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History of Content Management Systems and Rise of Headless CMS

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Dec 18, 2018 | Brent Heslop

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To understand how content management systems (CMS) first came on the scene and why there are different types, let's look back at how content has evolved on the web.

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Web 1.0 Managing Static Web Content

Web 1.0 is the term used to refer to the first stage of development on the World Wide Web that was characterized by simple static websites. The history of content management systems began in 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee proposed an internet-based hypertext system HTML and wrote the browser and server software in late 1990. HTML came from SGML, which stands for the Standard Generalized Markup Language, and was created at IBM by Charles F. Goldfarb, Ed Mosher, and Ray Lorie in the 1970s. The first websites were simple HTML text files. You used an FTP program to copy the files to a directory under a running web server. In 1993, Mosaic browsers began supporting images that could appear along with text, and static brochure-like sites shared company and product information.

In the early 1990s, the first step to managing content on a web page came with Server Side Includes (SSI). Server Side Includes let you keep portions of your site separate from the main content, such as the site menu or a footer. Around the same time, the Common Gateway Interface came on the scene that let you create interactive forms.

As early as 1990, Tim Berners-Lee said the separation of document structure from the document's layout had been a goal of HTML. In 1994, Håkon Wium Lie worked at CERN and using the Web for publishing was growing. However, it wasn't possible to style documents, such as displaying a newspaper-style multi-column layout in a Web page. Lie saw the need for a style sheet language for the Web. Later Lie was joined by Bert Bos who was building a customizable browser with style sheets. By 1995 the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was up and running, and Lie and Bos worked together at the W3C on the first style sheets recommendations.

In August 1996, the first commercial browser to support CSS was Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3. The next browser to support CSS was Netscape Communicator, version 4.0. Netscape's initial implementation to support CSS was more of an attempt to stop Microsoft from claiming to be more standards-compliant than Netscape. Unfortunately, the Netscape browser would frequently crash when the page included Cascading Style Sheets. The battle for controlling standards between Netscape and Microsoft came to be known as the browser wars.

In 1996, ColdFusion added a full scripting language called CFML. Processing forms with ColdFusion or using the Common Gateway Interface and programming languages like Perl and Python became the norm. From 1995 to 1997, server-side scripting was the rage. During this same time, Personal Home Page (PHP) and Active Server Pages (ASP) came into play with server-side scripting for generating content sent from the server to the Web browser. Similar to ASP and PHP, JavaServer Pages (JSP) arrived on the scene later in 1999 and was built around the Java programming language and was also fairly popular.

In 1997, Microsoft introduced iframes that let you split the HTML browser window into segments, with each frame showing a different document that could be used to display content from other sites, and was popular for presenting ads and banners. The iframe tag brought with it security, navigation, and search engine optimization issues that eventually were addressed.

The DOM and Dynamic HTML Revolution

The turning point came in 1997 as dynamic content came into its own with the introduction of the Document Object Model (DOM). The DOM defines the logical structure of documents that lets you identify and programmatically control parts of a document. The DOM is an application programming interface (API) for HTML and XML documents. For example, the DOM lets you access and manipulate the styles of HTML elements like the entire body (body) or a division (div) on a page.

Dynamic HTML using Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, commonly called Ajax, was a revolutionary breakthrough letting developers request and receive data to update a Web page without reloading the page.

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Figure 1. A Timeline of Milestones for Web Content Management

Web 2.0 and the Role of a CMS

Dynamic content delivery brought with it new ways to present and interact with content on the Web, with an emphasis on sites being more social. The term Web 2.0 helped define what is also called the participative or participatory and social web. Web 2.0 also refers to the surge in user-generated content and the ease of use to make websites work with other products and systems.

As the web moved from being static brochure sites to interactive sites with dynamic content, the desire for collaboration and fresh, relevant content grew, and the need to manage content came to the forefront. Websites needed to be updated daily, with different people wanting to add and edit content. For example, then Marketing Department wants to update promotional material, Human Resources needs to post new jobs, the Public Relations Department needs to post press releases, the Docs Department needs to publish product documentation, the Support Department wants to interact with customers online, and so on. The role of a content management system was to provide the capability for multiple users with different permission levels to manage content for a website or a section of the content.

The Core Components of a CMS

There are two core elements of any content management system (CMS): The Content Management Application (CMA) and the Content Delivery Application (CDA). A CMA for website content allows for the administration of users and groups so that they can create, edit, and remove site content. The CMA also includes the front-end user interface that allows a person to add, modify, and remove content from a Web site without requiring knowledge of HTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), or programming languages, thus eliminating the involvement of a developer. The Content Delivery Application (CDA) compiles that information and updates the website.

The Rise of the Monolithic CMS

It was apparent that a system was needed that would allow individuals and groups to manage and deliver content to the web. A monolithic CMS is a system that incorporates everything required for managing and publishing content to the Web. This type of CMS is a coupled system, meaning that it is an all-in-one content-management solution. We will take a more in-depth look into the difference between coupled and decoupled systems later in this article.

Founded in 1985, FileNet is considered to be the first system that was a real content management system. In 1995 FileNet introduced a complete integrated document management suite of programs with document imaging, document management, and workflow. Vignette came on the scene in late 1995 with the goal of making web publishing more accessible and more personalized, and is commonly credited for originating the term “content management system.” A year later Vignette introduced StoryBuilder. Many enterprise CMSs began to appear around this time including, Interwoven (1995), Documentum (1996), FatWire (1996), FutureTense (1996), Inso (1996), and EPiServer (1997).

