In 2009, I authored an article entitled “Beyond the Browser.” The goal of the article was to focus the attention of brands and content-creators on the fact that the expectations of our digital audience were changing. Consumers were evolving away from a single point of content consumption, i.e., the computer screen, and toward a more personal, on-demand, and contextual experience driven largely by the growth of mobile devices.
Fast forward a decade, and that trend has only accelerated. As of this writing, our lives are filled with connected cars, connected TVs, smart watches, digital voice assistants, etc., with each of these “channels” striving to offer value through convenience, personalization, and contextual awareness. And that means that each of these channels offers a unique opportunity for consumer engagement with uniquely tailored content.
And as engagement within these channels evolves away from novelty and toward actual utility, consumer demands and expectations are evolving along with them. For years, one of my favorite quips has been “a failure to plan for your mobile audience only results in a plan to fail with your mobile audience.” That’s just as true today as it was a decade ago. Only now there are many more potential “points of failure.” It’s no longer enough to merely know with whom you’re engaging. Today it’s even more critical to understand where and how that engagement is taking place. So, with all that in mind, now you’re getting a clearer picture of your content strategy. But what about the execution?
As you might imagine, the potential complexity of managing this disparate channel content can be daunting. Most modern content management systems (CMS) already offer ways to address this challenge, but this usually involves developers producing custom pages or templates for each channel. And producing these templates can be complicated, costly, and time-consuming. This approach usually means adding platform-specific code and tags, which also limits the resources to those with expertise in that platform.
Enter the “headless” architecture. The goal of this approach is to isolate the content itself from the front-end or visual presentation of that content. This is done by exposing that content via one or more APIs (application programming interfaces) within the technology stack. The concept has been around for more than a decade, and most modern CMS platforms already support this architecture with minimal configuration changes.
Now, obviously, this approach can be somewhat complicated, but the long-term benefits can far outweigh the up-front costs of implementation. As new channels and devices gain foothold with consumers, the flexibility and extensibility of this architectural approach will prove to be a worthwhile investment.
So, is the headless approach the right approach in all situations? Absolutely not. As with any decision about your brand voice, it all starts with a solid content strategy. What channels are you currently using to engage your audience and where will that engagement likely take place in the future?