Decades of CMS Transformation and What’s Trending in 2018

Back in the early days of mainstream World Wide Web, which is almost 25 years back, there wasn’t much in the way of Content Management System. Infact, there wasn’t much content, either!

Back in the mid 1990’s, professionals were finding hard to display a normal HTML page properly. Dynamic pages only existed for E-commerce platforms. Everybody was trying to get dynamic pages with Perl, Cold Fusion, etc. By the late 1990’s, other languages to the web were coming out like PHP and people started figuring out ways for site owners to be able to edit their content on the website. Basically, people started writing codes for Content Management Systems (CMSs). This allowed owners to upload pictures, write stories and make interesting web pages. And here begins the dawn of CMS.

People now started to commercialise their CMS. Soon around the year 2000, these were used by big magazines and newspapers with a six digit implementation figure. And with this, the introduction and invention of open source CMSs began like Mambo, Drupal and others. These were marginally used until 2004 which marks the prime use of CMSs and a continuous development for its major use.

As the open source platforms were being developed, private companies began playing in the space. Adobe and other big shots followed the suit and before we knew, there were hundreds of CMS platforms to choose.

CMS platforms to know, by architecture

Now comes the exciting stuff to know!

After the invention and till date, there are many CMSs to choose from, but understanding the architecture and the working plays an important role while making a choice.

The types of popular CMS architecture are,

  1. Coupled
  2. Decoupled
  3. Headless

Before we define the architecture, let’s understand the key elements of a CMS,

  1. Administrative portal - The admin portal is where an administrator logs in to manage content. Primary functions are to edit, delete, organize content, workflows, user permissions and other important features.
  2. Delivery of distribution - This is where actual content is consumed by the reader. For some CMSs, it is via an integrated theming engine which gives HTML driven pages. For others, it is an API delivery of content and data.

Now, let us explore the different architectures.


Majority of systems available today are architected this way like Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress and Adobe’s solutions. Some characteristics of coupled CMSs are,

  1. Delivery and admin share same codebase
  2. Delivery is a template based system
  3. APIs are not notably available. They are added as add-ons

The advantages of this architecture are,

  1. Simple to install - The architecture is simple to install because of its single-server environment.
  2. Less infrastructure to manage - Less infrastructure as it does not require anything more than a hosting account.
  3. Lots of support available - Have large communities behind the development to provide support.

The disadvantages are,

  1. Security - The admin panel is only secure as the front end experience, thus, increasing the risk of malicious players to backdoor entry.
  2. Fewer front end options - Fewer front end options available, thus, limiting your choice of templates.
  3. Upgrades and updates - Updating risks your front end experience.


Decoupled CMS separate the administrative experience from the front end user display.

The advantages of this architecture are,

  1. Solves many security concerns - The CMS can be locked down in many ways to provide security.
  2. Flexibility - Deep library of front end technology helps you escape the mundane sameness of templates.
  3. Scalability - Decoupled systems are scalable from day one, given that the CMS will almost never need to scale—just the user experience.

The disadvantages are,

  1. Development - The CMS is custom built by heavily modifying integrated systems.
  2. Cost - Costs are higher.
  3. Resources - Requires more effort from an infrastructure perspective.


Headless CMS has been making waves in the space now since few years. Headless CMS can separate the entire admin experience and the front end, focusing on making content available via an API. this enables developers to create creative front end experiences.

The advantages of this architecture are,

  1. Clean - You can determine how you want to use them because of the clear texture.
  2. Content is future proof - Content is neat and portable and hence can be modified easily.
  3. Scalable - No worries about database clustering or replication, load balancing, caching, etc.
  4. Great for multisite - You can have multiple sites, as the system will handle it from an organizational and load perspective.
  5. Almost no infrastructure maintenance - It is hosted by the provider and do not need access to it.

The disadvantages are,

  1. License fees - You will need to license this technology from the provider, and that will be an ongoing commitment.
  2. Development - Headless systems will require you to develop a front-end experience. This means custom design and custom development.
  3. Control - You have to give the control to the provider. Pick a good provider to not mess up later.

The trending CMS software architecture of the 21st century

A traditional CMS like Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, lets the user create and edit content through HTML editor and save it to the backend database. The CMS then displays the content according to the front-end delivery layer built in the CMS.

But, in this 21st century, the head of the CMS ie. the front-end component or templating system, is chopped off. This gives rise to a headless CMS, thus, giving you the flexibility to build as many heads as you like, for multiple channels like websites, apps, kiosks, smartwatches, etc..

The need for headlessness

The headless CMS is gaining more traction in the recent years because it provides the ability to publish on multiple channels.

Statistics for headless CMS usage
Statistics for headless CMS usage

Publishing on multiple channels is nothing new, in fact many traditional CMSs have been used earlier to showcase content on desktops, mobiles, tablets, etc. But the more we dig deep into the era of IoT, publishing content to a handful of channels is no longer cutting the problem. Because, of new channels like smartwatches, VR headsets, smarthomes, etc. populating faster, the headless CMS architecture is considered to future proof the business.

The headless CMS architecture
The headless CMS architecture

Security with headless CMS

Security is the top priority for a CMS in this digital era. In a headless CMS, the security layer can be hidden in number of ways since they are separated from the user layers. This enables the administrator to rest assured that their system is secure and protected against anonymous attacks.

The headless CMS security layer
The headless CMS security layer

Why the CMS architecture matters?

While looking for an apt CMS, the first point on top of your mind should be to not rebuild your CMS every year. Instead, the best is to understand what the industry is selling you. The CMS is your core, it is the foundation of everything digital that you do.

With the widespread popularity of the CMSs, by 2020 the growth is expected to be more than 25%. Thus, Choosing an evolving and desired CMS will have long ranging effects and a roadmap to success.

How to choose the right CMS software for your business?

Many a times, choosing a CMS for your business is nowhere easy. It is an important decision which will impact the business for years to come. During this process, focussing on the features which are important will help you manage your website better.

Below are the factors which will always help you make a better decision while choosing a CMS. Everyone’s need is different, but if you figure out how important each feature is, then narrowing down the right platform becomes easier.

  1. Easy to update
  2. Customizable options and integrations
  3. Security
  4. Scalability
  5. Budget
  6. User interaction
  7. Built-in plugins for best practices

Here’s the comparison between famous CMS software solutions of 2018

Let’s look at some of the trending CMS options,


The future of CMS is quickly changing from traditional systems towards API driven headless or decoupled systems. Consumers are making use of multiple channels and publishers or newsrooms have to meet their expectations to provide quality experience.

Going headless isn’t the best option as everybody’s business differs and the choice of CMS majorly depends on the type of business. Use a headless CMS or decoupled CMS, but familiarize yourself with the concept of trending CMSs so that it becomes easier on your plate.