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When is a headless content management solution not completely headless?  When it’s Contentful!

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher March 16, 2021
Getting our heads around the latest headless evolution developments at Contentful.


Contentful is adding apps to its platform to enable what it refers to as “digital builders”, evolving beyond being a headless content management platform.

The new “content platform” strategy provides more than an API that developers use to publish content to a front-end experience. The firm created a third-party marketplace where other vendors can provide apps built using the Contentful app framework, such as analytics and translation apps.

To that end, Contentful has made its APIs publicly available for its customers and partners to build custom apps. One example of this is in practice cab be seen at Swedish retailer IKEA, which built a content and merchandise app that easily enables content creators to create and publish content to the website.

Now, Contentful is announcing two new apps that extend the platform with back-end content management capabilities: Compose and Launch. These new apps are what Contentful CMO Bridget Perry called productivity apps. They enable content creators, editors, and planners to create and manage content without the need for IT or developers to write code.

  • Compose: This app enables content creators to create, manage and edit web pages in a familiar, page-centric model.
  • Launch: This app enables content teams to plan and schedule content releases, including the ability to view all content pieces together, manage them as a single project, and schedule them for publication.


The purpose of these apps is clear. Content creators and planners - those so-called digital builders - need a way to create and publish content more easily and quickly to one or more digital properties without involving IT. With a traditional pure headless solution, that’s not easy to do because headless content management doesn’t typically provide many robust back-end administration capabilities.

For Contentful, the decision not to build directly on the core platform was a conscious decision. According to Paul Briggs, who leads the EMEA Product Marketing team at Contentful, they wanted to empower their customers to extend the content platform to align with their own requirements. An app framework built on an open-source designed platform enables customers to become a key part of the ecosystem. And if they were going to encourage partners and customers to build on the platform, it makes sense they would extend Contentful’s capabilities by doing the same thing.

Customers can not only use these two new apps out of the box, but they can also customize them to fit their specific workflows.

The thinking around Contentful building admin-based apps for its platform is that it’s building a vital element of a more ‘traditional’ web experience management platform. Building these apps to provide content creation and planning features that support non-developers is moving away from the traditional headless world into the web content management world.

The idea that headless content management can support more than a heavy developer-centric organization has been discussed widely. When it adds in features for non-developers, like Compose and Launch, Contentful is proving that a headless solution is for non-developer organizations. But it also begs the question - will Contentful build forward to provide that other end of the traditional Web CMS - the front-end website, mobile app, or whatever digital interface a company needs?

Unlikely, said Briggs. Contentful has strong partnerships with front-end developers like Frontastic and Stackbit, who provide front-end as-a-service capability to deliver on those rich digital experiences. It doesn’t make sense for them to move in this direction. Instead, Contentful will continue to focus on content's operational aspects - as the two new apps provide.

My take

So are we circling around to the way web content management use to be? I don’t think that’s the path. We are entering the time of the platform provider, where key vendors are building platforms that exist as a core framework upon which other tech providers or organizations can build upon.

The shift to a content platform and the building of apps reminds me of what Uberflip is attempting with its content experience platform and marketplace when I noted:

The firm pitches its marketplace as a "place for marketers to connect data sources, channels, and campaign destinations to build experiences their buyers can't help but engage with.” To that end, eleven categories of apps exist in the marketplace, including personalization, trackers/analytics, UI/UX enhancements, and API-driven integrations. There are already a number of familiar solutions in there, such as Demandbase, Bombora, 6Sense, HubSpot, Mailchimp, and Drift.  What each of these applications does, is extend the capabilities of Uberflip to deliver more tailored content to customers.

This is Scott Brinker’s platform ecosystem coming to fruition. And it makes sense. Enabling customers to build on core content platforms allows them to create customized experiences - both on the front-end and the back-end. So whether it’s Ikea that needs a customized interface to help its content creators update the website content fast, or it’s a company that wants to provide a highly customized content experience for its top-tier ABM accounts, content platforms allow them to build the experiences they want.

The biggest question then becomes, what will Contentful build next to support its customers in delivering on their digital experiences? What’s the next big app?

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