Content Management Systems (CMS) have come a long way from the early beginnings of the Web. With an increasing amount of content that has to be managed across more and more channels, the time is ripe for modern headless architectures to augment the experience and possibilities for both developers and content creators.
CMS is dating back to the beginning of the WWW
Content management systems (CMS) are nearly as old as the world wide web and can be traced back to August 6, 1991, when Tim Berners Lee laid the foundation of the WWW with the creation of hypertext (HTML) and launching the first website at CERN. Consequently, this led to an inflation of content being created and the need to properly write, publish and update this content. The traditional way of publishing (on paper) was disrupted and a new set of tools and suites had to be created to support content creators and editors to adapt their content to the new channel and possibilities of the web.
The CMS Evolution – from text editors in the 1990s to the first CMS systems including Typo3 and WordPress and the emergence of the Mobile Web
The 1990s: first text editors
Being involved in this development very early on, one had to self educate in HTML and when creating one of the first school homepages in Austria in the 90ies, mainly static coding by using text editors and later editors like Dreamweaver (Adobe) was used.
The early 2000s: first CMS systems including WordPress emerge
Soon thereafter, in early 2000, the first CMS systems (like Typo3, which remains at around 1% market share today ) emerged, which soon got picked up by large corporations to manage their ever-increasing content. These systems separate content from layout and display and store data in databases (often SQL). The next wave was a revolution regarding the “ease to use” and mass adoption, kick-started by WordPress in 2003. Today, ⅓ of all websites still run on WordPress, which has nearly 60 per cent market share in CMS (Source). However, the WordPress of today certainly has very little in common with the one in the early days.
Mid-2000 to 2010: Mobile Web kicks off and first website building kits emerge
With the mobile web, which really kicked off in 2007 with the introduction of the iPhone, a new challenge appeared: fitting content to very different (sized) devices and screens and also embedded rich content like videos, sound, etc. Also, website building kits (like Wix) emerged, allowing end-consumers to effortlessly build their own websites (and shops) using drag-and-drop from building blocks.
2010 – today: the exploding amount of content poses huge challenges for the existing, monolithic CMS
With nearly 2 billion websites globally (count increasing) the need to manage all that content is constantly increasing. Also, the requirements have risen dramatically, leading Forrester and Gartner to extend the definition of content management to “digital experience management”. Basically, they describe these systems as being capable of providing and managing the digital journey of customers, across (digital) channels.
The Mobile Web combined with the increasing amount of outlets and channels, as well as the need to be able to serve content on a massive scale (globally, in many languages), brings the existing monolithic systems to their limit.
The need for integration in other systems (from CRM, e-commerce, ERP,…) has created numerous new challenges:
- multiple channels (e-commerce, social media channels, web,…)
- increased need for performance (SEO, UX) and global scalability (economies of scale)
- integration of different services and platforms (via APIs), with complex deployments, urging for a clearer separation between front- and back-end
- front-end and UX becoming more and more important, to differentiate (the brand and UX)
- multi-language support and automated internationalization
- personalization, context adaptation (integration of ML)
- using state-of-the-art cloud infrastructure (e.g. AWS, Azure) in an efficient way
- coordination of an increasing amount of content and content creators (publishing process), as well as the integration of tools (spell checkers, translation,…) in the process
- offering solutions that are usable for non-technical users (e.g. editors), while allowing enough flexibility for developers to integrate them easily into the tech stack
From content management to “digital experience management: Today’s massive amount of content is a golden opportunity for growth and impact for new software architectures
The solution to the broad range of challenges listed above is “headless CMS” or “digital experience platforms” (DXP) for multiple reasons:
- separation front / back
- API first approach
- global first infrastructure (multi-language, multi-country, large scale)
- independence from channels (supporting all existing and new ones)
- easy integration with 3rd party tools (from CDN, support of editors,…)
The competitive landscape of new CMS
We have taken a close look at this newly emerging sector of systems that are increasingly changing the way how content is created, managed, and published. According to G2, the top performers by customer satisfaction are ButterCMS, ContentStack, Storyblok, Contentful and Kentico Content.
Outlook on market and trends
- strong investor interest in the space, one provider likely IPOing in 2021
- several large funding rounds to be expected in 2021
- existing players will heavily invest and/or acquire companies
- first large and international deployments, e.g. EF (Education First) with nearly 500m pages.