Headless CMS: What Is It and Should You Make the Switch?

Headless CMS: What Is It and Should You Make the Switch?

The topic of headless CMS has a lot of buzz these days. But you might not know exactly what the term headless means. Or you might be thinking of going headless but are not entirely sure if it's a good move for your company. What is the benefit of going headless anyways, you might ask.

Last month I sat down with eZ's Chief Product & Marketing Officer, Roland Benedetti for an interview to ask a few questions around headless CMSs.

What is a headless CMS?

Before answering this question, Roland addressed what a traditional CMS is. Traditional CMS platforms let users create content (articles, images, etc.), manage workflows until it's published, and also publish and deliver content as a web page or app. The CMS is in charge of the whole process-from creating content to delivering it.

On the other hand, a headless CMS is a CMS without delivery. The CMS focuses on one thing: the creation process. It lets users create and store content in a repository. But it doesn't take care of the delivery of the content to web pages or apps-it's just raw content, which is available through API's.

What are the benefits and challenges of using a headless CMS?

The benefit: a headless CMS has a smaller scope. It's a focused solution for content creation. If you're not going to display content on web pages or apps but instead going to deliver content to devices still unknown, a headless CMS like Ibexa Content may provide the most benefit to your company.

The challenge: you'll still have to take care of the content delivery. If you're creating a website or app for example, you still need to determine how the web page or app will be delivered. Because content creation is separated from content delivery, doing so unnecessarily can generate a lot of additional work.

What are the latest headless CMS trends?

Since headless removes web delivery, it leaves the delivery process to be addressed separately. Roland says maybe the industry will go full circle and start coming back to traditional CMS'es at some point. But today there are a number of use cases where web delivery is not needed at all.

A great example of a use case for headless CMS is when you deliver content to something that is not a website-such as digital signage, when you don't know the device and all you have is an API integration with that device. IoT devices is where using a headless CMS makes a lot of sense.

First generation CMSs, those not able to provide API's and not able to provide access to content in raw form will quickly lose their users and market share, Roland says. And so there's also a replacement market coming on as companies start understanding that they need to think beyond the web-they need to reuse their content across different devices, be it refrigerators, cars-the IoT. So it's just a matter of time until those first generation CMSs are obsolete.

Does eZ's CMS support headless?

eZ is not a pure headless CMS because it can take care of content delivery-being headless is just one part of eZ's CMS capabilities. eZ's platform is decoupled, allowing you to use the CMS as headless. Our repository, APIs and tools give you control to customize the content model, structure your content and reuse it across channels. You can use the delivery process that comes with our platform (to web pages and apps) or you can use another delivery to destinations which are not on the web (IoT). Even though eZ didn't call this functionality headless back then, it has been part of eZ's product since eZ Publish 3 created in 2003.

What's an example of a headless CMS project using eZ?

Viking Line, an eZ client. Viking Line is a cruise and cargo line based in Finland. They wanted to improve their passengers' experience during cruise trips, so they built an app that allows for onboard online shopping and social media activity, and enables customers to communicate with each other through their smartphones, even in areas without cell service. This is a native app and all content is delivered through eZ's content repository, involving several API integrations.

Viking Line is the first cruise line in the Baltic and the third in the world to offer a full mobile experience for its passengers. The app was voted Mobile Experience of the Year at the 2015 eZ Awards. You can read more about the Viking Line mobile app in our blog post.

If you're looking for a CMS or wondering if you should choose a headless CMS, we can help. Contact us today!

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