Magnolia CMS Headless CMS

What the Heck is
a Headless CMS?

In the past, a Content Management System (CMS) had the function of enabling the editing of content.
Often, this was provided via browsers in the form of websites.

Nowadays, this has changed: a CMS must play on a wide variety of platforms as well as end devices, which means that a CMS must supply multiple structures.
Editors and content managers reach their limits with "traditional" CMSs such as WordPress, TYPO3 and Drupal, because these focus mainly on the website channel.

If you encounter this problem and want to maintain all your content in one place, whether for your web presence, your mobile app or your print media, then a Headless CMS is fundamental.

Headless CMS Architecture


Front-end and back-end are closely intertwined in a traditional CMS. Stored data is delivered with predefined functions, which can be used in the template engine (software for editing a template file) and generate the view (storage of a query in a database). If data is to be output beyond the view, for example on another medium, then a traditional CMS reaches its limits, as it is not made to provide data outside its own template engine.

This is not the case with a Headless CMS Architecture. A Headless CMS is a Backend Content Management System that decouples the frontend (the visitor side) from the backend (the administration interface) via a REST API.


A REST API (Representational State Transfer-Application Programming Interface) is an interface that is less complex but very flexible to use.

Thus, only one source needs to be edited to serve multiple outputs at the same time. This is the big difference to a traditional CMS. The content can thus be used for further forms of publication and does not have to be maintained multiple times. Even if the requirements change, the content representation, from smartwatches to virtual reality headsets, can be mapped via an API.

Because headless content is delivered via APIs, developers can choose their own front-end tooling. They can swap out parts of their stack, or switch from one framework to another, without impacting the CMS.

Another advantage of a headless CMS is dynamic content redelivery. With the dynamic queries of the REST API, data can be retrieved at any time and does not require a page reload. This is usually not the case with a traditional CMS, since PHP is usually used for the database query and the CMS can only receive data when the page is reloaded.


However, since with a headless CMS requests come from multiple applications and media, the server responsible for hosting the CMS should be able to cope with the tasks. Here, special care should be taken to ensure that all requests are processed within the shortest possible time and that alternative solutions are available even if the server fails.

However, what many marketing specialists miss with a headless CMS is the traditional content creation "WYSIWYG" ("What you see is what you get"). Previews are not available and the general visual content creation is different than what you are used to. Magnolia CMS solves this problem through their Hybrid Headless CMS solution.

Hybrid Headless CMS of Magnolia

Headless technology combined with Magnolia's traditional, comprehensive CMS functionality gives developers and marketers the best of both worlds. A hybrid headless CMS is ideal if you want high flexibility of use across a variety of channels and devices.
Marketers can preview their content and use personalization tools, while developers have more flexibility in development.

With a hybrid headless CMS (also called decoupled CMS), content is decoupled from the frontend, but the head is not completely removed, so marketers can continue to use their templates in the desired places, such as blog posts.

When connecting to third-party systems, however, it is important to ensure that these are supported by the CMS provider. We recommend using an open source hybrid headless CMS with many existing integrations.

Traditional CMS vs. Hybrid Headless CMS

If you want to implement large projects, especially on different channels like websites, apps or other gadgets, then a Hybrid Headless CMS is highly recommended. However, if you only want to manage one website with your CMS, a traditional CMS is perfectly sufficient.

Many of our enterprise customers have chosen a Hybrid Headless CMS architecture.

If you want to choose a Headless CMS, it is necessary to perform resource analysis and deploy the appropriate infrastructure.

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