Headless CMS Architecture - Advantages and Disadvantages

​ Niklas Winkels

​ 2019-06-29

Headless CMS Advantages and Disadvantages


Developing engaging articles and media for your audience is only part of the equation when it comes to (what most would consider) a great website or mobile app. 

For marketers, the content's appearance on the surface is what matters most. But when it comes to the “how and why” of the architecture, needs and capabilities aren’t always met on the technical side, which can lead to issues with publishing information across multiple digital channels.

In this series of blogs, we're discussing the various advantages and disadvantages of CMS architectures for business. Other articles in this series include:


Here, we'll look at the strengths and weaknesses in what many consider the most dynamic system available today: the headless CMS.

Overview of the Headless CMS Architecture 📚

In much the same way the decoupled CMS differs from the coupled (also called “traditional”) design, the headless CMS exists as a disparate system that separates the areas where data is created and stored from the delivery process. 

In fact, the underlying concept in the designs of both the headless and decoupled CMSs are quite similar, as the backend is separated from the publishing portion for each architecture.

The authoring portion exists on the backend which includes a database to store data as well as a content management system to create the information. Unlike other designs, this architecture is considered “headless” as it doesn’t have one designated frontend to serve for the presentation of content. Information is delivered via an API down various channels, rather than linked to a singular frontend.

Of course, for data to appear somewhere (i.e. a website, mobile app, etc.), there needs to be a system that serves to parse and organize the information and ultimately serve as the head (i.e. the frontend.)

Developers are free to create multiple frontends, all of which can utilize calls from the API. This is slightly different than the decoupled design where the primary function of the API serves as an intermediary between the back and frontend, pushing data from the backend to the API. 

Essentially, the API for a headless CMS is much more flexible for delivering information as it exists as a tool for any of the frontend portions to pull data from the backend.


Headless CMS vs. Decoupled CMS

In many respects, the headless and decoupled architectures are quite similar, at least in principle. Neither system is directly linked to the frontend portion (or portions). Meaning it offers free range to freely develop for the heads of a headless CMS or the frontend of a decoupled CMS.

The biggest difference between the two is that the headless design doesn’t include any tools for delivering content as these functions are dependent on the heads of the system. 

In this sense, you could think of the decoupled CMS as “headless” because the backend and frontend portions are different and the headless CMS as lacking more than a head – it’s chopped off somewhere in the torso, if we’re using the human body as a reference. 

Basically, the decoupled CMS has more delivery options available, whereas in the headless CMS option, this portion of delivery falls on the heads that serve as the frontend. 


➕Advantages of a Headless CMS Architecture

Like a decoupled CMS, the architecture provides a highly accessible system for authoring that doesn’t intertwine with the publishing portion. 

Marketer accounts can be assigned different tiers of permissions for writers, designers, for example, that create or upload data. These permissions differ from editors who polish data until it can be given the green light of approval for frontend systems that will use the API to pull information into an endpoint.

The headless CMS architecture is ideal for the largest of content syndication efforts as it offers robust capabilities for publication. The frontend systems are (or can be) all different and completely agnostic from the backend. This makes it far easier to use third-party integrations and serves to future-proof content delivery by making it simple to scale as well as adapt to new technologies as they become available.

The greatest advantages a headless CMS provides are:

  1. Fast Delivery of Content
    Rather than relying on users to manipulate information to create unique variations for every endpoint, this process can be easily achieved by solid development for each head.
    This saves times as content will be tailored around the “where and how” information is being viewed, rather than manipulating a frontend template to adapt around the layout of some other endpoint.
  2. Flexibility for Developers
    Like a decoupled CMS, developers can use the frameworks they know best, which makes deployment cycles faster and less buggy. Unlike a coupled CMS, each head can be different whereas the frontend of other systems can be slightly restrictive for teams with different skillsets. This gives developers exponentially more freedom than a coupled CMS.
  3. Easily Publish to Existing and Emerging Channels
    With several new devices coming to the market, there’s a need to publish information to more than just websites and mobile apps. This design ensures that fronted developers can build a system around the needs of each channel and not have to meddle or worry about data in the backend.
    This is what makes the design future-proof, as it expedites the time it takes to get information to new endpoints.


➖ Disadvantages of a Headless CMS Architecture

This system has a lot of moving parts and - if this were a mechanical device - it would make it more prone to failure, but in this case, it simply makes it more complex. 

This design is ideal for larger groups of professional marketers and developers as small teams with limited skill sets usually find themselves unable to fully take advantage of all this architecture has to offer. It’s not ideal for large businesses that need a more-basic informational site, or ambitious start-ups that lack proper funding.

The most notable disadvantages for headless CMS architectures are:

  1. Substantial Customization Needed for Polished Results

    Without existing “heads” already in place (as is usually the case) developers will have to create these from the ground up or at least piece together existing code. In most cases, high-volume channels will require a lot of time and resources which usually makes this design more expensive.

  2. No Previewing Methods to Easily polish Content

    Tools available for marketers to adjust content – as with other CMS architectures – are usually non-existent in a headless CMS as these functions are controlled by the presentation layer.

    This means creative directors and editors will need to work closely with developers to get the proper look and feel for an endpoint. Remember: this can take time, so patience is key!


Final Thoughts on the Headless CMS Architecture 💭 

Even though this is considered the most complex and time consuming of the CMS architectures, this design is, by far, the most powerful and versatile. For teams that are looking to produce a substantial amount of content and deliver information down multiple channels, this is the optimal choice.

At Bloomreach, we off a state-of-the-art headless CMS that addresses many of the pain points found in other designs and even minimizes – and in some cases, eliminates – the disadvantages inherent to the headless CMS architecture. Our API is designed to provide powerful content editing features, solving issues by integrating Single Page Application (SPA) frameworks that give content authors unprecedented control.

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