Few things make an online editor's heart bleed more than the sight of their own, painstakingly created content, which is played out unsightly by a rigid content management system. Especially when the content is to be presented across multiple channels. The situation is similar for the software developer, who is often faced with the task of circumventing the specifications of a CMS in order to do as much justice as possible to the editor's wishes. However, it is usually the reader who really suffers when he has to consume the result of numerous compromises. A readable text is there and yet it can be seen that no one likes the solution 100 percent.

If you want to present content of all kinds on the web, you also have to deal with the topic of CMS. Which content management system is the right one? How does it work and how can I control the display of content beyond the CMS boundaries? A matter that should not be faced headlong, but rather pursued with a concrete plan. Unless you opt for a headless CMS. In this article we explain what it can do, what advantages it offers and whether it actually represents a real alternative to traditional CMS.

What is a headless CMS?

A classic CMS usually consists of a backend and a frontend. Media such as texts, images and videos are stored in the backend and played out in the frontend. In most cases, the frontend is output as a website as you are usually familiar with it. What is particularly simple about this variant is that the content arranged in the backend according to a predefined pattern is automatically displayed by the frontend. So you can already see during content maintenance what will come out of it at the end. This is the principle of the WYSIWYG editor ("What You See Is What You Get"). For the classic content management system, there are still a few templates from which the user can select their preferred design. This can still be configured a little and then throws out the finished website.

However, as the name suggests, a headless CMS does without the head, i.e. the front end. It only offers the body as a management and formatting interface for the content. It's all about the editorial work on structured content. In this case, the front end is the domain of the development team, which can now use any technology to display the content on any desired interface. Content management is reduced here to its basic characteristics.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a headless CMS?

No influence on the layout: Get out of the comfort zone

The first disadvantage of a headless CMS is actually an advantage at second glance. It can be a bit out of the comfort zone for editors to produce and publish content without actually having any impact on how it is presented. Anyone who tries to imagine sitting in an autonomously driving car will be familiar with this principle. But as soon as the technology of the car, i.e. the "head" of the whole thing, proves to be reliable, you can easily lean back in your backend and enjoy the ride. It is important that you reach your goal in the end.

So if the front end is so mature with the right technology that all content is played out in a structured and uniform manner, then intervention by the editor is simply no longer necessary. A circumstance that you certainly have to get used to, but which definitely has its advantages in the daily handling of your content. Just imagine how much time the editor has for other tasks if he doesn't have to worry about corrections in the frontend as well.

The extra effort for a separate front end can be worth it

The second "disadvantage" is also more of a feature, especially for operators of larger web projects and multiple content channels. Unfortunately, a headless CMS does not work "out of the box", but needs a suitably developed front end. However, the additional effort for the independent development of a front end is absolutely justified if the content only has to be maintained once thanks to the headless CMS and can then be played out via all desired channels. These channels include, for example, different websites, apps, social media channels, IoT devices or various display touchpoints on site, which are of particular interest for omnichannel marketing. This is also a factor that can result in cost savings. Depending on the channel, all you need is a suitable API and the content is pulled from the headless CMS as desired.

Time-to-market: Goodbye waiting time!

If you want to successfully market your brand via web content, you have to be able to communicate new movements on the market or the introduction of new products and services in a timely manner. With a professional headless CMS you save a lot of time. Because the editor does not have to wait for new results from the developer and vice versa. Both can pursue their work purposefully. The creation of new content is no longer dependent on changes in the frontend, making the time-to-market aspect all the more efficient.

Compact data warehouse

There is also particular savings potential for companies in the consolidation of data. Since the entire content is in one place and can be played from there via all channels, the processes involved in distributing and storing the content are also much leaner. The prerequisite for this is precise planning and implementation of the processes related to the content workflow.

Best of Breed

In order to operate efficient targeting, to personalize the content or to influence the presentation via the respective channels, the traditional content management system usually only has the specified means available. A headless CMS follows the “best of breed” approach. It is easy to use the tools that best meet the company's goals and serve goals such as SEO, visitor analysis, tracking, retargeting or contacting customers. The best third-party solution is now used and no longer just the first available.

Usability the easy Way

The editor celebrates when it comes to usability. The traditional content management system has to combine all functions, designs and digital assets and quickly becomes confusing and difficult to use in its user interface. In the headless CMS, on the other hand, the work is reduced to content-related functions. It is slimmer and much less complicated to use. In addition, only a single backend needs to be served with content for all recorded channels. Simple and quick, the project manager will be happy too.

Modern cloud architecture

Most systems are cloud-based and therefore do not require an expensive server environment. Because they are only reduced to content, they can also be scaled as required and are therefore not an obstacle to faster company growth.

Creative freedom for everyone

Structured content is one thing, good customer experience is another. New trends become public every year, with which a brand can be brought even better to the customer. Everyone in the company is excited and wants to use the trends to their advantage. They then often look at their traditional CMS and realize that this is hardly possible without expensive and risky interventions in its fixed structure. Disillusionment sets in and the euphoria is slowed down, as is innovation.

The headless CMS opens up many more possibilities. The content is maintained by the editor and the developer can use any technology and thus decide for himself which functions and features are used. There are no longer any limits on the part of a traditional CMS. Whether Java or PHP: All available technologies can be combined with each other to produce the best possible result. The project adapts to the market and not to the CMS. The competitive advantages are queuing up.

Headless CMS: The advantages and disadvantages at a glance


  • The editor only takes care of the content maintenance and does not have to spend any time on how the content is ultimately played out. Compliance with the CI is guaranteed.
  • Especially for larger projects, the additional effort of a specially developed front end is worthwhile. -The content can be published more quickly thanks to the detached front end.
  • You can use the best tool for personalization, presentation and targeting and you are not limited in your choice by the CMS.
  • Consolidated data for leaner processes.
  • The backend in the Headless CMS is leaner and much easier to use.
  • Most headless systems are cloud-based and cheaper to run.
  • Any technology can be used for the front end, so any feature can be implemented. A win for every marketing and all employees involved.

Disadvantage: - The additional effort for the development of a separate front end is also reflected in the cost breakdown. - As an editor, you no longer have any influence on how content is displayed in Headless CMS. You feel a little like autonomous driving.

Headless into the future or the traditional way?

Switching to a headless CMS is particularly worthwhile for companies whose content strategy is designed for use across multiple channels. However, a headless content management system can be an important innovation factor, especially for multi- or omnichannel projects. The amount of work for a separate frontend usually requires significantly less time than the editorial work on several backends. There are also no limits to the creativity of both the editorial team and the front-end developers, so that there are no longer any technical limits to the potential of your brand. This freedom also provides a boost in motivation among employees because they can finally put their creative ideas and goals into practice.

On the other hand, if you want to run a blog or present a small company website, the additional effort caused by the separation of frontend and backend is probably not justifiable. In this case, the limitations in the selection of marketing features must also be accepted.

Whether a headless CMS is the right choice for your company and your projects depends on various factors. The number of content channels, the frequency of editorial activities, the number of your services and products as well as the resources for the separate processing of backend and frontend can play a role here. We would be happy to take a close look at your project with you and find the right solution for your company, which takes into account and integrates all important processes.