Open Source CMS and Frameworks

By the early 2000s, content management systems dominated the web. Open source content management systems and frameworks began to appear. A framework is a programming library of pre-written code, such as the then-popular Zend framework written in the PHP programming language. OpenCMS, PHP-Nuke, Mambo, WordPress, Drupal, Plone, and Joomla all offered free alternatives for content management. WordPress gained popularity as an open-source solution focusing on blog content delivery and letting third-party developers add customizations and extensions. In 2006, Alfresco offered an open-source alternative to enterprise content management.

The Website-Building Platform Surge

Starting in 2003, easy to use website-building CMS sites offered premade templates for people who had no coding experience, such as WordPress (2003), SquareSpace (2003), followed later by Weebly (2006), and Wix (2006). While not pure content management systems, these building platforms provided a path to building a small, low-cost website that required no knowledge of HTML, CSS, and coding.

Web APIs, XML, and JSON

A large part of Web 2.0 was making websites work with other products and systems. A Web API is a Programming Interface that allows access to a system, such as a website through standard HTTP request methods. The data is typically wrapped in a standard format, such as XML or JSON to make it easy to read and work with.

XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language that is a data format. Like HTML, XML is a descendant of SGML, the Standard Generalized Markup Language. XML allows for transporting data through feeds and API calls because it's a platform-independent format.

JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation that is a format of storing serialized data with key-value pairs and transmitting that data between a server and a web application. JSON feeds can be loaded asynchronously much more easily than XML and RSS feeds. Some sites, such as Twitter provide RSS feeds, which are easy to use on the server-side but frustrating on the client-side, since you cannot load an RSS feed with AJAX unless you are requesting it from the same domain on which it is hosted. JSON also gained preference over XML since it has a smaller footprint, is easier to use, and works great with JavaScript-enabled browsers since JavaScript automatically recognizes JSON.

SOAP and REST

To communicate object information back and forth for social and e-commerce sites, developers often use machine-based interactions, such as REST and SOAP. SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol. REST stands for REpresentational State Transfer. REST is an architectural style, whereas SOAP is a protocol. An architectural style specifies guidelines that a developer must follow to be considered a RESTful API, including that it supports a client-server model, be stateless, cacheable, have a uniform interface, and be a layered system. A layered system is one where you can keep data on different systems, so your APIs can be on one server, data on a second server, and use a third server to authenticate requests.

Developed in the early 1990s, SOAP did not come into the mainstream until the early 2000s. SOAP is a standardized, extensible, XML-based messaging protocol that is language-, platform-, and transport-independent with built-in error handling. SOAP uses Web Services Description Language (WSDL), which is a service description language. SOAP uses Web Services Description Language (WSDL), which is a service description language used to provide web services over the Internet. The WSDL specifies the available functions, so a client program can connect and discover the functions offered by the web services.

SOAP is not as popular today and is being replaced with new APIs, such as REST and GraphQL. SOAP works well in distributed enterprise environments and is still used for B2B applications because you can define a "data contract" with it. However, in the web world, 70% of public APIs are RESTful APIs. When a RESTful API is called, the server will transfer to the client a representation of the state of the requested resource. REST uses multiple standards like HTTP, JSON, URL, and XML. A REST API uses a Web Application Description Language (WADL), and it doesn’t require the extensive processing SOAP does, so it is faster. It is also easier to use and more efficient and flexible than SOAP. RESTful web APIs are typically loosely based on HTTP methods to access resources via URL-encoded parameters and the use of JSON or XML to transmit data. JSON ensures reliable, fast, and easy data exchanges, so it is the most common data exchange format for working with RESTful APIs.

Going Mobile with Web 3.0

In the late 1990s and early 2000s Nokia Symbian, Palm, and Blackberry mobile devices provided access to the Web. However, it wasn’t until the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and the Android smartphone in 2008 that mobile phones really had an impact on delivering web content. In 2010 smart tablets came on the scene. REST APIs and JSON data format were vital to delivering content to mobile devices. This megatrend of delivering content to mobile devices ushered in the mobile web era, which has also been called Web 3.0 to identify the shift from computers and laptops to mobile content delivery. By the beginning of 2014, mobile internet use exceeded desktop use in the U.S.

This rise in content consumption by mobile devices presented a problem for the monolithic CMS that was explicitly created for delivering Web content to desktops and laptops. There was no way to deliver content for both desktop and mobile devices reliably. To address the rise of mobile web usage, developers began creating both desktop and mobile versions of their websites, with mobile designs offering stripped-down versions of select desktop website pages.

The mobile sites were on a separate subdomain and called mobile or “m.dot” sites since the subdomains would end in “.m.” One problem that arose is that Google does not provide indexing of m.dot sites. Instead, Google only annotates the m.dot URLs to say the main website is mobile-friendly.

In 2010, Ethan Marcotte introduced the term “responsive design” that promoted a shift in thinking from the fixed design for desktop websites to responsive, fluid, adaptable layouts. To deliver on the promise of responsive design, the W3C created media queries as part of the CSS3 specification. A media query allows developers to ascertain the type of device and inspect the physical characteristics of the device, such as the screen size. For example, using CSS you can use the @media rule to determine what screen size is being used and include a block of CSS properties for that device.

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Figure 2: Worldwide Mobile Growth
Source: StatCounter Global Stats (http://gs.statcounter.com/)

The Paradigm Shift to Omnichannel

The word “omni” means “all things” in Latin, so omnichannel refers to all possible channels. Just as the mobile channel was disruptive to the delivery of web content, new channels, such as smartwatches, gaming consoles, voice-activated devices like Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) and Google Home are continually appearing that present content delivery problems for the traditional CMS. The paradigm shifts—from delivering content for a few channels to true omnichannel content delivery that is flexible enough to support whatever tomorrow’s channels may come on the scene—demand a better solution, which was the decoupled and headless CMS solution.

