We are in a tech era where things don’t just evolve on monthly or annual basis, they’re unfolding weekly, daily or even hourly. After all, it’s estimated that by 2030, 500 billion devices will be connected to the internet. And with the sheer expanse of the digital universe, growth is happening at a truly exponential rate. And naturally, with growth comes more features, functions and solutions to the questions that have been ruminating for years… how do I bring my brand to life in a digital environment? How can I make my brand stand out? How can I use technology to increase efficiency?
The default answer when building a website might be to fall to a traditional solution like WordPress. After all, it is used by around 39.5% of websites on the internet. Plus, it’s recognised worldwide, has been around since 2003 and though started as a blogging platform, has expanded into a multi-purpose content management system (CMS) with numerous plug-ins and themes since then. We were one of the many using it, designing and building websites in it until 2021. So what changed?
Well, in the latter half of the 2010s, there were rumblings about a new trend, and the expressions ‘headless’ and ‘decoupled web’ started creating waves. Fast forward a few years, and it is a lot more than just a wave. The technology has been explored, created, tested and is now being rolled out to the wider market, by others just like us.
What was it about a modern headless setup that made us jump ship from a traditional WordPress solution? Quite simply the lure of having a front end and a back end of a website that were totally separate (and all the benefits that come with that, of course).
For simple websites, WordPress can tick a lot of boxes. It has a low barrier to entry for developers which means that it can be more cost-effective as those at the start of their career can jump into it quite easily. And the way WordPress handles data is also quite basic; it tries to put all your data in a single table. If your data gets a little more complicated, WordPress can struggle, so it’s not as easily extendable. Depending on the developer you’re using, you could end up having a lot of plugins, which has a number of drawbacks; they can slow down your site, there are potential security issues as many are open source and often, the plug-ins don’t like talking to each other. WordPress has now introduced a headless solution, but we'd argue that you're better off using a headless solution that was made to be a headless CMS. Ultimately, traditional CMSs like WordPress are typically built for specifically managing website content, with tools to organise the digital assets on the back-end and front-end tools to format how it looks on the webpage.
This is where headless comes in. A headless CMS exclusively handles back-end content management, so unlike a traditional CMS, it doesn’t dictate how the content is presented to end-users. In place of a front-end system, a headless CMS shares its stored resources via an API (application programming interface) so any software tool can retrieve content from the CMS. And once on the CMS, the content can be distributed to any channel, be it on the site, in ECRM, in an app, an advert… basically, anything that uses an internet connection. One of our clients is actually using the headless CMS we built to distribute content across multiple areas of the business. In an era where our digital universe spans so much more than a static website, the opportunities to manage and publish content on different channels with a single source of truth is a huge advantage.
This choice of tech also means that content can be managed in a user-friendly way, and when the time comes to refresh the brand or the site (which generally happens every three to four years), you can do this without the need to create a brand new site each time. Your content still exists in the CMS, but the design, look and feel can adapt or change as and when you’d like. This also applies to any campaigns or microsites that you want to create. The infrastructure is there, so those components can be reused (with brand focused design) so this technology can be utilised across different platforms when you need.
Lastly but importantly, it also improves speed and site performance considerably. In fact, one of our clients saw a 246% increase in total impressions, 76% increase in click throughs and 92.78% increase in session duration shortly after the new headless version of the site went live (take a look at the Rowse Honey case study). And these stats aren’t a one-off, we’ve seen it time and again as we continue to build and develop headless websites. And who doesn’t love data to prove an ROI?
Innovation is key in such a fast-paced industry and it’s important for us as an agency to make sure we’re always offering our clients the best solution for them. We, and numerous others, firmly believe that headless is the leading tech in this next decade of web and have dedicated our sole focus to it. Now, we get to explore what else we can do to continue giving our clients the best experience possible when building and amplifying their digital product.