The Arrival of Headless Content Management

The content management software space has been strongly affected by the tectonic technological shifts of the last decade: the arrival of smart devices, the rise of Javascript, the ever-growing demand for developer talent, the arrival of 4G, and now, 5G. These factors have set in motion a large migration away from monolith software toward headless content management systems that are built on the principles of microservice architecture. CMSes are the communication highways of companies and staying with legacy technology means opting for massive traffic jams. 


The past – web only

Massive .NET, Java, and PHP-based systems have dominated since the time of the dotcom bubble. Open-source heavyweights, WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, have democratized the creation of simple websites making it accessible to even non-tech users. But this was over 15 years ago – before the arrival of the smartphone and before “the cloud” became the standard for application hosting. Traditional content management systems are web-only monoliths. Rigid and inflexible, they can hardly be adapted for modern digital content channels such as mobile, IoT or AR. Even small, unambitious technical changes lead to long implementation times.

“We have to duplicate our content in the CMS for the web, and the CMS for the mobile app.” – a frequent complaint by marketing professionals. “We are held back by frontend template constraints and only fix bugs and release new customer-facing features in 4-6 month cycles.” – a developer team’s daily struggles.


The Arrival of Headless Content Management

Headless Content Management systems, like GraphCMS, separate the front-end presentation layer and the back-end of a CMS. A powerful backend with a content management interface delivers content via flexible APIs to any number of frontends and any tech stack.

By dividing the front-end presentation layer from the backend content administration and authoring layer, companies like Discovery, Apple and Booking have been able to conquer the multitude of modern channels like web, mobile, and IoT. Frontend development teams do not need to know the obscure secrets of a complex backend system– they just use the technology they like. New customer-facing features are released much faster at a much lower cost.


Is headless content management for everyone?

Headless Content Management is not a good fit for a company without dedicated frontend developers on its engineering team. You won’t benefit from its full potential if your content doesn’t need to be updated often or if your application (web or mobile) is simple and easy to manage. If speed and reliability are not critical to your business, you can also stay with your existing system.

If you are striving to have a unique design for displaying your content, if your application is available on many devices and platforms, you should definitely assess a headless solution. Regular content updates and housing large amounts of data are also speaking in favour of a migration. Headless SaaS products often lead to significant decreases in total cost of ownership of your content management infrastructure, so going headless should also be considered in times of savings.


Author: Alex Naydenov, Enterprise Sales Director at GraphCMS