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Agency learning - why replace monolithic with headless?

Tarek El Deeb
Try Storyblok

Storyblok is the first headless CMS that works for developers & marketers alike.

The previously static world of CMS technology is changing and evolving. While other areas of the digital world have transformed over the last 20 years, the technology behind website CMS has moved at a turtle’s pace in comparison. All the various stakeholders (such as marketers, users, project managers, designers, developers) have learned to live with the limitations of their chosen CMS. However, back in 2015, a new form of CMS began to emerge and make waves, variously described as:

  • API-led CMS
  • API-driven CMS
  • Decoupled CMS
  • JAMstack CMS

Although the most commonly used and familiar name is Headless CMS. Storyblok was created to build on this wave and provide a CMS solution that would solve the issues caused by monolithic systems.

Since 2015, headless CMS has gradually entered the mainstream market and made such an impact that it is now the fastest growing category of CMS in the world.

Agencies typically look for two key points when evaluating a CMS:

  • The benefits that it delivers to the client, thus making it more likely that the client will choose to work with that agency.
  • How the agency itself benefits from using headless; either as their only option or as an alternative option to an existing monolithic CMS.

For clients, the high level benefits are:

  • Performance:
    • Stellar page load speed
    • Great for general UX on websites and applications but a key factor in conversion optimization.
    • Especially in e-commerce, due to:
      • Faster user experience
      • Omnichannel presence
      • Personalization
      • SEO
      • Optimized marketing and analytics
  • Flexibility:
    • Marketers love the ability to do more with their websites and applications.
  • Ease of use:
    • Advanced editing features with short learning curve for non-developers.
  • Content management:
    • Develop content once for multiple uses; websites, native apps, IOT etc.
  • Security:
    • Storyblok is extremely secure as it uses APIs to provide content that is read-only.
  • SEO:
    • All other things being equal, there is an additional SEO bounce from enhanced page load speed.

On the other hand, the high level agency benefits are:

  • Choice:
    • Being able to offer choice is good. It allows you to keep prospects in your funnel. The CMS decision is then made later after a relationship has been established.
  • Ease of management:
    • Simple to create dashboards showing entire portfolio.
    • Storyblok’s Visual Editor allows marketers to preview content live before publishing.
    • The Responsive Preview also gives you three viewing modes for desktop, tablet, and mobile, allowing you to see what your content would look like on any device.
  • Speed of development and the consequent impact on profitability.
  • Improved SEO performance across your portfolio, leading to more referrals.
  • Elimination of design limitations that are a feature of classic CMS solutions.
  • Reduced reputational risk of security breaches.
Different benefits gained from moving to a headless CMS

Section titled Benefits Explained: Benefits Explained:

Why is Page Load Speed so fast?

First things first, any developer will tell you that just by using a headless CMS won’t make your site automatically faster. It’s the way you use it, specifically how you use the features of JAMstack.

JAMstack is a modern web development architecture based on three key components: JavaScript, APIs and Markup.

The differentiating factor between a JAMstack site and a website built on traditional website technologies is that JAMstack doesn’t rely on a server, it is pre-built and serverless. Static files are generated and then sent out over a CDN (content distribution network). Server-like functionalities are handled by third-party services, connected via APIs.

The SEO bounce

All of the features you would expect in a classic CMS such as the ability to add scripted or custom metadata is usually part of any advanced Headless CMS solution and it’s even easier with the Visual Editor tool in Storyblok! The main SEO benefit is delivered by the stellar, out-of-the-box page load speed, an increasing rank factor used by the main search engines.

Why is Storyblok so secure?

Storyblok is extremely secure as it uses APIs to provide content that is read-only. Additionally, that API can be placed behind an application and a security layer. The content is rendered client-side, reducing the impact of any possible DDoS (distributed denial-of-service attacks). The only possible entry is the login page which can easily be avoided by protecting your passwords.

Conversion rate optimization?

As well as the SEO benefit, page load speed is a key factor in conversion rate, especially in e-commerce. There is a provable and direct correlation between page speed improvements and lower cart abandonment rates as well as evidence of ancillary benefits in driving up average cart value.

Use Cases

Your sales team will be aware of the other relevant factors that can make a difference when it comes to trying to lock down a project sale:

  • The level of specificity in relation to the CMS requirement:
    • This can range from highly explicit to CMS agnostic. In your early adoption stages you are likely to prefer the latter type of client and then move back along the continuum for future prospects.
  • Project budget:
    • Over time, our partner agencies have gradually adapted their design and development processes and workflows to leverage the time efficiencies of using Storyblok. This can then be used to give more flexibility on project pricing where needed.
  • Where Total Cost of Ownership (TCOO) is a major procurement concern, the Storyblok solution can be promoted for its lower overall cost of maintenance, as Storyblok is a SaaS (Software as a Service) and self-maintaining, which means there is no requirement for regular updates, unlike monolithic systems.
  • Future development of the website platform or application is often a key factor and the agility and flexibility of Storyblok can be brought into play here.

Specific use cases:

  • E-commerce:
    • Particularly at scale. The correlation between poor page load speed and high cart abandonment rates is long established. (Kissmetrics , Machmetrics)
  • Any website where custom design is required:
    • Marketers are starting to dislike the illogical process of applying an existing design template (solution) to a unique design requirement (problem). Instead, they prefer the flexibility of reversing this to focus on defining problems correctly first - and then using a blank canvas to design the solution.
  • Omni-channel:
    • Apart from the page load advantages delivered by headless, there is also the additional capability of having a single cloud source of content in all formats that are used across multiple applications and device types. For example, having a single file repository that is used to supply website content and also native app content.
  • Websites that have high traffic volatility are also good candidates for a headless solution. For example, event websites, charity campaign websites, publishers. The serverless setup means that performance is not compromised by the traffic spikes that can often slow down or even take down monolithic CMS structures.