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Anything But Headless: New CMS Solutions Keep Pace with Digitization

W4 | W4 / July 31, 2018

Coupled, Decoupled, Headless: There are now several types of Content Management Systems (CMS) and each has its advantages and disadvantages. The ideal solution depends on your communication goals.

The way people communicate online is constantly changing. New technologies, trends and platforms enable a diverse mix of communication channels. Whether entire websites, smaller blogs, a wide range of social media channels, messengers and other mobile apps: The wealth of communication tools and digital publication forms is not without challenges. This rich offer can come at the expense of efficiency if marketing lacks a solution to manage the content for a diverse set of communication outlets centrally.

Classic CMS often cannot keep up with such multi channel approaches to marketing communication. They usually lack the ability to connect a large number of channels and peripheral systems efficiently.

In addition to the fact that most companies today have a multi-channel marketing approach and that the different channels must be managed while keeping things as consistent as possible with each other, there are various systems running in the background that play a vital role in distributing content. Content solutions have to offer ways in which they can be connected to a number of peripheral systems. Hardly any company can do without a Product Information Management (PIM) solution today. Customer data is usually stored in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. This creates a complex network of solutions. Maintenance requirements increase.

In view of this development, CMS is not CMS. A number of different types have emerged, of which the most common - Coupled, Decoupled, Headless - are compared below. A free guide to the various CMS solutions on the market can be downloaded for free here:

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From rigid to flexible: Which CMS fits which challenges?

Coupled CMS: the traditional solution

Whether Typo3 or WordPress: Most marketers are certainly familiar with Coupled CMS. The term Coupled CMS stems from the fact that backend and frontend form a closed system. Users can enter content and have a preview of the changes displayed directly.

Since backend and frontend form a unit, the implementation of a Coupled CMS is not very expensive. Many vendors provide a set of templates to simplify the design process when creating a new page.

The backend of a Coupled CMS contains all content, the complete website design as well as customized applications. That makes it clear and user-friendly.

However, this is only true as long as the site does not exceed a certain degree of complexity. Connecting external channels usually involves a lot of development work and is oftentimes simply impossible due to lack of interfaces. Therefore, if other channels cannot be connected to the CMS via plugins, all communication channels must be managed separately.

Since the backend and frontend of Coupled CMS are interdependent, these systems are less agile and flexible. The options to adjust the solution to individual requirements are limited. Updates to connected systems can have negative effects on other parts of the system. The maintenance of traditional CMS is correspondingly high. Hence they are preferably used to realize websites and blogs.

Decoupled CMS

When backend and frontend are separate units, the CMS is referred to as “decoupled”. Backend API are key here: These interfaces not only enable communication with the frontend, but also with other channels and peripheral systems such as a PIM or a CRM.

By using API and Content Delivery Networks (CDN), content can be displayed faster than with Coupled CMS. Above all, great user experiences depend on fast website loading times. And as we all know, Google also puts great emphasis on speed.

Moreover, a Decoupled CMS gives developers much more flexibility and security. Because it is much easier to integrate third-party services. In addition, adjustments to the frontend and backend can be made independently without causing any negative impact on the other.

This increased freedom, flexibility and user experience for end users comes at the price of greater development work. Such a solution is not set up as quickly as a Coupled CMS. However, it also requires less maintenance in the long term.

Headless CMS

The Headless CMS are completely without frontend connection. They are similar to the Decoupled CMS in that the backend is self-sufficient and communicates with other channels via API. However, compared to a Decoupled CMS, a Headless CMS has no defined frontend. It is a system in which raw content can be entered. Interfaces allow other channels to pull that content from the backend: from the website, to social media channels and mobile apps to smart IoT devices.

The disadvantage is that the presentation of the content cannot be defined in the backend and it is impossible to see a preview of the entered content (A/B testing can be challenging). Despite this disadvantage, developers enjoy the greatest flexibility for the secure integration of other services.

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The choice of a suitable CMS needs to be well considered. We are happy to advise you in detail on the various options with regard to your individual requirements. Contact us!

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Sarah Wilhelm
Sarah Wilhelm
+41 44 562 49 39
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