Is your brand considering a headless content management system (CMS)? Join the club. Nearly 30% of software decision-makers plan to replace their current CMS with a new one, according to a 2020 Forrester survey. When B2C and B2B companies explore headless technologies, it’s typically because they want a better way to catch up with their customers; they want to serve them content across an exploding array of devices, apps, and platforms. A headless CMS makes that job a lot easier.
But before making the leap, here’s what content marketers and content strategists should understand: Your content creation process will change significantly when you switch to headless. You’ll need a new mindset and a new approach. Once you get the hang of it, though, you’ll recognize the tremendous efficiencies of a headless platform.
How Is Content Different in a Headless CMS?
The easiest way to understand headless is to contrast it with a traditional CMS, which has a back-end where you create and edit content, and a front-end where it gets published, typically a website. But with headless, there’s no front-end at all. That’s not the CMS’s job anymore.
Content management is now separate from content presentation. The headless CMS just pushes content where you need it to go — a website, mobile app, chatbot, product interface, social media feed and more. You build these platforms separately and the headless CMS connects to them through an application programming interface (API).
In an omnichannel world, this approach makes life much easier for content creators. You don’t have to write and publish a snippet of text for each of these platforms: You write it once and your headless CMS does the heavy lifting. Need to edit copy? Do it once in your CMS and the update appears across platforms.
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The Power of Structured Content
To accomplish this feat, a headless CMS relies on structured content fields, in which content is broken down into its individual component parts or blocks, then re-assembled or personalized for different channels.
For example, technical information about a SaaS product could consist of separate structured fields for the following: product name, summary description, list of core benefits and features, product update/version information, customer use cases, product FAQs (one structured field for each Q&A), and much more.
In the past, all of this information might be written and published as a single static webpage. But via structured fields, these smaller blocks of content can appear as needed within apps, webpages, product interfaces and chatbot responses. This structure gives both developers and content creators far more flexibility to put the customers’ needs first and reach them with the right information at the right time, via their preferred channels.
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A New Mindset for Creating Headless Content
Creating these smaller blocks of content requires a new mindset for content creators and a new approach to content strategy. In a headless environment, you must let go of thinking about content in terms of rigid, static formats like webpages or FAQs. Instead, focus on the smaller content blocks and elements: what they should be, how they must be organized, how they will relate to one another and how they can be re-assembled and reused on different channels.
This process is called content object modeling, and it takes careful planning at the outset to ensure that the content structure you’ve put in place will serve your needs. A recent Contentful article put it well: “Forget what you know about traditional CMSs that restrict your modeling to predefined content types and stop thinking of content in terms of individual projects. The new approach to content modeling is about organizing content types, not page types.”
Content modeling success depends on close collaboration between content strategists and developers. And before creating any new content block, you must be channel-aware, envisioning ahead of time where it might live and how it will be consumed.
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Content Hasn’t Really Changed
Some might argue that a headless CMS turns content into just another data field. But content will always be more than data, and great content will always be defined by its ability to engage readers and provide value. A headless CMS just requires a different approach to creating great content, and in turn, delivering a better content experience to your customers.
Lindy Roux is vice president and managing director of Tendo Communications, a B2B content agency based in San Francisco. She has over two decades of experience in content and digital strategy, CMS, SEO, user experience, consumer insights, branding and analytics.