Will your CMS make, or break your company’s 2020?

It’s no secret that choosing the right CMS is critical to maximizing your bottom line and staying current. When it comes to choosing a content management system, it’s a true balancing act between solving your biggest business challenges and catering to the multiple stakeholders who create your content. The decision-making process can feel confusing and overwhelming, especially since a silver bullet solution doesn’t actually exist. Each CMS has its own benefits and disadvantages.

There’s a wide scale of content management solutions to consider; from Traditional page-based systems designed for editors, to Headless products built for developers and distributing content across channels; and ultimately, Hybrid systems, which can offer the best of both worlds, as well as connect and share data between channels.

As you evaluate your options and wade through all of the tech jargon, here’s a brief guide to help you choose the best CMS for your website.

A Traditional CMS is Designed for Editors and Websites

A Traditional CMS is design-centered to empower marketing editors with the greatest usability. It offers a highly visual interface with built-in templates, modules, and control pages. Any content editor can create a website without knowing a word of code. You can preview content and see how it interacts with design, by simply using prebuilt components. Editors can quickly and simply build on the CMS solution, without any need for development or developers.

While this kind of CMS is built for easily managing web pages, it tends to be too rigid for creating more complex designs and integrating your content with other types of data.

A (Basic) Headless CMS is Built for Developers

Compared to the rigidity of page-based Traditional systems, a Headless system offers the freedom to publish content, independent of presentation or design layers, and also connect it to other channels. Content is stored centrally, typically on a cloud-based platform, and provided “as a service” to any application through APIs.

Built around the developer’s needs, a Headless CMS is ideal for complex designs and multiple integrations. Developers have full control to build and customize workflows from any platform (kiosks, apps, etc.), program language, or device, using their own styles and favourite frameworks. They can rapidly prototype content management features, tailoring aspects like user interface and modules.

IDC Futurescapes predicts that by 2019, the top mechanism for connecting data across digital chains will be APIs (flexible application programming interfaces). As a fully API driven system, Headless is designed to manage data as a web application, sending and receiving content and data across customer touchpoints.

The downside of Headless is that it’s just not as sophisticated as its Traditional predecessors. Marketing editors have to publish content without a presentation layer or preview option (which can feel like writing in the dark). And while storing content separately from its presentation provides the flexibility to integrate with new channels, developers still have to build separate data pipelines for every touchpoint that they add. This may not be too complex for building mobile apps and web applications, but connecting to the rest of your marketing stack might mean creating and maintaining multiple and individual integration points.

A Hybrid Headless CMS is Built to Connect Experiences

A Hybrid CMS combines a traditional presentation layer with Headless architecture. By delivering page driven content and offering modern integrations, a Hybrid system empowers both editors and developers.

It distributes “content-as-a-service” from a central platform, to manage, personalize, and analyze content. A Hybrid CMS supports content editors, by enabling them to create a cohesive marketing strategy and share content, assets, and data across all digital channels. Serving all content and content types in real-time, it also provides developers with the freedom to apply new interfaces and experiment with touchpoints.

Cloud-first and API based, a Hybrid CMS solution leverages all of the speed and scalability of the cloud for multi-channel scenarios. While Headless can distribute content across channels, Hybrid CMS can also seamlessly connect and share that content between marketing and sales pipelines, from customer touchpoints to ecommerce and transactional platforms, as well as marketing applications (like CRM, Salesforce, Flask, Microsoft Flow etc).The key benefit of a Hybrid CMS solution is that it can integrate seamlessly into existing web channels, as well as with other CMS systems. Whether you implement it on its own or integrate it as a point solution, a Hybrid CMS is designed to manage multi-channel content.

The agility of seamless integrations not only drives faster innovation, but enables you to apply analytics and user data across channels to improve customer targeting and personalization. And what’s more, with fewer integration challenges across your entire digital landscape, the customer’s overall experience becomes more consistent.

Traditional vs. Hybrid vs. Headless CMS

Keep in mind that a CMS’s main purpose should be to help both marketers and developers achieve their aims. Or at least, it should be.

A traditional CMS is usually centered on making it easier for marketers and content managers to get content published on their website quickly and with zero code. Also, traditional CMSes are used to manage page structures, sitemaps, templates, and modules.

A hybrid CMS combines both the API-driven headless architecture with the marketer-facing content authoring and page design elements from a traditional CMS. What makes a Hybrid CMS appealing to marketers is that it’s less bloated than traditional CMSes but less lean than most headless systems.

A headless CMS empowers developers by allowing them to be frontend agnostic, meaning that they can build experiences like single page apps, or Alexa skills, using the headless CMS as the content engine. . A headless system gives developers raw APIs to work with, enabling them to work their code magic and get more stuff done in less time. 

Benefits of a Hybrid CMS

Hybrid CMSs combine the benefits of modern headless architecture and the ease of use of traditional content management, including collaboration and scalability for big or small organizations. 

Here are some of the main benefits of a hybrid CMS

Marketer friendly

Hybrid CMSes are specially made for marketers because they have a user-friendly interface that enables them to create and publish content with no-nonsense WYSIWYG editors.

Quick to set up 

Hybrid CMSes don’t require that you hire the services of a developer because they usually come ready for you to use them. 

Easy to integrate

For marketers using many different platforms, a hybrid CMS can be the solution because they’re often easy to integrate with third-party platforms that offer complementary services.

Cloud-based

Hybrid systems are often cloud-ready or cloud-based, which means that different members of the team can make changes and edit content in real-time without hindering the rest of the team.

Fosters collaboration

Hybrid content management systems foster collaboration between the marketing and development team because it creates an environment where they can all create digital experiences to delight your audience.

A Hybrid CMS Success Story

A Canadian entertainment company was successful in using a Hybrid Cloud CMS to redesign their websites and integrate them with new technologies (like responsive and mobile), without having to rebuild their backend. A Hybrid system offered them one singular responsive solution to change and enhance their digital properties, entirely through their front-end design.

It also enabled them to structure content, in a way that supported their developers and editors, and created a workflow for both teams to work together. While developers had the freedom to implement format-neutral content, editors could manage content from a page perspective and distribute it to other platforms and feeds.They were also able to seamlessly integrate content with their circle of other marketing platforms, from apps and feeds, to movie databases, an online store, and an enhanced ticketing system.

With a Hybrid CMS, the Canadian entertainment company was able to deliver page-driven content across channels and distribute it through APIs. And since they were able to implement all of these changes without rebuilding from the ground up, they could invest the time and money they saved into the actual growth of their business. By supporting cross-channel agility and cross-team collaboration, a Hybrid system provided them with a powerful foundation for growth and innovation.

Your Brand’s Future Depends on the Right CMS

One of the biggest challenges for CMOs today is finding cost-effective ways to adapt to the continual changes of content channels. When you start weighing the pros and cons of Traditional, Headless, and Hybrid CMS, it’s integral to think about how the solution you choose will evolve with your business over time.

With a purely, basic headless CMS, can you guarantee that your company will be able to scale into new regions, or adopt new channels (like digital signage, in-store interfaces, smart speakers, and virtual reality), without your marketing team being able to use the tools they know and love? Crafting new digital experiences is hard enough as it is, let alone without WYSIWYG, drag-and-drop editing, and content previews. 

Make sure that you choose a product that is ready to grow at the speed and scale that your business demands. Your brand’s future depends on it. 

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