In this article, we will explore and learn the Headless Content Management System. We will start by understanding its definition, functionality, operational use cases, and then finally move towards discussing its huge set of advantages in the modern era of digital inclusion. Stick with me till the end, this is going to be a journey worth time investing!
Content Management Systems (CMSs) have been huge pain relievers for quite a while now. They have revolutionized the way in which web functions by enabling everyone, be it a hardcore web developer or a non-technical individual, to analyze, interact, and contribute in the world of web. Some of the popular content management systems currently out there are WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, etc.
What is a CMS?
As the name suggests, a CMS is a platform that allows us to interact with the data/content on a website. We can think of it as a utility that provides a seamless mechanism to manage the CRUD operations on a website. Users can create, fetch, modify, and delete the content on a website without even having the expertise of any technical or specialized knowledge. Earlier in the times, all the content needed to be programmed or coded in order for it to be displayed on the web. This required deep technical knowledge in the area of web development. With the advent of CMS, we have decoupled the generation of actual content from the technical aspect of its availability across the web.
Let’s look at an example to properly clear up any confusion that might be roaming in your mind. I’m sure you have heard of these big names such as Microsoft News, TED Blog, BBC America, TechCrunch, etc. All these blogs are actually built using a CMS. Imagine if there were no CMSs, all the contributors to these platforms had to write their own code for contribution. With CMS, even a contributor with little or no knowledge of website development will be able to contribute the content to these websites. I hope the idea behind CMS is clear now!
What’s Wrong with the Traditional CMS?
If you’re already familiar with the technical background of traditional content management systems, then you may skip this part. In this section, we’ll discuss a bit about how traditional CMSs operate so that we may properly understand why headless CMSs are the need of time. Take a look!
We can broadly see a traditional content management system as an amalgamation of four key areas; content creation, content repository, content delivery templates, and web pages. The first area is the stage where we generate all the content. In the second stage, we plan and create write-ups, graphics, media, management, and everything related to content. Next comes the area where we save and store the content that we previously generated in some kind of a database. The third stage is a crucial stage where we deliver and display the content. Primarily, we can think of it as an area where the web pages and their templates planned. Finally, comes the stage where the content is actually displayed on the web page according to the planning and templates.
So far so good? Well yes, only if we had been living in an era of just the web. But today, we are living in an age of extreme digital inclusion with a range of platforms of accessibility. Mobiles, IoT devices, bots, digital assistance, and virtual reality are some of the applications of this era of digital inclusion. Hence, so far not so good. The third and fourth stages in traditional CMS seem to be a little problematic and a big hindrance to the adoption of such a variety of digital mediums. Here come headless CMSs in the race!
Headless CMS to the Rescue
A headless CMS replaces the third and fourth stages of a CMS pipeline with dynamic operations which increase their accessibility and adaptability.
In a headless CMS, Application Program Interfaces (APIs) replace the third stage of page management. In continuation of it, the raw content takes over the fourth stage (web pages) in the pipeline. Instead of decorating the actual content with a bunch of templates and themes, we just expose the raw content in this stage via APIs.
Wait a minute, how does it help? Well, that’s a really interesting question to ask. Indeed, the headless CMS has allowed to get rid of beautifully-styled templates to display the actual content and replace it with the raw content. It should give a bad user experience. Well yes, that’s true, but only if we were to stop right here! Outside the logical boundary of a headless CMS, we have an independent entity that takes care of exactly this issue. In fact, it optimizes and enhances the user experience by enabling cross-platform dynamic behaviors of a CMS.
The custom front-end delivery system (as shown in the figure) is a dynamic entity separate from the CMS logic. It allows us to build multiple user interfaces that are compatible with respective digital paradigms. Each delivery system implements a customized mechanism that contributes to the best of the best user experiences in a practical environment.
Separation of Main Logic from View
A headless CMS decouples the main content generation and storage logic from the delivery or view system. This way we can reutilize and reuse the logic inside the CMS for each digital platform. Earlier in the case of a traditional CMS, the CMS creators implemented the delivery system inside the CMS itself. The delivery system contained web pages and templates. Hence, restricting the CMS to be available over the web paradigm only. With headless CMS, we are now not limited. We are free to use our CMS across multiple platforms as per the needs and requirements.
Due to the power of APIs and modern communication protocols, we enable the internal working of a headless CMS. We transmit the actual content from the CMS to the delivery system using the communication protocols, which in turn takes care of the rendering of content using customized themes and templates. Hence, as the name says itself, that the CMS does not have any particular head (medium of delivery). The system is headless and only exposes relevant information to the various customized heads being developed for each digital platform.
I hope it was an interesting journey that exposed you to the concept of headless CMSs that are a need for current digital inclusion. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. If you wish to learn more about revolutionary web designing concepts and ideas, you can check out our collection of Web Design tutorials.