Surreal headless guy, invisible face seated on the floor with gear symbol instead of head, as a brain mechanism

What Is a Headless CMS?

Originally, “Traditional” CMS were built for websites, this was in the days where you only had one medium to view web content, usually a large tower hard drive by your feet and a monitor as deep as it was wide was involved too!

However, in the past 18 years we have been through (and are still going through) the mobile revolution, which has meant we are able to consume content through mobile applications.

While the new era of Digital is fully upon us, we must be prepared for anything, as the Digital Revolution is, and will always be in flux, it is continuously moving and changing.

With the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, bots and virtual assistants, a company’s ability to share content has become very complex. Suddenly, we went from consuming content on one device, to consuming on many devices using any format. 

This change in viewing has forced a change in how we publish content. It was clear what needed to be done, the content repository; the “body”, needed to be decoupled/separated from the presentation layer; the “head”, this would allow any piece of content to be consumed across any device via APIs.

A headless CMS eliminates the need to reformat content for every channel; you create the content once and seamlessly reuse it everywhere.

Coupled vs. Decoupled vs. Headless vs. Hybrid Headless

There are 4 key forms of content management delivery architecture, Coupled, Decoupled, Headless and Hybrid Headless. Depending on which you choose will determine how your content is managed and where it is delivered.

A Coupled CMS is where the frontend and back end are bound together, this means your content will be created, managed, stored, and delivered via the same system

A Decoupled CMS sees the frontend and backend separated, this means the content is managed separately in the backend (usually in a Digital Asset Management system; DAM), then the content is delivered and presented via APIs to the frontend. A big advantage of this is the content creation team (usually the marketing team) can work on the frontend while the developers work on the backend simultaneously. 

A Headless CMS is a content-only data source without a presentation layer. In practice, headless is another form of decoupled architecture, but instead of the CMS pushing content to the frontend, the front-end pulls content from the CMS. It is important to note that a pure headless system never does any templating and only serves raw data to another system.

A Hybrid Headless CMS is a mix of both headless and traditional architecture, which means it can operate using the traditional coupled architecture with the added benefit of being able to deliver content in a headless fashion.

How headless architecture works?

A headless CMS is a back-end only content management system (CMS) built from the ground up as a content repository that makes content accessible via a RESTful API or GraphQL API for display on any device.

The term “headless” comes from the concept of chopping the “head” (the front end, i.e. the website) off the “body” (the back end, i.e. the content repository). A headless CMS remains with an interface to manage content and a RESTful or GraphQL API to deliver content wherever you need it. Due to this approach, a headless CMS does not care about how and where your content gets displayed. It only one focus: storing and delivering structured content and allowing content editors to collaborate on new content.

When should you consider a headless approach?

  • When your target audience is using multiple devices to consume your content
  • If you have multiple platforms/repositories that contain content, and you want to integrate them to create a seamless customer experience
  • If you want to give your front-end developers more freedom to design without the complexities or restraints from a tradition CMS approach

What are the benefits? Why companies choose a headless CMS

  • Freedom to choose your technology stack, content models, and services to create any online experience
  • Headless CMSs provide IT teams with a secure backend infrastructure, while offering the flexibility to choose a front-end framework that is right for them.
  • Flexibility for Marketers to focus on content management while Developers focus on building engaging experiences
  • Increased speed of publishing content
  • Focus on delivering best-of-breed content production and delivery
  • More flexible design Improved scalability
  • Agility to reuse content and publish across multiple devices and channels
  • Lower costs
  • Fewer updates/less disruption
  • Less need for developer involvement

What are the drawbacks of a headless CMS?

Off-the-shelf headless CMSs aren't a magic bullet to fix all your content challenges. They can come with two major trade-offs that need to be seriously considered.

For one, what you gain in flexibility, you lose in accessibility. Since presentation is left to developers writing JavaScript, non-technical marketers can’t use What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) authoring or editing.

This not only affects the editor but can have substantial impact on your SEO. Headless frameworks rely on client-side rendering of the content. Not every search engine bot is able to do this to the extend needed to fully analyze the content. The frameworks you need for client side rendering can improve your payload significantly. At least for the initial request.

