Why use Contentful & headless CMS approach in modern architecture?

Contentful is an API-centric solution designed from the ground up to manage content using the headless architecture. However, what makes Contentful different from other headless CMSs? What are the features that have made Contentful the content infrastructure of choice among the API-first developer ecosystem and Lamia?

In this article we will explore how using Contentful and the headless CMS approach can help your business deliver both better software and thus better content faster. Which obviously leads to superior customer experience.

Why utilize Contentful?

What is a Headless CMS?

You can think of Headless CMSes as "back-end only content management systems" where raw content is preserved in storages that can then be accessed via an API call.

The term "headless" has to do with the radical approach of separating the back-end from the front-end (head); that’s why this type of CMS is also known as API-first CMS.

How does a Headless CMS work?

As explained in the previous section, Headless CMS architecture breaks the paradigm of traditional CMSes and separates the content from the presentation layer.

Back-end. One of the most revolutionary aspects of the Headless CMS approach has to do with the way content is handled. Since the content is completely separated from the presentation layer, which provides the advantage of structuring the content in a logical way as the Contentful data model does.

Front-end. The fact that content is not bound by the format limitations of traditional CMSes allows developers to create multichannel solutions, where the same content can be reused in a variety of applications, platforms, and devices. An additional advantage of the Headless CMS approach is that to achieve their goal; developers can use the language or framework that is most convenient for them to present the content depending on the use case.

It is worth noting that unlike what many people think, the headless CMS approach used by Contentful is far from the decoupled headless CMS approach used by some platforms such as WordPress. Put another way, the misnamed "Headless WordPress" doesn't actually offer the same flexibility that makes "true" headless CMSes so special.

This is because decoupled CMS APIs are necessarily limited to the type of content they will serve. Returning to the case of WordPress, it is true that the content has been separated from the website rendering engine. However, this content must still respect a format and a structure that allows it to be compatible with WordPress themes and plugins.

On the other hand, headless CMSes like Contentful are based on the "API-first" principle, so they are not tied to any specific UI framework, which gives them enormous flexibility.

That said, you may be asking yourself, why should you choose a headless CMS over a decoupled CMS or even a traditional CMS?

Advantages of Headless CMS

While the separation between back-end and front-end being maybe one of the most striking advantages of headless CMSes, it is not the only one. In this section, we will explore in more detail the aspects that distinguish headless CMSs from traditional CMSs.

Efficient Content Editing

If you have used traditional CMS platforms such as WordPress, Episerver, or Drupal, you may have noticed that content editing is handled from within the CMS itself. While this provides a quick solution for small to medium-sized websites and blogs, it is not the best approach for large sites that process hundreds of pages of new content per month.

In addition to the overhead that the flashy WYSIWYG editor has on resources, this approach treats each page and each post as a "bucket" where all elements converge. We are talking about the content (text), HTML formatting, images, videos, shortcodes, etc. From a structural point of view, traditional CMSs are also a nightmare. Imagine the layer of complexity of managing a multi-language site where you have to correlate all these elements.

On the other hand, a headless CMS like Contentful allows you to structure content in an efficient way, separating and classifying content into interrelated fields which can be restructured and reused flexibly. Moreover, since the main mission of the back-end is to edit and store content in a predictable way, this allows you to edit structured content in unique ways, as is the case with the new Contentful Slide-In Editor.

Key Takeaways

  • Contentful Headless CMS provides you with a faster editing experience
  • Headless CMSs allow content to be classified and stored in a convenient and predictable way

Omnichannel Friendly

The idea of editing content more efficiently may not be compelling enough for you. But what about the ease with which headless CMSes can help you drive an omnichannel content strategy?

Traditional CMSs, even decoupled headless CMSes, are limited to serving only one type of content. This has a lot to do with their reliance on a monolithic approach. None of these platforms were designed to be a content repository; instead, they were designed to serve dynamic web pages.

Truly headless content management systems, on the other hand, are structured data silos. A developer can create an API that makes use of such data in many ways. For instance, the content stored in the back-end of a Headless CMS can be used for a blog, but it can also be used for a web application running on a mobile device, a chatbot, or provisioning an e-commerce site. The possibilities are endless.

Key Takeaways

  • Headless CMS provides the flexibility to centralize content regardless of its intended use
  • Structured content stored in Contentful Headless CMS can be leveraged when implementing an omnichannel strategy


The scalability of traditional CMSs such as Episerver or Drupal is limited due to its monolithic nature. Even using a load balancer, the performance of such a platform has its limits.

On the other hand, Contentful Headless CMS is built with current tech trends in mind. Being a cloud-native platform, Contentful's scalability headroom is basically unlimited. Furthermore, this type of scalability is not restricted to the back-end but also applies to the front-end.

Depending on the use case, developers can use services like Netlify to serve static web pages or use high-performance cloud-based services to host HA applications.

Key Takeaways

  • In terms of scalability, the sky's the limit for both the Headless CMS back-end and the presentation layer consuming API calls.

DevOps & Agile Ready

Monolithic CMS(or ecom) platforms are not friendly to Agile development practices, let alone DevOps principles. Contentful, on the other hand, is built following all the principles used by modern development teams which allow taking CMSes to the next level, CMS As Code.

The tools that Contentful provides for this are versatile. For example, Contentful's space environments offer the ability to create and maintain multiple versions of the space-specific data and make changes to them in isolation. Moreover, developers can use CD/CI tools to create a pipeline that allows them to deliver content faster.

Best of all, teams trained in Agile and DevOps principles will feel right at home because they will be able to use the tools they are used to. All of the above allows you to leverage the inherent benefits of DevOps, such as increased security, higher quality content, greater collaboration between departments or development teams, and more.

Key Takeaways

  • Contentful Headless CMS allows releasing content & shipping new software logic faster
  • DevOps and Agile principles built in Contentful favor collaboration

Considering Contentful or headless approach? Take advantage of our expertise to get your technology choices just right. Get in touch, we'd be happy to talk more!