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A Quick Beginners Guide to Headless CMS Development

Home A Quick Beginners Guide to Headless CMS Development

guide to headless CMS development

Now, you may already be familiar with a couple of content management systems, or CMS for short, such as WordPress and Drupal.

However, did you know that there is a lot more to CMS than what meets the eye?

Consider headless CMS.

If you only have a passing interest in CMS, chances are that you have never heard of it.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that the world of headless CMS development has gained quite a bit of momentum in the last few years.

This has prompting recharged excitement and buzz around the content management model which is capable of assisting brands and organizations deal with the constantly rising number of emerging channels and devices.

Old discussions surrounding the significance of headless content management have been restarted, prompting the creation of new abbreviations and even buzzwords that endeavor to clarify everything that is going on in the world of CMS.

Of course, as new things come to light, so does new reasons to be confused.

So, let us breakdown the essentials and guide to through everything that you need to know about CMS development.

Understanding Traditional Content Management System

Let us first recall how a traditional or conventional content management system works before we get to headless CMS development.

When dealing with traditional CMS such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, users leverage tools such as a WYSIWYG editor or, in some cases, a HTML editor, to make and edit the content. They then save that content to the back-end database.

After that, the CMS shows the content as per the front-end delivery layer which has been incorporated into the given CMS.

Take WordPress for instance. In this case, that layer seems as a WordPress template, which is governed by CSS.

Now, these traditional CMS are often considered to be 'coupled' CMS. We’ll discuss the explanation for that later in this article.

Headless CMS

Consider the traditional CMS as a body. In that case, the head will be all the front end components such as templating systems and front-end framework.

If you separate this head, you end up getting what is known as a headless CMS. It is that simple.

Now, a headless CMS will not have any front-end system by default to decide how your content is showcased to the end users. Rather, it is front-end agnostic, which means that your content is in the form of raw data and it is possible to publish or distribute it anywhere you want, via any framework of your choice.

By eliminating the front-end delivery layer, the CMS suddenly becomes a data source of only content. All it does is produce the content and afterward just stays there waiting.

Now, what do you think that it is waiting for?

In light of the fact that there isn’t any "head" by default, the front-end CMS developers gain the freedom to create and develop as many so-called heads that want. They are free to create specific heads for the various channels through which the content will be served. For example, there are sites, applications, smartwatches, and so forth).

To recover the content for every one of these channels each, the headless CMS will just react to API calls.

As you can see, headless CMS development does have some advantages to it. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of such CMS development later.


guide to headless CMS vs traditional CMS development comparison infographic



Decoupled CMS

While on the subject of headless CMS development, it is also a good idea to take a look at decoupled CMS.

Many consider headless CMS to be actually a category of decoupled CMS development.

This is simply because a decoupled CMS is by its nature a headless CMS, apart from other features.

However, decoupled CMS is also often referred to as hybrid headless CMS>

In this type of CMS development, the content gets managed separately and it is also front-end agnostic. That is similar to headless CMS.

On the other hand, decoupled CMS will come with front-end delivery tools such as templates, giving you the option to use them if you want.

The main difference between the two kinds of CMS development is that in decoupled CMS, the front end and the back end are not coupled or linked to each other by means of a database, unlike traditional CMS development.

Instead, the two ends will communicate to one another by means of API calls.

Headless CMS and Decoupled CMS: A Comparison of CMS Development

Considering the similarities and differences between headless and decoupled CMS, it is a good idea to look at them in detail. This way, you will find it easier to understand what kind of CMS development you should go for.

In case of a headless CMS, you have editorial and modeling tools to make and alter content as needed. Be that as it may, the idea of "publishing" the content simply means that you will make it accessible by means of an API. It will assume that your front-end CMS development team to deal with the remaining details with whatever kind of tools and frameworks that you like.

On the other hand, you have a decoupled CMS. This one will not assume anything at all. Now, it surely performs everything that a headless CMS can do. However, it will not stop just there. It will also give you templating tools so that you do not have to start working absolutely from scratch.

For marketers, this subtle difference can be a significant one. While the decoupled CMS uses the templates, WYSIWYG editing, and other tools are customarily seen with traditional CMS systems, many of those tools are not available in a headless CMS architecture. However, purely headless systems allow more control over how the content appears on each type of device. So, more fun for eager front-end developers, less fun for non-tech savvy marketers.


guide to headless CMS vs decoupled CMS development quotes


The Pros and Cons of Headless Content Management System

The headless type of content management model has been increasing in popularity in recent years. However, you should first consider the advantages and the drawbacks of this CMS development model so you can decide for yourself if it will be worth it for your company needs.

Pros of Headless CMS

Here are the advantages offered by headless type CMS development.

Front-End Agnostic

As we discussed before, a headless CMS is designed to be front-end agnostic. As a result, you gain the freedom to publish your content on any channel or device of your choice by means of API calls. Additionally, the front-end developers become free to utilize their favored tools and frameworks. 


