Headless versus traditional, how to pick your best fit?

Despite what you may have read on the internet, neither traditional nor headless CMS’ is inherently better than the other. Let's show why.

If you’re at all familiar with the CMS space, you’ve probably heard that CMS’ can be divided into two main categories; traditional and so-called “headless” CMS. Headless in particular has become something of a buzzword in the last years.

However, if you’re anything like a rather significant portion of the business world, then you’d likely be the first to admit that you’re a little unclear on precisely what these terms actually mean and their respective benefits.

If so, then keep reading, this article will serve as a very quick guide to help you understand the differences between the two types of CMS and which one might be better for your business.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros of using a traditional CMS:

  1. One of the biggest reasons that you might want to stick with “traditional” CMS would be that you don’t have a strong technical base available as headless solutions are incredibly resource-hungry and without sufficient support, they’ll quickly end up doing you more harm than good. For example, for very small-scale operations, an easy to use, open-source editor that doesn’t require any coding knowledge such as WordPress or Joomla, will probably be ideal. Alternatively, small to medium enterprises that have some technical resources at their disposal will find they get the most value out of sophisticated traditional CMS’ such as Kentico or possibly Sitecore.

  2. Another reason that makes the traditional solution an attractive option for some businesses is that they’re easier to manage as they tend to only connect to a single destination. This means that if you don’t have an enormous online footprint and are instead looking to simply push content to your website alongside some other basic tasks then a traditional CMS will, in all likelihood, be a much better option for you.

  3. Not only are they easier to manage, but traditional CMS’ are also the cheaper option in most cases. As said earlier, headless solutions need a lot of resources to function. This means that they can quickly become very expensive to maintain.

  4. Finally, if you’re expecting to handle a user-generated content, a headless CMS will likely be much more trouble than it's worth. A traditional CMS solution tend to be better suited to handling digital community experiences.

Okay, so if that’s the case and traditional CMS’ tend to be the more affordable option, why would an organisation decide to go headless?

  1. Scalability. While traditional solutions are easy to manage, they’re inherently limited in their capacity to support an organisation's growth. Headless CMS’ don’t have this issue. As such, if you’ve got a large number of teams working together to create content, going headless will massively reduce the technical friction between teams, making collaboration far easier.

  2. If security is a major concern for your organisation then headless becomes an incredibly attractive option. Due to the architecture of the system and how data is handled and retrieved from the backend, headless CMS’ are simply more secure than traditional ones.

  3. For organisations with the technical resources to maintain a headless CMS, the fact that they are API-based makes them incredibly powerful. By using bespoke connectors, almost any software can be integrated and connected with each other, allowing teams to use the best possible tools in every situation, rather than the jack-of-all-trades approach that using a traditional CMS necessitates.

Finally, if you take away anything from this article, it should be this. Despite what you may have read in half a dozen articles with a title something like “Why You Should Switch to Headless”, neither traditional nor headless CMS’ is inherently better than the other.

They each have benefits and drawbacks and which one is best is entirely dependent on your needs as a business, not on the type of CMS.

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