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HCLSoftware: Fueling the Digital+ Economy

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The current buzzword in the world of MACH, CMS, web tech, and Martech publications is “headless”. However, do you truly understand what it means, its benefits and its implications?

Let’s begin by defining what we mean by a headless CMS. According to Wikipedia, “A headless CMS only consists of the content component, which focuses solely on the administrative interface for content creators, content workflows and collaboration facilitation, and organizing content into taxonomies.”

Therefore, a headless CMS must be combined with a separate presentation layer to handle design, site structure, and templates. This combination usually relies on stateless or loosely coupled APIs, as illustrated below:

A headless CMS

In our experience, most vendors of headless CMS focus on the following attributes of headless:

  • RESTful APIs
  • Microservices architecture
  • Multi-channel publishing

Additionally, the entire stack may be provided by an “as a Service (aaS)” platform. Now that we have established what we mean by “headless CMS,” let’s delve into its implications.

Benefits of Implementing Headless CMS

When in doubt, check out the industry standard, as set forth by Gartner. This illustration below outlines Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Platform as a Service (PaaS), 2020. You can see API-Centric (headless) SaaS, just on the edge of the “Peak of Inflated Expectations.”

Benefits of Implementing Headless CMS

It’s true…headless implementation in your tech stack (the separation of the presentation layer from everything else) can do several clever things for your business. Its most common claims are that it:

  • Gives greater front-end flexibility for more creativity and design agility
  • To some extent can future-proof your stack. This means you can more easily add new channels and swap out other tech components without affecting the public presentation of your product or company.
  • Improves the content personalization and re-use while it speeds up the content creation processes. This allows content authors to concentrate on satisfying the need for more and more content while the front-end teams deliver content seamlessly to more omnichannel endpoints.

Read how headless content management is a digital experience game changer.

Beware of Potential Headless CMS Pitfalls

“Headless” doesn’t mean without a head. You still need a presentation layer or system – some way of projecting your content with brand image/colours/stylings to channels. This new system is independent of the back-end creation process.

Here are some potential pitfalls to consider before adopting a headless CMS:

  • It will need a person or team of front-end developers to create and manage the design system, albeit with newfound freedom to be infinitely creative.
  • This team will be needed if a change is to be made or a new channel added. If they are external to your firm, this will cost money.
  • In the content creation process, many people like a preview of how content might look on different devices. WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors are common in the process. This functionality is lost since the head is separated.

Are you adding channels or changing designs and layouts so often that you can gain some business advantage? Do you really want to continually edit the company brand? If so, giving the front-end team endless creative freedom MIGHT make sense.

Ask your vendor how they charge for access. There are many varied charging mechanisms in the market, and there are often costs associated with the privilege of going headless. Make sure you understand your TCO when making the decision to go headless.

The headless path is not for the faint of heart or the novice in digital business. A company requires significant digital maturity and a robust change management process to succeed in this change. Do not underestimate this journey.


Headless is an excellent option if it means solving an actual business problem – not just if the front-end team wants more freedom or the IT teams want a new architectural model. Therefore, it is crucial to make this decision with all stakeholders at the table.

A modern CMS offers either a headless or de-coupled approach to content, rather than the traditional CMS model. Your company can grow into whichever approach suits its business needs at a particular point in time.

Interested in taking your own digital transformation journey? Contact us!

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