What’s the best CMS to use?

1 Jun 2018

What is a CMS?

A CMS, or Content Management System, is a software that serves as an interface for storing data about a website and publishing the pages to the web. A content management system enables the relevant people on your team to collaboratively make updates to the content on your website, in an easy-to-use interface without any knowledge of coding.

How does a Traditional CMS work?

A traditional CMS consists of two main elements:

  • a content management application (CMA)
  • a content delivery application (CDA)

The content management application (CMA) is the interface that enables users to easily add, edit or delete content on the website without assistance from a web developer. A WYSIWYG format (What You See Is What You Get) makes it straightforward for users to make their changes without technical expertise.

The content delivery application (CDA) works in the back-end, compiling any content changes and publishing them to the site for visitors to see.

In this way, selected people in different parts of the business are able to use the content management system to make updates to the website as necessary, which is very helpful for any organisation which is regularly adding or changing content.

The New Solution: What is a Headless CMS?

In the last few years, a new solution has come on the scene, known as Headless CMS. Lots of companies are making the move to this new type of content management system, for example Smashing Magazine. As far as the user is concerned, it looks like other content management systems you may have used in the past to update content on your website.

The key difference between a headless CMS and a traditional CMS is that a headless CMS is only concerned with storing the data. Users can make content edits as before and the headless CMS will store all of these, but it is not responsible for displaying or outputting the pages.

The ‘headless’ part of the name refers to the fact that the CMS is not interested in the ‘head’ or the front end of the website and how this is displayed. When people refer to this as a ‘decoupled CMS’, it’s because the two elements of the CMS (front end and back end) have been separated.

Decoupled CMS: How does it work?

With a headless or decoupled CMS, it does not contain both a content management application and a content delivery application like a traditional CMS. Instead the headless CMS works alongside a Static Site Generator. The Static Site Generator downloads the content and outputs the pages to be visible on the site; this is the ‘head’ part referred to in the ‘headless CMS’.

In this way, a traditional CMS is replaced by two separate pieces of software that are specialised in their purposes. As a result, there are various advantages to using a headless CMS.

Headless CMS Advantage 1: Speed

More than ever, keeping your site speed high is crucial. A page from a Static Site Generator loads faster than one loaded from a traditional CMS. This is because the pages are stored as physical files on a server, rather than a database request being created every time a user visits a page. The outcome is a much improved site speed.

Besides the obvious improvement in user experience that comes with increased site speed, this is also an SEO (search engine optimisation) concern, as site speed is a critical ranking factor for Google. Even with high quality, pixel-dense imagery, a headless CMS provides faster download speeds than a traditional CMS.

Headless CMS Advantage 2: Safety

A traditional CMS is very safe. When we build sites on a traditional CMS, we keep backups of the whole site, ensuring that your website is safe and reliable. The new headless CMS solution is even more secure, because the front end and the back end are handled separately and held in different places, and we still have backups of the content as with a traditional CMS.

Our headless CMS solution also has two factor authentication. Anyone who makes updates to the website will need to know the CMS password and have access to the relevant email inbox or mobile phone.

Headless CMS Advantage 3: Uptime

Any business needs to feel confident that its website is reliable and will experience the absolute minimum downtime. A site set up with a traditional CMS will have several software packages running on it: PHP, MySQL, Apache and so on. These software packages will need constant upgrading and patching to keep them in tip top shape.

With a headless CMS and Static Site Generator, your risk of downtime decreases. This is because a Static Site doesn’t need any of these software packages to run. With your site less reliant on these various software packages, you reduce your risk that you’ll run into issues with one or more of them.

Another cause of potential downtime is high peaks of traffic that your site is unprepared for. Because the front end and back end are separate with a headless CMS, the website does not require powerful hosting. It does not matter how many people try to access your site, it cannot cause the server to crash.

Headless CMS Advantage 4: Portability

If for any reason your want to move your site to a new CMS in the future, this is much easier to accomplish with a decoupled CMS. As the front end and back end are separated with a headless CMS, your content can be easily migrated to a new CMS. All that’s required is a script and some small adjustments to the Static Site Generator.

This means you’re flexible. You can respond to the changing tech environment if you choose. Say in 5 years’ time, a new CMS software becomes available, with great features that you want to avail of. If your site is on a traditional CMS, you would need to recreate the whole website to migrate to that new solution.

With a headless CMS, your content is not stored in a database, making it easy to transition to a new CMS down the line.

Headless CMS Advantage 5: Perfect for Websites and Web Apps

A headless CMS is the perfect solution for a business that requires both a website and a web application. Managing data for each of these properties is very straightforward if they both run on a headless CMS.

A user can make change to data on the website and see these changes reflected on the app as well. This reduces the labour involved in making updates, simplifying the process for your staff, and also ensures consistency across the platforms.

Have Questions about Headless CMS?

There are lots of benefits to transitioning to this new technology. Get in touch with our team to discuss building a website on a headless CMS.

Sue Neary

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