What is a headless CMS?
To best explain what a headless CMS is, it’s worth comparing a headless CMS vs a traditional CMS.
While traditional CMS platforms manage the creation and display of content to a website, a headless CMS ‘decouples’ the management of content from the platform that displays it (e.g. website, mobile app, in-store touchscreen, internet-enabled device etc). A headless CMS therefore offers greater flexibility to deliver content beyond the web, allowing you to embrace existing and future omni-channel possibilities.
Benefits of a headless CMS
- Create once, deliver broadly: A headless CMS eliminates the need to duplicate your content efforts. It provides a centralised source of content for distribution across a wide range of channels, saving time and resources, and making it easy to keep content up-to-date across a range of channels.
- Faster project timelines: With a traditional CMS, there is a high degree of dependency. In other words, one stage of the process cannot begin until another is complete. With a headless CMS, all members of the team can be working simultaneously, enabling speedier project delivery.
- More design flexibility: With a headless CMS, you have the flexibility to create the presentation layer of your digital experience with any tools or programming language you like.
- Freedom to deploy best-of-breed microservices: A headless CMS provides the ideal foundation to take advantage of a microservices architecture approach. Rather than being locked into the tools provided by a traditional all-in-one CMS – such as email, marketing automation, forms and analytics – you have complete control to choose the tools that work best for the needs of your organisation.
Is a headless CMS right for me?
If you’re trying to decide whether to ‘go headless’, below are a few considerations that may help to guide your decision. If you answer yes to any of these questions then headless CMS development may be a good option for your organisation:
- Do you have multiple delivery channels for your centralised content?
- Are you already reliant on one or more existing systems (such as mailing lists, forms, or e-commerce) that you wish to continue using?
- Do you have a strong preference for a presentation technology that does not provide content management?
- Do you have a need to quickly deploy a stand-alone campaign, range or product site?
Conversely, if you answer yes to these questions, you may be better off with a traditional CMS:
- Do you require your marketers or content editors to create their own pages with a high degree of flexibility?
- Do you need an all-in-one solution that provides content management, marketing automation, e-commerce, or other connected digital features?
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Recommended list of headless CMS options
There are many headless CMS options on the market, with the list growing on an almost daily basis. However, as experts in headless CMS development and implementation, these are some of the platforms we work with and would recommend.
Our headless CMS agency expertise
Our team of headless CMS experts is led by CTO Andy Thompson, a Kontent by Kentico MVP, and Technical Director Emmanuel Tissera who is an Umbraco MVP and a specialist in Umbraco Heartcore, Umbraco's headless CMS platform.
Want to read more on headless?
With the growing popularity of headless CMS, several parallel concepts are also gaining traction. Here are some concepts you may like to read more about if you’re interested in the wider context of the headless CMS movement.
Jamstack – Jamstack is a modern approach to building fast, secure and cost-effective websites and apps, with the headless CMS as a critical component. It’s a confluence of ideas and technology including headless CMS, static site generators, microservices architecture, serverless computing, progressive web apps, CDNs and edge computing, and a general movement towards browser-based applications. For more on the Jamstack approach, check out Benefits of the Jamstack – from buzzword to business ready.
MACH – In a similar vein to the Jamstack, MACH stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native Saas and Headless. Driven by Netlify, it’s essentially Jamstack for enterprise. A number of well-known players in the headless space have jumped on board the MACH movement, including Contentful, Contentstack and Uniform. For more on MACH, check out The MACH Alliance.
Composable DXP - This concept is in its early days right now but we believe it’s going to become mainstream very soon. A composable DXP is where a DXP is composed from a selection of best-of-breed microservices tools and a headless CMS. The microservices are integrated via APIs. For more on the composable DXP, see What Is a Composable DXP?
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