With so many vendors and so many Headless CMS solutions out there, how do you make the best decision for your business?
In our last post, we talked about how a Headless CMS could be the solution to several of your business needs, and if you’re here you may be ready to make the next step in implementing a headless CMS solution to your technology stack. It can be difficult trying to justify another business expense, so it’s prudent to ensure all your bases are covered. How should you go about finding the right vendor for a technology that is relatively new? This is how we would do our window shopping.
What to look for in your Headless CMS implementation partner
Find a partner to help you validate if you actually need a headless CMS solution.
It would be nice if we lived in a world where everyone always had your best interest in mind, but that isn’t the case. Avoid a situation where you end up with an unneeded expense.
A good partner should be able to learn what your business use cases are, validate what your problems are, and then determine the best approach to implementing the proper solution. A trusted partner will care to learn how your marketing and IT departments work together, learn what their skill sets are (and where there may be gaps), and how all these pieces coalesce to help you achieve your digital ambitions. By performing a structured and thorough “digital experience audit” or “technology audit” they can steer you in the right direction.
Find a vendor with a broad lens that can help you make the right selection.
Ideally, the headless solution you’re implementing is going to be something your business uses for a long time. In the past, when you built a website you knew its lifespan was going to be 5-7 years because either the technology would stop being useful or the presentation of content wouldn’t be useful. That’s what you see with most traditional CMSs. With the right headless CMS solution, you’re more likely to find your content repository might live for 12 years, your API lives for 15 years, and your front-end can be adapted every few months to keep up with a market that changes rapidly. Therein lies the “future-proof” value of headless.
The right vendor will use a data-driven approach to understand your business strategy to recommend exactly which headless CMS will be the right fit to meet your goals. They must also be experienced and savvy to the technical side of headless so they can implement that headless CMS.
Something important to note:
The headless version of your current CMS might not be the right fit for you.
It bears repeating:
The headless version of your current CMS might not be the right fit for you.
Not all headless development platforms are created equal; some feel like a bolt-on to a traditional CMS, some feel like a hybrid headless CMS, and others are going to be pure headless implementations. The right partner will help you meet your long term goals by helping you pick the right headless solution.
Find a partner that can help you custom-fit and integrate the proper solution.
What’s really cool about headless CMS solutions is that there are a lot of them. However, with more options in play, choosing the proper solution can feel daunting. With so much variety, the implementation strategy also varies. The vendor you choose will end up either adding headless to your current CMS or ripping out your current CMS and replacing it with your new headless development solution.
Some organizations will benefit from a gradual transition, where the changes being made can feel that they are being made at a comfortable pace. For others the best strategy will be more abrasive, akin to “ripping the band-aid off” and putting in your new headless CMS right away. The right partner will help you determine the proper solution; they’ll help you in developing budgets and perhaps even writing an RFP to solicit proposals from the various headless development vendors.
Find a partner that has a multifaceted implementation team.
You understand how crucial a great user experience is for having a digital property that gets users excited enough to come back time and time again. Having the right headless CMS can make it so it’s easier than ever for your marketing and IT teams to provide great user experiences. By decoupling the content side of your website and the technical side of your website both teams become more agile. Now that a business has a nimble platform, it can keep up with a rapidly changing market if you they have the manpower to support it.
Find teams that can fulfill all the needs in implementing the technology side of this headless CMS and can fulfill all the needs in providing content to populate an eventual content pipeline. For everyone’s sanity to stay intact and workplace stress staying low, the content that will be filling the headless CMS needs to be structured, and it needs to exist in a workflow that makes sense. The right partner aggregates the right content from across your organization or enterprise. They can apply an editorial review to that content, they can apply governance to that content, and they can even apply translation to that content.
The right partner’s technical team will be strong enough to look at the technology landscape inside your business and outside. They know what systems are there and what pieces need to be implemented to improve the user experience. Don’t forget, since this is a long-term solution the right partner will be able to perform the necessary maintenance to ensure your platform is continuously optimized. Find a multifaceted implementation team to see the best results when implementing a headless CMS solution.
Find a headless development partner with legitimate experience developing APIs.
The best partner will have legitimate and wide-ranging experience developing APIs, both internal and public-facing (which is critical). Having a great API is paramount to a successful headless CMS deployment, so you need a partner that can develop an API that is secure, flexible, performant, and maintainable.
If you had to prioritize what’s most important when developing and API is it needs to be secure. An API is a public gateway to all your organization’s data and needs to be taken very seriously. Don’t be vulnerable. Don’t expose yourself. Then, your API should be flexible. The world is moving faster than ever, and you want your front-end and your back-end to be efficient when keeping up so you can reliably evolve the experience. You need a performant API because that API is now doing a lot of the heavy lifting that was traditionally done by server-side page creation. Your API needs to be able to service whatever traffic might come to your digital property. Your API needs to be maintainable, the easier it is to stay on top of it as changes are made and updates occur the more peace of mind you get.
Questions to ask your vendor
Feel secure when picking the right headless development partner. Some questions to consider asking when interviewing them include:
- What headless CMS do they work with?
- Is their process data-driven?
- What is their experience building secure public-facing APIs?
- How well does your vendor integrate with IT?
- Is your vendor in it for the long term?
- Can your vendor support complex hybrid cloud environments?
Ask for examples that relate to these questions, ask them about their processes and what it’s like to work with them, ask to see their portfolio so you can really gauge what their work experience is like. You could ask probing questions like “Tell me about times you worked with IT to expose a certain kind of data”.
You’ve done the work to get the proverbial ball rolling, and you should feel excited as you make a confident decision that’ll lead you and your organization to a more agile and future-proof headless solution. If you have more questions about selecting a headless CMS developer and partner, please reach out and we will be happy to discuss.