What is a Headless Website? 5 Benefits of a Headless CMS for Your New Site

March 30, 2023

3 minutes

A headless website is an excellent way to approach your content delivery strategy. Using a headless CMS for your website can help you make integrations across teams simpler, streamline the way you deliver content across all your digital channels, and help you operate more efficiently–but what does that mean? What is a headless website, or a headless CMS? How does a headless CMS differ from traditional CMS, and what are the benefits of a headless CMS for your website? Let’s explore.

What your CMS does

It can be helpful to step back and take a holistic look at what your CMS really does in the first place to understand how a headless CMS can be beneficial for your website. Your Content Management System, or CMS, does exactly that—help you manage content. When a user looks at your website, what they see is very different from what you see on the backend as an organization. Your CMS is the framework that you’re using to build that experience for them. This is the system that organizations use to put up new web pages, make changes, and edit their website. This brings us to what a headless CMS is.

So, what’s a “headless” CMS?

A headless CMS is a CMS that’s organized a little bit differently than a traditional CMS. Normally, your CMS consists of a backend interface—what you see when you make changes to the website, your content, and your front end experience. Using the backend interface, you can create, structure, and format content, which becomes the frontend experience for your users or consumers. This all might be stored on a server or servers that your organization physically houses.

Using a traditional CMS, you can add content to your website through the backend interface, format it and structure it, and design your user experience, and deliver content via web pages. With this method, whether someone is using a browser on a mobile phone or a personal computer, they’ll see the same formatting and structure you applied to the web pages, however it translates to that device.

If you need to reuse content from a webpage—a blog post, for example, that you want to use content from for an email newsletter—this method can make things a little trickier. With a traditional CMS, you might need to extract the content from the blog, manually reformat it for an email newsletter, and end up with the same information stored more than once across your systems.

Here’s where a headless CMS comes in

A headless CMS uses a completely different structure that allows you to more efficiently organize and use your content. Think of the way your frontend experience is created and formatted before content is delivered in a traditional CMS architecture—what if you want to use the same video on mobile devices, desktop computers, and even VR headsets, but the way you present the video needs to be different in each case?

With a headless CMS, you forego the process of structuring and formatting your content ahead of time. Instead, a headless CMS uses a repository of content. This will be where you store videos, written content, audio, and any other content that you’ll use, in a modular, reusable, form.

From there, different content channels—whether those be apps, webpages, widgets, games, or anything else—can access your content via API, or Application Programming Interface. An API allows more than one program to “talk” to one other. Then, the content can be structured uniquely for each content channel, delivering a seamless experience to consumers, and saving storage space for content, as well as increasing the efficiency of content delivery systems and opening the doors for future content channels.

Why go headless?

So, what’s the point of a headless CMSaside from the obvious ways it can increase efficiency? You might be wondering if it matters that much how efficient your content management system is, as long as it works and it’s viable.

The truth is, moving to a headless CMS can be important in order to ensure that it stays that way. With a headless CMS, you can increase efficiency now, but you can also make it easier to adopt new channels in the future, as well as make frontend changes easily to adapt as user preferences change over time.

1. Help future proof your content management

While you might be perfectly content with your content management system at present, and your content delivery might be working as intended, the channels that we use to consume content can change drastically as technology changes over time and so do user habits.

For example, think of how common mobile devices are now. Just a few years ago, most websites were optimized for personal computers, and mobile sites were small, lacked features, and weren’t as commonly used. Now, mobile optimization is a primary consideration that many organizations take when designing websites.

By adopting a headless CMS, you can make it easier to adopt new technologies and content channels in the future. Over time, the ways we engage with one another through digital channels are likely to continue shifting and changing.

While it might be hard to say what the next major shift in online habits might be, utilizing a system that favors flexibility can help you stay better prepared for whatever the future brings. With a repository of content that can easily be repurposed, you can quickly deploy new content as needed, and with a system that favors flexibility, you might find that it’s easier to adapt to new trends in marketing and outreach.

2. Make your content management more efficient

The way you manage content being as efficient as possible isn’t just a matter of being well organized. Increasing efficiency in the way you store and use content can enable you to put out more content in the same amount of time across more channels. It can also save you time and potential headaches to have content that’s readily accessible should you need to quickly shift to a particular digital marketing channel.

Some of the reasons a headless CMS can be more efficient include:

  • More flexibility between different channels: developers can treat individual channels differently while utilizing content from the same repository. This can offer a broader scope of content possibilities using the same amount of content.
  • Connecting users with content faster: by streamlining the process of managing content across wildly different digital channels and creating a system that uses modular content, you can make it easy to more quickly share content across different channels.

3. Make content more repurposable

With a headless CMS, you also might find that repurposing content becomes much simpler than it might’ve been using a traditional CMS. Rather than extracting what you need from existing content, reformatting it for a different channel, or content type and reusing it, all you’ll need to do is access it from your repository via API. Then, it can then be structured uniquely for each distinct digital channel.

By freeing up the time it would normally take to repurpose content, you can enable team members to focus on creating new content and marketing efforts.

4. Enable higher flexibility between teams

By using a single repository and working with common APIs, distinct teams within your organization can easily collaborate on projects and share content to be used in different ways. Moreover,when one team makes changes to the user experience on one content channel, it doesn’t affect other channels, or require that other systems be updated.

What’s more, using a headless CMS might enable your teams to focus more on team-specific tasks and more easily coordinate with other teams. For example, content creating teams can focus on creating content, while front end developers can focus on individual user experiences within different outreach channels. Content can then be easily integrated across multiple channels.

5. Keep your content scalable

One particularly important potential benefit of adopting a headless CMS is that a it might make it easier for you to scale your online outreach strategy over time. By using a content management architecture that favors flexibility over rigidity and simplifies the process of reusing content across multiple and varied content channels, you might find that when scaling up outreach, it becomes much simpler to quickly deliver content.

Whether you find that the number of channels you’re using is increasing, or the channels themselves are expanding, having a scalable system that enables the efficient use of previously created content can be a serious advantage.

The bottom line

A headless CMS can present some clear benefits over older traditional CMS architectures. Some of the advantages of a headless CMS include that they can make it easier to repurpose content, they can enable teams to focus on what they’re best at, and they can streamline the way you store and use content.

While it might sound daunting adopting an entirely new content management system, the truth is, using a traditional CMS might become increasingly challenging as well, especially for organizations that try to scale their marketing and content strategies across new channels over time.

Organizations that adopt a headless CMS for their website may find that, ultimately, it becomes the simpler choice. As a headless CMS can enable organizations to be more flexible in the way they store and deliver content, they can be especially useful to organizations that are growing or shifting.

Whether you’re interested in adopting a headless CMS for your website, or you’re looking for digital marketing help in other areas, don’t forget—you don’t need to do it alone. At Cross & Crown, we are a full service marketing agency offering everything from web design and video production to SEO analysis and social media content. Reach out and let’s chat! We are here to help.

Cross & Crown

About Cross & Crown

Cross & Crown is a team of creatives who are passionate about solving problems through design and technology, taking what is there and making it better. Based in Chambersburg, PA, we strive to help educate, advocate, and thrive in a digital world.

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