The Decoupled and Headless API-First CMS Solution

A decoupled system consists of two or more systems that can transact without being connected, similar to the separation of an HTML (content) file from a CSS (formatting) and a JavaScript (programming) file. A decoupled CMS allows developers to make changes to the presentation (formatting) and behavior (programming) layer without affecting the content of the site.

The term decoupled and headless are frequently used interchangeably, but there is a difference. A headless CMS does not have a front-end system or presentation environment. A headless CMS is API-first, which means it integrates content management tools via API. Separating formatting from content allows you to publish content to any device or channel. A decoupled CMS typically includes a front-end formatting system of templates. A headless CMS separates managing content from presenting formatted content; so in other words, it removes the interdependency of presentation and behavior layers from the content. Moving from a coupled system to a decoupled headless CMS opens up a new world of managing content.

The Content Hub Architecture

Key to the success of working with a headless CMS is the content hub architecture. A content hub centralizes all your content in one place using an API to deliver content anywhere. This content-centric approach accelerates and simplifies content management, letting your developers use the best-of-breed tools to create digital experience platforms (DXP) with omnichannel content delivery to help create more personalized customer journeys and more impactful digital experiences.

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Figure 3: The Content Hub Architecture

Integration and Frameworks

Not only does the content hub architecture help you with omnichannel content delivery, but using a content hub also gives you more freedom for integration. Using a headless CMS following the content hub architecture lets you choose the best of existing tools or services, such as marketing automation tools, analytics, a personalization engine, translation services, video delivery services, e-commerce platform, and AI extensions.

The world of technology is constantly changing at a rapid rate. There is always a new way of capturing and delivering customer data better, faster, and cheaper. Integrations with a headless CMS with a content hub architecture makes it much easier to be agile and switch to new tools and services without disrupting your content or content delivery.content-spoke.png

Figure 4. Integration and the Content Hub

Security and CMS Solutions

Most headless CMS offerings fall in the Content as a Service (CaaS) category, meaning the service is centralized and hosted on the Cloud. As with any CMS, you put your trust into your CMS vendor. This trust applies to any third-party applications that you integrate into your CMS as well. The benefit of using a reputable company with supported integrations that you can trust minimizes risk and ensures a safer more secure site.

Scalability

Using a traditional CMS to handle increases in traffic is a typical solution to add multiple servers running the CMS. This is time-consuming and expensive. A headless CMS has the ability to scale and additionally avoid database bottlenecks that you are likely to encounter using a traditional CMS. Scaling is much easier to do with a headless CMS since most headless CMS offerings are Cloud-hosted, so it is possible to automatically adjust your Cloud infrastructure to match demand.

Another important technology for being able to deliver content fast and on a global scale is the Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN is a network of servers spread around the globe. Static assets and dynamic content of your website are cached and saved on all the CDN’s servers. When a person requests a page, the website retrieves cached content from the nearest CDN server and delivers it to the client. Having a CDN-enabled headless CMS vastly improves the performance of delivering content around the world.

The Digital Experience Platform

Gartner defines a digital experience platform (DXP) "as an integrated set of technologies, based on a common platform, that provides a broad range of audiences with consistent, secure and personalized access to information and applications across many digital touchpoints. Organizations use DXPs to build, deploy and continually improve websites, portals, mobile and other digital experiences." The headless CMS approach is quickly becoming a crucial component of the new generation of Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs). DXPs go significantly beyond web content management to create rich, engaging experiences for audiences addressing a multitude of channels. This ties in nicely with the content-hub architecture to enable any type of integration needed to deliver content to any channel.

The Importance of Personalization

Personalization is key to building an effective Digital Experience Platform. Personalization means understanding your visitors’ interests and tailoring content to fit their needs and preferences, providing them with an experience they find relevant. The more relevant a person finds your message the more you increase customer loyalty and revenue. Personalization is a mission-critical marketing activity. Using a headless CMS, personal data is made available via APIs, web services, and open data standards, so you are not tied down by data stored in a pre-built system.

Personalization tools and services, such as Optimizely, Monetate, One Spot, Evergage, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and Adobe Target all help you track and act on a visitor’s behavior, location, profile, and other attributes to create a dynamically personalized, highly relevant experience. By creating a more meaningful experience for your visitors you’re also generating better business results.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

In July 2018 at a Town Hall meeting in San Francisco, Google CEO Sundar Pichai called artificial intelligence “one of the most important things that humanity is working on,” saying that it is “more profound than electricity or fire.” Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are ushering in the next era of digital transformation. All major tech companies are following this mega-trend. Google offers TensorFlow; IBM, Watson and AI OpenScale; Adobe, Sensi; SalesForce, Einstein; Amazon Lex and Amazon Rekognition; Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services; and Facebook announced it is expanding its AI-research division to roughly 170 scientists and engineers.

AI and machine learning are already having a significant impact on content management. Integrating your content hub with AI and machine-learning tools and services can help you discover hidden opportunities, speed up processes, and most importantly, offer relevant digital experiences to customers. Personalization engines are using AI and machine learning to deliver smarter, customized, and predictive customer experiences. In addition to the personalization services mentioned in the previous section, some examples of using content management with AI and machine language services and tools such as SEO optimization with CanIRank, MarketBrew, and BrightEdge; content creation and text analysis with MonkeyLearn, Acrolinx, Automated Insights, and Narrative Science; and translation services with KantanMT, and SYSTRAN.

