What the heck is a headless CMS and why would you need one?

Jason Treloar
April 22, 2022
You may have come across the term “Headless CMS” and wondered what this new decapitated development trend is? Brainless it is not. In fact, it is a logical step forward in web development and certainly has its benefits.

So what is a headless CMS?

To understand what a headless CMS is, it is worth recapping briefly on what a traditional one is. A traditional CMS is effectively an admin interface for your content. The content that is uploaded (or fed) into the CMS, is structured and then pushed to a front-end customer or user-facing part (the “head”) of a website, or an app. In essence, the CMS is coupled with only one specific front-end.

This was all very well when people just browsed using a desktop. As content consumers, we all have our own favoured ways of browsing, reading, consuming, be it, laptops, tablet, phones, smart phones, voice interfaces. The list is ever expanding. And it isn’t about to change anytime soon. This proliferation of points at which content can now be consumed has led to a fundamental challenge for businesses and their teams; content editors often have to use more than one CMS to ensure they are interacting and keeping their customers or users up-to-date. From a workflow perspective, this inevitably requires time resource and human resource. In an age when consumers expect and are used to engaging with companies on many different levels, the pressure on small content teams to satisfy this demand is ever-growing. And this is where a headless CMS can be advantageous.

Like a well organised tool shed, a CMS structures content.

A headless CMS is essentially the repository for all content, in exactly the same way as a traditional CMS. Only it has no front-end. It is decoupled from the customer/user-facing presentation layer. It doesn’t care what the presentation layer is. It simply supplies whatever presentation layer it needs to populate with content via feeds. So whether it is a smartphone, website or mobile app, or a third party platform, the content team’s predominant focus is on ensuring the correct content is inputted into the CMS. They don’t need to decide where the content gets fed into, it simply happens automatically.

Getting Ahead(less)!

We have worked with Leicester Tigers and The Sun to deliver a CMS very much in this vein.  For Leicester Tigers in particular, the use case was clear for a headless CMS. Match days are vital in keeping their large fan base up-to-date, particularly if they haven’t been able to make it to the stadium to watch it live. The headless CMS we developed for them allows their incredibly busy content team to publish news and updates in a variety of ways, be it into a match centre on the website, or the match centre on their app, into social media channels, and even via push notifications. A streamlined workflow has given them huge benefits, namely the ability to make more noise, through more presentation layers with a small content team.

Interested in finding out more about how this could help you? Get in touch.