GraphCMS Talks: Headless CMS with Kaya Ismail

Ronak Ganatra
Ronak Ganatra
Kaya Ismail
Kaya Ismail

September 15, 2020

Understanding the rise of Headless CMS for scaling business needs

In this episode of GraphCMS Talks, I get into a conversation with Kaya Ismail, Founder at Wordify, to talk about the rise of Headless CMS for scaling business needs.

About Kaya and Wordify

Kaya is the founder of Wordify, a content implementation company that helps SaaS vendors define a content strategy, and deliver better content experiences.

Kaya is an extremely active voice in the CMS and DXP community, having written several pieces of key content for CMSWire, and is very actively involved in the content community at large. Get in touch with him via Twitter or LinkedIn.

Key takeaways from the conversation

What is a Headless CMS and why's there so much noise around it lately?

A Headless CMS is a content repository that decouples the backend and frontend. In the case of a traditional CMS, like WordPress, the content is restricted to the WordPress backend, and rendered on a browser via themes and plugins. What a Headless CMS does, is it takes that content element, isolates it from the frontend, and retains it as a "content infrastructure", and distributes it via API. This means that content can be consumed by all devices natively, usually via JSON, and then rendered as that platform should, without the need for cumbersome adjustments or extensibility.

With a traditional CMS, that content could only go to that template that was defined, but with a Headless CMS, the content is frontend agnostic and can be sent anywhere - like websites, landing pages, mobiles, digital displays, etc.

Furthermore, a Headless CMS can also pull in content from anywhere, like an eCommerce solution, a CRM, a DAM, etc., and be combined with the created content to be rendered on the frontend, working as a "Content Hub".

Headless CMS has always had a great focus on developer experience, but with Headless CMS being more in the mainstream, what're your thoughts on how the editorial experience can improve for content and marketing teams?

Kaya had originally written a piece titled The Headless CMS Hype: Someone, Please Think of the Marketers, where he underlined the key areas of focus for Headless CMS vendors to focus on the needs of the content teams.

As marketers brace themselves for the Internet of Things devices, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality, now is not the time to leave them to build increasingly complicated marketing machines with hundreds of independently moving parts.

What he argues is that Headless CMS solve a lot of problems for teams that want to deliver omnichannel experiences, but what they're not doing is building solutions that encourage marketing teams to go in and easily build those experiences without a large learning curve. With traditional CMS, a marketer has the tool-set available to build what they want independently (albeit in a linear way per platform), but when Headless came around, that tool-set was taken away since their dependence on development teams was increased.

To remedy this, Headless CMS vendors should look into thinking about the editorial experience, and once they've gotten the developer experience right, should focus on giving marketing teams their tool-set back to truly empower them towards designing better experiences.

As content and marketing teams are gearing up to transition into delivering omnichannel digital experiences, how does API-first content management help deliver those?

The reason marketers should care more about API-first content management has a lot to do with reducing workloads and having a better performance for their content. A content hub approach lets them reduce the effort needed for omnichannel experiences by just creating their content once, and having it then distributed across all platforms the way they define or intend to, taking away the previous headaches of duplication and recreation.

Apart from just cutting down their time to market, this lets them focus on building more consistent and seamless experiences since they have complete visibility on the content life-cycle from start to finish.

The Headless CMS approach also allows for stronger technical SEO foundations, since the overall "stack" is leaner, and more scale friendly.

Why should mid-to-large scale companies pay more attention to Headless CMS as they focus more on customer experiences?

In this case, the idea is to stop thinking of a Headless CMS as "just a CMS" and more as the "foundation of a DXP". In this mindset, you've now got a content infrastructure, and you can integrate this with any software you're using to deliver on the customer experience.

You can connect your content with social channels, end platforms, CRMs, CDPs, etc. with ease, and you can bring in all your complimentary content to combine with what you create, to distribute a seamless experience to customers at scale.

This also helps with personalization, since you can connect your sales platforms to your CMS, and based on what information and events/triggers you define, content can be shown in a highly individualized manner to end-users. Similarly, you can build better commerce offerings since your CMS can pull in information from your PIM, Payments platform, etc. to enrich your website with all the related information before its shown to the end customer.

Using a Headless CMS as a content infrastructure or a content hub for these kinds of application content help companies of all sizes deliver a more streamlined experience that's better manageable internally, as well as better received externally.

The entire discussion of scalable customer experiences has also led to the emergence of microservice led DXPs. How do you see a Headless CMS as part of this new breed of microservice led DXPs?

A DXP, or a Digital Experience Platform, is an emerging category of software aiming to tackle the primary goal of perfecting the customer experience, or CX. Traditionally DXPs have been "full-stack" monoliths that provide an architecture for businesses to digitize their business goals, marketing activities, analytics, and content management. Over time, with the rise of API-driven approaches and the need for omnichannel content distribution, there has been an emergence of micro-services based DXPs, which are essentially a suite of products working in harmony.

Once you've got the CMS as the core of your DXP, all other services can be integrated into letting you focus on perfecting the stack that fulfills your use cases. The CMS is still the foundation of this DXP, since once you take out this piece of the puzzle, how are the other services going to integrate and communicate with one another, having lost the component that connects their content and delivers it to the frontend.

The microservice approach helps companies pick the best-of-breed services to build their DXP, but they still come together at the CMS to deliver on those experiences.


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