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What Is a Headless CMS and How Can It Help Me?

by Nick Rudich - June 9, 2021 - 2 minute read

What is a headless CMS?

At its core, a headless CMS acts as a content repository that allows for your content to be served out through an API to multiple channels with no constraints on presentation.

How does this technology help the end user?

Headless allows for content to be served through multiple channels - the same content can be leveraged in different places with varied styling or use cases. People can access the same content on your mobile application, website, or Alexa application and, because the content itself is managed in one place,these users have a consistent content experience across all platforms.  This eliminates the confusion associated with conflicting or erratic experiences users often experience when shifting from devices and platforms.

With a headless CMS approach, content editors don’t have to worry about manually keeping track of and updating content in multiple channels. This technology also allows for developers to build sites within frameworks that increase performance, which can be a major point of friction for some sites.

What are the drawbacks or roadblocks associated with a headless implementation?

One of the biggest (and earliest) hurdles to overcome is setting expectations with your internal team. With a headless approach, content creators may lose some control of the presentation. That is, because content can be served through multiple digital channels, having the ability to “preview” isn’t always easily accomplished. If that functionality is a requirement, it will create some development overhead on the implementation.

The other potential roadblock is counseling the organization through a change in the pricing model associated with running your site. When using a headless solution, pricing may scale as demand increases - pricing is often tied to the number of API calls the site receives. This isn't necessarily a negative insofar as CMS cost increases likely mean your investment is paying off; more users are visiting the site and engaging with your content. It is a shift, however, and one that you do not want taking your organization by surprise after a headless implementation is complete. 

What type of companies is a headless CMS suited for?

Any company that manages content in multiple places or on multiple platforms is a great candidate for a headless CMS approach. In addition to easily serving content to various channels, the headless API also reduces any issues with integrations from other systems such as ERPs, CRMs, etc. 

In particular, ecommerce is one area in which we have observed the largest growth in using headless platforms. A headless application often allows for the marketing content to be meshed with the product information. This has empowered marketers to more easily promote products in ways that historically involved a development or IT resource.

Who should be involved planning cycles if a headless approach is being considered?

Key departments to involve are always marketing, sales, and IT. Having alignment, agreement, and documentation of business requirements from these stakeholders is key to project success.

Once a headless approach has been agreed upon and implemented, the content served from your headless application can be used to increase a company’s footprint in the digital space, which can have a hugely positive impact on business.

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