Content management systems (CMS) have come a long way since their inception. Traditionally, a CMS was an all-in-one solution that handled everything from content creation and storage to presentation and delivery. But as technology evolved, so did the requirements of modern websites and applications. The need for flexibility and agility led to the development of a new type of CMS known as "headless" CMS.
In this blog post, we'll explore everything you need to know about headless CMS, including what it is, how it works, and our personal recommendations for using Umbraco as your go-to choice in headless CMS.
What is a Headless CMS?
A headless CMS is a content management system that separates content creation and storage from content presentation and delivery. Unlike traditional CMS, which control the presentation layer of a website, a headless CMS only manages content and makes it available through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to be consumed by various devices, such as websites, mobile apps, digital kiosks, and smart devices.
The term "headless" refers to the separation of the back-end (where content is created and managed) from the front-end (where content is displayed). In other words, the "head" (front-end) is removed, leaving only the "body" (content) that can be used by any device or platform.
How Do They Work?
A headless CMS consists of three main components: a back-end content repository, a content delivery API, and a separate front-end system. The content repository is where all the content is created, stored, and managed. The content delivery API is the interface that exposes the content to other systems or devices. The front-end system is responsible for rendering the content in the desired format and presenting it to the end-user.
The content delivery API allows developers to access the content stored in the repository through RESTful API calls or GraphQL queries, which can be used to build dynamic and responsive applications.
What Are The Advantages?
There are several advantages of using a Headless CMS has over traditional CMS. Generally speaking, headless CMS will provide more flexibility, scalability, and future-proofing for marketers and website content managers. However, there are a variety of specific reasons for using a headless CMS, including:
With headless CMS, content can be easily reused across multiple channels, including websites, mobile apps, digital kiosks, and smart devices.
Headless CMS allows developers to create applications more quickly because they don't have to worry about the presentation layer. This also allows them to work with the latest web technologies and frameworks.
Headless CMS is highly scalable and can easily handle large amounts of content, making it ideal for enterprise-level applications.
Because the content is delivered through APIs, headless CMS can provide faster page load times and improved site performance.
A headless CMS allows for better collaboration between content creators and developers. Content creators can create and manage content in the CMS, while developers can use the API to fetch and display the content on various front-end platforms.
Comparing Headless CMS vs. Traditional CMS
A headless CMS is different from a traditional CMS in several ways, including content presentation, flexibility, content management, integration, and scalability. Let’s take a look at each of these areas and see how they work within each version.
In a traditional CMS, the back-end system is responsible for both content creation and content presentation, meaning it manages the content and also decides how it will be displayed on the front-end. In contrast, a headless CMS separates the back-end and front-end, allowing developers to use any programming language or framework to build the front-end.
Traditional CMS systems are designed to work with specific templates and themes, which can limit the flexibility of the front-end design. With a headless CMS, developers can use any front-end technology they want, making it easier to build custom, responsive designs that work on any device.
A traditional CMS provides a built-in user interface for content management, which can be limiting for developers who need more control over how content is created and managed. In contrast, a headless CMS provides a robust API for content management, giving developers greater control over how content is created, stored, and delivered.
Traditional CMS systems are often tightly integrated with other tools and systems, such as e-commerce platforms and marketing automation software. A headless CMS is designed to be more flexible, making it easier to integrate with third-party tools and services.
Headless CMS is more scalable than traditional CMS because it separates content management and delivery, making it easier to handle large amounts of content and traffic.
Since the management and display layers are separated, each can be scaled independently based on the current load of the infrastructure.
What is Structured Content?
Structured content is a way of organizing and managing content in a systematic and consistent manner, using standardized formats and metadata. Structured content is designed to be machine-readable, making it easier to automate content workflows and reuse content across different platforms and channels.
In the context of a headless CMS, structured content is particularly important because it helps to ensure that content is consistent, reusable, and easy to manage. By using a structured content approach, content creators can create content once and use it across multiple platforms and channels, without having to worry about formatting or compatibility issues.
One of the main benefits of structured content is that it enables content to be broken down into individual components, such as images, text, and videos, which can be reused and repurposed as needed. For example, a structured content approach might involve creating a library of product descriptions, images, and specifications that can be used to populate a variety of different product pages, without having to recreate the content each time.
By separating content into smaller, reusable components, structured content makes it easier to manage content at scale, without sacrificing quality or consistency. This is particularly important in the context of a headless CMS, where content needs to be delivered to multiple channels and devices, each with their own specific requirements.
Umbraco is a popular headless CMS platform that is used by many developers and organizations around the world. Originally designed as a traditional CMS platform, Umbraco has since evolved to support headless CMS architectures as well, making it a flexible and versatile option for developers who want to build modern, scalable web applications. While there are many good headless CMS options, Umbraco is the open source headless CMS we use here at Marcel Digital to build beautiful, user-friendly websites.
One of the main advantages of Umbraco as a headless CMS platform is its flexibility and ease of use. With Umbraco, developers can choose to use the platform as a traditional CMS or a headless CMS, depending on their specific needs and requirements. The platform also includes a range of powerful features and tools, including a built-in content editor, a customizable back-end interface, and a wide range of add-ons and extensions that can be used to extend the functionality of the platform.
Another advantage of Umbraco as a headless CMS platform is its scalability and performance. With support for a wide range of programming languages and frameworks, Umbraco can be used to build scalable, high-performance web applications that can handle large amounts of traffic and content.
Your Partner for Headless CMS Web Development
Marcel Digital has extensive experience in developing custom websites and digital experiences using Umbraco headless CMS. This experience means that our clients benefit from seasoned knowledge and expertise to help them design, develop, and launch a high-quality headless CMS website to meet their business goals. If you’d like to learn more about our headless CMS solutions, reach out to us here!
This article was partially generated using automation technology and thoroughly edited and fact-checked by an editor on our editorial staff.
About the author
Kyle Brigham is the Chief Strategy Officer at Marcel Digital. He specializes in client services and project management, but also original Nintendo games and ping pong.