which direction to go?
Headless, static and dynamic content delivery all provide different benefits, so why choose just one? PHOTO: Jamie Street

Does this sound familiar? Your content strategy feels like it's all over the map. You need content for your website and email campaigns, your support team wants to create a customer portal to provide a knowledge base for your customer community, sales is looking for a range of product documentation and marketing wants to elevate your customer experience for web and mobile apps that are owned by IT.

Can your web CMS do the job?

Too Much Content Going to Too Many Places

For many organizations dealing with complex content needs from across the company, there’s too much content that needs to go to too many places. 

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could just fall in line and follow one approach to content management and delivery? But the reality is that that's not going to happen, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You just need to be smart about your content delivery models.

Searching for Content Platform Flexibility

There’s more than one way to deliver content from a content management system and using the right delivery approach can be a make-it-or-break-it decision for your next digital project. 

That’s why it’s important to understand all the possible approaches and make sure that your content platform provides the flexibility you need to support all your channels.

A Choice of 3 Content Delivery Models 

These are the three most important delivery models for digital content: 

Static Content Delivery

Some of the content you create and manage won’t change very often, and you need a straightforward way to publish it out to different locations like your website and print-based documents. Although you won’t alter this content very often, you still want to manage it in a CMS to ensure that it is kept updated and can be republished when necessary. 

Product material, company information, a digital magazine or a blog are examples of content that you write and publish in static format as HTML on the web or as Word or PDF documents in print.

Dynamic Content Delivery

Dynamic content is used for marketing-oriented websites that deliver ‘tightly coupled’ customer experiences. For example, personalized web pages that change advertisements or recommended content according to past visitor history, are common use cases.

Dynamic content is assembled on the fly, leveraging a template that tells the delivery system which content to pull in and how to assemble it on the page. Some companies provide this capability to create dynamic print-on-demand documents that assemble documents according to a set of rules and then create printable Word or PDF documents.

Headless and Decoupled Content Delivery

Headless and decoupled is the fastest growing approach in digital content — and for good reason. Some applications, or even websites, simply do not fit a traditional content management system. 

It may be a complex website composed of applications, code that goes through managed build and deployment processes, offline mobile or simply bespoke custom experiences that don’t fit the module-based approach of some CMS applications.

There is also increasing demand coming from digital transformation and corner-office mandates to elevate customer experience across all customer touchpoints within organizations. In cases like those, it often makes more sense to connect the CMS content with the existing applications, rather than rebuild these experiences in a CMS.

This approach to delivering content to external applications is called headless content delivery, and it is quickly becoming very popular in organizations that need to support the content requirements of diverse departments. With headless, the CMS does not own and manage the presentation layer, but rather provides content to existing pages or apps via API requests that return raw or templated content.

Decoupled content management adds a level of flexibility that facilitates both fully managed websites and more agile content integration. In decoupled, the CMS is separate from the website but publishes content and resources used to build the website. 

You Can and Should Do It All

If you take the time to examine all your content requirements, you'll find you need more than one type of content delivery approach. You can use each approach in different situations. Your marketing team can use both static and dynamic delivery approaches to website content and landing pages for email campaigns. And if they are the owners of your mobile app, then they will definitely require a headless delivery approach. 

Meanwhile, your support team owns the customer portal, and depending on how IT built the portal, they may need one or more of these content delivery approaches. And business owners need a headless delivery model to support the content management requirements of their web-based business applications.

There's no single way you can enforce one content delivery approach across the board because you can't force business users to build content management into their applications or mobile apps. And if you were to take this approach, you’d only have to deal with the potential of duplicated content across the organization, with no method to synchronize it. 

Crafting an ‘All of the Above’ Approach

So the best approach to content delivery is ‘all-of-the-above.’  But this approach carries its own set of challenges. You know you need multiple ways to deliver content, but you don't want the pain of setting up and managing multiple content management systems, each with its own delivery method. 

Maintaining several content management solutions means your content would be spread across multiple systems, making it hard to manage and next to impossible to share, reuse and repurpose by users. That is a real challenge to your content strategy.

Building the Case for a Modern CMS Solution

Unfortunately, there aren’t many content management systems available today that support all three approaches. But resist the urge to try to squeeze your content delivery needs into one particular delivery approach. You’ll end up causing more problems then you will be solving.

 As you plan your next digital project, carefully consider the best content deployment approach and whether your existing technology supports that delivery model. If it does, then you are good to move forward. If it doesn’t, then it may be time to look for a new, more modern web CMS solution.