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Why Content Marketers Should Consider a Headless CMS

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clock-iconAugust 23, 2020
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Headless CMS is all about managing your website's content in a more flexible manner. As opposed to traditional content management system options, a headless CMS is not coupled to or shacked by any particular output, such as the rendering of a web page. Instead, content is authored in the back end and delivered to readers or website visitors in the form of data through an API.

As such, headless CMS is also often called "API-first", "decoupled CMS", or simply "headless". Some providers of this type of content management system also market it as a website as a service, content hub, or content infrastructure.

The big question here though is what does it mean for content marketers? Other pressing questions include: why should today's content marketers and website owners consider using headless content management tools? Does the back-end processing of content data really matter compared to traditional CMS with front-end processing of website posts?

We aim to answer these questions as thoroughly as possible so please keep on reading.

A more straightforward way to deliver exceptional customer experiences

Marketing executives continue to look for the next big breakthrough when it comes to improving the customer experience. Whether it's advancing in artificial intelligence, personalization, or omnichannel management, the key is to find innovative ways to leverage technology so that the customer journey is seamless and consistent across platforms.

The distinction between traditional content management systems and a headless CMS is essential. A traditional CMS manages the content for one channel—web sites. At the simplest level, the front end of the CMS access content from a database in the back end will be used within the layout (e.g., HTML and CSS) of one channel.

All content is pushed to the website in a predefined manner from a layout and presentation perspective. Compare that with a headless CMS which provides all of the capabilities of the backend of a traditional CMS (i.e., the "body"), while giving the responsibility of content presentation/layout to the delivery channels (i.e., the head).

The critical point is that content is not pushed out to a channel in a predefined manner.

Content is pulled or requested from the CMS by any channel, enabling each channel to take advantage of its unique presentation capabilities. With so many avenues and devices available to reach your customer, the CMS's role in allowing and simplifying content-driven digital experiences at scale continues to increase in importance.

For marketers, the question becomes how to create a customer experience that makes the customer want to return and differentiates your company from your competitors? The answer…by optimizing hyper-personalized content to be delivered to the customer when they want it and on what channel they want it.

Why is headless CMS vs Traditional CMS of interest to so many marketing executives? At a high level, a headless CMS is the best way to future-proof your digital experience architecture, enabling support of any channels available today or in the future. Just as talented, developers, experienced managers, and e-commerce managers will be able to create more interactive experiences for customers in a shorter time and with less investment, reducing time to market and giving you a competitive edge.

To increase customer loyalty and separate yourself from the competition, marketing executives need to take advantage of innovative, content-driven experiences to improve customer experience. By creating the ideal digital experience and deliver content for each customer in the right context at the right time, marketers will not only future-proof their technology purchases, but they will also go a long way toward securing customer loyalty.

On the other hand, traditional CMSes are still shackled down by the limitations of their front end focused approach. They provide less flexibility and are, frankly, becoming monoliths. If content marketers continue to use them, there will be lots of issues down the road. These can include server problems, security breaches, slow page loads, and more. So it is time to move forward with the times and opt for decoupled or an API-first CMS.

How to make the transition from WordPress to Headless CMS

Combining several services allows you to have greater control over your online presence and the way you deliver content. You no longer depend on a third-party theme or a clunky content repository. You do not have to deal with the WordPress interface and you can separate the development from the deployment process.

Is it a simple case of "swap out the old for the new and carry on as before"?

No.

You will need to make some adjustments – but they are worth it! For instance, not all functionality comes out-of-box. The CMS in a headless context doesn't deal with the presentation layer and will require developers or partner agencies to build things like navigation and breadcrumbs on a website and the relationship between the multiple items in the CMS and the content structure in the site.

You also need to be a bit more structured in your setup of the content and workflow approvals. But, once in place, the headless CMS foundation is set to help you fly. If you are working with a switched-on digital agency, they should also bring options for a frontend framework to save you time and cost.

The main effort is then just working with the API to ensure the back end and front end work seamlessly. The digital agency should also be there to help you understand the reality of traditional CMS vs Headless CMS comparison. Most important, they should be there in real-time to help you with the transition to using API-driven content or a decoupled CMS. Content management need not be a pain in the neck with the right professional assistance.

As mentioned above, once set up, a headless CMS will shine and will definitely help with your content operations. Today's headless content management systems and eCommerce systems make it easier for content editors and product managers to do their work. They can preview pages, personalize content, make changes, manage approvals, see content calendars, involve external contributors, and measure the engagement level of the published content.

