The future is Headless... Why you should choose a Headless CMS for your next project

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Deciding on the best CMS for your project is a major decision.

When you think of a CMS, you probably think about WordPress. It’s certainly a firm favourite here at Bulb, due to its ease of use and compatibility with third party systems. Even better- it is open source, so there aren’t any hefty subscription costs.

At Bulb, we regularly review our development processes and technological recommendations, in order to ensure we deliver the best possible experience for our clients, as well as ensure our websites perform optimally. One advancement which we are extremely excited about is the utilisation of Headless websites. As a result, we are adopting this as a primary technological approach moving forwards. Let me explain why..

What is a CMS?

Historically, each unique webpage had to be created by an experienced web developer. Content Management Systems (CMS) were created as a means of allowing non technical editors (the likes of you and I) to publish content on these webpages, without needing to edit the code, or worse, accidentally mess up the design because you selected the wrong thing.

There are numerous CMS’s on the market, all with varying levels of complexity and structure. However traditional CMS’s all have one thing in common- everything is ‘bundled’ together; the CMS acts as an interface in front of the entire website’s code. The front end (what you see on the webpage itself) and the backend (the code which contains all of the data and functionality) are tightly coupled together and are loaded at the same time when you access a website.

So what is a Headless website and why is it a big deal?

Traditional CMS’s worked brilliantly when the majority of web surfing was done via a desktop. However in the age where mobile internet access accounts for the majority of traffic, traditional websites cannot serve the content quick enough to ensure an optimum mobile experience, because it is trying to serve a heck of a lot of code in one go, particularly if the website has complex features or lots of content.

This problem led to a ‘revolution’- Headless websites and CMS’s. This approach completely separates the front and back end; the back end (body) and the front end (head) work entirely independently, with APIs being used to provide communication between the two systems. This provides huge improvements in multiple ways…

Improved speed and search engine optimisation

As your ranking on search engines is now entirely determined by your mobile performance, slow speeds are a major issue, both for your SEO and your customer experience. We live in an age where quick loading times and rapid transitions are equally important as intuitive structures and insightful content.

As Headless websites serve the front and back end separately, the site loads far quicker because only the front end is seen by the end user. This leads to superior user experiences- Google love super speedy sites, so this helps you rise up the ranks and get more visitors in the long term. Excellent!

Faster development, faster time to launch

When developing a traditional CMS, you need to develop the CMS & front end separately. This often requires two developers, who need to work separately. The development of a Headless CMS is far quicker than a traditional CMS, as the developers can work in parallel.

At Bulb, all our developers are able to work on both the front and back end of our websites, which speeds up our development time even further- reducing project timelines considerably.

Increased security and reliability

Arguably the biggest advantage of Headless CMS’s is the increased security and reliability. Security across websites and digital products is a critical concern for business leaders- the consequences of not getting this right are simply too great.

Plugins vs APIs

Most people have heard of plugins- they allow third parties, such as CRM systems, off-the-shelf web forms and other useful tools to communicate with a website. They are also fantastic at extending the functionality available within a CMS extremely cost effectively.

The downside of plugins, particularly those which are open source, is that they can easily introduce vulnerabilities and other security risks to the website if they aren’t well maintained by their makers. This can leave a business vulnerable for malicious attacks and hacks, or can result in incompatibilities and breakages which affect the customer experience.

Headless CMS’s utilise APIs instead of plugins, which are more secure than plugins, as they need to be installed and maintained by a knowledgeable development team, who can easily check their security and reliability. Most of the ‘big player’ third party providers have comparable APIs, meaning there is no compromise on functionality. However it is worth bearing this in mind and checking compatibility if you have a firm requirement for a specific plugin with your upcoming project.

For business critical websites, this increased security and peace of mind is a game changer.

Future Proofed and Adaptable

Business needs evolve, objectives and targets change and technology moves on at pace. Headless CMS’s provide adaptability and flexibility; because the back and front end are separate, you can choose to swap out your CMS or front end at any point, without needing to complete a costly redesign or development phase.

Utilising content from different sources

Headless CMS’s allow the same content to be displayed across multiple platforms. This allows for much greater flexibility when wanting to utilise the same content across multiple channels, such as sharing content across a website and a digital product. This dramatically reduces the amount of time needed to maintain content across multiple systems, whilst having the added benefit of reducing human error.

This works for the same for user tracking and other meaningful data which can be utilised to improve business performance and customer experience. Having the content across multiple systems available in one place allows you to understand how people are engaging with the brand across the various channels, providing a more holistic overview and allowing you to respond quickly to users needs.

Flexibility and scalability

With traditional website, the content infrastructure is typically based around pages, which are made up of fixed templates. These templates are made up of patterns. Traditional CMS’s commonly contain such restrictions in order to reduce the chance of error and breakages within the CMS. If you want to create new page templates entirely in the CMS, a lot of extra time (and budget) is needed.

Headless CMS’s work differently- and much more flexibly. Crucially, pages are not following a fixed structure or design as standard, because a different framework is used for organising content. This means you can stitch different patterns together in the CMS, providing efficient curation and creation of new pages as the business requires, without having to pay for increased flexibility. There’s no need to commission another hefty design and development phase, as you aren’t ‘locked’ into rigid templates, meaning you are much better positioned to adapt to actual user behaviour.

However there’s no need to worry about ‘going rogue’ and negatively altering the user experience. At Bulb, our helpful support & maintenance packages have you covered; we will help advise on any required changes of this nature, selecting the best pattern from your library to utilise, whilst making sure the user experience remains the priority. Then the change itself is done in minutes in the CMS- no more waiting weeks to get a new page commissioned, or a pattern removed. This means you can better utilise your time and energy on insightful content and customer engagement.

 

So if reliability, security, flexibility and reduced project timelines all sound good to you, let’s have a chat about how you could benefit from a headless solution.