“Companies that take a headless approach gain the agility to keep up with customer expectations, put their own unique touches on front-end experiences, and even expand into new channels and markets.”Forrester Research
Headless is recognized as one of the biggest facilitators of modern web experiences. It allows organizations to deliver fast, secure, scalable and customer-centric digital experiences by decoupling a website’s front-end (what the customer sees) from the back-end (what developers and content editors see) through an API-driven architecture. Decoupling content from presentation is a promise that’s been made in a lot of ways over the years with CMS and as an industry, frankly, we haven’t lived up to it. Headless architectures allow us to deliver on that promise.
Traditional CMS are set up to fail.
Non-headless, traditional CMSs are known as monolithic, and most current CMS meet this definition. Monolithic means the code that controls the presentation and the content are tightly coupled in a single platform. For this reason, they’re set up to fail because presentation and content – no matter how separate we try to make them – have necessary dependencies on one another with traditional CMS. Each has to be considered at the time you’re working on the other because it’s within the same platform, resulting in sub-optimal speed, innovation, and restrictive brand experiences.
Headless architecture is a compelling solution.
Your brand story is made up of both really good content and really good experiences. They undoubtedly have to yin and yang to bring your brand to life, but they’re distinct – and we do better to think about them that way. Headless lets us do that by separating content from presentation. Think about content holding everything important you want to say to the customer, and presentation being how they experience that content. Headless architectures lets marketers build unique experiences across all channels so that consumers can experience your brand content properly on each precise channel – be it on web, mobile, voice, wearable or other device.
Transitioning from a traditional CMS to a headless architecture helps organizations fulfill the customer’s promised omnichannel journey in a way that’s simpler for both the marketer and the technical architect – delivering more impactful experiences that meet the customer where they are – with the content they need.
Whether you’re just starting to think about the possibilities of headless architecture or you’re down the road to choosing an implementation partner, here are 9 reasons why it’s time to step on the gas and adopt headless this year:
9 Reasons to adopt a Headless Architecture
1. You’ll be able to focus on creating the best content to tell your brand story.
Content is still king. Decoupling content production from content delivery helps organizations maximize the effectiveness of their message. In a monolithic CMS environment, content production is restrained in that it’s written to fit each specific display; every time you produce content you have to worry about how it will be displayed. In a headless architecture, the content repository is created and maintained independent and without consideration of the front-end experience. That allows marketers to create channel-agnostic content (once) that makes sense as content, while pushing the “head” to the front-end layer that deploys it best. When the content author isn’t worried about the presentation, they can focus on what they want to say, to whom, and when – and less about the presentation or what content needs to fit where in a template. The end result is higher quality content, allowing brands to tell their story in the most impactful way. And, the consumer gets what they want – valuable, consistent and informative experiences.
2. You’ll regain control over the presentation – or how the customer experiences your content.
Decoupling content from the complexity of the CMS presentation in a headless architecture means that marketing teams can design customer experiences to fit the channel it’s being consumed on. Since content is provided as data (from a central hub) over an API rather than coupled to a specific display, the front-end experience can be designed precisely as needed – allowing front-end developers to deliver content-rich experiences to the user in the most human-centered, conversion-focused way possible for each channel. Each channel is unique and therefore the presentation of content must fit the intricacies of that channel – whether that’s a watch, computer, Alexa device, or other IoT screen. Headless makes that possible.
3. You’ll improve your site’s Core Web Vitals.
Better content leads to better SEO, plain and simple. Better code leads to faster load times. These two come together with headless. If content can be written without worrying about fitting H2s, H3s and other copy into a specific front-end framework, the content can be better optimized – spending more time on keywords, language structure, and link structure, independent of CMS idiosyncrasies. Meanwhile, developers can focus on writing more optimized code – leading to faster editing and deployment as well as better website response and loading times (both prioritized by Google when it comes to SEO ranking).
4. You’ll scale faster and limit re-platforming with a future-proof technology stack.
Monolithic CMS platforms become obsolete every several years, requiring upgrades and in some cases, re-platforming. There’s a good chance your marketing team has spent time loading perfectly good content from one CMS to another due to a technical problem or change in CMS. We call these “Lift and Shift” projects. Rather than jumping from one monolithic suite to another, with headless each technology comes as an individual component of the stack, making it easy to scale as you grow – with the ability and add, replace, or remove technologies in the future without impacting the content (or vice versa). Server-side scalability is also enhanced as pages are assembled on an individual’s browser (browser-based compilation) rather than the server itself, thus accommodating for heavy or unexpected traffic loads (e.g. Black Friday, State Lottery sites, etc.). Headless architectures allow us to utilize CDNs across the world which helps foster better web vitals and performance, and ultimately, enhanced customer experience.
