Why Contentful is Awesome: API vs API Grafted on
“Headless” content management systems are all the rage – as you know if you have been following or building content management systems lately, rather than falling into a long, deep sleep.
(Quick reminder: “headless” systems are built for the editors and the back-end, with “hooks” – APIs – that developers can use to create any front-end they want.)
But here’s the problem with almost all headless content management systems: they were originally something else, and then the headless fad hit.
Let’s take, for example, WordPress. If you google around to learn about content management systems, on most first-page results (like this result), they talk about WordPress as one of the options.
Now, as a true WordPress lover, a WP code contributor, a WP plugin writer, a man who has run many – many! – WordPress sites, let me tell you: WordPress is not, never was, and will never be headless-first. It is a strong body, but with the head cut off so that it is headless! (Wow that metaphor was surprisingly on-point!)
WordPress is awesome and powerful and has so many upsides (and many downsides, as well) but it was around for a decade – or “decades” (I’m getting old!) – before the concept of “headless” was even born. Any attempt to take its head off is leaving a dangling body (to continue the metaphor!).
What is true for WordPress is true for most other competitors as well. And not only in the CMS space but across lots of spaces: BigCommerce, the cloud ecommerce platform, now positions itself as the headless ecommerce platform, although when it was founded in 2009, headlessness was a concept limited to medieval myths.
Now, enter Contentful. Contentful is a recent contender who realized the headless opportunity and built a cloud CMS designed to be headless from the ground up.
The practical result is that their APIs are fleshed out, sophisticated, and well developed. (Sadly, I wish I could say the same of WordPress.)
Rather than “headlessness” being a marketing term, it is an API-first tech investment strategy.
Said differently: technical debt is real. No company has quashed every bug and built every feature and made the software work on every platform. So focusing the company in a direction – from the founding! – always lets you be more sophisticated, allow for more complex operations, and have fewer bugs in that one specific area than the others. Building a complex system is “picking your poison”: which part do you want to be least worse than all the others?
For a clear example: Salesforce Commerce Cloud has clearly not prioritized a smooth user interface, although they have prioritized super-power, super-speed, super-scalability, super-marketing options, and many other world-class features. (Yes, I can’t get enough of Salesforce Commerce Cloud!)
So, by choosing to focus on the headlessness first, and thus build their tech in an API-driven way, that will let them be more complex and sophisticated with their APIs that the developers need for a true headless system.
The precise opposite of WordPress!
So what we’re left with really is that the question is not “is Contentful the right headless content management system for your needs?” but rather “is going headless right for your needs?”
And to answer that (we’d need a separate article, plus I can’t read your minds) what we actually do need is a deep dive into what your company needs. And I’m happy to discuss that with you any time. Just reach out via email. I’m friendly and I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.