HeadlessCMSEveryone is talking about three related topics: (1) Internet of Things (IoT), (2) Machine to Machine (M2M) and (3) Industry 4.0, making the manufacturers of hardware and software for networking devices believe the entry into the Internet of Things can be done easily with guaranteed success.

IoT refers to the networking of physical objects via the Internet. This link between actual reality and the Internet mainly intends to enable a new dimension in the collection of process data, with the goal of optimizing the processes or being able to better support the people involved. In addition, IoT also considers objects that contain actuation elements, and thus can in turn interact with the environment. M2M is also a broad term but focuses on communication between devices of the same type, such as between construction machines within a telematics solution.

The fact is that the success of IoT projects cannot be reduced to the selection of a suitable platform alone. A consistent system view, conscious decisions about the technology used, and a consideration of the entire life cycle are important too.

Let's look, for example, at a headless content management system (CMS) in the context of the Internet of Things and multichannel where the list of possible information and communication channels is long, including smartphones, tablets, apps, smartwatches and other wearables, smart cars, virtual assistants, social media, and VR / AR. In addition to the modern variants mentioned, there are classic systems such as intranet or ERP and possibly more elements from the Internet of Things in the future.

While websites usually have a functional CMS, the content is often still distributed to other channels by busy marketing departments using copy and paste. This path is complex and does not always meet the demands on user experience. With different programming or markup languages of the individual touchpoints, the problem of conventional CMS, which are limited to one language, becomes clear. What works for one touchpoint is useless for the next. Headless CMS work differently as they provide raw data that is queried from various touchpoints via APIs and displayed individually.

Classic CMS consist of a technical backend that’s responsible for storing and providing the content, an author backend that allows the content to be edited, and the frontend that contains the content according to stored templates for the end user outputs. All three areas are closely linked. The CMS contains the templates in the form of CSS, HTML and JavaScript, and thus determines the presentation of the content on the user's device.

The absence of a front end is essential for headless CMS that acts as a database, manages the content in raw form and delivers it on request from any front end via interfaces (APIs). Headless CMS thus enables the use of modern, different front-end technologies for social media channels, native, hybrid or web apps, (social) intranets, shops and websites. It is possible to combine several content sources via APIs in one front end. Conversely, a headless CMS can also send data to multiple front ends.

In a pure headless CMS itself there are no options for the visual design of the content. All layout details such as fonts, sizes and colors are not specified by the headless CMS, but by the frontend. The styles can vary greatly, depending on the type of touchpoint. Editors, translators, copywriters, graphic artists, and technicians create the content centrally in the headless CMS that stores the data in a structured and media-neutral way. The front-end systems are responsible for the distribution, updating and display.

In contrast to classic CMS, headless CMS are usually not a push system, but work according to the pull principle: the frontend sends a request to the CMS via the API (mostly RESTful API), which then plays out the content that the frontend needs. In this way, the content can be individualized at the touchpoints.

Headless CMSs are gaining in relevance because they open up the possibility of displaying content quickly and flexibly on different channels and devices. Therefore, they are an important tool for modern multichannel marketing as well as in the context of mobile-first approaches. But the key advantages of a headless CMS are the central organization and updating of the content as well as the tailor-made layout in the respective front end. In the best case, users will find current and individualized content across platforms and come across a plus in user experience. In company intranets, content and product data can also be managed centrally and accessed in the current form—ideally without friction losses due to formatting errors. If problems arise in the front or back end, the other area at best remains unaffected.

Another advantage of headless CMS are dynamic queries. Front ends can call up data at any time via the RESTful API. Sections or individual contents of a website / application can be updated without reloading the page or application, which leads to significantly faster response times.

The front-end systems can be expanded at any time, without adapting the CMS, providing completely new freedoms for developers: a new touchpoint added simply adopts the content from the CMS and puts it into the optimal form. Designers and system developers can also change the layout in the front end without affecting the database.

These advantages make headless CMS ideal for multichannel use, simply because they deliver content via API and display it optimally on all end devices. New channels can be operated much more easily. However, for companies that only operate a single info website, a classic CMS is usually still the better choice. The larger the number of channels, or the more independent applications (e.g., configurators, product finders, etc.) are to be added to digital offer, the more likely it is to use a headless CMS.

Headless CMS definitely have the potential to make companies’ marketing and content management significantly more future proof.

By Daniela La Marca