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Headless Content Management Systems (CMS) are backend content repositories that can be accessed via an API but which aren’t directly tied to the user interface of an application. Headless CMS doesn’t come packaged with a front-end application; they are front-end agnostic. Headless CMS enables easy integration and distribution of content from the CMS with/to other systems.
While APIs are not anything new, REST APIs in particular, have become popular, and there has been great interest in building applications that combine and package the data and functionality of multiple back-end systems and services.
But adopting headless has some drawbacks.
Christopher Zimmermann, product manager at Magnolia CMS. said that with headless, “the editing UI is limited compared to a full CMS, it’s typically a form, which doesn’t provide the flexibility necessary for crafting convincing landing pages, news articles, or product universe experiences. Second, content authors miss the context and instant feedback of a WYSIWYG experience of a page editor. Since a pure headless CMS doesn’t render HTML, it can’t provide that integrated editing experience.”
A twist to headless is a decoupled CMS, which is a system focused on the API, like headless, but that comes with front end components for developers to use as building blocks to construct tailored applications. One vendor following this strategy is Alfresco, which offers their repository as REST-based content service APIs and a framework of Angular components that can be used as a starting point for building new web and mobile applications.
Deane Barker, Blend Interactive CSO, explained that “a decoupled CMS is proactive — it prepares content for presentation and pushes it into a delivery environment. A headless CMS is reactive — it manages content, then just sits and waits for some process to ask for it.”