But there is an even bigger potential risk: When you cut the head off a CMS sending customer interaction data between the front end and the back end in real time becomes a lot harder to accomplish. That means you might have a hard time personalizing experiences or run content analytics activities.

Hyper-Personalization has gone from a “nice-to-have” to a table-stakes requirement. Customers are learning what great personalization feels like from industry leaders like Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, and others.

A few Headless CMS examples:

  • CoreMedia
  • Contentful
  • Contentstack
  • Ampliance
  • Bloomreach


Learn More

Headless Basics 01 - The Basics-0001

Introducing CoreMedia Headless - The Basics

CoreMedia Content Cloud features a mature and powerful headless server. Learn from our expert how easy it is for a hybrid like a progressive web app (PWA) for instance to fetch data from CoreMedia's content repository. 

CoreMedia Partner commercetools

Content Cloud for commercetools

commercetools provides a headless API commerce solution for enterprises seeking to deliver innovative and visionary omnichannel experiences. Content Cloud provides the perfect complement to commercetools. Easily manage all your digital assets and enrich your product display. Build next-generation storefronts and content-rich, shoppable brand sites.

GraphQL_gg

Hybrid Headless

Headless content management delivers a big advantage for developers by providing clean APIs and easy access to content for all sorts of native app, browser-based Single Page Apps or Progressive Webapps.

CoreMedia Partner Elastic Path

Content Cloud for Elastic Path

Elastic Path is a pioneer of headless, API-oriented commerce solutions for enterprises. CoreMedia Content Cloud provides the perfect complement to Elastic Path. Build next-generation storefronts and content-rich, shoppable brand sites with ease.

Introducing CoreMedia Headless - Episode 02 Picture

Introducing CoreMedia Headless - Articles and Pictures

In the second episode of our short series about CoreMedia's headless capabilities, we will take a closer look at how to access articles and pictures stored within the content repository from a progressive web app.

Introducing CoreMedia Headless - Episode 03 Blogs and E-Commerce Picture

Introducing CoreMedia Headless - Blogs and E-Commerce Video

In the third episode of our short series about CoreMedia Headless, we take a closer look at how to retrieve content from the CoreMedie repository. Finally, we take a look at how to leverage CoreMedia Headless in an e-commerce scenario.

Introducing CoreMedia Headless - Episode 04 Persistent Queries Video Picture

Introducing CoreMedia Headless - Persistent Queries

For security reasons, you might not want to expose your full GraphQL API to the internet. Instead, you might want to restrict your client's access to a limited set of queries. Persistent queries provide a convenient and secure solution for this problem

Young woman juggling with apple and orange

The difference between a CMS and DXP

Expectations for digital experiences only continue to grow. We have gone from Content Management Systems (CMS) to Web Experience Management (WEM), and now to Digital Experience Platforms (DXP). A lot of people hear these different acronyms and are unsure of the differences, but it is critical to understand what each does before you start to consider a new content system.

portrait of young woman thinking and wonder

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

CMS is short for Content Management System. A Content Management System (CMS) is a software platform that allows users to build and manage one or many websites without having to create (code) it from scratch.

Elegant young lady in white dress

The Next Wave of Change in Retail

This year I attended NRF, the National Retail Federation’s annual mega-conference in New York City. If you’ve been to NRF, you know the conference packs the Javits Center to the gills with technology companies hawking their wares to the world’s retailers. But the environment also provides an opportunity to identify trends that will define the retail landscape – and the eCommerce industry – for years to come.

Profile Picture Placeholder

Florian Fischetti

Headless Person

Going Headless: Understanding the Basics in CoreMedia Content Cloud

With the release of Content Cloud 10, CoreMedia now natively delivers content in a headless fashion via GraphQL. But what is GraphQL and how exactly is it used to fetch content from CoreMedia? This blog post explains everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask. So, why headless?

