Headless CMS

How a headless CMS works

When looking for a new content management system, you’ve probably encountered the term ‘headless CMS‘ once or twice. While you might know what it is, it can still be a difficult concept to grasp. It’s time to clarify how a headless CMS works – in layman’s terms.

Headless CMSs back in the day

We must go back to the beginning to help you understand the concept of a headless CMS and how it works. Before content management ever was a thing, all websites had to be handled manually. Editors uploaded their content to a website using a file transfer protocol (FTP) and relied on developers to update HTML pages.

The rise of traditional content management systems made publishing digital content a lot easier. Platforms such WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla were the first of many traditional CMSs. These solutions allowed users to manage and display content on websites without needing a developer. Back then, this was a huge time-saver.

Traditional CMSs store all content in one big container and fuse together images, text, HTML, and CSS (a programming language for styling the webpage). While this made it easy to store, it was hard to reuse this content on other platforms – because untangling all these types of data is often impossible.   

As technology developed over time, audiences began using more devices to consume content. Aside from our desktops, we started using mobile applications, virtual reality, digital assistants, wearables, and more. Digital content had to be displayed in every possible format and device. Traditional CMSs weren’t designed to do this.

How does a headless CMS work?

As a result, headless CMSs emerged. A headless CMS is a backend application that decouples the frontend of a platform from the backend. Now, the database is where you store your documents, and content is made available on any type of platform through an API. To help you understand, we’ve visualized it for you.

A traditional CMS is built up of three parts: the head, the body, and the feet. The feet are the editing environment, the foundation of every CMS. The body is the CMS’s database, it’s where you store all your documents and manage all your content. The head is the part that makes a digital platform visible to visitors. As you can see, a traditional CMS is an integrated construction where the head, body, and feet are all attached.

A headless CMS has the same structure, but instead of providing one integrated system, it allows you to choose the parts independently. Most importantly, the body and the head of the CMS are separated. This means you can publish your content on every possible device, simply by picking and choosing the ‘head’ you want. 

The body and the head communicate with each other through an API, an Application Programming Interface. An API connects two applications and allows them to exchange data, such as programming languages, images, video, or text.

In short

A headless CMS delivers all your content through an API directly to the frontend you desire. Because of its headless structure, content can be displayed on a website, a mobile application, or any other type of platform or technology. Its structure allows you to reuse your content on every digital platform. It allows you to scale up and anticipate the rise of new technologies.

Do you want to learn more about the benefits of using a headless CMS? Get in touch with one of our experts. We’re happy to share.

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