We hear you think: "What is a headless CMS?" Easily explained, a headless CMS, or content management system, is a website without a front-end. In other words, it’s back-end-only and acts as a database of digital content. The 'head', or the website, has literally been chopped off the 'body', or the back-end. Hence the name, headless CMS. But to truly understand what it is, how it works and why anyone would want it, it helps to distance yourself from it and look at what a traditional CMS does first.
As a result of different digital innovations with increasingly smaller screens, a traditional website often doesn’t meet the requirements anymore. A traditional CMS makes it impossible for the content of your website to be recycled on other digital platforms, like for example a mobile or a smartwatch app or even another website.
And that’s where a headless CMS comes in. This type of CMS is designed to store and deliver structured content to all your digital platforms, and allows content creators and editors to collaborate on it. The content that is stored in a headless CMS can be seamlessly integrated and displayed on different platforms and devices via APIs. It can be used for mobile apps, blogs, ecommerce … The sky’s the limit!
To limit the number of technologies, some CMS providers like Drupal or Kentico came up with a decoupled CMS: a content management system that uncouples the back-end module from the front-end presentation layer. Yet, unlike the headless CMS, the decoupled CMS comes with a head. So, you could build your front-end from within the same system, but it’s completely optional.
Often the decoupled CMS combines the front-end presentation layer from the CMS with an API that pushes (a part) of the content towards other digital platforms. This kind of solution is more marketer-friendly, which often results in faster and more flexible content delivery and deployment. They don’t need to be technical experts to get the most out of the website, but can make use of pre-built templates to create content and design experiences.
A decoupled CMS can also be a solution for those companies that do not yet repurpose content on multiple platforms today. To future-proof your business, it might be smart to choose a back-end that is uncoupled from the front-end, leaving you with the flexibility to repurpose the content if the need might surge tomorrow. Even if you only want to keep the door open to build a new front-end for your website, based on the content in the back-end.
Do you think a headless or decoupled CMS would give you less headaches too? Then you should definitely read our other blog post about which one you should choose!
Head of Development
Monica Van Huylenbroeck