Headless CMS vs Monolithic CMS and Why We’re Swaying Towards Headless

Recently we’ve been branching out and using Statamic, a different content management system (CMS) to our normal choice of WordPress. 

What’s the difference? You might ask…

Statamic is a “headless” platform, whereas WordPress is a “monolithic” one. 

If your business is currently on a platform, the likelihood is that it’s a monolithic platform, like WordPress. If you want to know why we’re making the move from monolithic to headless, or you just want to know what the heck “monolithic” and “headless” CMSs are, keep reading.

What is a CMS?

In case you’re not familiar with the jargon, a CMS is a “content management system”, in other words, it’s a tool that allows site owners to build and manage a website without having to code it from scratch, or know how to code at all. 

A CMS makes web development more accessible, allowing businesses to create and manage content without the help of a developer. This makes it a crucial piece of tech for most orgs, In fact, more than 68 million websites are built with one.

What is a monolithic CMS?

A monolithic CMS,  also known as a traditional or coupled CMS, is an all-in-one solution that enables you to store, control, and publish content to a website. The front-end user experience and the back-end admin experience are both provided by the same codebase, making it a simple approach to website management.

An example of a traditional monolithic platform is WordPress, an all-in-one package for building a website which has been our go-to until now. 

If you haven’t already figured it out, these platforms are given the name monolith (mono = one) because they provide everything all in one place.

Pros of a monolithic CMS:

  1. Ease of use and the ability to customise output without a developer 
  2. Trustworthiness since they’re a tried and tested standard method
  3. Quick and easy to develop and extend the platform with plugins
  4. Easier testing and error tracing because there are fewer variables, and therefore less risk of something going wrong

Given all of the above, monolithic platforms have been a dominating force for a while. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t come with their own set of challenges…

It’s argued that monolithic architecture is restrictive in its nature. Although it offers users “everything in one place”, it doesn’t always make it easy for businesses to stay competitive in today’s fast-growing e-commerce landscape. 

For example, because traditional CMSs organise content using frameworks specific to webpages, the same content can’t be used with other digital platforms or tools. This can be a bit of a problem given that some companies are now developing a smorgasbord of digital products, including websites, mobile apps, digital displays, conversational interfaces and more.

A monolithic CMS might benefit from plug-in capabilities to boost functionality, but they can also slow down platform performance and raise the possibility of security flaws.

Security flaws can also occur because Monolithic CMSs are open source platforms, meaning they require continuous security updates, which can be tedious to keep on top of.

Ultimately, monolithic CMSs come with a few headaches, and a lack of integration with modern software stacks, cloud services, and software delivery pipelines is beginning to ignite a shift to headless CMSs. Let’s now turn our attention to this modern architecture.

What is a headless CMS?

Speaking technically, a headless CMS is any type of back-end content management system where the content store is separated or “decoupled” from the presentation layer, or the “head”. 

In simple terms, a headless CMS allows you to manage content in one place and still be able to distribute it to any front end of your choice.

This means increased flexibility and scalability, alleviating users from some of the drawbacks of monolithic systems.

How does a headless CMS work?

Due to something called an ‘API’, two applications can become connected so they can exchange data. 

What does this mean?

Well. Unlike monolithic CMSs, which tightly marry the frontend and the backend and keep you restricted in terms of how you can display content, content in a headless CMS can be re-used indefinitely! This is excellent news for companies looking to deploy omnichannel strategies. *gets up and happy dances*

Why we’re shifting toward headless CMSs

Sometimes we need more freedom to deliver great solutions for our clients without requiring back-end or cloud developers, which is why in some cases we opt for a headless CMS.

With headless CMSs:

  • We can create omnichannel content strategies for our clients and repurpose meaningful content across multiple channels.
  • We can deliver increased speed and overall site performance, and given the recent changes to Google’s SEO algorithm, efficiency is more crucial than ever. This means both happy site users and better SEO (win-win!). 
  • We can also design adaptable websites from the get-go without needing plug-ins to increase functionality. This is great news since, despite their benefits for monolithic platforms, plugins may occasionally turn nightmare-ish, lowering platform performance and increasing the risk of security issues.
  • And lastly, depending on the project, we can cut down costs for the client by opting for a headless CMS. With all the required functionality being present from the beginning, this eliminates the need to spend on future upgrades, and the associated maintenance costs.

For these reasons, when we need to deliver a more complex solution for a client, we’ve been swaying to the headless CMS, Statamic. This platform is trusted by brands such as Disney, Asana, Freshbooks and KFC. It’s design-centred by nature, making it easy for us to produce knock-out, stunning websites for our clients. 

When it comes to populating these websites, Statamic contains an array of powerful tools so we can create, manage, and publish tons of impactful content, and it’s built to be a “transformer”, meaning it adapts to the needs of any business as it grows. 

You might be an established business eager for a brand refresh that will propel your growth to the next level, or you might be a start-up seeking your very first website that is perfect from the start, yet equipped to evolve as your organisation expands. Either way, we can help. Get in touch with our talented team of creators; we look forward to building something great with you.

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