Hybrid CMS vs Decoupled CMS: Choosing The Best Architecture

Stefan Schinkel

If one thing is certain, it's that the web is in constant change. What worked in the past doesn’t work anymore, and as customers look for seamless, omnichannel digital experiences, CMSs have had to adapt.

One of the ways businesses have met the changing requirements of users is to switch from legacy CMSs to their headless counterparts. With a headless CMS, companies can deliver content to a plethora of devices and channels, but the truth is that headless is not the only option you might have heard.

Decoupled and hybrid CMSs are also options available for managing content and creating content and distribute it across multiple channels with ease.

Let’s take a closer look at both of them so you can make an informed decision.

Why Won’t a Traditional CMS Cut It?

Traditional CMSs like WordPress enable marketers to create, edit, and publish in an easy to use interface that’s usually coupled with a WYSIWYG editor. The good thing about traditional CMSs is that you can preview how the content will look to visitors on the page.

Also, traditional CMSs help marketers manage other aspects of the websites including structure, architecture, templates, and even sitemaps.

However, the limitations of traditional CMSs have become apparent as more devices like smart speakers, watches, and IoT-connected devices continue to appear in the market and grow in popularity. And with an expected 64 billion IoT-connected devices worldwide by 2025, this growth won’t slow down.

In fact, where traditional CMSs struggle the most is when it comes to dictating how and where content is going to be distributed. The pre-built nature of the frontend interface works just fine for websites and web-based apps. Unfortunately, it falls short if content needs to be pushed to different devices, restricting the flexibility of marketers and developers.

Enter decoupled and hybrid CMSs.

Hybrid vs Decoupled: Spotting The Differences

While there’s some overlap between hybrid and decoupled CMSs, they’re actually very different. Let’s dissect these two kinds of CMSs and find out more about them.

Decoupled CMS: The Facts

Unlike traditional CMSs, decoupled or headless CMSs use separate infrastructure for authoring and delivery. In decoupled CMS, an API connects the back and the front end of the CMS. That way, when a developer or a marketer creates or edits the content in the backend, the CMS uses APIs to deliver that content to the frontend of any device, be it a smartwatch or smartphone.

Decoupled CMSs work great for apps or if you want to push your content to many devices because it enables teams to distribute content across channels quickly.

Typical Features of a Decoupled CMS

  • Multi-site content management

  • Omnichannel capabilities

  • Enhanced security

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of decoupled CMSs.


  • Faster content delivery when compared to coupled CMSs

  • More secure because it enables you to publish files to third-party destinations

  • Upgrades affect only the CMS, not the website


  • Much more complicated to configure and deploy than a coupled CMS

  • Often require custom development

  • Higher upfront costs associated with developing the frontend

The Verdict

Works great for simple sites that distribute content across different channels but need some tweaking as many decoupled solutions don’t work as an out-of-the-box solution.

Read More: Why Pure Headless CMS is a Nightmare for Marketers

Hybrid CMS: The Facts

A hybrid CMS combines the presentation layer of a coupled CMS with the headless backend architecture, giving developers and marketers a CMS that combines the best of both worlds and gives you all the tools to create multichannel experiences.

Hybrid CMSs enable you to create responsive solutions that are deployed through the frontend; this means that a hybrid CMS is capable of deploying and managing responsive content to different platforms using APIs. Hybrid CMSs save developers time because they don’t have to build each experience separately; instead, they can create a single version of truth and distribute it across channels using APIs.

Typical Features of a Hybrid CMS

  • Content authoring

  • Frontend templates and tools

  • Integrations with best-of-breed software are possible

  • API-first content delivery

  • LowCode or NoCode environments


  • Hybrid CMSs are great for marketers because they enable them to build websites and structure content without developers

  • They’re easy to integrate with other tools to provide additional services


  • You need to understand structured content as most hybrid CMSs use Markup language to retrieve data in a structured manner.

The Verdict

Works wonders for content teams who need to edit sites quickly in a seamless interface and then push content across devices without the help of developers.

Read More: Features to look for in a Hybrid CMS

How To Choose the Right CMS For Your Organization

The truth is that there’s not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a CMS. In fact, it’s important that before choosing a CMS you decide who’s in charge of deciding which CMS to use because IT might want one thing and marketing might want another. This creates a dichotomy and turns the choice of the backbone of your business into a battlefield.

However, choosing between a hybrid or a decoupled CMS shouldn’t be an uphill battle between IT and marketing. Here are some tips to guide you in your choice.

Think Of Your Content Operations

Nowadays, monolithic CMSs can’t keep up with the changing needs of content editors and the need for a content strategy that integrates the myriad of different touchpoints in the visitor journey is more important than ever. When thinking of a CMS, let your content strategy be the guide and not the features, because choosing the wrong CMS can be catastrophic.

Draw Different User Scenarios

Understanding your users is crucial to get a clear picture of the specific needs of your CMS and the kind of content your organization needs to manage. Creating a user scenario helps you describe the interactions users will have with your content and channels, giving you real-life use cases to help you test different CMSs.

Remember That No CMS Can Do It All

You probably have a set of requirements for your CMS, but keep in mind that it’s impossible for a CMS to do everything. However, it’s important that the CMS you pick is constantly working on new iterations and features and leaves room to scale..

Why dotCMS Is the Right Pick For You

dotCMS takes the decoupled and hybrid CMS experience to the next level and integrates the benefits of both into a single platform.

Decoupled Architecture

dotCMS separates content from presentation, but we don’t totally throw presentation in the trash like pure headless CMSs. dotCMS includes a superior authoring experience that leverages WYSIWYG and inline editing, helping marketers and non-technical users.

No Vendor Lock

dotCMS is entirely built on Java and enables both cloud-based and self-hosted deployment. dotCMS is built with assistance and insights from the community, enabling us to spot issues faster and giving users the freedom to innovate, obliterating vendor lock and putting the power in the user’s hand.

Edit Mode Anywhere

Edit Mode Anywhere is a unique feature of dotCMS that enables users to edit experiences such as landing pages, SPAs, and PWAs directly within dotCMS. With this feature, users don’t have to access separate editors because they can make edits within dotCMS, providing a centralized and undisrupted editing experience. With Edit Mode Anywhere, developers can code away, and marketers can manage how content is presented on different devices.

Containerized Software

Containerization allows developers to create apps that are portable and can run on any platform. dotCMS uses containerization tools such as Docker4 and Kubernetes to enable cost-efficient DevOps and optimize infrastructure utilization. With dotCMS, developers can use the language they want, package them using the Docker package tool and deploy them in the client’s environment.

NoCode Environment

NoCode is one of the key pillars of dotCMS’ roadmap. NoCode means that marketers can run their websites without the help of the IT department. This frees their hands to focus on innovation or discovering how to impact the company using technology, giving marketers free rein to run the site.

Before You Leave...

While traditional CMSs help marketers manage websites, they fall short of their user’s needs. Decoupled and hybrid CMSs have risen as alternatives that meet developers and marketers halfway.

If marketers are the ones who will be using your CMS around the clock, make sure that you’re giving them the best tool to integrate with the ones they’re already using, that means that when choosing the best CMS for you, you should take marketer-friendly features into account.

But the truth is that there’s not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a CMS. In the end, you only know what works for your company, but at dotCMS, we’ve built a hybrid CMS that doesn’t just go beyond headless; it’s one of the most flexible CMSs on the market.

Want to see how a marketer-friendly, hybrid CMS can boost your website and give you the tools you need to create a winning strategy? Contact us.

Stefan Schinkel
Chief Revenue Officer
August 03, 2020

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