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Built.io's Contentstack Review PHOTO: Built.io

Contentstack is a headless CMS that touts itself a platform that can build the best digital experience for web, mobile, IoT, AR and VR." It was crafted by Built.io, the vendor behind an API-first enterprise suite of products including Flow, a Platform-as-a-Service, Backend, a Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service, and Contentstack, the headless CMS that we’ll be focusing on in this review. Contentstack was one of the content management systems included in our recent list of the top CMS, 13 headless content management systems to keep tabs on.

Contentstack Features

Contentstack is a SaaS platform built upon a microservices architecture, which helps improve performance and reduce the risk of unnecessary feature bloating. It boasts RESTful APIs covering content management, content publishing and image manipulation along with SDKs for iOS, Android, JavaScript, Ruby, PHP, Java, React Native and Node.js.

Here’s a summary of the core features of Contentstack:

  • Enterprise-grade Scalability & Performance: The decoupled architecture allows brands to scale without database bottlenecks and automatically adjust your cloud infrastructure to match demand. CDNs are also leveraged for performance.
  • Security: Deploy access controls, SSO with SAML 2.0, two-factor authentication, secure APIs, Webhook authentication and a 256-bit encrypted content store.
  • Headless: The decoupled architecture also allows for headless content delivery. This also includes headless eCommerce.
  • Workflows and Approvals: Set up workflows in the CMS that map to your business processes for publishing content, including approvals.
  • Digital Asset Management: Control all media files from a single admin panel with the built-in asset manager, which includes versioning and rollback.svg
  • Content Versioning: Rollback and compare content or assets and restore previous versions at any time.
  • Unlimited Environments: Publish content to any environment, such as development, testing, staging or production.
  • AI, VR and AR Ready: Contentstack can integrate with AI and is ready to deploy VR and AR experiences.

Getting Started With Contentstack

On its website, Contentstack goes out of its way to address both business and IT users. For the former, Contentstack promises rich text editing, workflows and staging environments, all without the need for coding skills. Developers on the other hand can tinker with CDN-backed APIs and SDKs. 

Bulit.io were kind enough to give me access to Contentstack, along with a long list of documentation for building example websites and apps. The documentation was created to talk developers through building of everything from a static corporate website to an Android news app.

Other example content, which can really help accelerate a project, included:

  • Universal Vue.js Website
  • Universal React.js Website
  • eCommerce Website
  • Metalsmith Website
  • iOS / Android News App
  • PHP Web App

Creating Content Types

For my corporate site, I was using the contentstack-express framework a Node.js-based web application framework based on Express. I first needed to create a “stack”, and then content types to populate the stack.

The content types were of two kinds:

  1. Webpage: which lets you create web page(s) like a home page or contact page
  2. Content Blocks: which let you add reusable content blocks like headers and menus. This comes in handy when you need to manage elements of an app for various devices.

For each content type, you can select to create either a single piece of content, which allow for single entries like homepages, or you can opt for multiple, which allows for multiple entries for situations where you need to allow for blog posts, press releases and so forth.

For my website’s homepage, I opted for a single webpage content type.

My next step was to configure a publishing environment, and then begin importing content fields. My options included rich text editors, date fields and boolean.

Contentstack provides users with example or placeholder code to import for each project type listed above, so getting the website up and running was a breeze. After that, all I needed to do was build upon the existing framework, or start a new project from scratch. 

Creating My First Page

My first step was to create a page for my website, or in my case, a blog post. First things first, I needed to create an environment for this page. To do that, I headed over to 'Settings', then 'Environments' and designated a URL for my environment. 

With my environment set up, I headed back to the 'Content' tab and created a new content type using the 'New Content Type' button. I made myself a webpage that allows for multiple entries. As it was a blog, I added a title field, a URL field, markdown and a rich text editor as my custom fields. 

I was then able to click 'New Entry', which is, in this case, a new blog post. I added my title, a URL and threw some text together in my rich text editor before hitting publish, and that's all there was to it. 

I was also able to upload and manage assets, configure a publishing queue, review audit logs, create webhooks and create new users and roles, as well as manage multiple staging environments. To top it off, the interface was clean and responsive in every area, and there were no bugs to report through my installation.

The Verdict

Contentstack is a powerful — yet extremely easy to use — headless CMS solution for mid-size and large enterprise brands. Based on reports from Gartner Peer Insights and G2 Crowd, along with the features and capabilities explained above, it’s clear that Contentstack is capable of powering and scaling large-scale web presences that span a wide range of devices and channels.

But more importantly, Contentstack doesn’t just empower developers to deliver content at will, it gives marketers and low-code employees the ability to execute tasks, like build out website or landing pages, without having to reach out to IT.

Pros

  • Stacks and content types are easily created and managed
  • Succinct and easy-to-follow documentation and example code for various project types.
  • Control over webhooks, users, roles and assets
  • Support for a range of platforms and languages, from iOS to Ruby.

Cons

  • While the example apps and websites are handy, it would be good to see Bulit.io publish some examples of projects on emerging devices like smartwatches, VR headsets or Amazon Spot to help their clients innovate.