5. You’ll benefit from content efficiency (and governance) across the enterprise.
It’s not unlikely for some enterprises to have multiple divisions or sub-brands that use different platforms for their web presence. That can result in messy, decentralized content siloes and worse, a lack of consistency in brand communication. Headless architectures allow organizations to have governance over enterprise content by having a centralized hub (“body”) for content that is syndicated across the various front-end “heads” – allowing for universal one-time editing, and importantly, governance to ensure that brand standards are being maintained. Privacy policies, ‘about us’ pages, and regulatory information will be consistent across implementations as they’re referencing a single source of content truth. This normalization of content promotes a more seamless experience, while reducing the time to bring new digital solutions to market by reusing content across channels.
6. You’ll more easily and securely integrate new (or replace old) technologies into your digital experience without effecting the entire ecosystem.
In a non-headless world, integrating third-party platforms requires architects to integrate entire codebases. It’s cumbersome and really, it’s not sensible. With a headless architecture, we’re able to integrate at the touchpoints that matter rather than entire systems. For example, if you’re integrating a CRM system with your website – you may only care about a few key touchpoints such as profile data (for personalization) and conversion data to store in the CMS. You may not need to touch the product catalogue, shareholder information, product reviews, or other data. Since the backend logic is completely separate from the presentation – you can “frame in” and present the customer with data/content from the touchpoint they need to enhance the experience. And if that integration is no longer appropriate, you have the flexibility to simply pull out and replace that specific integration. This requires less code, lower risk and the flexibility to change (deploying a best-in-breed approach) or remove touchpoints without risking the entire platform. Strong public-facing APIs are critical, though, to give access to every function within the platform and work with all front-end framework. Connecting data pieces with each front-end presentation layer on an as-needed basis is much less risky than exposing data by integrating entire platforms.
7. You’ll increase security by offering less surface area to attack.
Every time you deploy big pieces to your website, there’s some risk to security that’s involved. In the simplest headless scenario, front-end pages are “talking to” a public-facing API that pulls relevant content. As long as we secure that endpoint for content there’s no other way to hack it. The CMS is hidden, removing equipment from what the visitor has access to (e.g. the server); in essence, there’s no page-building logic to exploit. The security of the API plus the security of the headless architecture combined to give less surface area for attackers. And easier to secure means less chance of mistake, which means less chance of getting hacked. Win, win.
8. You’ll be able to extend and adapt your technology solutions to last longer.
As markets and business needs change – your technology requirements and vision may also evolve in response to unknown challenges. Integrating at data points through an API allows organizations to change content platforms or “heads” without re-integrating entire back-end systems. Because it’s data-specific rather than platform-specific it’s more extensible. If first-party technologies change and newer, better technologies become available, they can easily be replaced and re-integrated through the API without massive re-integration efforts or rebuilds. It’s a better, faster, less risky, and cheaper way to pivot to meet changing business needs or issues that may arise with current platform integrations. Rather than recompiling an entire site when something happens, you can operate on portions of what actually needs to be changed. This also makes organizations nimble and future-proof enough to adopt new technologies that may arise. Rather than cost-prohibitive projects to “rip an replace” the CMS every 5-7 years, you can just extend it so that it’s never outdated and always providing customers with the modern experience they need.
9. Your marketing and IT teams can be more creative and innovate faster.
If reasons #1-8 weren’t strong enough, consider this: headless architectures not only decouples your content from presentation but it also decouples marketing and IT teams from their reliance on each other. Using a traditional CMS, content editors usually have to wait until the end of the development phase to begin populating the site. Now they can work in parallel. Marketing teams can employ front-end developers (or outsource that work), reducing their reliance on IT for regular web updates, creating new CMS templates to fit their content models, or lengthy change management procedures. Likewise, IT has the freedom to choose best-in-breed technologies unrestrained by marketing dependencies. That equals greater bandwidth to focus on delivering the most innovative experience possible – enabling marketing teams to respond quickly to any new trend – or better yet, innovate on the next one.
Ready to learn whether your organization can benefit from a headless architecture?