What is a decoupled CMS?

Decoupled CMS architecture, also referred to as ‘going headless’ is enjoying a rise in popularity amongst the development world, due to the increased flexibility that developers are given to innovate when working with such a system. It also gives site owners the opportunity to proof builds, with the ability to refresh the design without having to reimplement the entire CMS. 

The decoupled part of the title refers to the front-end component being stripped away from the back-end, leaving the back-end to deliver content via an API. This means that where the content is displayed is not a priority of the system, instead the focus is on storing and delivering content and providing the tools necessary to create and organise it, again, allowing for an increase in freedom and flexibility to allow the user to create exactly what they want, with no restrictions or limitations holding them back. 

Coupled CMSs have been predominantly used by companies and organisations for a long time, systems like WordPress and Drupal. These systems are built in such a way that they are also responsible for giving content shape, transforming it into HTML pages and even complete websites. However, the world has moved on, and CMS has been somewhat left behind by technological advancements in other areas. 

That’s why we have created a decoupled CMS that will catch up to, if not surpass the advancements made in other sectors.

The differences between couple and decoupled CMS

Using a traditional coupled CMS process and infrastructure, the system consists of several components:

  1. A database where content is stored
  2. A web app in which editors can work with the content (the admin interface)
  3. A web app in which publishers create and design templates which comprise the website
  4. A front-end which takes the content from the database and generates HTML webpages. 

Now, imagine that we remove steps two and three from this setup. The head of the CMS, the website itself, has been removed, leaving the backend which stores and delivers the content. This means you still have the web app for editors, but that is the entire CMS. This is now a decoupled CMS. 

Unlike a traditional setup, you would not use a decoupled CMS alone to create a website, typically a decoupled CMS does not have the instruments to do so, such as page templates, themes, and other concepts that, frankly, the online world has evolved past. 

Instead, you and your developer would build the website separately, in the exact way you want, while the CMS will be supplying content onto its pages via an API. 

How is that better?

It is understandable that one may assume a decoupled CMS would not be an improvement, that removing the front end and not working with a single system would only make things worse.

This may have once been true, however, the freedom offered by decoupling is almost always the better choice, because no single system is better for any given project. 

Think of it as you would any service that is used by many, for example, gym membership. If you joined a gym, and you were told that you could only use four machines, for a set amount of time, three that focused on your upper legs, and one that focused on your chest. There would occasionally be a client that this set-up would be perfect for, in the same way that every now and again a coupled CMS may have the exact themes and templates for a specific customer. 

However, for the majority of clients, what you’d want from a gym membership is the ability to work on exactly what you want to on any given day, for exactly as long as you’d want, with the freedom and flexibility to change that whenever you feel the need. That’s what a decoupled CMS can offer, and Or-be CMS offers this flexibility like never before.

Given the variety in users and circumstances, flexibility within CMS is the logical choice.

Customers feel limited by the front-end restrictions of a standard CMS. Rich web page apps, highly customised layouts, and JavaScript MVC frameworks don’t fit into the architecture of a CMS which closely controls the look of the content. This can ultimately be fixed by undoing a front-end, but this is a complex procedure, especially if it must be redone every time such an issue arises. Instead, decoupled CMS offer a clean set-up from the beginning, with no need to go back on yourself at any point. 

There is another important factor that makes decoupled CMS a better choice, and that’s because such a system will usually deliver content through an API (usually RESTful JSON API) meaning that content can be delivered anywhere, and on any device. 

Decoupled CMS enabling the delivery of the same content to an iOS app and an Android app from one backend, which would also deliver content to the website, and to any other medium. 

In summary, decoupled CMS allow for more freedom for cross-platform publishing and custom user experiences, creating an improved situation for publishers, designers, and developers, and helps in creating better products for your clients and the public. 

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