Hybrid CMS Architecture - Advantages and Disadvantages

​ Niklas Winkels

​ 2019-06-30

CMS Architecture Hybrid


For creating and delivering content, the right CMS architecture is key. Businesses that constantly push content down multiple channels will likely opt for a headless CMS as this provides the most dynamic platform for publishing across various endpoints. While this is an optimal choice for major publishing undertakings where multiple endpoints are involved, there are still obstacles involved, which is the case with every architecture on the market.

During this series of blogs, we have been looking at the pros and cons of each type of CMS architecture on the market. Here we’ll discuss the strengths and weaknesses to what some view as an optimized derivative of the headless CMS: the hybrid CMS.

Other articles in this series include:

📚 Overview of the Hybrid CMS Architecture

In many respects, a hybrid CMS architecture simply builds upon the foundation of a headless CMS. This means it also shares some of the same design concepts as a decoupled CMS architecture. 

The backend is an isolated system which contains a database that stores data for various kinds of content, whether text or media, as well as a content manager,  to create or upload information.

Authoring takes place on the backend while publishing is handled by one or more frontend systems that serve as the “head” for each channel. Like a headless CMS, the architecture isn’t inherently linked with one frontend, as is the case with coupled (or “traditional”) or decoupled CMS. Instead, content is dynamically published by frontend end systems using the API to call on information stored in the backend.

What differentiates the hybrid system from the headless variation is a cross-channel experience that shares content, rather than isolating information for each channel. Unlike a purely headless system, where manipulating content layout falls on the development team (perhaps the biggest flaw of the headless design), backend users are provided tools to interact with published content. 

As such, the core differentiator of a hybrid CMS, with respect to headless CMS architecture, is bridging the “channel silos” that this design creates with what is best described as a tool for cross-communication between endpoints.

Hybrid CMS vs Headless CMS

Across the board, the concept of a hybrid CMS is somewhat loosely defined, but the part everyone agrees upon is that it refers to using a headless design in conjunction with another architecture. For some, a hybrid deployment means using a headless CMS equipped with high-level tools to closer integrate the backend and frontend.

While this does alter the functionality of headless CMS to work more like a decoupled CMS (e.g. making templating tools available), the definition of hybrid mostly means running a website portion with a coupled approach. The backend is still like that of headless CMS, but the website portion functions as a coupled instance, where the backend is still detached from other heads or frontend systems that serve other web-based elements, such as an app or some IoT endpoint.

➕ Advantages of a Hybrid CMS Architecture

Much the same as a decoupled or headless CMS, the authoring system is abundantly available to marketers, meaning the content creators and editors. Like any other computer system, an access control list allows admins to distinguish roles, limiting users to functions needed to complete assigned tasks. Editors and “super users” may be granted additional controls to raise flags that indicate to the API when content can be pulled into the heads of different channels.

What’s different (i.e. “better”) than a purely headless system is the ability to interact with SPA (Single Page Application) frameworks that link content creators and editors with the frontend. The purely headless design accommodates this ability, but it still requires another component to accomplish this task whereas, in a hybrid CMS, this can be built-in to the website portion, assuming you’re utilizing a coupled instance as described above.

As the hybrid CMS builds upon the headless architecture, it’s safe to say that the system boasts the same advantages. In addition, a hybrid CMS architecture also offers:

  • Flexible, in-context editing – What is perhaps the most frustrating part of a standard, headless design is the inability for marketers to interact with the final product. The tension this problem creates is alleviated by providing more control to the authors and editors of the content.

  • A holistic WCM, driven by microservices – On paper, the CaaS (Content as a Service) model of the headless system is a workhorse, but at its core, the design is too linear. Building on the point above, a WCM (Web Content Management) system increases visibility to the authoring team which reduces the likelihood of errors, plus it allows teams to control the sharing of information between channels, circumventing the need for the head of some system to first activate the API to call information from the backend.

  • Provide marketing with more control of app integration – One of the most popular uses from frameworks like React, Angular, Vue.js, and others is providing backend users the ability to edit published content. However, these systems can also be used to integrate with other portions of a channel, such as an eCommerce component, which would otherwise require the help of a frontend developer in purely headless architecture.

🔴 Disadvantages of a Hybrid CMS Architecture

While no piece of technology is completely perfect, it’s safe to say that that the hybrid CMS addresses some of the biggest complaints of headless architecture. Though it may be easier for the authoring team on the backend to interact with frontend elements without pestering the development team, some issues persist with this design.

Like a headless CMS, a hybrid architecture is complex – businesses that need a simple site with maybe a blog function and a few plugins for different features are better off utilizing a coupled or decoupled CMS. To be more precise, the primary disadvantages of a hybrid CMS are:

  • Considerable development needed for the head of each channel – Like a headless CMS, content simply sits in the backend database until a fronted system activates the API to call on the information. Each endpoint requires dedicated development to establish the groundwork for each endpoint. This usually translates to a fair amount of investment required (especially at first) to create a functional system.

  • The learning curve for the marketing team – As many users will be used to more straightforward systems, this can be a bit of a challenge for less technical individuals in marketing roles. While UX interfaces are designed to be as intuitive as possible, training will likely be necessary if adopting this design to replace an older system, just as with any new software.

💡 Final Thoughts on the Hybrid CMS Architecture

Here at Bloomreach, our state-of-the-art headless CMS embodies the principles of the hybrid architecture. Our Experience Manager was developed around the needs of digital content creators and the developer communities who build systems around the needs of marketing teams. We have focused on integrating powerful SPA (Single Page Application) frameworks that enable a harmonious relationship between marketing and DevOps.

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