Do you need a Headless CMS? You Probably Don’t. Here’s Why

Dive into an analysis of whether a headless CMS is the right investment for your business, with a spotlight on Contentrain's ability to deliver content effectively while managing resources and budget efficiently.

Andres PhilipsFeb 2, 2024
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Blazing-fast websites, increased performance, and a better user experience are just some things businesses are looking for from their content management systems today. As the role of CMS has evolved, terms like headless CMS and digital experience platform have been growing in popularity in recent years.

But while these tools offer robust capabilities for modern enterprises, not every headless CMS will be the right fit for your use case. For early-stage startups and small businesses, in particular, many headless CMSs can cost more than they deliver in revenue. In this article, we’ll explain why you might not need a headless CMS and how to determine if you do.

What Does a Headless CMS Do?

A headless CMS is a content management system that enables businesses to deliver content to multiple channels. By separating the frontend of the CMS from the backend, content can be published to websites, mobile apps, and a variety of other devices. Some of the most popular use cases for headless CMSs include:

  • Websites: High-performance and SEO-friendly websites like Jamstack sites are some of the most popular applications built using a headless CMS.
  • Mobile Apps: Companies can deliver content to native mobile apps for iOS and Android.
  • Ecommerce Stores: A headless CMS is useful for launching content-rich digital stores that can be accessed on any device.
  • Portals: With a headless CMS, businesses can build employee and partner intranets and portals to share content internally.
  • Digital Signage: Content can be delivered to digital signs and in-store kiosks, among other digital signage devices.
  • IoT Experiences: A headless CMS can manage content for any channel connected to the internet, whether an AR or VR headset or another device.

Additionally, many large enterprises use API-driven headless CMSs as a key part of their technology stacks, working to manage digital experiences and integrating with eCommerce platforms, marketing automation systems, analytics tools, and other platforms.

Why You Probably Don’t Need One

While many headless platforms offer much flexibility, many companies don’t necessarily need a headless CMS to manage their content. Here are a few reasons why:

Lack of developer resources

Headless CMSs enable companies to deliver content to multiple channels by decoupling the frontend from the backend. However, this requires developers to build the frontend from scratch. Companies that lack the developer resources or budget to outsource for a development team may be unable to do this consistently and will struggle to maximize a headless CMS.

In other cases, large enterprises sometimes have the staff to manage headless applications. Still, these developers may be unfamiliar with the modern frameworks needed for a headless CMS rather than the legacy frameworks they had used before.

Total cost of ownership is higher than you might think

When purchasing a headless CMS, the reality is that the initial sticker price might not be the final price that you end up paying. Many headless CMS vendors charge additional fees based on the number of users, the number of websites being built, and how many API calls are made monthly. Over time, these costs can add up and severely impact the total cost of ownership.

Migrating will be a challenge later on

Many leading headless CMS vendors are SaaS solutions that handle upgrades and other maintenance requirements. The problem with these platforms is that you can never have complete control over your data with all of your content and data hosted by the vendor. This presents challenges if you want to migrate to another system someday.

Only static content

Headless CMSs, particularly API-first CMSs, are ideal for building dynamic content experiences and managing marketing campaigns that span multiple channels. This omnichannel strategy may be necessary for global enterprises with thousands of employees, locations, and large audiences to cater to.

However, many smaller organizations only require static content and a simple website or app. For businesses with these requirements, a headless CMS might promise a lot but might be too much for them to fully leverage.

How to Determine If You Need a Headless CMS

If you’re thinking about your next content management system and considering adopting a headless CMS, you should ensure that now is the right time to do so and that it’s the right fit for your organization. Here are some steps to do this:

1. Map business requirements

Any new technology purchase should align with the requirements of the business. Determine the size of the project being undertaken (such as launching a new website to attract more customers) and the business’s goals. Projects that aren’t overly complex or that don’t require extensive scalability might not be the best fit for a headless CMS at this stage.

2. Map your content requirements

Identify the type of content you need to drive attention for your business and any other channels where you might want to publish content. For example, many businesses only need a fast-loading website and blog to present themselves to customers. In other cases, a company may have multiple websites and mobile apps to manage. Knowing where you want to publish content will determine the type of CMS needed.

3. Look at your technology stack

The software and technologies currently used by your organization can determine if you need a headless CMS. Companies relying on a simple traditional CMS or page builder to manage their website might not need the full scalability of a headless CMS. They likely won’t have the resources to manage one. The same is true for startups beginning their digital journeys.

4. Assess budget

Ultimately, whether or not to adopt a headless CMS will come down to the available budget for many organizations. While some platforms may be available for a simple monthly subscription that doesn’t change, others will have higher and fluctuating costs, which can have a severe impact on the total cost of ownership.

5. Assess team size and prospects

The size of your team and available developer and marketing resources will clearly indicate whether or not now is the time to adopt a headless CMS. Companies should also consider their opportunities for growth and funding, and whether or not they can hire more employees before they choose a headless CMS.

6. Determine future requirements

No company adopts a new marketing technology when it knows it plans to change it in 2-3 years. Ultimately, a key reason to choose a headless CMS is that it can provide opportunities for growth and scale as requirements become more complex.

If your organization knows it will need omnichannel delivery or personalization capabilities in the short to medium term to handle a growing audience, then a headless CMS may be the right choice. However, it may be unnecessary if these requirements aren’t on the cards.

Why You Should Still Choose Contentrain

Headless CMSs offer a variety of benefits, including omnichannel content delivery, flexibility, and the ability to build a modern and future-proof technology stack. However, for many businesses, these solutions can end up costing more than they bargained for.

Contentrain is a Git-based CMS that enables businesses to build high-performance websites and apps. Although a headless CMS, Contentrain’s Git architecture provides a more cost-effective and flexible platform for companies than other headless CMSs on the market.

  • User-friendly: Contentrain is developer and content-editor-friendly, enabling each group to manage their tasks efficiently.
  • Scalability: Contentrain is ideal for smaller enterprise and startup projects but also offers the flexibility to scale and handle more traffic and use cases.
  • Return on Investment: With Contentrain, your total cost of ownership doesn’t feel like a surprise every time the bill comes, allowing you to predict expenses and focus on generating revenue.
  • Git Architecture: As a Git-based CMS, content is stored as files in Git. This enables marketers to roll back to previous content versions and ensures they have complete ownership of data.

Contact us to learn more about Contentrain and why it can better fit your organization than other headless CMSs.

Andres PhilipsTechnical Content Writer

Andres helping vendors & agencies create content to simplify complex ideas and stand out from the competition