The category of headless CMS is very much a developer-led technology. Visit the websites of any leading vendors, and it is clear who the primary buyer persona is. The content is targeted at technical leaders – those who understand architectures like the Jamstack, and how to manage APIs.
In marketing terms, these are the key buyer personas and are those who need to be convinced that a switch to headless is the right move. References to composable architecture, data lakes, and webhooks abound – the language of the main buyer, but not that of the main user.
Here lies a crucial issue: the buyer and primary users are not one and the same.
I should know. I’ve sat on the user side of the fence for many years, leading marketing teams responsible for “the website.”
Despite websites being one of the most important areas modern marketers are responsible for, many struggle. It is, after all, a very broad function, where marketers are required to lead on everything from demand generation to brand management, field marketing to content creation.
Layer on top a MarTech stack with over 11,000 software applications vying for attention, and is it any wonder marketing teams can struggle with their CMS?
But here’s the thing: a lot of the focus on websites is the initial build, with a lot less attention paid to the ongoing management. Those familiar with WordPress will recognize this inherent tension. For mature websites, it is common to have a freelancer on retainer to keep the lights on and manage updates and conflicts.
As for the user experience in WordPress, I’d argue it is clunky and downright scary on occasion. Do I accept this plugin update or not? What if I press this, and it knocks the site off?
In many respects, headless created the opportunity to provide a better user experience for the actual content and marketing people responsible for the site. Decoupling the front end from the back end, in theory, should lead to a cleaner interface.
However, I’d argue that the developer-centric nature of many of the leading headless CMSes means that the opportunity was missed.
It is one of the key things we are trying to achieve at Contento – a modern headless CMS focused 100% on websites.
It is incumbent on all of us working in the broader CMS space to elevate the needs of the junior marketer responsible for managing the website. They may not represent the commercial buyer, but making their lives a misery is one sure way to ensure when they finally reach a leadership position, they’ll be keen to adopt a CMS that does not neglect the needs of their users.
Alan Gleeson is CEO of Contento, and a CMS Critic contributor.