Icon Tag Tech Talk Headless
Sascha Leyer profile picture

Sascha Leyer

Spartacus

CoreMedia Goes Spartacus

For some time, “headless” has been the hottest trend in Content Management Systems (CMS). And for a very good reason. A headless architecture allows enterprises to separate content data from the frontend display, splitting up the frontend and backend, and therefore paving the way for an agile, microservice-based architecture.

Philip Hemptenmacher profile picture

Philip Hemtenmacher

Headless

Recommended Read #3: Going Headless

It's time for another edition of our ongoing series of recommended reads.

Although we love to share our own ideas on the CoreMedia blog, we'd also like this to be a place to post the thoughts and opinions of other industry leaders - including our partners, customers, and analysts. So, in addition to the guest posts that appear here from time to time, we also like to share links to articles on critical topics in the CMS and DX space. And today's topic is: the headless management of content and commerce.

Doug Heise VP Marketing grey Picture

Doug Heise

UX Layout

How does Salesforce Page Designer Work with a CMS?

Salesforce recently released its new Page Designer tool to address a longstanding need for a basic, visual editor- and page-builder app to complement its Commerce Cloud solution. It’s designed to be an easy-to-use, casual editing tool that empowers business teams. And it supports the creation of content elements and pages with branding in a fast and visual way, much like a simple web content management system (CMS).

Knud Kegel profile picture

Knud Kegel

Commercetools Rocket

Integrating Commercetools with CoreMedia Content Cloud

Over the last few years, CoreMedia Content Cloud has integrated with every major eCommerce system on the market. Some of these are delivered as a bundled product (including Salesforce Commerce Cloud, SAP Commerce Cloud and HCL Commerce) while others are implemented on a project level (including Elastic Path, Magento, Spryker and a variety of homegrown systems).

Philipp Hofmann profile picture

Philipp Hofmann

Painting robots

A Headless Love Triangle

For retailers around the world, having a dynamic virtual storefront is essential. Especially so during these days of lockdown, when online has been the only way brands can sell. And just like with brick-and-mortar stores, the presentation of products is a key factor in the buying decision. So it makes good sense that brands are looking at the best way to revamp their stores with both a functional and visually appealing frontend.

IBM Building

IBM Watson Commerce V9 and Beyond

Migrating to WebSphere Commerce V9The latest version of WebSphere Commerce has been long anticipated. A lot of major architectural changes bring the platform into a new era, but also include a lot of challenges for those updating.

Jochen-Toppe profile picture

Jochen Toppe

Incremental Progress

From Incremental Innovation to Headless Delivery

Business today is rife with challenges. With both software and business requirements evolving at an ever-increasing pace, it can often feel like an impossible challenge to remain relevant in this ever-changing landscape. Your existing software solutions, so recently adequate or even state-of-the-art, soon become old and cumbersome.

Icon Tag ECommerce Headless
Profile Picture Placeholder

Robert Fuller

Piece Puzzle

The Missing Piece: A New Vision for Digital Experience Platforms

It’s all about the experienceMost savvy brands and retailers recognize that great content is at the core of every great online experience. That’s true today and it will remain true in the future. But building and delivering consistent, compelling experiences to consumers across multiple channels and devices is more complicated than ever.

Doug Heise VP Marketing grey Picture

Doug Heise

TV Old

Static is the New Dynamic

Remember when web servers were essentially a metal box with a fixed IP? When web content management meant copy-pasting indecipherable bits of text from the HTML tab in Microsoft Frontpage? And when Amazon’s homepage looked like this in your browser?

Icon Tag Headless Tech Talk UX
AI Roboter

Headless Doesn’t Mean Brainless

This lesson starts with a story.Imagine you work for a medium-sized manufacturer. Your order pipeline is filled to the brim and your production department is running at full capacity for the current year. Great. There’s just one problem: When it comes to digitizing key business processes and models, your company is lagging far behind the competition, especially in the critical area of eCommerce. Problem detected!

Marcel Mueller profile picture

Marcel Müller

Take the Next Step with CoreMedia Content Cloud!

We'd love to get a dialogue going. Contact our experts and we'll schedule a demo.