The Headless CMS Solution

There will always be disruptive technologies that will change the CMS playing field. There is no doubt that AI and machine learning are going to play a huge role in the future of content management. The primary goal is to build the best digital experience platform with omnichannel delivery that is secure, scalable, and as future-proof as possible, such as Contentstack. By allowing you to integrate with new technologies and applications as they come on the scene, a headless CMS is likely to be the longest-lasting solution in the history of content management systems.

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Why composable architecture is the future of digital experience

Digital experiences are rapidly evolving, causing more and more enterprises to consider the move to a composable digital experience platform. Should your business be one of them?If you haven’t started your journey to a composable architecture, read on to learn:Why experts say composable is the way of the futurePotential benefits of a composable DXPHow to get started and why being “fully composable” mattersWhat is a composable DXP?The composable digital experience platform (DXP) is the most recent concept to emerge in the evolution of the digital experience from its beginnings, when enterprise content was limited to a static website viewed on a desktop where customers could find information about a brick-and-mortar business.With no need to frequently update or publish to multiple channels, a monolithic architecture was the answer to publishing enterprise content. Businesses would purchase a predetermined set of tools designed by one vendor.Then came the smartphone, which led to today’s e-commerce landscape where consumers are not only shopping online but doing so on a plethora of devices and channels. Monolithic platforms, which require developers to code any changes to content, are unable to keep up.The composable DXP is the latest solution for businesses aiming to meet and serve their customers across multiple channels and devices. A composable DXP uses a headless CMS as the foundation for a content hub where microservices are delivered via independent APIs, allowing content to be quickly and easily deployed across channels.Why a composable DXP is the way of the futureAs digital commerce evolves, customers not only expect to be able to interact with your website; they expect a seamless, personalized experience. Monolithic systems, which require IT teams to code every change and update, don’t have the ability to rapidly respond to customer preferences and publish fresh content across multiple channels. According to Gartner Research, businesses can no longer meet their objectives with monolithic platforms. In its 2020 report “Adopt a Composable DXP Strategy to Future-Proof Your Tech Stack,” Gartner predicted that by 2023, organizations that adopt a composable approach will outpace competition by 80% in implementing new features.Potential benefits of a composable DXPA composable DXP offers many benefits for enterprise marketing and IT teams, which can positively impact the success of the overall business. These include:Flexibility, scalability and faster developmentComposable architecture provides organizations the flexibility to choose and combine a unique mix of best-in-breed tools and microservices and to easily change this mix as business needs evolve. The modularity of composable architecture supports the seamless integration of these independent best-in-breed solutions. This means they can be added, removed and recombined quickly without downtime. The ability to deploy services independently to multiple websites and channels from one central hub enables enterprises to scale faster and more easily as needed.Speed and agilityBecause the tools and microservices in composable architecture are modular – meaning they work as independent components or APIs – each can be updated incrementally as needed without impacting other tools, services or channels. Organizations become more agile as marketing and IT teams are empowered to act faster to keep pace with changing customer expectations by providing richer, more up-to-date content experiences.Ease of useWithout coding or technical expertise, marketing teams can modify user interfaces and content experiences without having to open tickets and wait on developers to fulfill requests. Workflow governance for multiple sites and channels is managed from one central hub with customizable user controls ensuring the right persons have approved content prior to rollout.Rapid innovationMonolithic platforms are complex and require hundreds of hours of development time and resources to upgrade and maintain with heavy reliance on tech teams. A composable platform is easier for IT to upgrade as technology evolves because new apps and functionality can be launched independently. Major website overhauls become a thing of the past. Freed from mundane marketing requests and maintenance, IT can focus on innovation and delivering better customer experiences.Increased ROIA composable DXP reduces both development time and time to publish, resulting in reduced costs and an increased profit.Real-time feedbackWebsite analytics, social media, customer relationship management and other sources of data collected via the tools and microservices in the DXP can provide a more complete picture of your customers in real-time. This enables the personalization and up-to-date, relevant content experiences that customers expect.Omnichannel content deploymentIn a composable DXP built with a headless CMS, creation of content and the channels where it’s published are mutually independent. This allows marketers to maintain a responsive presence across multiple channels and devices from one central hub by seamlessly and rapidly optimizing and pushing out marketing campaigns to reach customers where they are.Getting started on the journey to a composable architectureIf your current digital experience solution is holding you back from experiencing the benefits above, it may be time to think about switching to a composable DXP. But where do you begin? Start by listing everything that isn’t working in your current platform. Consider the parts of your current system that are working well to meet the needs of your business, and whether those needs are likely to change in the near future. This will help clarify which apps and microservices you should include in your future solution as well as how to approach implementing it. Transitioning to composable doesn’t necessarily mean throwing out your entire current system and starting with something completely new. Based on your assessment of what’s currently working and not working, you may want to adopt a gradual approach by first implementing composable applications in crucial areas where it could make the most impact and where your monolithic platform is slowing you down.Finding the right composable DXPOnce you’ve decided on the best approach, it’s time to research solutions. If you decide on a gradual approach, make sure the vendor you choose has the ability to take you all the way to your goal of going fully composable. Many vendors currently market their platforms as being “composable” even though they aren’t fully composable. Instead they are selling platforms built on monolithic architecture that offer some composable functionality such as the ability to plug in some APIs or integrate with certain microservices. A fully composable DXP, on the other hand, is built on a composable architecture rather than on monolithic. 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Jan 19, 2023

