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The lost promise of headless

Published on

  • headless
  • architecture
  • mach

In recent years, headless technology, which boosts performance, developer experience, and best-of-breed headless systems, has gained significant traction in web development. At its core, headless streamlines and accelerates the process of building and delivering web experiences  through APIs, which separates content creation and management from presentation. 

However, despite the excitement and promise, headless technology has fallen short in living up to its potential in several key areas.

Technical complexity

The primary appeal of headless technology lies in decoupling content creation and presentation, as a result of which developers can work on the presentation layer with their preferred tools and frameworks while content editors can focus on building and managing content. However, that separation comes at a cost. Specifically:

  • To connect the multiple layers, a significant amount of code must be written, which leads to technical debt, a heavier workload, and inflexibility. 
  • Adding data to content models to address design-driven choices for an output channel, e.g., checkboxes to enlarge an image, pollutes the data model. The more design-related and channel-specific data you add to content models, the more technical debt you create.
  • If you must connect a different data source to the same front-end component, but the content models do not align, issues arise. 

Content-editing challenges

Another major challenge with headless technology is the disconnect between content editors and the systems they work with. Due to the abstract nature of headless CMS, content editors often struggle to pinpoint how their content will be displayed on the front end, leading to confusion, frustration, and a steep learning curve for novices.

Moreover, the lack of a clear connection between content and presentation makes it difficult for content editors to preview their work and ensure that it looks and functions as intended. A suboptimal user experience results, let alone a time sink for revisions and troubleshooting.

The way forward: DXCP

Without question, despite the promise of headless technology for revolutionizing the way we build web experiences, serious hurdles remain. To overcome them, tools and processes that facilitate team collaboration and streamline the development process are necessary so that developers and content editors can work closely together to bridge the gap between content creation and presentation.

A proven solution is a digital experience composition platform (DXCP), which seamlessly integrates content and presentation. While on that platform, nondevelopers can visually create and manage digital experiences with content from multiple sources, delivering those experiences agnostically to a front-end of choice, significantly reducing technical debt, and gaining flexibility. Businesses can then adapt and innovate much faster, especially since the connection to all headless systems and APIs occurs in the DXCP, and the code remains clean.

What’s more, the incorporation of a DXCP into the development process affords content editors a clear view of how their content will be displayed and the ability to interact with the presentation layer. Plus, the absence of data silos means a more streamlined and efficient workflow as well as a more intuitive user experience for both content creators and developers.

Originally published at: https://uniform.dev/blogs/the-lost-promise-of-headless