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What is headless CMS?

Headless CMS is not as headless as it sounds – read about the benefits in this article.

The traditional CMS (content management system) has long been the most used form of content management. But as the expectations and needs of both companies and customers change, other and more flexible solutions have appeared. Headless CMS is one of them. In this article, we explain what headless CMS is, and take a closer look at the benefits. Read on to find out how your business can benefit from headless CMS.

Headless CMS and traditional CMS – what’s the difference?

In a traditional content management system (CMS), backend and frontend development are closely intertwined and dependent on each other. Try to think of the backend as everything that goes on behind the scenes and the frontend as what users can see and interact with. In a typical CMS setup, the frontend uses different tools to create a visual presentation of the data created and adjusted in the backend. In other words, it is a kind of dynamic partnership where the backend drives the functionality, while the frontend shapes the user experience by presenting content that is tailored to a specific platform.

A content management system without a frontend layer

But why is it called “headless CMS”? Very simply explained, the name headless CMS refers to a CMS that in a sense does not have a head, i.e. it is separate from the frontend because the content is controlled from the backend.

When you opt out of a traditional CMS with a front-end layer, your CMS is rebuilt into a kind of data source consisting entirely of content that can be displayed in a variety of ways.

To use content across platforms, you can use a template that is adapted to the platform you want to display the content on. This means that you can use the same content on your website, in your app or in your webshop. If you think that the content should be presented completely differently in your webshop than in your app, you can easily fine-tune the content without affecting the content on your other platforms.

Is decoupled CMS the same as headless CMS?

If you have read about different CMS types online, you may have come across the term “decoupled CMS”. It may at first sound like it is the same as headless CMS, but there is a difference between them. Decoupled CMS still has a frontend layer, but it is optional if you want to use it. Headless CMS is often confused with decoupled CMS, and the terms are used somewhat interchangeably. It is a bit easier to keep track of the two types if you remember that the biggest difference is that headless CMS does not depend on a presentation layer at all, i.e. front end. Users of headless CMS can therefore decide for themselves which platform the content is to be displayed on and how it is displayed.

How does headless CMS work?

Wrapping your head around the (no pun intended) concept of headless CMS can be a bit of a mouthful at first. Grab a cup of coffee and we’ll dish up a more appetising explanation of how headless CMS works.

The recipe for easily customisable content

To understand how headless CMS works, we can use a slightly more tangible example, such as the composition of a tasty food dish.

Making a dish involves elements such as ingredients, flavours, and presentation.

Imagine that you are standing in your home kitchen, ready to combine several ingredients by following a specific recipe. In this scenario, information (ingredients) and presentation (recipe) are closely linked.

When you have followed the recipe to the letter, you can prepare the dish and serve it, but you are no longer able to fine-tune the individual flavour nuances of the ingredients and use them in a new way.

Now try to imagine the kitchen in a gourmet restaurant instead. Here, each ingredient is treated as a unique element, prepared separately, and finally carefully combined with other ingredients to create a dish that is a genuine culinary masterpiece. When each ingredient is prepared and fine-tuned separately, the chefs have complete freedom to experiment with different flavours and textures.

Headless CMS works in the same way as the gourmet restaurant kitchen because this type of CMS gives content creators the freedom to combine and reuse different content types across platforms. If all the ingredients (content types) had been pre-mixed into a recipe, it would be much more difficult to use the content across platforms. In other words, headless CMS organises the content into separate containers where it can be picked up and used in different ways without restrictions.

Remix and reuse content across platforms

In the past, content management was mainly about creating content and displaying it on a website. But as the internet evolved and moved onto a lot of different devices and platforms, a need for new solutions arose. With a regular CMS, it is more difficult to use and remix the same content across platforms such as mobile apps, smartwatches, websites and webshops. Headless CMS has made it much easier to ensure a good user experience, regardless of where your users are located. In addition, with a headless CMS, you are well prepared to display your content on new devices and platforms that suddenly appear in the online universe.

What are the benefits of headless CMS?

In the above sections, we have examined what headless CMS is, how it works and what it can do. Below, we zoom in on the benefits of this CMS type.

Flexible and efficient content management

To reiterate, headless CMS gives you the opportunity to reuse the same content across channels. This means, among other things, that you don’t have to spend hours copying and pasting. If, for example, you want to edit a text or an image, you only need to do it in one place, and the change will be applied on all platforms.

Getting rid of a lot of the manual work involved in moving and adapting content across devices and platforms gives you a competitive edge. You can serve a lot of great content to all your users faster, and at the same time attract new traffic and potential customers to your website. Your competitors will need to step it up to keep up with your speed!

Better user experiences and faster publishing

If you are as fond of lists as we are, you will probably appreciate that below we have put together a list of the most important advantages of headless CMS:

With headless CMS you can:

  • Save time on manual content management
  • Create the best user experience on all channels
  • Reuse and remix content across platforms
  • Be one step ahead of the competition
  • Always be at the forefront of the development of new platforms and devices
  • Improve your company’s marketing and SEO

The list of benefits of headless CMS can probably be even longer. Among other advantages, you can save money by choosing a headless content management solution. Why? Because a headless CMS is easier to maintain. This is because the headless CMS uses an API to display content on your platforms, e.g. in your app. This way, you avoid developers having to alter the code every time the content is to be displayed on new platforms.

In 2022, 76% of adults in the US bought products online using their smartphones. The future is mobile, and it will probably be characterised by many different mobile devices. This means that content managers are busy serving up content that can be displayed across a wide range of operating systems and apps. Thus, users of headless CMS will in many cases be in a stronger position, precisely because this type of CMS is more flexible when the goal is to display content on all users’ preferred platforms.

Should I choose headless CMS or ordinary CMS?

The answer to that question depends entirely on your company’s specific needs, as well as on your users’ behaviour, requirements, and expectations. You can use a variety of tools to find out more about user behaviour, such as which platforms and devices your users prefer. Google Analytics is a great tool if you want to use data to gain a better understanding of your users.

Once you have done research to better understand your users, have set clear goals for your business, and created a solid marketing strategy, it will become clearer whether Headless CMS is the right solution for you.

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