Many moons ago, a website’s content and code lived together in static HTML files. However, this setup made it difficult for webmasters to update content or tweak design elements on the fly.
The issue was overcome by separating the editor interface and the design template system, allowing webmasters to publish content and update templates as and when they wish. This is the process we are used to today when using a content management system.
But it’s not all plain sailing; content management systems have a number of constraints, particularly when it comes to workflows and content migration.
As a result, decoupled architecture is rising in popularity. ‘Decoupled’ refers to the front-end of the content management system being separated from the back-end. This means that the focus is on storing and delivering content and providing the tools necessary to create and organise it, allowing for greater freedom and flexibility, simplified workflows and cross-platform publishing with no restrictions.
This approach gives developers more room to innovate, makes it easier for publishers to edit and distribute content and helps site owners futureproof their platforms by allowing for refreshes that don’t require re-implementation of the entire setup.
From a technical standpoint, a decoupled content management system is comprised of:
- A database where content is stored
- A publisher interface that allows editors to create and manage content
- A delivery front-end that connects to the back-end via an API
The ‘head’ of the system, the website itself, is separated from the body, leaving the back-end to store content. Now, teams can work on the visual front-end in the way you want, whilst content is delivered via an API.
Think of the API as a direct line between the two systems: when content is created in the back-end, it is pushed through an API and published in the front-end. With a decoupled CMS, it is a case of write once, publish anywhere.
What could a decoupled CMS do for your business?
Perhaps the biggest criticism of content management systems is the somewhat rigid workflow imposed on editors.
You may need to publish content in a certain way or in a certain place, but you’re forced to bend your process to keep in line with the system you use. Sound familiar?
With a decoupled CMS, you can support more complex workflows, allowing you to deliver content on your terms across multiple platforms and channels.
The benefits of decoupled architecture include:
- A truly future-proof solution: A big bugbear with content management systems is migrating content after a redesign, particularly for sites with hundreds of pages. A decoupled CMS gives you greater freedom, allowing you to bypass lengthy migration processes.
- The need for speed: A decoupled CMS eliminates bulk and removes the barriers behind publishing. In addition to improving efficiency, there is also potential for streamlining the front-end, resulting in a more agile website.
- Simplified cross-platform publishing: Decoupling gives you the option to scale and publish content and display it how you like.
- Flexible workflows: You can side-step the restrictions some systems place on developers and provide more freedom for those working behind the scenes. This way, editors can focus on what they’re good at: making sure your online reach is as broad as possible.
- Keep everything in order: Code complexity is isolated within two components. Each can be as simple or complex as is needed without impacting the other.
- Security first: A decoupled CMS is inherently more secure due to the separation of the back-end and front-end.
Looking to the future
Decoupled content management systems are a new concept, but we expect to see this approach become a sought-after service in the years ahead.
In fact, WordPress, Joomla and Drupal (arguably three of the largest CMS providers) have introduced support for decoupled architecture out of the box.
When it comes to content management, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but it is safe to say that a decoupled CMS is an excellent choice for organisations that view Content as a Service (CaaS).
For example, an organisation that relies heavily upon news or support information would benefit greatly from a decoupled CMS, making their content available across multiple platforms at the click of a button.
It is also an excellent approach for those that have specific front-end needs, e.g. where traditional templates are too restrictive. Decoupling makes it easy for designers and developers to build the front-end they want and integrate content later.
And if your digital strategy relies heavily upon apps, or displaying content on unconventional devices, such as digital kiosks, the decoupled approach would be an ideal choice.
With that said, organisations with multiple websites, teams and audiences should be looking to consolidate their digital environments, welcoming scalable, decoupled architecture. Crucially, a decoupled CMS will adapt to your needs, so you won’t find yourself stuck with limited technology that hinders plans to innovate.
In summary, a decoupled CMS allows for more freedom for cross-platform publishing, creating an improved user experience for editors, designers, and developers and helping to create stronger products for your users.