The API delivery of many of these headless content management systems is designed to make the transition from monolithic to headless easy to achieve in small increments. There are already so many use cases out there you can review to see just how a headless content setup has worked wonderfully for business across various industries. You don't need to risk a significant bang change; you can steadily replace the legacy systems you have built at a pace to match your readiness and skillsets.

What Technologies Are Used to Replace a WordPress Site?

When it comes to CMS options, we are fully convinced that the presentation layer should not be coupled strongly with the backed content management side, hence we opt for a decoupled CMS or a headless setup. The API-driven content data should be delivered to the presentation layer when needed, no matter which device is used to access it. This way, there is more flexibility for website owners, content marketers, and business people trying to cement their mark online.

This means then that it is time to move away from WordPress, which most websites are built on at the moment. But what should be the replacements? What headless CMS options are out there?

Headless Content Management Systems (CMS)

Maybe a starting trend in 2019, headless cms, is becoming a popular buzzword within the technology industry and content marketers. With over ten quality contenders in this market segment, headless cms will become a mainstream technology in the next couple of years.

Together with the JAMstack, headless CMS becomes a contender for the LAMP stack dominance. We have built over 100 projects and for these, we have opted for Sanity as our headless CMS of choice.

Of course, there are other headless content management system options out there. After conducting several trials though, we have determined that Sanity is a pretty robust headless CMS.

Sanity allows you to build a very user-friendly interface to upload API-driven website content. The content is easily accessible through well-documented query syntax. With Sanity, we've decoupled digital assets from the actual front end, so If we ever need to rebuild the website or reuse the assets, we can reuse these.

A Frontend Platform or Static Site Generators (SSG)

A static site generator is an application that takes your site content, applies it to templates, and generates a structure of purely static HTML files ready to be delivered to visitors. The app itself can be in any language: Ruby (Jekyll), Go (Hugo), React (Gatsby), Vue (Gridsome) or Javascript (11ty).

We opted for the CMS for React, Gatsby, in this area. Gatsby brings static pages to frontend stacks, leveraging client-side JavaScript, reusable API codes, and prebuilt Markup. CMS React or Gatsby is an easy-to-use solution that creates a SPA (Single Page Application) with React.js, Webpack, modern JavaScript, GraphQL, CSS, and more.

Gatsby.js is a static PWA (Progressive Web App) generator. It pulls only the critical HTML, CSS, data, and JavaScript to load as fast as possible, even offline. Gatsby's rich data plugin ecosystem lets a website pull data from various sources, including headless CMSs, SaaS services, API, databases, file systems, and more. Gatsby has a wide range of applications and is a solid choice for sites that need to utilize data from many sources.

The ambition behind this project is limitless, and with several fabulous new features, adoption continues to skyrocket in 2020. Gatsby can handle complex infrastructure, multiple platforms, and scales very well, even for huge content sites.

A Deployment and Hosting Platform

Beyond the many platforms where you could host your JAMstack websites, they fall short on deployment and workflow automation. Two vendors dominate the marketplace - VERCEL and Netlify. We are partners of Netlify since the early days of the company.

Netlify is the dominant player in deploying, maintaining, and updating JAMstack websites and WEB APPS. The Jamstack has grown to be a significant force today because of the underlying simplicity of the architecture. It's easy to reason about a stack where the frontend front end is a self-standing decoupled layer. The build step is decoupled from the runtime and where lots of powerful dynamic functionalities can be offered up as API by vendors without any operational overhead.

As we keep pushing the boundaries for what developers can build with this approach, we need to keep this architecture's core simplicity.

Key Takeaways

Headless CMS is the way to the future. It is time to break away from monolithic and traditional content repository options and management systems. Going headless will make managing content so much easier.

And since a headless CMS is API-driven and decoupled from the frontend, the content can be delivered to various channels and devices without much fuss. This can help cut down the work of content marketers and make them more flexible. Best of all, you can focus more on delivering your brand's message through your content rather than getting headaches over your content delivery platform.

So, should content marketers care about headless CMS? The answer is a big YES! To help you transition from a WordPress setting or from any traditional content processing setup, we here at WebriQ are ready to provide assistance. Get in touch with us or schedule a consultation so we can take your website and content processes to the next level. If you wish to know more about our headless CMS use cases, let us know. We'll be happy to share how you can achieve the same success as our other business partners and clients!