The Growth of CMS platforms

The Growth of CMS platforms

Learn about the types of CMS - Coupled, Decoupled and Headless CMS to find the right fit for your digital publishing experience

Back in the days of mainstream World Wide Web, which was almost 25 years ago, there wasn't much in the way of content management systems. In fact, there wasn’t much content, either!

In the mid 1990s, professionals were finding it 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 1990s, other languages for the web started coming out like PHP and people started figuring out ways for site owners to be able to edit their content on the website. People started writing codes for Content Management Systems (CMSs). This system allowed owners to upload pictures, write stories and make interesting web pages. And here is when the CMS growth began.

CMS started to be commercialised. By the year 2000, these were used by bigger magazines and newspapers with a six digit implementation figure. And with this, the introduction and invention of open source CMSs began - including Mambo, Drupal and others. These were marginally used until 2004 which marks the prime use of CMS and continuous development for its primary use.

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

CMS platforms to know, by architecture

Now comes the exciting stuff!

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

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 the 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.

Coupled CMS

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 the 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

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 day-to-day 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

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 multi-site - 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 does 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

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 i.e, the front-end component or templating system, is chopped off. This births 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.

Why chose headless CMS?

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

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 as we further proceed into the era of IoT, publishing content to a handful of channels no longer eradicates 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.

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 a number of ways since they are separated from the user layers. This enables the administrator to be assured that the system is secure and protected.

Why the CMS architecture matters?

While looking for the right 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.

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?

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

Below mentioned are the factors which will 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


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/newsrooms have to meet their expectations to provide a 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 if you're looking for flexible solutions. You can get headless CMSs in the market today - Bold CMS is one such example. You can find a CMS that suits your brand and content strategy.

The right CMS can help you manage content and reduce your load by taking up actions automatically. Keep in mind to find a front-end or develop. To learn more about how a headless CMS can help you - schedule a free demo here!