4 ways your teams can benefit from a composable DXP

Whether you’re a company leader, developer or a creative director, chances are that you understand the importance of having good content on your website and other communication channels that your organization leverages. If you’re like most mid-sized to large companies, you have a complex mix of content that’s used for diverse purposes: marketing and promotions, internal communications and investor relations, delivering personalized customer experiences, engaging potential customers and more.Traditionally, having relevant omnichannel content has been disjointed, time-consuming, difficult to manage, slow and inefficient. 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Last year, Gartner predicted that more than half of mainstream organizations would invest in composable applications by 2023.Before delving into the benefits of composable, let’s first take a look at what a DXP built on a composable architecture actually is.What is composable architecture?Composable architecture is a way of separating the front-end (what you see on the display) and the back-end code (development) of a website, making development faster and easier. This separation means the front and back end can be developed independently of each other, making deployments simpler and more efficient.A composable architecture typically has a headless CMS at its core. This type of CMS provides an application programming interface or API that the front-end code can call to fetch data from the back end. What kind of tools or APIs are used in a composable DXP?In addition to the headless CMS, which is the central hub of the composable DXP, this type of platform will include a wide variety of microservice-based APIs based on what your organization needs. The beauty is that you can pick and choose the best options in each of these areas below in addition to others without being locked to a specific vendor:E-commerceAsset managementCustomer managementOmnichannel managementMarketing automation and analyticsContent workflowsCustomer engagementAI toolsIn a nutshell, composability means you have the freedom and flexibility to create a unique DXP that’s tailored specifically to your organization’s needs by choosing the right microservices. You might think of these microservices as being an arsenal of tools that can help you elevate your organization above the competition.If the idea of switching from a traditional, monolithic platform to a composable DXP seems daunting at first, keep in mind that the transition doesn’t have to take place all at once. Instead, it can take place one piece (or API) at the time as you add different products and services to the headless CMS. Compatibility enables this kind of targeted transition because each component or API works independently of every other component. As you might imagine, this has many advantages. One of the biggest is that a failure in one component doesn’t bring down the whole system.A composable DXP provides many significant benefits for your organization’s executive, creative and technology teams. Here are four key features of composable DXP and how each team benefits.Very little to no coding neededWith a composable DXP, most changes don’t require the technical knowledge of a developer. Here’s how this benefits teams at every level of your organization.Executive teamsWhen marketing and technology teams can focus on what they do best, there should be less friction between the two. This reduces frustration levels and makes for happier employees, helping you retain your best workers.Creative teams Composability will empower marketing teams to create, change and publish content without having to have any technical expertise. Content is easy to access in one central location. Marketing teams will no longer have to create tickets and wait for developers to get around to their requests. Instead they’ll create campaigns and push a variety of content types to multiple platforms and channels with greater speed and efficiency.Technology teamsThe time developers typically spend making everyday fixes and working with code to launch new campaigns will be freed up so that they can focus more time on creating user-friendly digital experiences for customers.ScalabilityDo you plan on adding e-commerce down the road? Want to add a mobile channel? Want your website to have chat functionality? It’s very easy to add new apps and services to your websites and other channels with a composable DXP. Executive teamsThe business can more easily expand its product and service offerings without having to worry about downtime for websites and other channels. You can focus on growing the business with confidence that your content management system has the agility to keep up. Creative teamsAs new marketing automation and tools become available, it will be simple to add these to your API mix.Technology teamsIt will be easier for IT to scale apps because services can be deployed independently. Tech can focus on one type of digital service, while others continue to work as normal. There’s no need for rushed overnight deployments or site downtime to release new functionality.SpeedComposability improves speed in several different ways, including speed of publishing content, speed of implementing campaigns and speed of reaching business goals.Executive teamsBusiness goals can be fulfilled faster, whether you aspire to expand into a new region or roll out new products and services. What better way to stay a step ahead of the competition?Creative teamsMarketing leaders will be empowered to launch campaigns and publish content much faster. Again, there’s no waiting on IT to make changes. They can also push content to multiple sites without having to totally recreate content from scratch. Composability makes it easier to create a content block for one site, and then quickly push that content to other sites and channels.Technology teamsSlow implementations become a thing of the past, as IT teams focus their efforts on targeted API functionality, rather than being bogged down with tickets for minor edits and updates.Improved customer experiencesWhen relying on a composable DXP, delivering content that’s personalized and relevant becomes the status quo instead of the exception, boosting customer satisfaction. Executive teamsThe business can expect to reap the rewards of improved customer experiences. A current Forrester Total Economic Impact (TEI) study demonstrates an ROI of 295% with a composable architecture.Creative teamsMarketers will no longer be hindered by the rigidity of a monolithic CMS. Instead, they will have unlimited access to all the tools they need for success with the freedom to expand their toolkit any time they choose.Technology teams With less time spent on repetitive requests, the IT staff can put its expertise to work in key areas which will have the biggest impact on customer satisfaction.FAQsAs a recap and to answer additional questions you may have, here are a few frequently asked questions about composable DXPs.Am I tied to one vendor that determines what solutions I can use?No, a composable DXP gives you the freedom to choose the best solutions, regardless of vendor.How do I know all the components that I want in my composable DXP will work together?Composable providers understand the importance of their solutions being able to integrate with other APIs and have worked to address this issue. Composable providers ensure their solutions can seamlessly enable multiple APIs to work together by making them easy to plug in with software developer kits (SDKs) or one-click connections.What if I want to keep tools on my current websites that are working?With a composable DXP, an organization can choose the best options and even keep using some of the existing solutions that are already working. You are no longer locked into using just the services and apps that your vendor or platform supports.What is the first step in transitioning to a composable DXP?Begin by thinking about the apps and services you would want to have in your DXP if the options were limitless and then write them down. Be sure to get input from executive, creative and IT teams before searching for products and scheduling demos.Learn moreLearn more about composable DXPs in our guide, “What is a DXP? Understanding digital experience platforms.”Schedule a free demo to see how Contentstack’s composable digital experience platform can benefit executive, creative and technology teams at your organization.

