As the internet continues to grow, and more and more non-technical people would join the digital world, the need for a content management system (CMS) was born. At first, there was a traditional CMS, which allowed almost anybody to build their own website easily and without technical knowledge. For many, this naturally became a go-to solution. But this technology is overly simplified and has some limitations, so people started asking for more flexibility and freedom.
And thus, headless CMS was born. With it, a more technically complex side of building a website is reignited and that flexibility is achieved. But even though there are many benefits in both systems, there are still certain limitations that could be solved by finding some middle ground between the two. And so, a hybrid CMS comes into play. To get an answer about what it actually is and how does it work, we need to have a better look at its two CMS predecessors.
What is Traditional CMS?
In the beginning, building a website and maintaining its content required extensive development knowledge. However, traditional content management systems – or CMS for short – came along changed that. Today, CMSs provide an easy and fast solution for non-technical people, so they can publish their own website and share their content without a need for web-developers. The most famous examples of traditional content management systems include WordPress, Drupal and Joomla.
Easy, fast, and cheap – traditional CMS sounds like an ideal situation in a complex web-development world. And it has been for a very long time. But as it usually goes, technology evolves, and even a system as appealing as the traditional CMS proves imperfect. In this case, having a predefined front-end comes with a few limitations. For one, there is little flexibility to „have it your way“, which can be quite frustrating if your website requires a higher level of complexity. Secondly, changing anything within the frontend requires a developer to make changes to the theme. So, if by any chance the original theme gets updated, you risk losing all of your custom design. As a response to these problems, the headless CMS was born.
What is a Headless CMS?
How does one fix a problem with a non-flexible front-end („head“)? All it takes is simply removing the said front-end part and thus unlocking the possibility of creating one based on the needs of each individual website. The same way as Traditional CMS gave freedom to marketers and content creators while managing the website content, Headless CMS gives freedom to developers. Some of the examples of these systems can include Prismic, GraphCMS, and Contentful.
Without default themes and templates, developers are not restricted to any rules, which were previously limiting them. They can design any application and presentation layer they want, with any framework and thanks to its API data-driven nature, deliver the content to any device on the market, including mobile phones, smart wearable devices, even smart fridges. Developers are in full control and so the possible issues and bugs are more easily managed. Overall, this looks like an answer to an increasing number of target channels on the market. However, dependence on developers to create your own front-end comes with a price. Literally.
For one, developing the front-end requires developers, which adds extra costs on top of a project. However, many front-end developers have little to no experience with design. So, chances are, a website using a headless CMS will also require a designer, maybe even a project manager. The idea is, a headless CMS takes control over design and structure away from the marketers and content creators. It is also expensive, and depending on the website’s complexity, requires a lot of resources.
Moreover, non-technical people working with a headless CMS are left completely dependent on developers for every little frontend change. This can lead to frustration as well as to misunderstanding regarding the content visualization.
Traditional CMS vs Headless CMS
As we also discussed in our comparison article WordPress vs Headless CMS, on one hand, we have a Traditional CMS, which puts focus on content editing and offers a user-friendly interface. That makes it easy to manage the whole website without any technical knowledge. However, there is a limitation regarding the default front-end, when it comes to a more demanding and complex website delivered on several specific channels.
On the other, we have Headless CMS, which puts focus on developers and gives them absolute freedom regarding the system and the front-end technology they choose. It solves the issues and needs that come with technological advancement pretty well. But at the same, takes the freedom from the Traditional CMS and gives it elsewhere.
In both cases, each side will always be either limited or at a disadvantage. But what if there was a way to focus on both sides at the same time and keep the freedom in their options without being too dependent on each other. And that is exactly the idea around which the Hybrid CMS was made.
Hybrid CMS could be simply described as a combination of API data-driven features of the headless CMS and user-friendly interface for easy content management found in the traditional CMS. It basically takes the best things about both systems, lets them complement each other, and thus, eliminates their downsides in the process.
Similarly, as it is with the Headless CMS, content is stored in a back-end. And so, Hybrid CMS is able to easily send content to several channels and devices via API calls and thus securing the ability to keep up with technological evolution in the future.
Moreover, it allows marketers and content creators to actually manage the content through a user-friendly interface. This way, they can regain a large part of the control, which they had while using the Traditional CMS and not just rely on developers and IT. More specifically, they have access to editing, preview capabilities, drag, and drop features, and so on. As a result, frustration from unequally divided work and dependence will be eliminated, and both developers and editors will be able to freely focus on their own capabilities in enhancing the end-user experience.
Hybrid CMS vs Headless CMS vs Traditional CMS
The first and the most obvious difference between Hybrid CMS and the other two systems would be its ability to handle the advantages of both in one place. It is capable of doing what both Headless CMS and Traditional CMS partly lack. Therefore, one could say that this might be the next evolution step for CMSs.
With the Headless CMS, there is a need to develop your own front-end, which as we mentioned above, can take up a considerable amount of time. Hybrid CMS, on the other hand, gives marketers and content creators an option to use front-end templates, while developers are able to work with them in a much faster and flexible way. This essentially means faster content delivery. Moreover, less time spent on the development of tools and systems equals fewer resources used. Therefore a Hybrid CMS is also less costly than a Headless CMS.
In addition, Hybrid CMS doesn’t just simply cut off the front-end like in the case of the Headless CMS. Instead, it was built around the idea of integration with other platforms from the start. Since it was originally made to handle this integration, Hybrid CMS is naturally better equipped to use APIs and make the process of integrating business systems and tools in an easy and smooth way.
All of the above mentioned CMSs are useful in different situations and one might suit you better than the other depending on what you need. While Traditional CMS lags behind in delivery of content to more modern channels and devices, it still proves to be the most easy, cheap and a fast way to build a website. Headless CMS might get more costly and complex, but at the same time, it’s incredibly flexible, cross-platform and secure. And with skilled developers you can achieve great results, which are also unique.
Hybrid CMS still requires covering some additional resources and technical skills. On the other hand, it offers the largest amount of advantages collected in one place. Both developers and marketers can be included in the cross-platform website management process without having to get into each other’s work.
In the end, the ideal choice depends on what you consider suiting your project best. Before making a correct decision, it is important to weigh all pros and cons. But know, that if you need any help with building your website with any of the above-mentioned CMSs, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!