Headless Content Management Systems on the Rise
By Philippe Bodart | Created on October 7, 2018
A headless CMS stores content in pure format, ready for any purpose. It provides access through stateless APIs for authoring, delivery, and analytics. And it takes full advantage of the cloud.
The previous generation of enterprise CMS offered an often-generic content editing experience glued tot out-of-date development and deployment environments. The emerging strategy for content management selects best-of-breed solutions, tailored to specific use-cases like e-commerce or blogging; it provides a modern framework for rapid iteration and it generates lightning fast websites out of the box. Many Content Repositories Fail To Meet Today’s Digital Everywhere Requirements. When the world was just web and email, a web CMS could handle dynamic content delivery just fine. These systems, which date back to the 1990s from vendors like Adobe, Drupal, Wordpress amongst others grew by solving tough problems like unique designs, WYSIWYG authoring, workflow for approvals and translation, marketing support, and Internet-scale delivery.
The content you need on a mobile app, printed statement, or Facebook post may not use HTML. When you store content for a specific delivery use case, it’s hard to use it elsewhere. In addition, different business practitioners, partners, and customers create content outside core systems or processes, and the explosion of mobile and digital customer interactions stress these old content architectures to the breaking point.
Most of the current CMS systems are coupling authoring and delivery mechanism, that's why they are called monolithic CMS systems. In a monolithic, desktop and web only environment that is (rather was) the optimal solution. In a mobile, Internet of things, ecommerce environment the coupling of templates and content becomes a burden, that grows heavier with the day. API's are an afterthought to these systems, and even if these systems have build API's on top of their legacy systems, they still reflect the tightly coupled approach. There is no easy or simple way to pull out content natively and dynamically at runtime and re purpose the content in other non-HTML environments. And the content sits in Search Query Language (SQL) databases as opposed to the more agile and flexible non-SQL (such as MongoDB or MariaDB).
A headless CMS instead uses modern storage (non-SQL most of the time) bandwidth, and computing power. It uses modern storage, stateless interfaces, and cloud infrastructure to efficiently deliver Internet-scale content experiences on any device. The different components of the Stack are loosely coupled (GLUED) together via API's. The content is stored in pure format, ready for any purpose. Stateless API's are quite robust and even more robust with GraphQL. GraphQL queries access not just the properties of one resource but also smoothly follow references between them. While typical REST APIs require loading from multiple URLs, GraphQL APIs get all the data your app needs in a single request. Apps using GraphQL can be quick even on slow mobile network connections. With a headless content management system, you gain flexibility in your delivery tier. For example, you can pull the content from a separate web delivery tier like a Git repository and deliver that content to a CDN. Each time your repository content changes, a rebuild of the site will occur through continuous deployment.
Three rapid innovations are occurring almost simultaneously
- Monolithic CMS Systems are being replaced by modular, specialized content management systems
- Modern UI frameworks, like React or Vue are becoming essential to rich user experiences, and these frameworks are used to drive websites, web applications and native apps. React native uses the same fundamental building blocks as regular iOS and Android Apps
- Mobile is now over 50% of the Internet traffic, and high-performance and speed is becoming a must have.
Why Does It Matter?
By shifting responsibility for the user experience completely into the browser, the headless model provides a number of benefits:
- Set front-end developers free from the conventions and structures of the back-end, and it gives front-end specialists full control over the user experience using their native tools.
- Speed up the site by shifting display logic to the client-side and streamlining the back-end. An application focused on delivering content can be much more responsive than one assembles completely formatted responses based on complex rules.
- Build true interactive experiences for users by using your website to power fully functional in-browser applications. The back-end becomes the system of record and “state machine”, but back-and-forth interaction happens real-time in the browser.
All these changes are forcing more and more companies in to adopting a more flexible technology stack, and leaving behind the monolithic CMS approach. Until a few years ago, adopting such technologies changes and putting those systems together was quite a lot of work. With services like WebriQ GLUE these technologies changes are within reach for smaller projects and are no longer the exclusive domain of companies with in-house engineering and development resources. The implementation of these new technologies will create fresh, novel and engaging web and digital experiences that are more accessible to end-user viewers and customers.