While a headless content management system (CMS) does provide an API, just having a simple API does make your CMS headless.
There are a lot of providers and platforms that claim all you need is an API to turn your CMS into a headless software.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the importance of an API with a headless CMS, and what really makes a content management system headless.
What Is An API?
An API, also called application programming interface, enables different applications and computer programs to communicate with each other. APIs request and invoke actions in another program.
APIs are often used in software to create more flexible data and features. It also makes a program more flexible and integrable with other applications.
Why Is The Integration Of API So Vital To A Headless CMS?
A headless CMS keeps the design in the frontend separate from the content management in the backend.
An API is the centerpiece of a headless CMS that allows the backend database to be connected to different channels and devices.
The content delivery to different channels is what makes headless content management systems so attractive to businesses and well known brands that want to target customers through different touchpoints.
Challenges With A Traditional CMS Instead Of A Headless CMS
Unlike a headless CMS, a monolithic CMS platform, such as Drupal, Joomla or WordPress, comes with an integrated frontend layer which links directly into the backend.
This means that any content has to be created and delivered in the exact template and format of the content management system.
There is no flexibility in the different channels that traditional CMS can deliver to. They are usually either a static website or specific web applications.
This means that content creators are limited where and how they can distribute content for their marketing campaigns.
While there are different headless CMS providers on the market, they are often expensive, so businesses sometimes choose to add an interface-building software to their traditional CMS backend.
This allows them to create a cheaper headless solution but a modified traditional CMS also comes at a cost with plenty of drawbacks.
Concerns About Security, Speed And Stability Related To Plugins
The majority of traditional content management platforms make extensive use of extensions and plugins.
Many features are based on third-party plugins that are often associated with concerns around speed, stability and security.
Using a lot of plugins on a website will slow down the performance of the site, which can also impact your SEO ranking because search engines, such as Google, have very specific performance requirements for websites.
Another problem with plugins is that they are developed by third-party developers who do not always regularly update their plugins.
This means that old, outdated plugins can quickly break or even crash your site.
But one of the biggest concerns with third-party integrations like plugins is that they pose a serious security and privacy risk.
A Poor Editorial Workflow
The editorial workflow in a traditional content management system will always be based on themes and templates, even if you choose to add a separate omnichannel delivery tool to your CMS.
This means that content creators are still stuck with the platform’s architecture and content structure. This can only be changed if you work with a true headless CMS.
Whenever your content management system requires a hosting service (either on an external server or in-house), you will need to consider the costs of maintenance, updates and security.
This makes any type of traditional CMS an expensive long-term solution.
In comparison, a headless CMS is cloud-based and therefore managed and hosted by the vendor.
This means there are no separate costs for hosting, management or even scaling your website and CMS in future.
If you are looking for complete freedom on what you design and how you manage your content, then a traditional CMS simply sets too many restrictions.
On the other hand, a headless CMS allows you to choose the technology that works best for you and the customer experience that you are looking to create.
The Advantages Of A True API-based Headless CMS
While a headless content management system is significantly more expensive than a hybrid version of traditional CMS and omnichannel distribution software, there are some clear advantages to a pure API-based headless CMS.
More Flexible APIs
The majority of content management systems come with APIs and integrations that can pull content from a database.
However, a true headless solution will use specific APIs for individual functionality. This means that you can get a much more customized system for your business needs.
Supports Any Frontend Design
One of the biggest advantages with a genuinely headless CMS is that it can support any frontend and presentation layer fully customized for your brand presence.
In a headless CMS, the backend and the frontend are linked through APIs. These APIs can be changed and adjusted easily, so you can plug in different applications and designs.
This is especially important when you are working with mobile apps, traditional application programming languages and other frontend frameworks.
Headless Is Based On APIs
All headless content management systems architecture is based on the concept that APIs were there first.
In comparison, traditional CMS use templates and pages as a base for any APIs which are added on top.
Headless CMS As A Service
As mentioned above, a good headless content management system is cloud-based and it is hosted on the vendor’s servers.
This means that the vendor offers the platform and all related version upgrades, maintenance and security updates as part of the service package.
You should not expect to spend any time or money on updates with a good SaaS headless CMS.
Headless Always Supports Multiple Channels
Technically, almost any type of content management system can stretch to content delivery for different channels, but content managers would need to create content for each individual channel.
This is immensely time-consuming and it can also introduce errors. In addition, maintaining content in this way is also very difficult.
On the other hand, a specific headless CMS can serve content to as many different platforms, audiences and channels as you want, and it is all done through one content source.
Content creators and managers will just have to ensure that there are rules and integrations in place to create and optimize the content.
A Headless CMS Is Fully Flexible And Scalable
Before making a decision on your content management system, it’s worthwhile trying a few different options.
After all, a CMS is a significant investment of your business resources, and your digital presence will depend on the new platform.
The right platform should fit your business needs, now and in the future. Make sure that your new CMS does cover everything you want to do for the next three to five years.
Simply having an API with your content management system does not transform your platform into a headless CMS.
On the contrary, a hybrid of traditional CMS and content distribution tools can be much more costly in the long run giving you a lot less flexibility than a genuine headless CMS.
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