A Beginner’s Guide to the Decoupled CMS

For decades, content management systems were tightly bound — front and back end. Increasingly, content-minded companies are turning to “decoupled” CMS for more flexible content management delivery.

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A “decoupled” content management system (CMS) is a technology innovation that’s changing the content management market, but it’s spent a long time in the evolutionary pipeline.

Take the way-back machine to the early 1990s when websites came with HTML formatting tags that system administrators had to embed with webpage texts. Basically, with “coupled” content management systems, the front and back ends of the CMS were bound together.

System developers could store software applications and content together in a database in the back end, while on the front end, consumers could view the content via HTML webpages on CMS platforms like WordPress, one of the most widely used content management systems.

Content-starved businesses experienced mixed results, however, as coupled CMS architectures couldn’t deliver content to a burgeoning array of new digital devices such as mobile apps, smartwatches, and internet chat platforms

As software developers found the coupled system to be inefficient, time-consuming, and inflexible, that scenario gave way to a new, separate form of content production that relied on cascading style sheets (CSS) to split content from formatting and programming.


What it means to move to a decoupled CMS

By simply shifting a file setting, a webpage content creator could change any website component and give it a different look and feel without having to shift any of the content around, which software developers viewed as an unnecessarily cumbersome process.

That’s the genesis of decoupled CMS — it’s a way for website management developers to separate JavaScript and CSS (the meat and potatoes of webpage production) from the HTML-based front-end content. That scenario gives content developers the flexibility they need to change the way content is viewed and consumed and open up new profit centers for forward-looking content creators.

As web content morphed from coupled to decoupled CMS platforms, software developers were free to deliver content to any digital device or web channel. That greatly expanded user awareness of that content and gave marketers multiple ways to get their content — and more importantly, their message — to a significantly wider global audience.

Now, web software developers had two ways to separate front-end and back-end content management systems — decoupled CMS and “headless” CMS.

Decoupled CMS

With decoupled systems for content management, the front and back end are separated, but not in the same way as a headless CMS. With a decoupled CMS, content is created on the system’s back end and delivered through application programming interface (API) and into the system’s front end, ready to be viewed by content consumers.

Meanwhile, on the back end, a decoupled CMS stores the content with a system interface available for the creation of new content by providers.

Headless CMS

A headless CMS differs from a decoupled CMS in that it doesn’t include a system front end. With a headless CMS model like headless WordPress, content is created, published, and stored via an API that delivers content directly to the device and channel the consumer uses, ready for immediate viewing.


The structural components of decoupled CMS

Nuts and bolts-wise, decoupled CMS splits the front- and back-end management of content into disparate entities. One end handles the creation and storage of CMS features and the other end handles the distribution of content through an interface that’s easy for a web visitor to use.

Content is created in the back end and the data is transmitted to the front end through efficient and flexible API and other speed-driven web services to steer content to commonly used digital devices like laptop computers, tablets and e-readers, and smartphones.

With the help of specified delivery-driven system architecture, decoupled content management systems work together seamlessly (even though technically they are independent of each other) to function properly as a single unit.

Part by part, a decoupled CMS consists of the following items:

  • The back-end database where digital content and other supporting data are stored
  • A back-end unit where digital content is developed
  • An API that merges the CMS front- and back-end systems
  • A front-end content publishing system

Benefits of the decoupled CMS

For marketers, data software teams, and even for digital content consumers, decoupled CMS offers ample benefits. These advantages are at the top of the list:

  • Software developers can leverage the exact tools they need to construct CMS front ends that meet company demands and make it easier for marketers to maximize the customer’s entire CMS experience.
  • Allows company marketers to have a single repository to create, adjust, and store content and then deliver that content to multiple devices and channels.
  • Allows software teams and company content creators to get content out faster, as a decoupled CMS architecture enables data developers to work in tandem. They do not have to wait for system development tasks to be completed one at a time, nor do they have to constantly switch from one CMS production platform to another.
  • Allows for better system security. As decoupled CMS splits the system between front and back end, it also bolsters system security, as a customized decoupled architecture significantly reduces the chances of a data hack by cyber-thieves.
  • Allows for easier development of CMS platforms down the road, as a decoupled CMS can more easily add to content management platforms, as they can redesign rather than completely reconstruct back-end CMS architectures.

Risks associated with the decoupled CMS

For starters, decoupled systems are more expensive to develop than traditional CMS systems. Once the decoupled CMS is up and running, those costs should recede, especially as the company widens its revenue stream from more robust CMS consumer outcomes.

Additionally, the early phase of a new decoupled CMS installation may require an “all hands on deck” call from a company’s software team or a third-party provider, to deal with the added complexities from transitioning from a conventional CMS to a decoupled CMS architecture.


The takeaway with decoupled CMS

For companies looking for better control and management of their content management pipeline, decoupled CMS offers the best of both worlds — a way to centralize company content along with the ability to leverage cutting-edge publishing technologies to deliver custom content in new ways to customers, right on the new digital tools they’re using.

Add reliability and stability to the equation, and the appeal of decoupled CMS grows exponentially — just at a time when digital content is becoming a gateway to new customers and new profit centers going forward.

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