Is headless CMS the future of content management?

Published on 25 Nov 2022

Future, Content, Management

A significant trend in online content management gives insight into the future of all content management systems (CMS), regardless of whether they are used for enterprise content management (ECMS), digital asset management (DAM), or document management (DMS). In particular, "headless" content management systems have progressively replaced more robust programs such as Drupal and WordPress. The trend indicates that enterprises are abandoning monolithic enterprise programs in favour of suites of loosely connected services, allowing them to fit their technology with their precise content needs and swiftly adapt to new requirements to align with the future of content management.

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What Is A Headless Content Management System?

A conventional Web Content Management System (WCMS) includes a WYSIWYG editor for authoring material, templates for designing web pages, a web server for displaying those pages, and a search engine for site users to locate content.

This strategy is sometimes referred to as developing a monolithic application since all functionalities are packaged and provided as a single solution.

Headless CMSs use a more decoupled methodology. The term "headless" derives from the fact that the website itself has been severed from the rest of the system, leaving just the "back end." A headless CMS is only concerned with content creation and retrieval. It is left to other, more specialised programs to display the material.

The headless method has gained popularity due to enterprises' need to distribute information through several channels in addition to conventional websites. Delivery channels currently include javascript programs that operate in the browser without needing a web server, mobile applications, email blasts, campaigns on social media syndicated feeds, and even machine learning systems that automatically classify and propose information to third parties. Headless systems can deliver across all these channels, allowing businesses to design solutions that match their unique use cases without being bound by any underlying assumptions in the monolithic CMS.

Should You Go Small or Large?

A headless CMS is one of many solutions for managing the growth of distribution channels. Instead of concentrating on content generation, several CMS suppliers have broadened the capabilities of their monolithic programs to distribute content to a larger variety of channels.

Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), a WCMS and DAM tool, provides the content to social media, print, smartphones, and specialised branding portals while also enabling the construction of community websites, blog entries, and content-creation workspaces. It is a vast, complicated system that serves various purposes to attract buyers and set the product apart from its rivals.

Although "growing large" has benefits, it is believed "going small" is the best sustainable method. The issue with monolithic programs such as AEM is that the variety of distribution methods and how businesses want to use content will continue to expand. In the future, businesses that invest in a monolithic program will discover that it only provides some of the needed features. The vendor may provide additional features in the subsequent release, but the deployment will always lag behind demand, and the upgrading may cause unwelcome business interruptions.

Assembly Can Pose A Challenge

To achieve headless content management, various components or services must be available. And besides, a headless CMS enables you to produce and retrieve information; you will still need other services to enhance, package, and transport material following your business needs. Fortunately, cloud-based, pay-as-you-go services are now accessible for most required components. For example, Amazon's Simple Storage Service offers a cost-effective option to store photographs, movies, and other information in the cloud. Other service providers include workflow solutions, search engines, user authentication, analytics, picture editing and video transcoding, and machine learning.

The difficulty is in assembling all of these services to offer the required functionality. This is a significant obstacle for enterprises without technological skills, which is why companies rely on monolithic content management software. This is problematic since it is not obvious that the cost of engaging developers to construct and maintain the exact solution you require is more than purchasing a monolithic CMS and then reconfiguring and customising it.

For example, one publishing business whose WCMS was Drupal. The publisher discovered over three years that the monolithic application was a hindrance. Drupal's content production and workflow tools never fit well with the publisher's editorial workflow; hence an external solution was required to replace such services. The Drupal backend system could not sustain the number of material that the publisher required to maintain, so they were forced to find a new solution. The publisher replaced every feature, including login, search, cache, and analytics. In addition, the publisher is required to offer content in ways not supported by Drupal, such as via the creation of syndicated feeds, mobile applications, and partner-facing APIs. The publisher ultimately determined that there was no compelling reason to continue using Drupal (or to continue paying its hosting firm) since the application only sent web requests to external services that performed most of the work.

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How Do You Select?

How do you determine what actions to take? Should you build your own CMS, and if so, what components are essential? Should you use pre-packaged apps and then enhance and integrate them to meet your needs?

If you are generating the content, such as a publisher or media corporation, you should probably build your content management system (CMS). Businesses that do not develop content, such as retailers or restaurants, should focus on their core competencies and seek pre-built solutions.

However, the distinction between content and non-content publishers is becoming hazier. The majority of businesses aim to generate and distribute content to engage consumers. Other organisations, such as insurance agencies, financial services corporations, and other highly regulated sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, must produce and handle vast data.

The optimal course of action is to build a comprehensive plan for managing all the material you generate across several business divisions and distribution platforms. With an established strategy in place, you can design a plan that specifies the services you need and then analyse the pre-packaged apps and standalone components you can access. You must evaluate not just the ROI of build vs purchase but also the potential cost of being trapped into a monolithic program versus having the ability to add additional services as the need arises when considering your alternatives. You need to consider all this to be in sync with the future of content management. 


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