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What Features are Missing from Headless CMS?

By John West on 23-02-2023

Headless Content Management Systems (CMS) make it easy for designers and developers to implement websites and for business users to maintain the content driving those sites. Designers and developers implement CMS content types and presentation components, and business users create and update records that use those components to render content.

This works technically, but there are at least two challenges.

Finding the right content

The first is that CMS users tend to be more familiar with how to navigate the website than they are with how to navigate the CMS. To support content re-use including omnichannel delivery, the content for a single web page typically appears in multiple records within the CMS. As a result, updating multiple elements on a single page can require significant searching and clicking to find the records to edit. Sites that retrieve data from additional systems such as commerce complicate this issue further, requiring users to know which elements of the website retrieve data from which systems, and how to navigate through those systems to find the content that they need to update. Users often want to preview the changes that they make in the CMS and other systems in the context of the website before publishing. Preferably, users would be able to browse the site and edit all content rather than navigating through the CMS to locate individual records to edit.

Making it look good by yourself

The second major issue is that products do not grant CMS users sufficient control over page layout and presentation. To allow them to control page structure and visuals, some custom solutions let CMS users select the presentation components to use on each page. For example, the CMS user may create a page and select that it contains a hero banner and an image accordion, and then enter data for each of those components. Some CMS products provide similar features, but this requires use of custom frameworks from the vendors. This limits the range of technologies that customers can employ to implement their solutions and increases vendor lock-in, which works against the decoupling principles inherent to headless CMS architecture.

Giving CMS users the capability to select presentation components meets the most obvious needs but requires designers and developers to get involved for anything beyond controlling the gross structure of the page. Users often want much greater flexibility in their designs, such as the ability to control more aspects of layout and presentation. As a simple example, a CMS user might want to place an image above, below, or to either side of some text managed.