits to the notion of content management. Those benefits have been praised by traditional CMS vendors for years and helped to bring on the initial web 2.0 revolution. That was a long time ago, and while the tools and methodologies that we use have undergone many stages of evolution and revolutions, the traditional CMS industry has not. Enter headless CMS, once a scrappy upstart, now a mature offering from several well-established firms. 

70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing. That statistic alone (and there is way more stats here) tells you just how powerful most marketers believe content marketing is, but 24% of marketers are planning on increasing their investment in content this year.

In the meantime, Marketers used to look at a website as something that stood on its own, almost unrelated to content. Right through from the early stages of procurement, into development and onto deployment, getting a website built and running was very much a waterfall-type strategy. Get it done and paid for. Get the development team out of there and get the content team in after. Set up a process for ongoing content entry and approvals. Done. Set it and forget it. 

That process has held true for a long time, and the CMS industry has added a plethora of features on top of that one-and-done process. It’s quite often found that to adopt these new features, a complete rebuild of the website would be needed, and many times this would coincide either with a new version of the CMS platform or choosing a new CMS platform. 

As CMS vendors have added more and more features, they've become bloated. A new user just getting on board one of these platforms has a steep learning curve to be productive. Add the complexity inherent in a large web property, and things get even more difficult to maintain and work with. 

Eventually, the industry has arrived to the notion of Content First Methodology. Headless CMSs allow you to change your mindset and think of content strategy first, - content before design. This approach is not only sensical, but also economical. It save you both time and money.

The time to choose a headless CMS over a traditional CMS couldn't be more clear. Let’s explore both options below and the top 10 considerations as to why you should consider going “headless”. 

What is a Headless CMS? 

Contrary to a traditional CMS, a headless CMS is entirely decoupled from the presentation layer/frontend, which in this case is the “head”, and the backend is your content repository, known as the “body”. When you separate your content repository “body” from its presentation layer “head,” it becomes a headless CMS. What truly makes a headless CMS better than a traditional CMS is its content-first approach with full APIs to access and display content in any way desired. With this approach, a headless CMS enables you to author your content through the RESTful API and deliver that content wherever you need it. Think of this as a one-and-done waterfall scenario. Headless CMS eliminates the "set it and forget it" approach to building software.  

a Headless CMS

What is a Traditional CMS? 

A traditional CMS is linked tightly between the front end and the back end. Content is created, managed, and stored—along with all of your digital assets—on the site’s back end. The back end is also where website design and customization applications are stored. The content management back end and database are bound within the same system that delivers and presents content to devices and end-users (front end). Basically, your editors are writing and publishing on the back end of the same system your website visitors are viewing. This can be a bit scary!  

a Traditional CMS

The caveats of Traditional CMS: 

  • Monolithic website architecture 
  • Set-it and forget-it content processes 
  • Bloated feature sets with a steep learning curve 

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Headless CMS vs Traditional CMS

Why is a headless CMS becoming so popular? Let’s dig into the top 10 reasons why you should consider adopting a headless CMS solution for your business.  

Benefits of Headless CMS:

1. Headless CMS is easier, faster, and more flexible to develop on

Not only are you able to pick your programming language, but a headless CMS is also API driven so you can build your “head” (presentation layer/frontend) end to end. Your developers can develop the way they’re used to without having to conform to any proprietary development constraints. A single content item can be reused and combined with several different presentation outputs, allowing for projects to be completed faster. A webhook is user-defined by an HTTP callback (or small code snippets linked to a web application) that trigger action specific events. A headless CMS allows easy and secure integrations with any of your existing systems. This includes the use of webhooks. A webhook is user-defined by an HTTP callback (or small code snippets linked to a web application) that trigger action specific events. A prime example of a webhook is triggering an email to your user once they have paid for a subscription on your site. Another benefit is not having a fixed structure to develop or code. This allows your developers to build any code for any type of integration. Not only will your developer love the flexibility it gives them just from a resourcing side but to integrate with systems that are more complex to integrate with.

2. Headless CMS is future proof

A headless CMS allows you to future proof your application by separating your presentation layer from your data and logic layer. It allows you to structure your content to make new projects easier for future-proofing as well as when re-branding one or more channels, there are literally no technical changes required within the CMS. Developers adopt the headless CMS approach to the parts of their existing stack where it makes sense. They carve out pieces and use APIs to make it all work together.

