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The pros and cons of using a 'Headless CMS'

Our Head of Technology, Sean Lamacraft, considers the advantages of a cloud CMS and websites they are well-suited to.

As a Kentico Gold Partner, Distinction was asked to join an early partner programme at the start of 2017 in order to trial some projects on Kentico's latest cloud-based CMS offering. This post is a continuation of my blog from back in January and considers the advantages of using a ‘headless CMS’, now that we have launched our first project, which was developed on Kentico Cloud. For an overview of the product itself, please read my previous blog.

The main advantages of a headless CMS

1. Developer flexibility 

A headless CMS delivers content via a dynamic API, meaning that the actual system for managing this content is completely separate from the front-end of the site. This means that there is full flexibility in terms of what framework and languages are used on the front-end. Therefore, designers and developers can ‘think outside of the box’ and be more creative than developing on a traditional CMS may allow them to be.

2. Content-first

Traditionally, content editors have to wait until the development of a project has almost finished until they can begin to populate the site. Having the front-end of the site and the CMS as separate entities means that content editors can begin their work as soon as wireframes have been signed off, at the same time that development work begins. This allows for a strongly collaborative process and dynamic.

3. Speed

This content-first approach has an extremely positive effect on the entire project timeline as it means that high-quality websites can be built in a shorter amount of time. For example, the build time for our recent project was just one week. In addition, the platform-agnostic nature of Kentico Cloud made development itself incredibly quick and easy as Kentico Draft can be integrated with any technology.

4. Ease of editing content 

Another advantage to using a headless CMS is the simplicity of the user interface for content editors. Similar to Gather Content, web pages appear as content items and can be easily edited, added or removed. Efficient workflow and versioning functionality with Kentico Draft (the CMS part of Kentico Cloud) means that the process of adding, approving and publishing this content by appropriate team members is easy. The usability of this interface, especially for Kentico Cloud, meant that minimal training had to be given to the client because they were able to learn how to use the system quickly.

5. Futureproofing your website

The fact that Kentico Draft can be integrated with any language or framework means that, in future, it will be far easier to change the design of the site if needed. This is because the CMS does not need to be reintegrated. Additionally, frequent updates such as upgrades and hotfixes that are associated with a standard CMS are non-existent. 

Any disadvantages?

Although there are many advantages to using a headless CMS, it is not suitable for every project. It is perfect for content-rich sites or small campaign microsites, however it would be more of a challenge to build a full-scale e-commerce site on Kentico Cloud as it stands.

Working with a headless CMS changes project dynamics and roles quite significantly, so although this is a challenge, it can be anticipated. In addition, if your team is adaptable and learns quickly, this challenge will be one of the most exciting parts of the project.

As an agency, we learnt a lot over the course of our first project using a headless CMS and look forward to using it again in the future. If you have any questions or think that Kentico Cloud could work well for a particular project that you have in mind, then please get in touch! 

Author:Sean Lamacraft

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