Content management is undergoing a once-in-a-generation transformation. Online publishers are moving away from the website-centric CMSs that have dominated during the past two decades. Instead, they are adopting a new approach known as headless or API-first content management. In the recent words of an Accenture analysis, headless is “becoming the new normal.”
Headless CMSs enable organizations to energize their bloated, sluggish websites. They can refresh their UI designs quickly and deliver faster-loading pages. A headless CMS can unleash a better user experience. It also allows the technical infrastructure of an enterprise to be more agile. But how does headless content management benefit authors?
For years, content strategists have advocated for the ideal of “create once, publish everywhere” (COPE). But web content management systems weren’t designed to support the COPE approach. Now, with the wide availability of headless CMSs, COPE is finally possible. Content professionals are becoming more interested in headless CMSs, though this approach to content management is still new and not yet familiar to many.
Headless CMSs introduce a new approach to creating content. Authors don’t create individual web pages. Instead, they create multipurpose content that’s not tied to how and where it is presented. The same content can be delivered to many different devices and platforms and customized in numerous ways.
A headless CMS is different from a traditional web CMS in three key aspects:
The content in a headless CMS is separate from the designs that display the content. Because the content is not dependent on the design, authors can plan their content first. They start by deciding what information they need to convey and then choose the best places and formats to present and promote that content. Authors can concentrate on the messages they want to deliver without waiting on designers to decide the layout. They can develop their content according to an agreed upon structure, confident that any future designs will be able to work with what they’ve created. They won’t have to rewrite the content if the design changes.
Headless CMSs give authors editorial flexibility to create custom versions of content and decide how to express information most effectively in different channels. Content customization can shorten the user journey, reducing clicks and improving outcomes.
A headless CMS can add structure to the content to make it more flexible. Instead of massive, long documents, the content is modular. Content teams can choose how much detail to present to readers at different times. They can change the mix of details presented to provide personalization. Structuring the content allows authors and editors to:
This flexibility supports greater content personalization than was previously possible. Content teams can tailor all kinds of content to specific audience needs.
They can also tailor content for specific channels. They can create and select pieces of content to appear on various websites, in mobile apps, or within email communications. Headless CMSs also support newer channels such as voice bots, chatbots, augmented reality, wearables, and embedded screens in cars and appliances.
When content is modular and multipurpose, it becomes a shared, reusable resource. Anyone who needs to can reuse or update existing content. The value of content assets to the organization grows each time they get reused.
The process that organizations use to create content has a big influence on the value they will realize from that content. By itself, a headless CMS won’t automatically change how content teams do their work. If you want your content to be more flexible and useful, you’ll need to start thinking about content differently.
A headless CMS can streamline and mature your content operations, provided authors are willing to embrace new routines. Challenge yourself to:
To transition successfully to this new approach, your team will want to choose the right tool. Headless CMS software can vary in the features they provide for authors. When it comes to selecting a headless CMS, content authors should:
If you’d like to learn more about working with a headless CMS, register for Kontent’s free 2-hour e-learning course, Headless CMS 101, which provides a non-technical introduction to the core concepts.
Last Updated: September 8, 2021
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