Jan 17, 2023

Contentstack demonstrated 295% ROI in Forrester study

Today’s consumer expects a seamless and personalized digital experience when interacting with brands. As we’ve discussed before, a monolithic (or “legacy”) CMS lacks the flexibility enterprises need to keep up with changing consumer demands. “A lot of the technologies that were initially driving digital experiences [were designed with] one single experience in mind,” said Jeff Baher, head of Global Product Marketing and Growth at Contentstack. However, Baher said, with the rise of mobile internet, social media and smart devices, “there’s just an entirely different set of requirements for being able to reach customers and create digital experiences.” The digital experience has expanded, and the customer journey can now unfold across multiple channels. Increasingly, enterprises are adopting composable architecture to build digital experiences for their customers, and a headless CMS is the beating heart of it all. But can the benefits of implementing a headless CMS be measured? We recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a study measuring the Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) of the Contentstack headless CMS platform, and the results speak for themselves.MethodologyThe Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) methodology was developed by Forrester to help companies quantify the value of IT initiatives, such as moving to a headless CMS. TEI gives leaders more concrete data they can use to make the right decisions for their organization.In order to effectively measure the benefits of the Contentstack headless CMS, researchers at Forrester identified four organizations currently using the Contentstack headless CMS. To ensure accuracy, the organizations were selected from different industries (food and beverage, travel, fitness and apparel), with revenues ranging from $25 million to $2.1 billion.Researchers interviewed decision-makers at each organization to obtain data on benefits, costs, flexibility and potential risks, then used this information to build a composite organization. Then, they applied TEI to build a financial model and quantify the business benefits of moving to a headless CMS.How Contentstack’s CMS platform benefits enterprisesThe Contentstack headless CMS platform offers significant financial benefits for enterprises. The study found that the composite organization’s ROI was 295%, thanks to a combination of cost savings and increased revenues.  Cost savingsOne of the challenges of legacy infrastructure is what Baher calls a “push-and-pull” between an organization’s IT and business sides. Since the legacy CMS is so code-heavy, even minor tweaks to the digital experience can require significant updates to back-end code. “You have to put in an IT ticket for really basic things, and then the IT queue [is full of] tasks like ‘fix five typos,’ and that’s maddening,” Baher said. The Contentstack headless CMS platform makes it easier for the business side to make tweaks to the digital experience without a lot of IT assistance. This reduces the amount of time IT and developers spend on minor tasks — and that time adds up. One interview subject noted that with Contentstack’s CMS, “we can stand things up as quick as our control processes will allow.” The study found that using Contentstack’s headless CMS saved the composite organization $507,000 in productivity costs over three years. In addition, the headless CMS reduced content-related development time for the composite organization by 80%. The headless CMS also minimizes the number of manual and repetitive tasks business users normally have to perform to publish content in a legacy CMS. Simplifying the content publishing process helped reduce overhead and improve time to market for the composite organization. Overall, the organization’s time to publish was reduced by 90%, leading to savings of $2 million over three years.  Increased revenuesThe study found that the Contentstack headless CMS was key to an estimated 4% revenue increase for the composite organization, worth $3 million in profit over three years. A few factors could explain this estimated increase. Cutting back on development time for minor tasks allows the composite organization to dedicate more IT resources to specialized projects. Reducing time to publish also means the composite organization can publish more content to enhance the digital experience. More frequent content updates means a higher SEO ranking, which drives more traffic to the site. And when potential customers arrive, the improved digital experience can positively impact purchasing decisions: Studies have shown that 42% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. The big pictureDelivering a high-quality customer experience has always been crucial for brands, but it is more important today than ever before. It is easier than ever for consumers to do business with a brand — and it is also easier than ever for consumers to take their business elsewhere when a brand fails to deliver the experience they expect.In order to meet the demands of today’s consumer, organizations must deliver a digital experience that is fast and seamlessly unfolds across multiple devices and channels. The customer journey needs to be personalized and perpetual: Brands must maintain a post-sale presence in order to encourage repeat business. Today’s consumer expects a more mobile, cloud-based digital experience. Most monolithic content management systems provide a preset suite of functions that can, in theory, meet those demands. But sometimes those built-in functions don’t quite work the way business users need them to — and sometimes they don’t exist at all. In those cases, organizations have to find third-party solutions, which can be hard to integrate into legacy systems. And, as Baher notes, maintaining those workarounds can be time-consuming and difficult. “Connecting is done through web hooks, which are these manual stitching points between parts of your stack or your suite. They’re manual, they take time, they’re error-prone, they’re security issues because you’re connecting third-party software to parts of your stack,” Baher said. Managing all these factors usually falls on a single member of the IT team — and teams often struggle to keep things running smoothly if that key member leaves the organization.The Contentstack headless CMS platform allows business users to be more hands-on when it comes to content. Contentstack Marketplace — an extensive ecosystem of features, services, apps, integrations, and accelerators — lets teams take a modular approach to digital experience composition by picking and choosing the right building blocks for their needs. These components can then be integrated quickly and easily  via the Contentstack Automation Hub, which Baher describes as a “no-code, low-code environment that simplifies the complex and automates the routine.”“You can very quickly create triggers and actions across  the composable stack, which saves time and removes the opportunity for a lot of errors,” Baher said.A headless CMS is the first step toward creating a fully composable digital experience platform (DXP), and Contentstack is the perfect foundation for  robust and adaptable digital experience composition. The headless CMS, Marketplace, and Automation Hub combine to deliver fast, seamless integration so business users can publish content or make tweaks to the digital experience without significant involvement from the IT side. TEI is an important measure of the overall economic benefit of moving to composable architecture, as well as the unique and specific benefits of using the Contentstack Headless CMS Platform to do it. But going composable is about more than just dollars and cents — it’s also about future-proofing your business so that no matter how customer needs and demands evolve in the future, your organization can evolve along with them.Learn moreSchedule a free demo to see how Contentstack can help your organization deliver a customer experience that leads to higher revenues, lower overhead and has the agility today’s brands need.

