Our Headless CMS Journey To Kentico Cloud
At Syndicut, we have always been really into expanding our content management system (CMS) platform offering. So around 4 years ago, we embarked on our journey to start thinking about investing in developing projects using a headless CMS.
Steve Wright (director at Syndicut and my “headless CMS partner in crime”) and I thought of different business cases on how to get potential clients to rethink the traditional CMS. As an agency, we have always had a strong Kentico offering. As a result, its always something we always used as a solution for our clients. However, in some cases, the wide variety of features Kentico CMS encompasses can be made redundant, especially when all the client wants to focus on is content curation.
The Headless CMS Market
Let’s turn the clocks back to 2014. A time when Christopher Nolan’s space epic Interstellar hit the screens and got us scratching our heads over space travel through wormholes (and Taylor Swift hit the airwaves with “shaking it off”!)
From our perspective, there were two headless based CMS’ on the market that seemed to fit the bill for a few upcoming projects that had strong ASP.NET integration:
Both were very similar in the features they provide and do a great job in delivering content to a platform of your choice through simply querying their native API’s to return a nice JSON feed — an approach we’ve all become very familiar with. In addition, from a development perspective, they’re both easy to integrate.
After a thorough evaluation process, we found Prismic to be the ideal candidate to fulfil our clients’ needs and adding content was a pleasure. At the time, it had an intuitive interface and most importantly — A simple and clear WYSIWYG editor. The markdown editor alone in Contentful was a deal breaker and feared it would add an additional learning curve for non-technical clients.
As a result, we built a handful of headless based CMS’s that worked a treat. It was also very handy when working on custom build applications for TV campaigns where a handful of content was required to be managed.
Enter Kentico Draft
2015 was the start of a new dawn at Kentico and a promising insight of exciting things to come with the release of Kentico Draft. A system that could allow a client to add all their content to an external platform for migration into Kentico CMS at a later date, for example straight after a Kentico CMS build.
At the time, Kentico Draft was part of the “Kentico Cloud” upcoming suite of Web solutions. Even though, at this point in time, you were unable to integrate with other systems, here at Syndicut we could see this was a step in the right direction.
If we could nurture our clients to adopt Kentico Draft to add their site content during the development of their website using Kentico CMS, in our eyes, there is no reason why this couldn’t be seen as a viable standalone product.
Move to Kentico Cloud
It seems that we jumped on the Kentico Cloud wagon very quickly from the very first release. This is mainly down to the fact that, as an agency, we have always been impressed with Kentico’s support and quality of the product they provide. It was just a matter of time before additional features would be added. Judging by the road map there is always something new in the pipeline.
Having harnessed Kentico Cloud for projects such as:
- Game of Thrones
- American Gods
- Little Dot Studios
- Nottingham Trent University
- Oxford University (coming soon!)
We don’t see a slow down any time soon. Most importantly the clients seem to like it as well! This is something Steve and myself communicated to our fellow Kentico developers during last years Kentico London Roadshow. For which we were invited to discuss and demonstrate our development process whilst building American Gods.
It was an interesting time to garner the thoughts directly from Kentico. Judging by the sessions presented throughout the day alone, you could tell how much emphasis was now being placed on a decoupled architecture.
As a team, we noticed a quicker turnaround time for Kentico Cloud builds due to the following factors:
- Downloadable ASP.NET Core Boilerplate ready to go from GitHub.
- Ability to work alongside the client and other teams to construct a content structure and hierarchy.
- The client has the ability to add content at a much earlier stage during the development process.
- Smaller application footprint.
We’ve also tinkered with integrating alongside voice assistant services such as Amazon Alexa, which was a new learning experience for us and definitely not something to be ignored. After all, we are living in a world where content is not just delivered by visual means through screens, but woven tightly into our daily lives through automation. But that’s for me to talk about in a future blog post.
Changing a Client’s Perception of a CMS
Kentico Cloud seems to be a very flexible solution and ticks all the boxes. If we can carry on educating our clients and empower them in a new way to manage content they will quite clearly see the many different options available to them.
The common misconception we get from clients is on the surface, a headless based CMS can appear restrictive compared to platforms they are previously used to. However, that cannot be further from the truth. Once there is an understanding of how data can be given a hierarchy, category, relationships and workflow, they seem to run with curating content fairly quickly.
I think it’s worth noting upfront to a client what a headless based CMS can and cannot do and whether it fits in with their business requirements. For agile projects where there is a need to manage content for multiple channels, or for creating tagged content hubs for digital marketing purposes, Kentico Cloud is the best option.
The real promise that can be communicated is the ease of being able to work alongside existing platforms. For example, we had a client who was using Drupal. We were able to put a plan in place to phase out the platform, migrate the content over to Kentico Cloud and over a short period of time, both platforms worked side-by-side until the full switchover could happen.
The Future: Where do we see things going from here?
If our client consulting sessions are anything to go by, we are seeing a shift in how they require their content managed. It can be in its simplistic form for managing content for articles to something with added complexity.
We see the platform going from strength to strength and most exciting part for us is what we are doing at this very moment in time. We’re currently working alongside a well known UK travel agency, assisting them in harnessing the power of Kentico Cloud and how the platform can accommodate their current content and be restructured for sharing with ease across multiple platforms — from the web to mobile apps.
Over the next year, we are hoping to cement ourselves further into the headless CMS market and estimate to be developing (and consulting) around four to six projects.
Headless CMS is a ticket to freedom for those who wish to take it. Why waste time worrying about hardware infrastructure, security and platform updates when you can invest that time in purely building your application and content?
As a business or developer, you might be hesitant to make the change. When I first read about decoupled architecture, I too had some hesitation as a lot of faith is invested in the platforms scalability and features. But with services like Kentico Cloud, who are pushing the boundaries with every release, they are changing our perception for the better on what we think we should expect from a headless CMS. Why not give it a go?