In order to get a good understanding of exactly how content management systems (CMS) emerged and what the different kinds entail, we first need to take a look back at the evolution of content for the web.
The earliest stage of web development is referred to as Web 1.0., consisting of the early days of mostly static websites in their most simple form. 30 years ago, in 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee posited an internet-led hypertext system called HTML, before developing the much-needed browser and server elements the following year. Needless to say, these were perhaps the most significant steps forward for the web and, in turn, digital content.
The Rise of Web 2.0 and the CMS
The next phase of web development, Web 2.0, enabled the delivery of much more dynamic content across the web – sites steered towards becoming more engaging, interactive and social. This inevitably led to the emergence of content management systems in order to organise and deliver said content as effectively as possible.
It became quickly apparent that a system needed to be created, with the sole purpose of giving people (or groups) the tools to manage and then deliver dynamic content on the web. At this point, we see clearly the development of the monolithic CMS – a system that includes everything needed for content management and delivery. These are known as coupled systems, which essentially identifies these as all-in-one content management systems.
Open Source & Frameworks
As we rolled into the new millennium on the back of an increasingly digital world, the CMS had come to dominate the web. At this point, open-source CMS and frameworks became popular.
A framework is a library of pre-existing code for the purposes of programming. A popular example at the time was the Zend Framework, which was written in PHP language. This made it easier for people to build their websites online.
The most popular example of an open-source CMS and perhaps the most widely used CMS of all is WordPress. This increasingly reliable system initially garnered its popularity due to its onus on delivering blog content (which blew up in a big way during the ’00s), as well as giving external web developers the ability to customise or add helpful extensions.
The Game Changer
As the rise of the cloud grew exponentially, decoupling data and content from one source and accessing it via an API (Application Programming Interface) became a new trend. This is what is known as ‘Decoupled’ or ‘Headless’ Technology. A decoupled system consists of two or more systems that can transact with one another without being connected.
What a Headless can do for you
- Build websites and apps utilising the same code.
- Create an ecosystem where the same content is published across multiple platforms.
Can I attach my Headless Project to my favourite CMS?
The short answer is ‘yes you can.’ Applications striving for this have been built successfully, such as WordPress REST API and Create React App for WordPress.
Is Headless Right for my business?
Kaya Ismail from CMS Wire has written a piece called ‘How WordPress Can Help You Survive 2019 Without a Headless CMS’. It highlights the fact that for smaller companies, startups and entrepreneurs with big ambitions, the statistics indicate that the overwhelming majority will be dealing with a traditional CMS for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, in the same article he quotes one of his sources as saying:
“The problem is that today’s CMSs, such as WordPress, were set up only to create and support simple blogs and websites — not a complex ‘internet of things’ (IoT) network made up of billions of nodes. Publishers and marketers will need a CMS that is ‘headless’ in that it is not limited to managing a single website, but is instead built around a content API that allows it to publish anywhere and everywhere.”
The Future of the Digital Content Landscape
Users now consume content from a multitude of channels, and as such, they don’t want to seek products from their favourite brands across multiple sources. They now expect their content to be delivered to them by any medium they desire, almost instantly. This is what the industry calls an ‘Omnichannel.’
Omnichannel refers to having your content hosted on as many channels as possible. We now live in an age where we consume content via platforms and tech as diverse as apps, Google Home, Amazon Echo, Smart TVs and much more. This exposes the limitations of a normal rigid CMS. An Omnichannel approach could offer businesses flexibility, with the ability the host their product/content on any new technology that emerges. A headless or decoupled CMS is one way of achieving the ultimate goal of the Omnichannel.
The key to delivering an Omnichannel is creating a Content Hub Framework. A Content Hub centralises all your content in one place, using an API to deliver content anywhere. Imagine having all of your CRM, E-commerce, Video, IoT (Internet of Things), Analytics, Big Data, Social Media, Web Data and more sources stored in one place.
In the near future, your customers could benefit from similar efficiency, accessing all you offer via multiple touchpoints: Apps, Smart TV’s, Web and Voice Activated AI. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Not only does the Content Hub Architecture help you with Omnichannel content delivery, but using a content hub also gives you more freedom for integration.
Using a headless CMS isn’t the best option for every web project, but perhaps it’s time to at least familiarise ourselves with the concept. After all, they continue to become more and more popular in the CMS ecosystem.
Is this the future of Content Management Systems? Only time will tell, but I for one believe that it is.
If you’d like to learn more about how a CMS can benefit your brand, or to take a look at our wider Web Development services, take a look here and feel free to get in touch.
Connor is Digital Content Manager at One Agency.