3. Headless CMS supports omnichannel architectures

Omnichannel can pose quite a challenge for marketers because they need to create iconic content that shines across all touchpoints. Instead of managing each channel separately, a headless CMS provides the ability to orchestrate a seamless experience that spans to all touchpoints maintaining consistency and relevance. These challenges are compounded by the rising number of digital touchpoints and languages marketers must update in such a short period. A headless CMS removes those common barriers.

4. Headless CMS costs less

With little technical involvement required in a headless CMS, it’s a lot quicker for your business teams to create new functionality. For example, if a marketing department wishes to create a new series of product mini-sites, they can go straight into the CMS and start creating immediately without having to wait for developers to build CMS-based templates. Your up-front cost is diminished as well because you can start with smaller solutions and then build your way up versus starting with one BIG install. It’s best to start small and then scale up as you need to.

5. Headless CMS is more scalable

Since the back-end and front-end are separated, if the back-end CMS platform has any performance issues or needs maintenance, it won’t create any downtime to your website or compromise its performance. Your hosting options are unlimited with a headless CMS and deployment environments as well.

6. Headless CMS is easier to learn and use

Many will agree that the biggest benefit of a headless CMS is how easy and fast it is to manage your content. The CMS implementation is cleaner meaning the CMS tool is purely for storing content and isn’t cluttered with “stuff” that’s irrelevant to business users and other resources.

7. Headless CMS is evergreen (always up to date)

A huge benefit of a true, headless, multi-tenant system is that it's fully managed and upgraded for you. This is a huge benefit because upgrading can often be a costly project, not to mention that it's not very fun either so your team will be very happy to hear this benefit!

8. Headless CMS leads to better software architecture

A headless CMS provides better software architecture. A headless CMS is typically architected so that the CMS platform and the published content are separated. There are a huge number of benefits to this, including:

- Security:  Access to the CMS is restructured internally within the organization, while content that is published outside is either approved for public consumption or can be secured/encrypted as required.
- Scalability:  Need to add more servers to prop up demand for a particular application? Simply spin up a new app server and point it to the content.
- Availability:  Should the CMS application go offline, there’s no impact to the web applications.

9. Headless CMS allows for a smaller, less specialized team

Companies no longer need large (and expensive) teams of specialist consultants who are knowledgeable in a particular CMS. Sure, some expertise is required, but not at the scale of a traditional CMS. 

10. Headless CMS allows you to focus on your business

Spending all your time worrying about your CMS can take your attention away from growing your business. A traditional CMS can take away a lot of your precious resources. 

Why Content as a Service is the obvious choice for your Digital Strategy

Having a Digital Strategy used to largely start and end with a website. Those days are gone - now our digital strategy needs to include creating content and processes for a plethora of platforms. Sure, we still have a website, but we also have apps, social platforms, IoT and smart devices, to name just a few. All of these outputs need to get their content from somewhere, and CMSs has evolved to fill that need.

Headless CMS, also known as Content as a Service (CaaS) is a cloud-based content-fist approach to content management with a highly configurable and sophisticated architecture. Your content team creates, approves and publishes content that could be used anywhere in your digital ecosystem - website, apps, social, etc. The idea here is that the content isn't intended for a single website page. 

"Your CMS now becomes a hub for all that content, and it can feed any modern system to move that data around. That gives developers and data architects the freedom to use your content in their tools. This includes DevOps, which means the sophisticated process for bringing together and integrating all of the pieces that make up your digital properties. This is what has replaced the monolithic website build process. It means that these, tools, which by definition have to be highly interoperable to work in a DevOps pipeline, can be reused over and over in new ways as your digital strategy evolves." Joel Varty, President of Agility CMS explains.

CaaS is just one part of a digital ecosystem that includes many tools, most of which can be swapped out and replaced with new ones. This ability to evolve and grow allows the ROI on your content investment to increase as the scale of your content strategy expands.

Ready for More Effective Content Management?

At Agility CMS, our goal is to help you grow through smart, strategic and agile content management. We’re here to guide you on implementing future proof content first approach, headless content architecture, including JAMstack implementation, omni-channel marketing, SEO friendly CMS, and more. Need answers? Start a conversation with our experts by opening the chat box or request a demo here

Keep Reading

If you want to learn more about Headless CMS, make sure you read these articles:

Watch Agility CMS Walkthrough with Joel Varty

Choosing a New CMS? Download Your 50-Point Checklist

Avoid mistakes. Use our Free Ultimate Checklist.

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