The best headless CMS options leave the limitations of legacy CMSes behind and start fresh with a modern approach to content management.
A simple, concise explanation of what a headless CMS is
How being “headless” makes a CMS agile and built for scale
An easy-to-use checklist of key criteria to help determine if headless is right for you
How to evaluate the sea of headless CMS vendors
A headless CMS is a content management system where the content repository (body) is decoupled from the presentation layer (head).
A traditional CMS manages both the content and the presentation layer, usually for a website. The content is organized for that specific purpose, making it impossible for it to be reused in other digital applications (i.e. mobile sites, apps, digital displays, etc.). Switching to a headless CMS solves this issue, but it’s only the first step.
Cutting the head off a CMS still doesn’t actually unify and structure content so that it can be reused across different platforms and channels. Some CMS platforms offer a “headless” or “decoupled” option through an API that connects their content repository to a separate presentation layer, but these can cause many of the same content bottlenecks as with traditional CMSes.
The best headless CMS options don’t just cut the head off — they leave the limitations of legacy CMSes behind and start fresh with a modern approach to content management. They take you from simply maintaining a legacy website to delivering a whole host of digital products.
Legacy websites use collections of templated pages, managed by a monolithic CMS backend. They’re built with a waterfall approach: First design, next code, then populate content, finally publish. This causes friction and delays at handover points between team members, and forces repetitive tasks on developers every time marketers need page customizations.
In contrast, headless CMSes use APIs to support a microservices approach, integrating seamlessly with the modern tech stack. They use a content model to structure content into logical chunks — instead of rigid templates — and decouple this content from the front end for maximum flexibility. Editors are empowered to do more on their own, working in parallel with developers to make changes and build new digital products quickly. This agile approach means you can get to market faster.
Learn more in the The Ultimate Guide to Headless CMS.
At Contentful, we think headless is a good start, but there’s more needed for teams to realize the power of platform software. Our content infrastructure includes APIs for content management, previewing, images, and display to deliver on the complex and unique demands of modern apps and websites.
Contentful is a purpose-built headless CMS. Unlike traditional CMSes that have added APIs to join the headless trend, Contentful is cloud-native and built with the modern tech stack in mind.
We didn’t cut the head off anything. We built a content infrastructure designed to work with any digital endpoint and included features to support agile workflows for content creators and developers. Our customers also continuously inspire us to design new features and improve Contentful for all digital teams.
Forrester: “Contentful’s API-first and cloud-native approach excels.” Contentful was the only pure play "headless CMS" recognized in the Forrester Wave for Web CMS, 2018.
Gartner: "Contentful is taking an API-first approach to enable ease of out-of-the-box authoring on the one hand, and ease of application development for consumption on the other. boasts some high-profile, enterprise-class, globally present reference customers."
ThoughtWorks: “Contentful is a modern headless CMS that our teams have successfully integrated into their development workflows. We particularly like its API-first approach and implementing CMS as code.”
Download the The Ultimate Guide to Headless CMS today to learn more. If you’re ready to see content infrastructure in action, request a demo here.