The Pinnacle

Stories and ideas from Big Blue Digital.

Go Headless For More Efficient Projects

Web design and publishing is a linear process right?
  • The designer designs

  • The developer develops

  • The writer writes

  • The approver approves

  • The site goes live

Everyone is happy.

Never mind the fact that the bit where the writer writes - which happens away from the web development world - always seems to take a long time.

Then, after the project has sat stale for a few weeks, the developer picks the words back up and starts putting them in the site.

There’s only one problem - the content doesn’t fit.

So, tweaks are made to the design. Content is jammed in where it best fits. Or, new features and functionality are added, pushing the project over budget.
Now I’m not saying every single web project - whether that’s a new website, online store, or intranet - goes down this way.

But over many years I can tell you that this division of content, design and development has long been a challenge.

Yes, a world where everyone gets to focus on their exact job and work to their strengths is awesome. But only where the project also supports and encourages collaboration.

Traditionally, in web projects, I’ve sat at the front end. I’ve been thinking about the end-to-end solution - what is the overarching goal of the project, what technology should we deploy, what are the user needs and how does that translate to design. Sure I’m thinking about content, but not being involved in its creation, it’s normal that I would not see any real site content until very close to the end of a project.

Which does seem a bit backwards.

Most businesses have a lot more to do with their content on a day-to-day basis, than they have with their technology.

They’ll update words, products and add pages - but most mid-sized businesses don’t have an inhouse developer to deal with the tech stuff.

Recently, we’ve deployed some projects which have forced me to rethink the logic of this model.


A better way - Headless CMS

Working with a Headless CMS forces all of us to do better.

A Headless Content Management System is basically a system that holds, organises and distributes all of your content - to any front-end interface. Away from the content world, similar moves in ecommerce allow you to display products virtually anywhere.

It completely divides content from design, and places development as the common link between the two. This means businesses can focus on what they need to - content - and developers can focus on what they need to - technology.

From our experience, in terms of projects, starting with a Headless CMS (like Kentico Cloud) - while allowing everyone to focus on what they do best - forces the collaboration that could have been overlooked in other projects.

(If you're selling online, you might be interested in how BigCommerce is opening up it's platform to integrate with WordPress, and I'd suggest you watch this space for more headless ecommerce approaches in future.)

You start with content - or the content structure.

What are your content types - not just pages, but the chunks of content that repeat throughout the site.

Let’s say you’re the designated ‘owner’ of the website (maybe the Marketing Manager or General Manager) for an accomodation company - and you run seven B&Bs. Each B&B has its own website. But they have similar rooms.

So you set up a ‘Rooms’ content type. Then you can take very specific and granular control of what that content has to look like.
  • A heading here.

  • A subheading there.

  • Exactly this many words.

  • Now an image, no bigger than this.

  • Now some bullet points.

  • Maybe another sentence.

The standard terms and conditions which repeat on every ‘Rooms’ page.

Being so prescriptive about exactly what goes where is awesome. But it does mean that you really need content, development and design to work incredibly closely together at this stage. This intense collaboration up-front means that - just as soon as your content structure is confirmed - the developers can start building your site.

Meanwhile you can,
  • Hand over the writing to a writer to get the words right

  • Hand over the image creation and upload to a graphic designer

  • Hand over the upload of pricing or other features to the product manager

  • Hand over the fact-checking to the B&B managers

You don’t have to pass around tracking spreadsheets or revision heavy word documents to get your content together. All these people are working within your system at the same time - focused on their job.

Then, because your Headless CMS is so smart, you can review each item as it becomes ready - check them, return them for revisions, share notes and finally hit publish.

Note, in this scenario,
  • You didn’t need to wait for all the content to be complete to start reviewing or publishing

  • You didn’t need to ask a developer to build a page for you to drop the content onto

  • You didn’t need to upload the same room information to two or three B&B sites

  • You didn’t need to copy and paste the same terms and conditions to every single room

Do you manage content within your organisation? Read 'Can Content Design Make Web Projects Go Faster?'

Building and breaking silos

You would think that this division in the tech would cause fractions in the process.

Instead, it forces more collaboration and conversation.

Without the teams working together, the project would fail.

We’re seeing this work to our advantage in our office right now. In fact, overall we’re seeing a trend away from the all-in-one platform approach (read our take, Is This The End of One Platform to Rule Them All?). We’re looking toward how multiple solutions can be stitched together seamlessly via an API to get the best tech solution for businesses.

The Headless CMS is really at the centre of this trend - businesses thinking to the future will be embracing technology like this that brings real efficiency and harmony to their workplace.

Kentico Cloud is a comprehensive Headless CMS - Big Blue Digital is a Kentico Cloud partner.


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