I am a marketer. And after working in the technology industry for some years, as well as being married to a tech geek (he would say god), I tend to know a little
more about technology than most marketers out there. However, after attending a recent industry conference and hearing the Headless CMS, I was interested and yet a little confused.
I began to search for information and read tech blogs to learn more. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to grasp the full concept of what this new technology would mean for marketers because most of the information I found was written for developers. However, I was able to mentally stitch the technical details together to figure out the bits and pieces, but I still did not have a complete understanding of how this product could affect marketers in an everyday scenario.
I continued to research, and then I turned to a friend (more on that later) who was able to help me pull all of my research together and build a better picture of how a headless CMS fits into the marketing landscape. Below is my view of what the Headless CMS is and how it could affect marketers in various business scenarios.
A Marketers Definition of Headless CMS
After all of this research effort, I felt that sharing my non-techni
cal definition of what a Headless CMS is would benefit other marketers out there that may be questioning whether this is something they should explore, fear, or adopt.
A Headless CMS is a modular (or separated) way for marketers and developers to manage content and build code to support the display and functionality of that content. And when I say separated I mean, that the content you write doesn't co-exist within the same platform (like a regular CMS) as the code that the developers write.
Structure and Function
So how does a Headless CMS work exactly and how do marketers use it? To begin, you should know that a good Headless CMS product provides the following:
- A simple user interface that might look similar to your current CMS. This is where marketers can build and house their content like they normally do.
- A place for developers to code. None of that really matters to you, so I will not detail that here.
- A delivery system that allows the content and code to work together to be displayed in your various marketing channels.
Does Headless Help or Hurt the Marketer?
There is a ton of chatter on the web and in web development circles about whether the Headless CMS is a solution that businesses will adopt, and whether development companies will get on board and start selling it as part of their services. I have found that some people don't like the idea of a Headless CMS at all because it could cause a shift in business models.
This controversy is what got me thinking about whether the Headless CMS is a good for product for marketers to consider or not. I hit up the web again, and like most technology solutions, this isn't about whether a Headless CMS is good or bad, it's about whether it is right for a given situation or business need.
Headless Business Scenarios
I figured that providing some examples of the best business cases in which to use a Headless CMS would be useful. Below are some examples with a brief explanation of each.
Suppose you don’t have a website! Maybe you only
have a mobile app or an Apple Watch app? These are perfect examples of how using a headless CMS would help you get content pushed to those places quickly and easily - without extra time managing the input of the content separately for those different platforms.
Publishing Content to Multiple Channels
Many marketers work for large corporations that have many marketing channels. The building, managing, and
publishing of content across all those different locations is extremely time-consuming (no matter how many interns you may have). With a Headless CMS, you can build one set of content and have it distributed to all your channels: the web, mobile, print, IoT devices… you name it a Headless CMS can handle it.
Some marketers have content spread all across the web. They can use a Headless CMS to grab it and aggregate it in one location that they can then manage easily in one place. A good example of this is what I learned from my friend Bryan Soltis
. I picked his brain a bit about the Headless CMS over a beer, ok, a couple of beers. Bryan is a Technical Evangelist for Kentico
, and a developer. Bryan shared a hands-on view of his website www.soltisweb.com
. This site is a perfect example of aggregated content using a Headless CMS. Bryan is pulling all the information on the site from various content sources, and he built it using Kentico's newly launched Headless CMS product called Kentico Cloud
Secondary Content Management
Some companies have large custom web applications that are not hosted in a traditional CMS. However, they may need to add small bits of content, ads, or marketing text to different areas of the app for the purpose of marketing to the end users. An example of this might be an online banking application. The Headless CMS option is perfect for this scenario - it offers marketers the ability to push the content to the end users (after some development time) without needing a development company to build massive integrations for the entire application.
There are probably many more options for using Headless CMS; these are just a few obvious examples. With the current innovations surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT), there will most definitely be new uses for the Headless CMS and exciting opportunities for marketers to take advantage of this technology.
Should you migrate all your content to a Headless CMS?
During my conversation with Bryan, I began to wonder, would it make sense for a marketer to migrate their current website content from a traditional CMS to a Headless CMS? Bryan was confident in his stance that migrating to a Headless CMS is not the best practice for this technology. The best way to move to a Headless CMS is to plan to start over and plan a solid roadmap of where your content needs to be displayed using Headless CMS. This option will be costly, make sure you have a solid business reason to do this.
With a Headless CMS, marketers get a simple and focused interface for managing their content, while developers have the freedom to create technology-agnostic solutions.
-Bryan Soltis, Technical Evangelist, Kentico
What about the Cost Differences?
Again, depending on the number of marketing channels you have and your business need, a Headless CMS will save you money in direct marketing content development costs. However, you will incur more costs from a development standpoint. You will have to manage how all of that content is displayed on different devices and platforms - this takes different kinds of code and the time to develop all that code. Be sure your decision to move to a Headless CMS is made only after working with a technology partner that understands both the business and technical cases for moving to a headless solution.
Should you fear the Headless CMS?
There are so many reasons not
to fear Headless CMS solutions within the context of the right business need. The Headless CMS offers marketers a view into the possibilities of marketing more effectively using technology. Like augmented reality and the Internet of Things, the Headless CMS offers marketers opportunities to reach new markets and begin to envision different methods of interacting with customers. As we move into the future, it is clear that both technology and marketing go hand-in-hand and it is vital that we are open to these kinds of advancements and the opportunities they offer us to grow and learn about our industries. As marketers and technologists, we must stay innovative and forward-thinking to remain relevant and profitable in our industries.
Headless CMS Product Options
In case you are interested in researching Headless CMS product options, below are a few I found. Good luck!
Kentico Cloud is the cloud-first headless CMS and digital experience platform. Users can manage structured content for multi-channel delivery, use the API-first CMS to display that content on any website or device, and track visitor interactions to personalize the digital experience.
Contentful is an API-driven content management developer platform that combines a powerful API with structured content, a micro service architecture, and a rich development ecosystem.
Sadly, they didn’t have an “About Us” page on their website (who doesn’t have that?). Therefore, instead of writing it for them, you can just check out their website.