The traditional CMS systems were built to manage websites. Headless CMS, however, represents a universal building block that can be used in any scenarios that involve content. This blog post will help developers and solution architects explore the new possibilities unlocked by the API-first architecture.
Petr PalasPublished on May 24, 2017
While traditional CMS systems are relatively single-purpose applications, a cloud-first headless CMS is like a LEGO brick: you can use it in thousands of ways to build new and innovative solutions, using a microservices architecture. Let’s take a look at some of them.
#1: Content Hub—One Place for All Your Content
A big challenge for mid to large organizations is how to manage content for multiple channels. In many cases, there are multiple teams or individuals responsible for a website, online store, social media, etc.
These teams usually work in silos which lead to duplication of work and inconsistencies in content. You may have experienced a symptom of these issues yourself: a company website shows a different product specification than its online store, knowledge base, or datasheet in a physical store.
Moreover, some organizations collected various systems storing their content over the past years. One of the Fortune 500 companies we work with counted as many as 27 different CMS systems used by their offices across the world. This becomes not only a source of huge maintenance costs, but again, it leads to inefficiency and inconsistency.
A cloud-first headless CMS makes for a perfect centralized repository for all your structured content. It can be used as a master content management system that serves as a single source of truth across the whole organization.
It allows you to import content from various sources into a single cloud-based repository where you can collaborate on it with your colleagues. Then you can export it to other systems to ensure consistency or make it directly available to your website or custom applications using an API.
#2: Omni-channel Content Delivery
When you use the API, it allows you to deliver your content to any channel:
While many of these channels are obvious, let’s have a look at some specific scenarios.
One such scenario is Static page generation. In this case, you use the headless CMS as content storage and then use some script or templating engines, such as Jekyll, Middleman or Metalsmith, to generate static HTML files for your website.
Now you may think: “Come on, we’re in the 21st century! Why would anybody go back to static websites like in the 1990s?” However, there are cases when you want to avoid any back-end scripting language for performance, maintenance or security reasons, and we see a renewed interest in static websites.
Conversational interfaces, such as digital assistants or chatbots, represent another example of new channels that aren’t even visual and need a specific content structure that may not be well supported by traditional page-oriented systems.
Microcontent for SaaS applications is another specific use case. Think of a banking application that contains hints, short product descriptions, or various promotions displayed in the context of the application. That is also content that needs to be managed throughout its lifecycle. Using a traditional CMS is usually not an option in these scenarios because it’s a total overkill, so using a headless CMS as the source of such content looks like a great choice.
#3: Produce Content in the Cloud, Export It Anywhere
In some cases, you may not be able to use the content API directly. You can still use a headless CMS to collaborate on the content and then export it to other systems using a custom integration.
This may be useful in a number of scenarios:
- Preparing content for your website before (a traditional) CMS is fully set up. Missing content is one of the most common reasons why projects are delayed. You can use the cloud-based content hub to collect all your content and collaborate with others, and when your traditional CMS and your website are fully configured, you can export the content. It means your content editors can get the content ready while developers work on the website which reduces the time to market.
- Managing content for your mobile application that uses a mobile back end as a service (mBaaS). You may have built a mobile application that already uses some external source of data and content, such as Firebase or other mBaaS solutions. Then you realized that these services do not provide proper content management workflow for your team. So you can write a script that takes the published content from the headless CMS and exports it to the mBaaS that further distributes the content to your app. In this way, you don’t need to modify the app and still get the benefits of a user-friendly CMS.
- Creating content for a knowledge base. When you use the content hub to store the product information for your website, why would you manage the same content separately in the knowledge base? Instead, you can export the content to a third-party knowledge base solution.
#4: Making a Legacy CMS Multichannel
Many companies invested big money into building highly customized solutions on top of their legacy CMS. They cannot easily rebuild the whole solution, so replacing the CMS with a new one may not be an option. In this case, they can use a headless CMS as a proxy: they export the content into the headless CMS and then benefit from its scalable API.
This hybrid architecture allows you to combine the benefits of both worlds:
- You can leverage advanced content management functionality available in traditional CMS systems, such as complex access control, translation management, or workflow.
- You don’t have to retrain your end users for a new CMS.
- At the same time, you can leverage the API to deliver the content to any channels and boost the performance of your legacy CMS, without spending more on servers and perpetual licenses.
Still, companies should see this as a temporary solution that allows them to test the headless concept before a full transition.
#5: Content Aggregation
Many companies already manage their content in multiple applications—including ERP, PIM, legacy CMS, etc. They may also retrieve some content from external sources or scrape content from various websites, RSS feeds, or APIs.
In these cases, you may want to aggregate the content, normalize it into required format, and use the headless CMS to make it available across any channel.
#6: Personalized Omni-channel Experiences
Originally, headless CMS was created by developers as a response to technical challenges they faced with traditional CMS systems in the new multichannel world.
However, as the concept becomes more widely adopted in business, marketers will try to get their own piece of the headless world as well.
They expect not only a friendly user interface and more empowerment, but also need to measure the performance of their content and optimize it.
Marketers will benefit from a cloud-first, API-first digital experience platform that will go beyond a pure headless CMS and allow them to collect data about customers and their interactions with the content.
Effectively, such a digital experience platform will provide Content as a Service and Context as a Service in a single solution. It means every piece of content will come with detailed statistics on how it performs in each channel, providing invaluable feedback to content authors.
Give It a Try!
Now that you know the options, it’s your turn to choose the right one and see how a headless CMS can work for you. And if you find some other interesting ways how to use a headless CMS, drop us a note in the comments below!
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