When somebody says “Mobile CMS” they could actually have a few different things in mind, raising a few complications towards the concept – there are various interpretations of what a mobile CMS is. The following are the 3 most common interpretations of what a mobile CMS is:
For example, you have an app for iOS and Android, where users are able to purchase cars. You would like a CMS that stores all relevant car information and delivers it to your app on both mobile platforms. This could be seen as a mobile CMS.
Let’s take the previous example and say that, in addition to your iOS and Android apps for selling cars, you also have a website that people visit from various mobile devices. You may or may not have a native mobile app, or users may not wish to download another app, making it necessary to have a mobile “optimized” website. In this case, your CMS needs to support content delivery to all possible screen sizes, aspect ratios, and resolutions, across smartphones and tablets. A CMS for such mobile responsive websites could also be seen as a mobile CMS.
For example, you have a news website that you built with Wordpress. You would like an application for your Android phone to be able to add new articles and update existing news stories as they develop on the go, taking a part of your website and injecting it into a mobile app. This could also be seen as a mobile CMS.
Therefore, when talking about Mobile CMS, especially when making decisions within a team, it is important to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
If you would like to create content that would then be delivered to a mobile application on a mobile platform - phone, tablet, smartwatch, or other - you have a few ways of accomplishing that.
In some ways, you could use the application itself as a CMS. In other words, the content that you need in the application could be hardcoded in the application itself. This makes it a really straightforward option of having content in your app.
Except for extremely minimal and static apps, however, there are significant drawbacks to this approach. A few points to consider in this approach:
While certainly a possibility, realistically speaking, for any meaningful mobile app experience, using the app itself as a CMS is most likely not the best option given the drawbacks.
As an alternative to hard-coding your content within your Mobile application, you could utilize a mobile Backend-as-a-Service product for your Mobile CMS needs. There are a few alternatives you could consider, depending on what you are after:
If you’re keen on open source software, you could take a look at Parse. For a GraphQL-based alternative of an mBaaS there is Graphcool.
If you are coming from an established company with an enterprise context, Kinvey might be an option to consider for you.
While a mBaaS is a great alternative to hard-coding content within the mobile application itself - it also does a good job for simple noncontent heavy applications, where the content is mostly static - the key functionality lacking with a mBaaS is the actual CMS. Therefore, for mobile applications that need content updated frequently or where there is a need for proper editorial workflows, especially involving non-technical users, a mobile Backend-as-a-Service is likely not the best solution.
Having reviewed alternatives, let’s dive into the details of what it would mean to have a true mobile CMS powering the content in your mobile applications.
As we can synthesize from the previous discussion, a true mobile CMS absolutely must meet the following requirements:
To address these requirements, the concept of a headless content management system was developed. A headless CMS is defined by the following characteristics:
There are a number of attractive options for such headless content management systems. In the case of GraphCMS - the first headless CMS to provide a GraphQL API, you can experience the following scenarios:
Mobile applications are certainly the dominating mode of consuming content on mobile platforms. There is still room for mobile websites, however, and it would be a mistake to neglect them.
The challenge with mobile responsive websites is in the fact that between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems, not to mention various smartwatches and other smart devices with a screen, there is a multitude of devices and screen sizes. Choosing to build a mobile responsive website means that you have to deliver a consistently smooth user experience across all of these screens, regardless of how different their sizes and proportions may be.
The good news is that, more often than not, a mobile responsive website is a counterpart to an already existing desktop website. This presents a few options on how to manage content in this case.
If the existing desktop website is already powered by a content management system, especially if it is a legacy CMS, you may choose to utilize existing themes and plugins to simply make your desktop website responsive. For Wordpress, you may opt for the default responsive theme, which has been installed more than 1 million times as of this writing. If you’re a Drupal user, take a look at the responsive plugins here. For other content management system providers, you may rely on the expertise of your design and development teams to make your existing website responsive.
If, on the other hand, you are building both the desktop website and the mobile responsive website from scratch, it is a great opportunity to consider the benefits of a content management system for mobile, as outlined above. Specifically, a headless CMS, because you would have the opportunity to deliver the same content through the same API to two different platforms. In other words, you or your content creators would produce the content once and the CMS would distribute it to any platform with ease. In this case, it would be a desktop website and a mobile responsive website. You could even throw in more devices into the mix though. A VR headset, a smartwatch, or an electronic billboard. In theory you’d only produce content for them once, and have all platforms connected to the same API.
In cases when you would like a mobile CMS in the sense of an application for your mobile device to administer your existing CMS instance, you have a few options. If you already have a legacy CMS in place, you could use the mobile app that Wordpress provides for your CMS on-the-go needs. You can dive in here.
Alternatively, for really simple use cases, such as personal or corporate blogs, you could look to modern publishing platforms, such as Medium. A great way to create simple content and offer mobile apps on-the-go.