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Headless CMS vs traditional CMS

A headless CMS, or a content management system, is a type of software that allows users to create, edit, and manage digital content. A traditional CMS, on the other hand, is a system that is designed to manage and display content on a website or other platform. But, which type of CMS - headless or traditional is better? The best choice depends on the specific needs and goals you have with your website. Both types of CMS systems have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice will depend on what you will be using your CMS for.

The difference between a headless CMS and a traditional CMS

One of the main differences between a headless CMS and a traditional CMS is the way they handle the display of content. A headless CMS stores and manages content in a database, but does not have any built-in means of displaying that content. Instead, it relies on APIs (application programming interfaces) to deliver content to other systems, which are responsible for rendering and displaying it. This allows for greater flexibility in terms of how and where the content can be displayed, as it can be delivered to multiple platforms and devices.

A traditional CMS, on the other hand, typically includes a front-end component that is responsible for rendering and displaying content on a website or other platform. This means that the content is tied to a specific platform, and cannot be easily repurposed or displayed on other systems without significant additional effort.

Another key difference between the two types of CMS is the level of control they offer over the design and layout of the content. A traditional CMS typically includes a set of templates and themes that can be used to control the appearance of the content. This can make it easier for users who are not familiar with web design to create visually appealing content, but it can also be limiting in terms of the level of customization that is possible.

A headless CMS, on the other hand, does not have any built-in templates or themes, and instead relies on the front-end system to handle the display of the content. This gives developers greater control over the appearance of the content, but may require more technical knowledge to implement.

Benefits of a headless CMS:

  • Greater flexibility: A headless CMS allows for greater control over the display of content and can be easily integrated with multiple platforms and devices. This can be particularly useful for organizations that need to deliver content to a wide range of channels or devices.
  • Scalability: A headless CMS can be more scalable, as it relies on APIs to deliver content to other systems. This can make it easier to add new channels or platforms without requiring significant additional development effort.
  • Customization: A headless CMS does not have any built-in templates or themes, which gives developers greater control over the appearance of the content. This can be particularly useful for organizations that need to create highly customized or branded experiences.
  • Cloud-based: The content is stored on the cloud, which ensures greater security and scalability for digital channels. Moreover, the content is typically delivered through a content delivery network (CDN) to enhance performance, improve reliability, and provide better protection against DDoS attacks.

Disadvantages of a headless CMS:

  • Technical expertise required: A headless CMS may require more technical expertise to set up and maintain, as it relies on APIs to deliver content to other systems. This can be a challenge for organizations that do not have a strong technical team.
  • User-friendliness: A headless CMS may not be as user-friendly for non-technical users, as it does not have any built-in templates or themes to work with. This can make it more difficult for non-technical users to create visually appealing content.

Advantages of a traditional CMS:

  • Ease of use: A traditional CMS typically includes a set of templates and themes that can be used to control the appearance of the content. This can make it easier for users who are not familiar with web design to create visually appealing content.
  • Pre-built templates and themes: A traditional CMS may offer a wider range of pre-built templates and themes to choose from, which can be particularly useful for organizations that need to create a large volume of content quickly.
  • No additional development required: A traditional CMS includes a front-end component that is responsible for rendering and displaying content on a website or other platform. This means that the content is tied to a specific platform, and does not require any additional development work to be displayed.

Disadvantages of a traditional CMS:

  • Limited flexibility: A traditional CMS is typically designed to display content on a specific platform, and may not be easily repurposed or displayed on other systems without significant additional effort.
  • Limited scalability: A traditional CMS may be less scalable, as it may require additional development work to add new channels or platforms.
  • Limited customization: A traditional CMS may be less customizable, as it relies on pre-built templates and themes to control the appearance of the content.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to both headless CMS and traditional CMS systems. A headless CMS can be more flexible and scalable, as it allows for greater control over the display of content and can be easily integrated with multiple platforms and devices. However, it may require more technical expertise to install and maintain, and may not be as user-friendly for non-technical users. But you can learn, right?

A traditional CMS, on the other hand, can be easier to use and may offer more pre-built templates and themes to choose from. However, it may be less flexible and may not be as easily integrated with other systems.

Ultimately, the choice between a headless CMS and a traditional CMS will depend on the specific needs and goals of the organization or individual using it. Both types of CMS systems have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice will depend on the context in which the CMS will be used.

What is the Best Headless CMS?

There is no single "best" headless CMS as the ideal choice depends on the specific needs and requirements of a project. Ultimately, the best headless CMS for a project will depend on the specific requirements and goals of the project, such as the scale and complexity of the project, the level of customization required, the budget and resources available.

Tips for selecting the Best Headless CMS

Security

Ensure that the CMS can provide evidence of its security measures, such as compliance with GDPR, SSL, SSO, ISO, and HTTPS certification.

Roles and Permissions

Author roles and administrative permissions must be provided to regulate the management of content creation, editing, and publication.

Content Editing, Previews and Workflows

The CMS should have effective editing capabilities that do not require the use of external applications such as Google Docs. These capabilities include tagging, support for various media formats, commenting, and search functions to assist editors in finding reusable content or accessing previous versions of content.

In addition, editors should have access to data fields to enable omnichannel modeling of the content, and APIs should be available to view unpublished content across multiple environments. Users should also be able to integrate third-party systems through webhooks or APIs.

APIs

The CMS must clearly indicate the APIs it utilizes and how they can benefit the user's business. For instance, Graph QL APIs that enable developers to access content at a deeper level or enhance development performance, or REST APIs that facilitate content automation and security.

Pricing and additional costs

Evaluate the CMS pricing and its included features to ensure they meet the business requirements. This includes assessing the monthly content creation limit, the number of admin users per subscription, and the maximum number of API requests allowed.

Additionally, consider any external developer costs that may arise.

Ensure that the headless CMS provides a preview feature and offers subscription plans that can accommodate the business's growth.

Support

Evaluate the accessibility of the CMS vendor's support team in the event of any issues. This involves assessing their responsiveness, their timezone, and the availability of external developer resources such as YouTube videos, community hubs, starter templates, blog posts, etc., to help resolve problems.

SDKs

The CMS must provide clear information regarding the availability of SDKs, whether from the vendor or third-party sources. It's also essential to assess how customized these SDKs are to meet the business and developer's requirements in terms of technology, language, and platform.

CDN and its scalability

The CMS should have a content delivery network (CDN) that can minimize the website's load time and enhance its performance. It's crucial to assess its capabilities regarding handling high volumes of traffic, data caching (including media files), security measures, and network latency.

Documentation

The CMS documentation for aspects like APIs, integrations, and customizations should be thorough, user-friendly, up-to-date, and include code snippets as examples.

Hosting platforms & Reliability

Assess the CMS hosting capabilities, including its utilization of hosting platforms such as AWS or Azure, the technologies used (e.g., .NET or Node.js), the supported programming languages, and operating systems.

Additionally, evaluate the CMS's reliability and its operational model, such as whether it's proprietary, SaaS-based, or open-source. It's also essential to consider the possibility of downtime.


Interested in using a headless CMS for your business website? Create a free developer account or contact our sales team.


Full disclaimer: The author of this article is affiliated with Easyweb, a Headless CMS built for business websites. 

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