As you may already know, APIs allow two technologies to communicate to each other. A headless CMS will utilize APIs for connecting and communicating with other channels and even software to deliver the content. However, that is definitely not all.

With APIs, it is possible to deliver data such as preferences of the end users from the devices and channels back to the content management system for processing and analysis followed byre-distribution.

Future Proof

Nowadays, APIs are capable of doing much more than just communicating with existing devices and software. In fact, they are fully equipped to communicate with any new channel or device that emerges in the future. As a result, your content instantly becomes future proof whenever you opt for headless CMS development. With this, you no longer have to worry about any innovative devices that enters the market after.

Cons of Headless CMS

Given below are the disadvantages offered by headless type CMS development.

Difficult for Marketers

As stated before, this CMS development lacks features like WYSIWYG editing and blogging functionalities along with a few other user-friendly features. As a result, marketers will find it difficult to proceed with their work until the development team does what is necessary.

Fragmented Tech Stack

In the case of a headless CMS, eliminating the so-called ‘head’ means that you have to search for other technologies that can replace it. To do so, it can require the development of front-end solutions by your CMS development team. Alternatively, you may have to deploy existing tools from third-party sources to meet the needs.

No matter which option you should, the process can become rather expensive not only in terms of money but also of time. Of course, there is the difficulty of management to consider as well.

Lack of Content Previews

Now, it may be possible for you to manage to secure tools from third-party sources to help out your marketers. Despite this, they will still find it difficult to make efficient use of a headless CMS. After all, they will not be able to preview the content before it is published. That is an issue with this kind of CMS development.

Why Do You Need Headless CMS Development

Previously, we stated that the world of headless CMS development is picking up in popularity.

The reason for this surge in popularity around headless content management is due to the increasing complexity of multi-channel publishing.

Now, publishing on several channels is surely nothing new. Most traditional type of CMS development do allow for this feature.

Consider a responsive WordPress template as an example. In those cases, you simply need to publish the content once. The template, after all, is flexible enough to present the content on desktops, mobiles and tablet devices. With that, you already got your content across different channels.

However, the age of IoT is here and progressing rapidly. As a result, it is no longer enough to publish to only a select number of channels.

Large brands are increasingly seeking the power and ability to get their content published anywhere. After all, new channels and even devices are being developed and launched at breakneck speed these days. Some fascinating examples of such devices and channels that have already captured public imagination include smartwatches, smart home assistants and VR headsets among others.

Headless CMS Development and Omnichannel Marketing

Not only headless CMS but also decoupled CMS development is giving marketers the option and ability to provide omnichannel experiences to their customers.

With omnichannel marketing, brands are able to provide a seamless, continuous and integrated experience across all potential touchpoints and even devices. This avoids the result of a fragmented customer journey when their customers switch between multiple devices.

Omnichannel marketing differs from multi-channel marketing. After all, multi-channel marketing will operate through every channel separately. Moreover, it will not connect the different experiences together.

With Headless content management development, brands can start launching and managing their omnichannel marketing campaigns more effectively and easily. Read below to learn more.


guide to headless CMS development statistics


Faster to Deploy

The simple fact is that consumers, these days, have become accustomed to getting what they desire in the shortest possible time. This includes getting new experiences on their new devices that have just hit the market.

In the case of traditional CMS development, brands would have to hire developers to create custom integrations and even platforms to deliver the content on the entirely new channel or device.

However, in a headless CMS, the developers can easily deliver the content by means of API calls to the channel or device in question.

This gives them the freedom to focus only on the improvement UI as well as the experience for the end-user.

Of course, this does certainly reduce the time needed to market by a massive margin when a company wants to add a new device into its omnichannel lineup.

More Personalized Experiences

According to statistics, 56% of customers are more likely to purchase from companies that offer a personalized approach. As per that same report, a shocking 74% of customers tend to get frustrated if they see content which does not suit their interests.

Now, headless CMS development doesn’t generally promote personalization. However, it does enable the option of headless commerce.

This allows the brands to provide personalized buying experiences to channels such as smart displays and IoT devices.

Additionally, due to the use of APIs, headless CMS can gather data that can be used, in turn, to develop and launch personalized campaigns across multiple channels.

Last Words

As you can see, the future of CMS development is getting a lot more interesting.

In fact, we have already begun to move away from traditional CMS development driven by databases. Instead, we have started adopting development models that are powered by APIs, such as headless and decoupled content management systems.

This is to be expected considering that consumers are increasingly utilizing multiple devices, more so than before. As such, it becomes imperative for brands to start meeting those new needs of the customers to stand a chance of succeeding this is new world.

By choosing a headless CMS development strategy, those brands will surely find it easier to connect with their potential audiences.

Want to see how CMS development can power your business? Contact Cogito Software today!


Fri, 07/24/2020 - 11:45 0 Comments


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