What Is a Headless CMS?

Sharon Muniz
July 19, 2021
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What Is a Headless CMS?


The simplest way to look at a headless CMS is to decouple the front end and back end of your website to provide more control and flexibility regarding how your content is displayed. You can separate the presentation layer from the body to control how content is structured for different environments. This boosts reusability without starting from scratch! If you’re not a developer, that explanation might not make things click in your head. All you have to know is that a headless CMS allows you to have a more beautiful, user-friendly website that won’t become outdated when you’re ready for launch.


Let’s start by making sure we’re familiar with an ordinary CMS (content management system). As you may know, CMS platforms have been around for nearly as long as websites. These are organizational platforms that allow you to create and publish content. Traditionally, a CMS allows you to manage content by putting your images, HTML, CSS and content in one spot (WordPress is an example).


Historically, the big flaw with this was that reusing content was nearly impossible because every piece of content was tangled up with very specific code. This is where headless CMS comes in. A headless CMS is a content management system that separates the “body” of content from the “head.” This makes it much easier to deliver content for different display purposes. As a result, you’re able to choose the appropriate layer based on the delivery platform for a dynamic presentation.


What does that all look like from a technical perspective? With a headless CMS, all of the back-end functions are treated as being part of a separate system than the front-end features. Your content creation, management and storage features are all separated from the actual display and delivery. In a nutshell, you’re getting more control over how your content looks and performs with less work. Headless CMS offers a better way to build responsive, interactive and attractive websites that adapt to emerging technology and user habits. In addition to bringing your website into the current day, you’re actually “futureproofing” it for emerging trends to avoid a costly overhaul just a few months after launch.


If you’re not using a headless CMS right now, there’s a good chance you’re growing frustrated with how sloppy all of your digital marketing materials look. Headless CMS architecture is something that has evolved with the way we use our devices. Ordinary CMS worked just fine when we all consumed content only when looking at browsers on our computers. As we increasingly consume content on mobile devices, wearables and virtual headsets, ordinary CMS can become needlessly messy.


About the Author

Sharon Muniz

Sharon Muniz established her software development consulting firm in Reston, VA after 15 years of working in the software industry. NCN Technology helps clients implement best practices and software to drive their business to success. Ms. Muniz is skilled at strategic planning, business process management, technology evaluation, project and agile software development methodologies.