Contentful is a content management system that enables versatile content management for complex sites. As a whole, it’s designed to help teams build and launch modern digital experiences faster, integrate diverse tools, and publish content seamlessly across an array of platforms.
In this article, we’ll unpack what a CMS is, the benefits of going with a headless CMS like Contentful, and how this approach to development can benefit your business. Let’s dive in.
What is a CMS?
The term CMS stands for Content Management System. A CMS is a foundational infrastructure that allows you to manage your web content. It’s where you build and manage your content across websites, blogs, or eCommerce sites, allowing anyone to update content elements without requiring specialized technical knowledge like coding.
The job of a CMS is to make it easy to create and maintain your content, as well as integrate third-party plugins into your assets. WordPress is a common CMS, accounting for almost 40% of sites on the web. But it’s important to understand some limiting factors that come along with traditional, legacy platforms like WordPress. These include being contained to specific content blocks, coding languages, and clunky integrations. This is where modern technologies like a headless CMS stand out and can provide advantages.
What is a headless CMS?
A headless CMS refers to a content management system that decouples the back-end of your site from the front end. Technically speaking, it means that the presentation layer, or 'head' (what your users see), is separate from the content repository or 'body' (where you manage and build your content).
Why is this important? This kind of setup means that you can make changes in the backend of your code, and easily deploy them across all the front-end channels of your site. For eCommerce sites, or businesses that require a consistent digital experience across many types of devices, having this capability is key.
There are a handful of headless CMS platforms and ecosystems to choose from. One platform we often use at Apply Digital is Contentful, as it provides a great deal of flexibility in the solutions we build for our clients.
What is Contentful?
Contentful is an API-first, headless CMS hosted in the cloud that enables users to build highly agile user experiences. You could think of Contentful as a content management system, but also a layer of your infrastructure since it allows you to build content models tailored to your specific requirements.
Using a platform like Contentful allows your team to shift their thinking when it comes to design and development. In the past, when using platforms like WordPress, teams often had to think about how they could create a site experience, within the parameters of WordPress. With headless CMS platforms like Contentful, your team is able to think more creatively and openly by instead asking the question, how can we create the best experience possible, and compose our various tools to bring it to life?
How APIs enable design freedom
One of the important elements underlying this development approach is the use of APIs.
API stands for Application Programming Interface, which describes its core function of enabling two applications to talk to each other. APIs offer a set of protocols and rules that make it easy for applications to transfer data from one place to another. Not only does this create space for more creativity in solution design, but it improves data transfer capabilities. Here are a few benefits to using APIs in your tech stack:
Data formatting. A significant benefit is that thanks to Contentful’s REST API, the platform delivers data in JSON format, which is compatible with virtually any device and frontend technology. This allows you to create a wide range of dynamic content that can easily be shared across platforms and tools.
Data diversity. With Contentful, you have the ability to work with various types of data, and various ways of making API requests. This allows for a wider range of options in the way you develop your site and its features, as you can work with more diverse content, data, and processes.
Efficient content distribution. Since Contentful is hosted on the cloud and uses a CDN (content delivery network), you can craft content blocks and have peace of mind it will be distributed fast, and seamlessly across your platform touch points.
Polyglot enabled. Contentful provides an SDK (software development kit) for the vast majority of coding languages. This polyglot feature allows your system to make API calls regardless of the coding language used on your site.
Dynamic, fast delivery. The fact that Contentful uses their REST API means that content delivery is dynamic and fully integrated into the structure of the webpage, without requiring the page to take time to reload.
In summary: Contentful advantages
If you have stakeholders on your team who are responsible for creating, deploying, and managing your site content like adding plug-ins and integrations, opting for a headless CMS like Contentful can make this process easier.
We hope that explaining what a CMS is, the advantages of a headless CMS, and the unique features of Contentful will help you assess the health of your own infrastructure and determine what solutions are right for you.
At Apply Digital, we use Contentful and other headless CMS platforms because we appreciate the agility, versatility, and scalability they offer in developing the best solution to manage our clients’ content. If you would like to implement a similar system for your organization, please reach out to someone on our team, and we’d be happy to discuss how we can help.