Jan 05, 2023

Composable vs. monolithic: Which is right for you?

Businesses are trying to create better customer experiences, so composable digital experience platforms (DXPs) are becoming more popular. But what are they? How do they compare to monolithic platforms? And how do you choose the right one for your business? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more.What is a digital experience platform (DXP)?Digital experience platforms (DXP) are purpose-built technology solutions for creating, managing, delivering and optimizing consistent digital experiences across different customer touchpoints. These tools offer businesses a valuable way to communicate with their users through content and obtain customer feedback through data collection.Companies can utilize DXPs to create content tailored to websites, email campaigns, mobile apps, social media channels, e-commerce sites, IoT devices, digital signage systems and more. Beyond simply broadcasting content on each platform, DXPs also allow marketers to automate marketing activities and develop a unified digital experience that can take users toward their desired goals or objectives.DXPs help companies understand what customers want and need. They can do this by looking at how customers act online on websites, social media, and other online places. Businesses can then use this information to reach out in new ways or to improve their relationships with existing customers. Ultimately, using a DXP helps organizations make more sales or conversions by providing a better user experience across multiple channels.What is composable architecture?Composable architecture is an innovative way of organizing and managing software development that separates front-end and back-end code. This technique enables teams to create, modify and launch content without relying on developers for coding. This method of organization helps speed up development and make it more efficient. Composable architecture makes developing software easier while encouraging teamwork between different departments. For example, if you use a composable content management system, the marketing team can make changes and publish their work without waiting for developers to finish coding. This way, teams can post new content more quickly. Additionally, developers can focus on creating unique experiences and features instead of being bogged down with marketing tasks or fixes.What is a monolithic DXP?A monolithic DXP solution is an all-in-one platform that provides a suite of tools for managing content. These platforms are designed to enable users to store, manage and publish content quickly and easily. They typically offer features such as content editing options, user permissions and roles and media asset management.Monolithic content management solution platforms can be rigid in terms of how they operate and may not be able to keep up with the ever-changing needs of a business. Additionally, they tend to take longer to customize than composable DXP systems.What is a composable DXP?The composable DXP concept is still relatively new and has become increasingly popular recently. A composable DXP is a platform that allows digital teams to assemble individual services or microservices into an experience that meets their specific needs. This innovative type of DXP is essentially an assembly of best-of-breed solutions to deliver content and digital experiences to customers in a much more agile, flexible and efficient way than a single monolithic platform.As opposed to the traditional monolithic approach taken with DXPs, this microservices approach enables companies to cost-effectively customize their DXP according to their business needs. Furthermore, allowing for a greater level of scalability and interoperability allows faster time-to-market for new features or services, as well as improved customer satisfaction.The composable approach gives organizations better control over their digital experiences and helps them stay ahead of their competition by enabling them to focus on innovation instead of maintenance. A composable solution makes it easier for businesses to move quickly while keeping up with the ever-changing technology landscape.What to consider when comparing a composable and monolithic DXPsCan the platform integrate with solutions your team currently uses?Monolithic suites are large programs often made up of products obtained through acquisitions and then given a makeover in terms of branding and user experience to fit into the overarching process. Such products lack the open-source code needed to integrate them seamlessly with other solutions, which can limit their utility as part of a more comprehensive DXP solution. This technique makes it simple for internal integration, but external integration can be difficult or even impossible.On the other hand, with a composable DXP, external integration is better facilitated due to its ability to connect with existing best-of-breed solutions more readily. As such, organizations have more control over how their digital experiences are created and tailored for their specific audiences. Furthermore, each individual component can be monitored separately from the rest of the system, allowing for greater visibility into performance and ease of scalability when needed. Ultimately, a composable DXP offers organizations greater flexibility and agility compared to monolithic platforms by providing enhanced external integrations and visibility into performance metrics on an individual basis.How much time will it take to deploy the platform?Deploying a new monolithic suite can require significant time and effort — sometimes months — and demands constant monitoring for unexpected changes or challenges during set-up.Moreover, it's necessary to ensure that all employees acquire the required skills to work effectively in this new environment. Besides the technical implications of such large-scale transition projects, there are also social and psychological implications that business leaders should take into consideration. Companies must be aware that transition periods affect team dynamics and thus must create an atmosphere of collaboration that encourages employee engagement and satisfaction throughout the process.On the other hand, a composable DXP approach allows companies to start quickly, taking advantage of the existing knowledge their staff already has. This strategy eliminates the need for extensive training since they can be up and running with a condensed feature set using workflows they're already familiar with.How will we keep the platform up-to-date?Companies can easily keep their composable DXPs up-to-date as the various vendors focus solely on perfecting their solutions. Additionally, organizations can frequently enhance open-source products with improved customizations and updates that won't depend on the vendor.For monolithic suites, a single vendor provides updates and new features; however, some of these “nice-to-have” additions may take an extended amount of time to be implemented to the platform  — if at all. Even minor bugs can be left without resolution until suite-wide updates are rolled out. Companies should be aware that they may not always get timely fixes for any issues they encounter while using DXPs with a single-source provider.How secure are these platforms?A composable architecture allows security updates and patching solutions to be implemented quickly for each component without hindering other systems. This expedited process allows for swift response times in case a breach or vulnerability is discovered. However, if a security flaw is found in one component of an entire suite, it can likely extend to the whole system, thereby rendering the entire suite susceptible to exploitation. Consequently, organizations must take extra care when monitoring their suites for security flaws to ensure that all corners of their system are protected from malicious actors.On the other hand, monolithic solutions can be patched as a single software package. Still, patches may need to happen when the system is not being used, causing extended exposure to vulnerabilities.ConclusionComposable DXPs offer more flexibility and agility compared to monolithic platforms. This means they can scale better, have new features and services faster and improve customer satisfaction. They also provide shorter deployment times, easier updates and enable responsive security updates. However, while they may be more flexible than a single-vendor platform, companies must still carefully monitor their systems for any potential security flaws or vulnerabilities that could put their entire suite at risk. Ultimately, businesses can make informed decisions about which type of system best meets their needs by understanding the differences between these two approaches to digital experience delivery and the pros and cons of each.Learn moreLearn more about composable architecture in our guide, “The ultimate marketer’s guide to composable DXPs.”Schedule a free demo to see how Contentstack’s composable DXP can help your organization deliver the digital experiences your customers crave.

