In our previous article, we discussed the differences between a traditional and headless CMS (content management system), exploring their pros, cons and use cases. Building upon that knowledge, let's now take a deeper dive into headless CMS and commercetools Frontend, and discover when to use each solution and how they can seamlessly work together.
How is commercetools Frontend different from a headless CMS
A headless CMS is a system that stores and manages content data, with content delivery occurring through APIs. It is designed to be independent of how the content is presented or used. The backend and frontend are decoupled, allowing for flexibility and customization in delivering content to various channels.
On the other hand, commercetools Frontend is a Frontend-as-a-Service (FEaaS) — a cloud-based platform to build and deploy frontend applications without infrastructure management — that serves as a separate layer in the headless stack, facilitating API orchestration, workflows and frontend delivery.
This empowers developers with the tools to design fully functional and optimized websites with PWA (Progressive Web Apps), offering engaging and differentiated experiences across all digital touchpoints. While a headless CMS is focused on content delivery, a FEaaS solution is about building frontends from end to end. In a nutshell, these systems are complementary and can work well together.
When do you need a CMS?
One of the key use cases for a headless CMS is its ability to serve as a multi-channel content source, ensuring consistent content delivery across various channels. Unlike commercetools Frontend, which stores data in the Studio and cannot be channeled to third-party systems, a headless CMS allows content orchestration through APIs, enabling content to be delivered seamlessly.
A CMS is particularly beneficial when compiled content includes various types of content components, such as a headline, an author paragraph, a summary section, multiple images, etc. If your website frequently produces or updates content, a CMS can greatly simplify the management process. However, for smaller merchants with static content, like websites consisting of only a few pages of text that are seldom updated, a CMS may not be necessary. In such cases, utilizing commercetools Frontend's out-of-the-box functionality and third-party apps can help create the desired customer experience.
How do commercetools Frontend and CMS work together?
In the collaborative workflow between commercetools Frontend and a CMS, content creation, management and optimization primarily take place in the CMS. The CMS acts as the backend system, while commercetools Frontend takes on the responsibility of page building and frontend optimization for the end-user.
Dynamic and static data orchestration and compilation between CMS and other data sources (commerce backend, search, personalization, marketing analytics, etc.) and the hosting and delivery happens via commercetools Frontend. Through APIs, the CMS and commercetools Frontend establish a seamless communication channel, allowing for efficient coordination and distribution of content across different channels and touchpoints.
commercetools Frontend plays a crucial role in enabling businesses to design exceptional frontend experiences and PWAs while leveraging the power of a headless CMS. In fact, your business teams can also manage and optimize the storefront experience with the Frontend Studio.
Benefits you'll experience
Flexibility: By decoupling the frontend and backend systems, businesses gain greater flexibility. Frontend developers have more control over the user experience, as they can design and update the frontend independently from the backend. This separation of concerns allows for faster iterations and enhanced customization possibilities.
Scalability: Headless CMS solutions excel in managing content at scale. With the ability to handle multiple markets and channels, a headless CMS becomes a valuable asset for businesses aiming to grow and expand their digital presence. commercetools Frontend complements this scalability with robust developer tools and workflows by empowering businesses to deliver engaging frontend experiences consistently across all digital touchpoints.
Multi-channel content delivery: A significant advantage of a headless CMS is its ability to serve as a central content source, enabling consistent content delivery across multiple channels. With commercetools Frontend’s fastest API portfolio powering the backend, content orchestration and distribution becomes seamless, ensuring that content is presented consistently across various third-party systems and touchpoints.
Pitfalls to consider
Complexity: Decoupling the frontend and backend introduces coordination and synchronization challenges. Efficient collaboration between teams responsible for frontend development and content management is crucial. Additionally, the initial setup and integration of a headless CMS and commercetools Frontend may require a learning curve for developers, particularly those accustomed to traditional CMS architectures.
Maintenance and updates: Managing separate systems means maintaining and updating them individually. Changes made in one system may require adjustments in the other to maintain compatibility and functionality. Adequate planning and communication are essential to streamline maintenance efforts and minimize disruptions.
Putting the pieces together
Understanding the distinctions between commercetools Frontend and a headless CMS is vital in selecting the right solution for your eCommerce system. While a CMS is suitable for managing dynamic content and high-turnover websites, the CMS-like functionality of commercetools Frontend is ideal for smaller merchants with more static content.
However, when these solutions are used together, the benefits become very apparent — just like what luxury watch retailer CHRONEXT experienced. For its technical infrastructure, CHRONEXT chose to buy its frontend from commercetools Frontend, the store software from commercetools Composable Commerce and the CMS from Contentful. With this combination, CHRONEXT developed a completely new marketplace based on headless technology, and in just three months was able to modernize such functions as CMS and product search, as well as greatly reduce page load time.
The commercetools Frontend team has achieved the impossible and fulfilled most of our requirements on time, and it’s already a better product than it was a year ago. We’re definitely better off with commercetools Frontend than without. If we had built such a solution ourselves, it would have cost us years.
The flexibility, scalability and multi-channel content delivery offered by the combination of headless CMS and commercetools Frontend enable businesses to deliver exceptional frontend experiences while efficiently managing content. Nevertheless, it is important to be mindful of the complexities involved and to plan for effective maintenance and updates. By harnessing the strengths of both solutions, businesses can achieve a harmonious integration that empowers their digital presence.