Access and Feeds

Headless CMS: Dropping the UI and Focusing on Services for Serving up Content

By Dick Weisinger

Web Content Management may be losing its head. Despite widespread attempts to centralize the management of content, content continues to be created and managed on many different platforms. The prevalence of REST web services and JSON-formatted increasingly means that it doesn’t matter where content originates from. Front end developers can now easily build web sites by incorporating data from the services of many different data sources.

This trend has caused many CMS platforms to focus more on content creation and the back-end data management and services layer and less on UI tools for laying out and presenting information in workflows and front-end browser and mobile pages. That change of focus has led to the idea of headless CMS services, an idea that is being promoted by analysts like Forrester.

True modern headless CMS systems are built from scratch for use in the cloud. Cloud-first CMS are low-maintenance backend services for providing content.  They are easy to set up, robust, and tuned just for the storage and retrieval of content.

Christopher Justice, CEO of High Attendance, said that “Content management is not hub or spoke anymore, but a spider web of interconnections between internal and external systems.”

One example of Headless CMS is Contentful.  They market their product by saying that “the head of the CMS — the website itself — is no longer there. You still have a backend which stores and delivers the content and you still have a web app for editors, and that’s it. That’s the entire CMS.”

But not everyone is on board with the headless idea.  Boris Kraft, Chief Visionary Officer at Magnolia, for example, wrote that “front end developers might be happy with their new found freedom, but headless CMS delivers the freedom and flexibility of ‘I can do everything I want’ at the price of  ‘I have to write, debug and maintain everything I need myself.’ In many cases, you will end up writing and maintaining the better part of a full-blown CMS, adding multiple layers of complexity to gain the advanced features that you’ve lost by rejecting a full CMS.”


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