Four ways to go hybrid headless

A simple yet powerful concept is pushing the limits of pure headless CMS and giving it more flexibility: hybrid headless. This means using a full CMS that also serves its content directly via REST API, and manages clean, presentation-independent content.

In his latest blog post, software developer and front-end enthusiast Christopher Zimmermann sketches out four hybrid headless techniques that make it easier and faster for both developers and marketers to create whatever content they need and serve to any channel. All these techniques center on the interplay of content delivery via REST of a headless CMS, plus the full-featured UX of a full CMS.

Far from discounting headless CMS, Christopher notes that a headless approach brings many benefits: the ability to decouple content from presentation, to innovate with mobile apps and the new crop of front-end frameworks, and above all, to get started instantly.

However, there are limits to headless. One issue is that marketers and content creators become dependent on developers. They are restricted to form-based structures and cannot create rich content experiences. Another issue is that a pure headless CMS does not cover many content management requirements. This is particularly so for enterprise features such as personalization, configurable workflow, and authentication and access control.

Christopher sets the scene for a hybrid headless approach that combines the best of both worlds: clean, structured content, plus a great authoring tool for more creativity and flexibility. He outlines four techniques and also provides concrete examples of each: 1) full CMS and REST API, 2) page fragments as JSON, 3) page fragments as HTML, 4) building front-end apps.

"The pendulum has swung back and forth over the past years in favor of strict separation between content and presentation," says Christopher in his blog post. "At one extreme: only entering content in database-like forms is allowed, putting a wall separating authors from their readers. At the other: all content entry in-place in a WYSIWIG editor with the attendant risks of breaking the design. But now I see a nice opportunity with the hybrid headless approach to become more subtle, less extreme, and take the aspects from both which really help people get their jobs done."