Headless CMS: A Simple Way to Power Web and Mobile Apps

Posted / 13 May, 2021

Author / Enginess

Headless CMS: A Simple Way to Power Web and Mobile Apps

When the topic of headless comes up, it’s usually in the context of ecommerce. Specifically, it’s usually around how headless solutions (e.g. products with decoupled front- and backends) are the future of omnichannel experiences

But there’s another side to headless: content.

Today, we’re going to talk through headless CMSs, and how they can power web and mobile applications.

The Problem

The problem with web and mobile apps for a long time has been that they’re disconnected. The reason you disconnect them is because the functionality and content you need for each is unique, so to deliver the best experience, you need to maintain two, disparate solutions.

For example, on a web application selling shoes, you might have high res photos of your products, along with 360° 3D product views. These are cool, but require a large screen and a strong internet connection to work. 

In contrast, the same store selling the same shoes on your mobile app might have much smaller photos (since it’s a smaller screen) and no 360° 3D product view, since it’s a compromised experience on mobile.

But this simple reality leads to a whole mess of inconvenience: 

  • You have to maintain two points of integration for every backend system
  • Your systems will inevitably fall out of sync
  • Coding and programming takes twice as long
  • Marketing and frontend execution takes twice as many resources

The standard solution was to simply maintain two systems and two teams — each one responsible for wiring and building the right content for the right experience at the right time, in line with the unique aspects of their mobile or web application.

And while this works, it’s not a great fix.

The Headless Solution

Enter the headless CMS. a Headless CMS takes the same general approach as headless ecommerce — you have a single content management system, an API layer, and then all your web and mobile applications. 

Your various application developers build whatever frontend experience they want, then fire API calls to programmatically bring in the content they want. 

It means there’s a true single source of truth for content, which then ends up filtered through all your various channels  in a way that suits each individual one.

And this design comes with a LOT of perks. 

Streamlined content management

For starters this system massively streamlines content management because there’s only ever a single thing to update. 

Let’s go back to our shoe example. Let’s say that you want to promote a specific type of shoe across all your channels in a flash 48 hour sale. 

A traditional approach would have every single promo panel updated manually on every device. 

A headless CMS solution would mean you would simply build and tag your front end promo slots as “promo” then, when you want to run a campaign, you just tag the corresponding content ONCE in the backend.

The API calls will register that it’s a special campaign, and distribute your content instantly across every device. 

Now, let’s say there was a mistake. Let’s say the 48 hour sale is only on the blue shoe, not all colours. Rather than again updating everything manually, you’d just go into the CMS, the single source of truth, make your change there to be always blue, rather than all colours, and watch than change cascade out across your various applications as API calls fire.

Reduced content reproduction / easier version control

By maintaining all your content in a single location, it’s far easier to reuse your content across different campaigns, channels, or applications, which in turn reduces content creation costs and creates a more cohesive brand experience.

At the same time, because all your content is stored in a single location, it’s far easier to version control it as time goes on. 

For example, say you sell a range of technical products, like washing machines. Keeping PDF manuals and user guides up to date is exhausting if they live in multiple places. At the time, if you don’t, you risk offering customers conflicting troubleshooting advice (which is bad).

What a headless CMS, there’s only ever a single copy of a piece of content, so updating the core version needs to happen once, and then that change is reflected everywhere, instantly.

Wrap Up

A headless CMS solves a lot of problems. Yes, it’s more complex to build, and can require buy-in from the organization to rethink their approach to content production and distribution.

But the benefits are huge.

By simplifying all your content into a single source of truth, its’ easier to reuse, reduce production, and manage version control across both web and mobile applications.

And by shifting to a programmatic approach to content distribution, you can remove a ton of manual work, and change to a model where you write the rules and your content appears accordingly.

Most importantly though, a headless CMS solution allows you to deliver content in a cohesive, organized way at scale in an increasingly complex and disorganized omnichannel world. Not only is headless CMS simpler, but soon, it will be the only option for companies who rely on content to drive revenue results.

How do you envision using APIs and Headless? Let us know on Linkedin!

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