Migrating From A Pure Headless To A Hybrid Headless CMS

Jason Smith

The global headless CMS software market has grown over the years and isn’t anticipated to stop. As new players continue to enter the field and create new strategies, the headless CMS market has become more than a technology trend.

But with this growth comes the question of which kind of CMS is the best for you. With new channels and devices sprouting every day, the hold of traditional CMSs is loosening.

We’ve already established that if you’re a forward-thinking company, a traditional CMS isn’t right for you because it won’t give you the tools to future-proof your company. That leaves us with two options: pure headless and hybrid headless.

Pure headless CMSs remove the restrictive frontend that traditional CMSs have, leaving nothing but the backend and some APIs. While this gives developers all the tools they need to build incredible digital experiences, it can be extremely off-putting for marketers. Which is why it might be in the best interest of marketing teams to migrate from a pure headless to a hybrid headless CMS to empower both teams to do their job better.

In this article, we dive deeper into the hybrid CMS architecture and provide an example of how to migrate from Contentful, a pure headless CMS to a dotCMS, a hybrid one.

What Is A Hybrid CMS?

One of the caveats of the headless CMS is that it isn’t made for marketers. With a pure headless CMS, chances are that you need a small army of developers to set things up. Also, it ends up slowing time-to-market, making it difficult to attain a solid ROI.

To mitigate these challenges and meet the new requirements of the digital ecosystem, a hybrid CMS is a solution that helps users avoid vendor locks; it gives both marketers and developers the tools to build digital experiences without the constant support of IT.

A hybrid CMS can be defined as follows:

  • Content Delivery: Hybrid CMSs operate in an API-first, head optional architecture that provides users with maximum flexibility without compromising your tech stack while enabling you to do more with your CMS.

  • Content Publishing: A hybrid CMS like dotCMS has different, multiple publishing models that can be used in parallel across multiple publishing architectures, allowing for consistent, global content delivery while respecting security and compliance guidelines.

  • Infrastructure Deployment: Hybrid CMSs enable users to choose different infrastructures, both cloud-based or self-hosted as well as a distributed application architecture that enables you to decide where to deploy your digital experiences.

Why Migrate From A Pure Headless To A Hybrid Headless CMS?

The truth is that despite headless CMSs being robust and extremely functional pieces of technology, using one can restrict your marketing and content teams, sharply reducing their ability to manage and update digital experiences.

The benefits of a hybrid approach, when compared to a headless CMS solution, is that it empowers marketers and content editors to control and optimize the digital experiences, freeing developers’ hands and driving efficiency to bring updates to the website or app faster. But that’s not all. Let’s explore some of the reasons why shifting to hybrid headless is a good idea.

Pure Headless Isn’t Made for Marketers

Modern marketers have more responsibilities than ever before and due to its features and capabilities, a headless CMS seems like a dream come true for those wanting to start omnichannel campaigns.

However, the lack of a user-friendly interface and content publishing tools generally alienate marketers, which forces them to integrate solutions to make up for the ones the headless CMS lacks, creating a patchwork, expensive system that trumps the best-of-breed approach the headless architecture proposes.

Hybrid Headless Enables Faster Content Creation

Pure headless CMSs often lack the friendly content tools users have come to expect from traditional CMSs, which means that optimizing content creation can sometimes fall on developers.

In many cases, they aren’t attuned to the needs of the marketing team, might not understand the strategy behind that particular piece of content, or have other tasks at hand and won’t prioritize content creation. Hybrid headless CMSs have the tools marketers need to publish content quickly and stay on top of the client’s needs and boost the time to market.

Hybrid Headless CMS Enable NoCode Initiatives

Another important benefit of the hybrid headless CMS is that it enables business users to use the CMS without having to add code themselves as all the elements are precoded within the platform. For IT teams, the support for NoCode initiatives means that they will have their hands free to build customizations, plugins, and integrations rather than spend their time in maintenance and content editing tasks. Similarly, NoCode enables IT teams to build API endpoints with significantly less effort.

Pure Headless CMSs Don’t Have Edit Mode Anywhere

Edit Mode Anywhere is a proprietary feature of dotCMS, that gives content editors the tools to update content and the layout on a single page application or a progressive web app without having to liaise with the IT team, all using dotCMS’ Layout-as-a-Service API. With Edit Mode Anywhere, content authors can do inline editing, content personalization, layout, and module design without the need for code.

Hybrid CMSs Foster Collaboration Between Teams

The key components of a hybrid CMS such as content and collaboration workflows make it simple for the marketing, development, and sales teams to collaborate together and drive better business outcomes, enabling digital experiences that are tailored to the user’s exact business needs.

What To Expect When Migrating from a Pure Headless To A Hybrid headless CMS

A pure headless CMS helps you avoid the vendor lock that users get with a monolithic, suite solution. With the headless approach, IT teams can develop their frontend applications using their framework and the libraries of their choosing. With a headless CMS, you can not only build websites but also SPAs and PWAs. Plus, with a headless CMS that follows the best of breed approach you can resolve most of the hangups users face with monolith solutions because its speeds time-to-market.

However, the pure headless architecture also comes with several caveats for non-technical users, specifically when it comes to providing a solid content authoring experience. For instance, in most pure headless CMSs, the lack of the following features end up disrupting the authoring experience:

When you migrate from a pure headless CMS to a hybrid headless one, you can expect an improved experience for the non-technical, marketing teams. Plus, it reduces the dependence on IT teams. It also shifts the focus from the vendor and empowers the in-house team to manage content and operations on their own. Also, with a hybrid CMS, you will have better authoring capabilities as well as both static and dynamic content rendering at the same time.

Similarly, due to the novelty of the headless architecture, pure headless CMSs are still green when it comes to providing the authoring capacities of traditional CMS. This includes the development experience and the flexible workflows and scalable content repositories most traditional CMSs have and that hybrid CMSs also leverage.

These are some features that you can expect when migrating from a pure headless CMS to dotCMS:

  • Decoupled architecture: A strict separation between content and presentation layer offers maximum flexibility and allows for content reuse, as well as independent scalability of authoring environment and run-time.

  • Open source architecture: Open standards and open source architecture means freedom of innovation and access to different technologies and to the source code to enhance content operations and eliminate vendor lock.

  • Containerization: Modern hybrid platforms are able to leverage containerization using Docker and Kubernetes to enable cost-efficient DevOps and better infrastructure optimization.

Migrating from a Pure Headless CMS to dotCMS

Migrating to a different CMS is a big decision. However, the migration process isn’t nearly as hard as it was in the past. With dotCMS' workflow API you can create the content programmatically.

First, you get the data from your current headless CMS; this typically is a JSON object. Then you create the content types in DotCMS, make sure you use the same field names as the name properties in the JSON object, and finally, you need to make a POST request to our workflow API like this:

fetch('', {
    method: 'PUT',
    body: JSON.stringify({
        "contentlet": {
            "contentType": "activity",
            "title": "Amazing Content",
            "urlTitle": "amazing-content",
            "contentHost": "",
            "publishDate": "2019-12-18 10:00:00",
            "body": "

This is a content is amazing

but not this
", "languageId": "1", "description": "Some description", } }), headers: { 'Content-type': 'application/json; charset=UTF-8' } }) .then(res => res.json()) .then(console.log)
Jason Smith
Chief User Experience Officer
March 07, 2021

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