Headless CMS Teaser Image

Headless CMS

The way to flexibility and scalability

Headless CMS: The way to flexibility and scalability

Content management systems (CMS) are an important part for businesses to manage their digital content. With the increasing number of channels and devices, managing content and the need to distribute it through different channels is increasing every day, and therefore also the complexity increases. In addition, the need for flexible and easily integrated systems is also increasing. All of this pushes traditional CMS to their limits. 

Traditional CMS solutions are monolithic systems designed for content creation and management as well as content delivery. This means that the CMS is responsible not only for managing content, but also for the presentation layer on the front end. In addition, traditional CMSs tend to be the central system and in some cases also take responsibility for commerce or marketing functions. Since the backend and frontend are tightly coupled and the CMS tends to be the solution for everything, traditional CMSs lose flexibility when it comes to place them in modern architectures and integrating with other tools. This is where headless CMS comes into play.  

Headless CMS has been around for several years now. In recent years, it has received a lot of attention due to the increasing amount of published content and the need to distribute this content through different channels, but also due to the need to better integrate a CMS with other systems into a modern web architectures.  

A headless CMS is a simplified version of a traditional CMS. It has the same concept when it comes to content creation and management, incl. storage, permissions, versioning and workflows. However, unlike the traditional CMS, it does not have the ability and responsibility to take care of the front-end presentation layer. In other words, a headless CMS separates content creation and its management from content delivery. This means that the headless CMS provides the content through the API (Application Programming Interfaces). Other applications - which are completely decoupled from the CMS, take responsibility for the presentation layer. This type of architecture makes it possible for content to be distributed across multiple channels and devices, resulting in a seamless and personalized experience. 

Moreover, Headless CMS are designed to be modular and fit into modern architectures without taking on more tasks than a content management system should have. This way, businesses can add or remove systems modularly at any time without having to change everything. 

Headless CMS vs. Traditional CMS
Headless CMS vs. Traditional CMS

With this concept in place, there is a big advantage for the development teams working on the presentation layer. They don't need to be familiar with the CMS or any other system but can focus on working on their own frontend technology and only use the APIs to get the content they want. This decoupled approach provides the flexibility needed to be always ready to integrate other tools and platforms as well.

Headless CMS in modern Tech Stacks

Headless CMS in a composable architecture

Due to its flexibility, scalability and ability to integrate with other systems, Headless is the ideal type of CMS to be used in a microservices architecture, as a basic but central piece of a DXP (Digital Experience Platform) or use it as an additional component in a composable approach. 

As we know a DXP provides the full suite of tools and headless CMS fits very well into the DXP concept and ecosystem where it enables seamless content delivery of personalized experiences across a variety of digital experiences along with other systems such as customer data platforms, marketing automation tools, analytics, personalization, etc. 

The same is possible for the Composable approach. Headless CMS can be perfectly used as an additional component in a modern composable commerce approach, thus helping to create a unique and personalized shopping experience. To understand how composable architecture improves the customer experience, read this beautiful article by Armin Wurmser. 

Advantages of headless CMS

  • Flexibility is the biggest advantage that Headless CMS bring. Thanks to the API, they can be used in various combinations with other tools and easily accommodated in different IT landscapes. Good enterprise CMSs are not only good in delivering content through their APIs, but also have excellent client APIs to integrate other tools with the CMS. 
  • Performance is another major benefit that improves with a headless CMS. A frontend that is completely decoupled from the backend gives developers the freedom to use the best frameworks that are suitable for their needs and thus develop modern web applications. It's pretty easy to say that this also has a direct impact on the customer experience. 
  • Another important benefit is scalability. With Headless CMS, businesses are able to create and distribute content for various additional channels and devices without having to completely overhaul their existing content management system.

Disadvantages of Headless CMS

Although in most cases this is considered an advantage, there might be cases where a fully decoupled front-end team is considered a disadvantage due to the complexity of dealing with multiple skilled teams working independently. However, this is only the case for small projects. 

The most affected by the disadvantages are the authors. Since the presentation layer is decoupled from the CMS, this leads to a major disadvantage for authors who cannot work with WYSIWYG-like editors, but with more generic form editors that do not reflect the look and feel of the website in the frontend. 

For the same reason of decoupling, the majority of headless CMSs have another drawback, which is the ability to preview content while authors are working on it. 

Magnolia: Best-In-Class Headless Enterprise CMS

Composable Commerce 3
WYSIWYG Editor in Magnolia

Magnolia is an enterprise CMS that besides its flexibility, scalability and readiness to fit and be integrated in any modern tech stack, it also offers great authoring capabilities. With its user-friendly administration interface, authors can easily create and manage content. It offers and covers all the advanced features that are important for businesses.  

With its advanced WYSIWYG editor, Magnolia overcomes the disadvantages of headless CMS because even as a headless CMS, authors can see the page exactly as it appears on the front-end when creating or editing them. It also provides the ability to preview content and see how it will look on different devices. 

 Because of the great flexibility to fit in modern architectures, to be integrated with different tools and platforms, and advanced authorial features, we have used Magnolia as a headless CMS to build our Merkle Composable Storefront Accelerator. 

Merkle Composable Storefront Accelerator

Composable storefront - Magnolia & Salesforce Commerce Cloud
Merkle Composable Storefront Accelerator

Merkle Composable Storefront Accelerator is a product based on Salesforce Composable Storefront, Magnolia and Salesforce Commerce Cloud.  

Salesforce Commerce Cloud covers the commerce part, Magnolia serves as the Content Management System and the Salesforce Composable Storefront uses these two tools to display both commerce and content on the storefront. Each of these three tools work independently, but they are integrated through the excellent APIs that Magnolia and Salesforce Commerce Cloud provide. In addition to the full integration of these tools, our Accelerator is a great foundation to start any project, as it includes numerous implemented templates and components based on the Merkle SFCC Design System.