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The Future Of Content Management Systems: Understanding Headless CMS

When determining which digital properties will work best for your organization, it's important to keep scalability in mind. That way, you can keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape of digital experiences and content delivery networks (CDNs).

Managing and storing content for products, articles and more impacts overall web and app performance in addition to conversion and accessibility. For this reason, businesses should assess their needs and perhaps consider an option other than a traditional content management system (CMS), which we'll get into in a bit.

In today's digital landscape, it is essential to serve up the right content and touch points at the right time. So, it's no surprise that most global sites use content management systems in some form. In fact, according to a recent report, global web content management tools accounted for $4.9 billion in 2017 and are expected to reach $14.2 billion globally by 2024.

At my agency, we are fortunate to be platform-agnostic and regularly practice all available development methods, depending on the project and client objectives. "Coupled" CMS, also known as a traditional CMS -- such as WordPress, Drupal and Magento in self-hosted environments, or Shopify, Wix and Squarespace in cloud-based, fully-hosted environments -- are known to be simple and user-friendly in terms of layout and general functionality. However, they are typically less flexible when it comes to integrating new delivery formats and introducing advanced or mobile functionality to an application.

Due to these challenges, now more than ever, businesses and developers are choosing to go "headless." Typically, there are fewer expenses for a development team to perform a task by using headless CMS, which can be more efficient and decrease hours of development time, deployment and user testing.

Headless Explained

While it may sound intimidating at first, understanding headless CMS is actually quite straightforward. A headless CMS consists of an API and back-end technology that stores and delivers content to your desired front end, which is most likely not going to be apparent to the end-user. The difference between a headless CMS and a traditional CMS is only visible on the back end of the site. This means that storage and delivery are managed by separate software. With dedicated tools for, on the one hand, authoring and organizing data, and on the other, and presenting users with that data, each part of the system can focus on its specialty, and your workflow can become more streamlined.

A headless CMS does not have a defined front-end system or presentation environment. By separating content production, management and storage from distribution and display, headless increases flexibility and security of your content.

Will it work for you?

Headless CMS is beneficial for customization of content integration, has higher security benefits, and overall better performance when deploying information to the end user. Headless CMS works best for omnichannel selling and content management that can be translated into any format. It allows features to have more personality and customizable character to enhance the digital experience.

Your company may consider a headless CMS for omnichannel marketing, customization, integration and security. With separating the front and back end, there become more ways for content and design to have room with customization instead of just a templated design. Development has more room to create and design site infrastructure within a headless CMS. This would be a great fit for a company with a dedicated team of developers.

Making The Case For A Traditional CMS

Headless CMS may seem like the most innovative and current technology to be implemented into your website, but the adoption of this new tool can become complicated and expend time in the preliminary development.

If you are focused on mainly web presence, it may be best to steer away from headless CMS options. This tool requires a more technical background and lacks options to preview content when implementing content for mobile to web or other platforms.

With more options with the headless CMS, this can create more confusion for a user who is used to simple formatted options. If there is a need for more in-depth custom development, headless CMS works well for that. If you are looking for something that is already formatted and plug-and-play, traditional CMS might be for you. There's good reason traditional CMSs have gained serious traction in the development world, especially both WordPress and Drupal.


Flexibility and making sure innovative solutions deliver optimal user experiences should always be the main objective. Site owners have the ability to better future-proof their sites and build more interactive experiences for users through these robust functions and new technologies. Selecting the most appropriate solution for platform development is fundamental.

Choosing between headless or traditional CMS is not just a matter of using the most innovative or newest technology available. It is important to consider and evaluate not only the content type, but most importantly, internal staff, agency involvement, and whoever will be maintaining the web property, delivery methods and long-term maintenance.

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