Not a developer? Why you should consider a headless CMS

Here's our top 5 reasons for lopping off the head of a CMS. Welcome to the wonderful world of micro-services!

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By Michael Kinkaid, Bladerunner

October 02, 2017

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OK, if you've opened this post, you must be wondering "What's a headless content management system (CMS)?". Let's look at what you're using now for comparison. Your current CMS (we're guessing you have one) likely lets you:

  1. Manage content
  2. Build web pages
  3. And is the engine that presents your beautiful website to the world

Sound familiar? Well, when it comes to a headless CMS, its only concern is task number one - managing your content. You put content in, and it provides a way of getting content out. It's pretty singularly focused.

In the tech world, we call platforms that seek to do one thing micro-services. With a headless CMS, that one thing involves decoupling the management of content (the body) from all that page-rendering stuff (the head). Ergo, headless.

So, invest in a headless CMS today, and get less stuff than with the multi-purpose CMS you had yesterday!

Fin, right? Well, not quite… surely, there are other perks, otherwise analysts such as Forrester wouldn’t refer to micro-services as “The future of digital experience architectures,” (quote from "The Rise Of The Headless Content Management System“). 

So, why is headless CMS a “thing”? Why are all the techie people you know harping on about “headless”, “API first,” and “micro-services” (outside of them just being geeks)? Our list below outlines the value proposition to you (the non-geek) and your organization of investing and managing content in a headless CMS.

And to be clear, a headless CMS won’t be applicable to all readers - yet. We've got a hunch, though, that for most of you, it’s only a matter of time.

5 reasons you should consider going headless

1. Push your content to new channels

A headless CMS lets you put your content wherever you want it to go (the possibilities far exceed just putting it on your website). Unlike your current CMS that tangles up content with your web pages, a headless CMS keeps the content clearly separated and can send it to any one of numerous channels like: mobile, home assistant, smart TV, digital signage, wearables, augmented reality or virtual reality apps. The list of channels you could be pushing your content to continues to grow and grow.

How does it work?

A headless CMS pushes content out via an application programming interface (API), allowing two systems to speak to each other. Today's type of API is typically known as a RESTful API.

The key takeaway on REST API's is that absolutely everything online speaks the lingo. Developers love REST APIs. They want to work with them and they expect tools to have them. Unlike traditional CMS platofrms that bolt on REST as an afterthought, Headless CMSs are built with this API at their very core.

In this clip, my Google Home Assistant is sharing recipe content from the new Kentico Cloud headless CMS. This same recipe content could be on my website, my mobile app etc., but it's all managed in one place.

2. No installs, upgrades, or hot-fixes (cloud-based)

You may currently invest in a multi-purpose, do-everything CMS so that you could create and manage a fabulous website that would make your content shine.  However, what you might not have expect to (literally) invest in, was the level of effort involved in keeping that CMS updated or applying hot-fixes to address bugs and security issues.  Worse yet, you might just decide to never upgrade or maintain the CMS you initially invested in due to the overhead and cost. Does your company also host your CMS on-premise? How much time does time and effort does your company spend hosting?

Here’s the perk with a headless CMS: there is nothing to install. That’s because it runs in the cloud as Software as a Service (SaaS). There's no web or database servers to set up, and no upgrades to run or patches to apply.  Imagine the freedom!

Who upgrades a headless CMS?

One of the best advantages of a headless platform is that it's upgraded and maintained by the people that built it.
Classic CMS vendors generally release new features in a big bundle maybe once or twice a year. Headless CMS vendors, on the other hand, release features to their online service more frequently and require no effort on your part to install. New features are simply rolled out as they're completed, and your only duty is to put them to good use.

3. Faster time to market

All too often, the content that goes into a website feels like an afterthought compared to a project's design and features. Even with the best intentions (performing early content audits and a trying to get head start on content development) the ball really doesn’t start rolling until much later in the project than it should. Late/delayed content can lead to project delays. Even worse, sometimes the final content differs so much from early assumptions that the way it’s stored in the CMS needs to be reworked.

Content-first

At ecentricarts, we solve and/or prevent a lot of these content issues with our iterative, Agile process, bringing developers and content teams together right from day one. Regardless of the process your agency is using to deliver your digital project, a headless CMS naturally supports a “content-first” approach because it really separates the content from the presentation.

With a headless CMS, the new home for your content can be set up and then evolve as your content model is defined. There are far fewer artificial dependencies, such as thinking that you need to wait on development deliverables before you can start to enter content.

4. Invest your money in your KPIs, not content migration

Say you redo the look and feel of your website every couple of years, or maybe every three (hopefully, it’s not every five - yikes!). Ever noticed how, the longer you wait between projects, the more you have to invest in some form of content migration?  Maybe it’s from your current CMS, which is pretty out-of-date, to the latest and greatest version. Or, maybe you're transitioning from your current CMS to an entirely different platform.

Regardless, you’ve got a budget to create a new beautiful website, hit those KPI's, and take your user experience to the next level. Once it's all said and done, where did some of your budget go...? Content migration. Surely, there are more exciting ways to spend your business dollars.

One clear benefit to having your content in a headless CMS is not having to migrate your content as often, let alone during a redesign. With a headless CMS, the content and where it’s presented can adapt and evolve with greater independence from each other. Want to redesign your website or change it to the latest and greatest technology? Fire ahead - your content can happily stay where it is.

5. Enjoy greater freedom to use best of breed services

Best of breed is an industry term meaning “the best tool in a given niche or category”. When it comes to building digital solutions that have several concerns, like sites that support content and commerce, there are two schools of thought. The first is to find a platform that comes with all the bells and whistles your project needs, the second is to integrate specialist services together.

This latter approach of combining platforms, like a micro-service that specializes in CMS and a micro-service that specializes in e-commerce, versus hoping you can find decent multi-purpose platform is a growing trend in our industry...

Two reasons driving this are greater choice and more freedom around how your solution evolves. Need e-commerce? Go pick a service that best matches your needs. Now outgrown that e-commerce service? Go and replace it without having to throw out all your other services. This is certainly a lot more liberating than the alternative of having to re-platform everything just to get some new e-commerce features.

Interested? Check out Kentico Cloud!

We’re a partner with an exciting new headless CMS from Kentico called Kentico Cloud. This content publishing micro-service offers all the benefits we’ve discussed above. It’s channel agnostic (channel being the thing that displays the content, like a website or home assistant). It’s also technology agnostic (you can build your channel out in any technology, tell your developers that, and watch their smiles grow from ear to ear).

It’s also available today starting at the low monthly cost of $0 so contact us - we'd love to give you a demo!