November 2023

CMS - Headless is the opposite of headless

An AI-generated teaser image with the prompt: a minimalistic colorful cartoon character that looks like an it-expert with no head.

We have been implementing our development projects headless for some time now. But what exactly does that mean?

A headless CMS is a content management system that differs from the traditional structure in that it relies on the separation of backend and frontend. In contrast to conventional CMS, it does not offer any ready-made frontend templates, but only provides the backend functionalities. This allows for greater flexibility as developers can use their own frontend applications, independent of content management. The content is provided via APIs, which facilitates integration into different platforms and devices. This architecture makes it possible to present content dynamically and quickly on different channels.

Here are the advantages from our point of view in detail:

  • Flexibility and innovation: Decoupling the frontend from the backend enables independent development. We can be innovative in the frontend without being restricted by the limitations of a conventional CMS.

  • Improved performance: A headless CMS reduces loading time by allowing developers to optimize the frontend separately. This can lead to faster websites, a better user experience and better search engine rankings.

  • Cross-platform compatibility: With APIs for content delivery, it becomes easier to distribute content across different platforms such as web, mobile apps, IoT devices, etc. while maintaining consistency and coherence.

  • Scalability: Separating the content layer from the presentation layer allows for easier scaling. As traffic grows, we can scale either the front-end or back-end components independently.

  • Increased security: By decoupling the presentation layer, we potentially reduce the attack surface for hackers. The focus can be on securing the API endpoints and backend systems. This is particularly useful with an open source CMS (e.g. WordPress, Drupal or Typo3), as the wide distribution makes the attack attractive for hackers.

  • Reusability of content: Content can be reused across multiple platforms without the need for changes. This promotes consistency and saves time. (e.g. app, screens in the venues, various websites and microsites)

  • Future-proof: The headless architecture makes it easier to introduce new technologies and frameworks. You can replace or update parts of the system without affecting the entire system. This also applies to the next relaunch, where the backend can remain the same and "just" the frontend is changed with a new layout.

  • Specialized tooling: Developers can choose the best tools for each part of the stack. For example, they can use special frameworks or libraries that are optimized for front-end development without being bound by the constraints of a monolithic CMS. This also applies to other systems from which content is played into the front end, e.g. a CRM for forms, a store for ticket sales, a DAM for download documents and images, etc.

It's important to remember that moving to a headless system also comes with some challenges. The potentially higher complexity of managing multiple systems (see last point above, CRM, CMS, DAM, etc.), the need for more technical expertise (which we do bring to the table) and the potentially higher initial development costs compared to traditional CMS configurations. 

We currently like to build the frontend itself with VUE.JS. This is a modern and "lightweight" framework for developing graphical interfaces for web applications. The Javascript setup is easy to use in a BITV-compliant (barrier-free) manner and has proven itself in terms of performance and responsiveness in our projects. 

By the way, our current favorite in terms of headless is 

PS: The somewhat helpless teaser image was generated by DALL-E, with the prompt: "a minimalistic colorful cartoon character that looks like an it-expert with no head." Well then.

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