Dec 12, 2022

A look back at 2022 and advancing composable

With 2022 almost in the books, I would like to reflect on the past year of our product growth and the journey that we have taken with our customers.  This year did not give us much time to celebrate battling back a global pandemic before testing our global economy yet again. Two once-in-a-generation disruptions have shown that being agile and staying in touch with customers is required to stay competitive.We recognized this back in 2011 when our parent company, Raw Engineering, pioneered headless CMS to better serve their clients. Contentstack and the whole composable movement was born out of a failure of old monolithic technologies to give teams the tools to meet the moment. Fast forward to today and that movement is now mainstream, the debate finally decided: Composable is the best enterprise architecture choice. Teams of all sizes across all industries are going composable. If you don’t believe me, just watch legacy CMSes trip over themselves to rebrand as “headless” and finally embrace the cloud.However, enterprises choosing composable is just a first step on the journey.  Where do you start? How do you integrate? How quickly can you get to the value? Answering these questions drove our product roadmap this year. We challenged ourselves to go beyond the bounds of a traditional headless CMS to create a complete composability platform. Getting composable right is hard, but we help everyone do hard better.Here are some of the ways we did that in our product journey 2022:Contentstack MarketplaceThe first step when it comes to composable is getting all your softwares to communicate. The Contentstack Marketplace includes integrations for dozens of technologies without the need for code. We also released an application framework that allows your developers to write their own applications on top of our platform. I have loved seeing how customers have taken these tools and built incredible capabilities for their content creators.  The Contentstack Marketplace takes the pain out of composable and gives you the flexibility to extend Contentstack to meet your changing needs.Automation HubNow that everything is integrated, you need to build business logic into your stack. As the number of your technologies grows, this can become a real challenge and requires time-consuming and brittle integration code. Automation Hub is a low-code integration and automation product that solves this problem. It allows you to build complex, multi-step workflows that automatically execute across Contentstack and all your other technologies. This saves a massive amount of time and removes the risk of costly errors.Automation Hub automates your business logic, making it feel like all of your tools were purposely built to work together.Mission ControlModern digital teams now have to manage more channels to meet their customers where they are. It can be easy to completely lose track of what is being done, where and how all of your systems interact. We released Mission Control Analytics to give a birds-eye view of all of this activity. It helps you understand traffic patterns, which SDKs (Software Development Kits) your teams are using and identify potential implementation issues by monitoring API problems across your stack.Mission Control lets you monitor all your projects and all your channels in a single view.Contentstack on AzureThis year we went multi-cloud with the addition of Azure hosting. This made us the first multi-cloud SaaS content management platform in the market. We put in a huge amount of work to ensure 100% parity between Azure and AWS deployments. This gives our customers a choice of which architecture they want to use.We are excited to be joining the Azure marketplace next year!Azure hosting lets you choose the cloud that is right for you, then we make sure you never have to think about infrastructure again.Flawless Black Friday and Cyber MondayNothing gets us more excited and focused than the holiday season. Some of our customers do over a third of their yearly business in November and December. We receive tens of billions of API calls, each essential for keeping digital experiences available and ready to win new business. Stability and availability are our most sacred obligations and I am happy to say that we maintained 100% uptime for our fifth straight Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I could not be more proud of the team that put in long hours to ensure we delivered yet again.These capabilities are just a few of the 138 enhancements we were able to deliver this year. I want to give huge thanks for the tireless work of our product, engineering, and design teams for never settling for “good enough” and continuing to lead the industry in defining composable.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday are unlike any other events, and we're happy to have delivered for our customers for a fifth straight year.I also want to thank our customers for their faith in us. I am fortunate to have a front row seat to all the customer innovation on our platform. As a product creator, there is nothing more gratifying than seeing customers use the tools you have given in ways that you did not even imagine. They are meeting the moment to deliver great customer experiences, and doing hard better.We learn as much from our customers as they do from us, and some amazing new products are coming next year. I wish I could say more, but we’ll just have to wait until ContentCon 2023 in May. See you next year!