fork in the road

We live in a different internet landscape than we did even a few years ago. 

The channels and devices organizations can use to connect with their audiences have grown exponentially, with more introduced on a regular basis. 

This growth impacts how you manage and deliver content in your CMS. You have to think strategically about to easily deliver personalized and contextual content to all these different channels. 

Your content management system needs to support backend content management capabilities while at the same time ensuring you can easily update and create new front-end delivery formats without reimplementing the backend CMS.

Enter the decoupled CMS architecture, which separates content delivery from content management.

Tightly Coupled CMS vs. Decoupled CMS

Web content management solutions have two main components:

  • The backend, or internal, content management capabilities: This is where authors and editors create and manage content. It's where administrators define taxonomy, set up CMS access and define the permissions for people using the CMS 
  • The front-end delivery tier: This is the external website where the content is published. The delivery tier can take many forms: a desktop or mobile website, mobile app, an online business application or other channels

In a tightly coupled CMS, both the backend CMS and the delivery tier exist on the same platform, often tightly integrated with administration and delivery on the same platform. It's difficult to support new delivery formats (such as a mobile app) or web-based applications developed outside of the CMS platform. 

A decoupled CMS completely separates the delivery tier from the backend CMS. In this model, you can deliver content to any format you want via a content API. 

While a tightly coupled CMS makes sense in some cases, most enterprises would benefit from a decoupled CMS solution.  

Let's go through some of the advantages of a decoupled CMS.

The Advantages of a Decoupled CMS

Agile Content Updates

When you need to add new content types or update existing content types, a decoupled CMS allows you to make these changes in the backend, without affecting the front-end website. 

You can test updates on a separate staging server, and publish the changes to the delivery tier when they're ready to go live.


The separation of management from delivery allows for a firewall to be placed between the two environments, protecting your network and ensuring third-parties can't access your content until it is published. 

A decoupled architecture also reduces the risk of denial of service attacks (DDOS) because the software that delivers the content does not need to access the CMS database.


Because you don’t have the overhead of the CMS application on every web server, delivery speed improves and you can easily scale your website using commodity hardware. 

The speed at which your website or web application loads has the potential to affect sales and other campaign conversions. For example, Firefox reduced average load time by 2.2 seconds and increased downloads by 15.4 percent. Walmart found that for every 1 second of performance improvement, there was a 2 percent increase in conversions.

Ease of Upgrades

With a decoupled CMS, software upgrades only affect the CMS application, not your live website. This allows your live website to continue running, without risk of breaking the site or customizations to the CMS from the site implementation.  


With a decoupled CMS, if the backend CMS software goes down or needs maintenance, your live website continues to operate. 

Most enterprises also implement load-balancing software for the front-end web servers, so there's no reason for the website to have any downtime, even for scheduled server maintenance.

Multi-Site Management

You can publish multiple websites using different servers and technology for different sites. Your CMS should include a replication system that keeps content in-sync and provides more flexibility. 

Headless and self-running deployment

The CMS includes a RESTful API that provides content services to other websites and applications. This content is typically statically delivered (read-only) and consumed by the receiving website or web application. 

For example, if you wanted to offer a digital signage solution or kiosk, you simply pull content from the CMS using the API and store it within the front-end tier — no installation required. Even if a persistent internet connection is not available, you can still deliver content to your kiosk application. 

Flexible deployment

Deploy your content anywhere: to a website on another server in your environment, to a cloud-based environment or a content delivery network. 

With some CMSs you can also set up development, test, staging and publishing servers as deployment locations. This allows you to develop new content, websites or applications and easily move them through the development lifecycle without excessive manual effort.

Future-Proof Your CMS

The growth of the internet and availability of new channels and devices pushes enterprises to adapt their content delivery to support the changing needs. A decoupled CMS ensures prepares you for what may come in the near future.

But the decoupling CMS doesn't only benefit content administrators. It enables re-use of content — allowing you to create your content once and publish anywhere.  

An intelligent approach to content stores it in a format that defines and describes what type of content it is. Your content model should describe how you created the content and how it can be reconfigured and reused.

The combination of a decoupled architecture and a intelligent content model prepares your business to handle any new channel or device that appears.

Decoupled CMS isn't for everyone. If you only deal with one or two websites and implement a responsive design approach for mobile, then you likely don't need a decoupled architecture. This situation is more often true of small business than it is of mid-to-large organizations.

Sometimes you want a combination of decoupled and tightly coupled. In this case, you might consider another option — loosely coupled.

A Different Option: Loosely Coupled CMS

Maybe you want your CMS to support the creation of templates for your website and help you quickly publish your website out to a web server. A loosely coupled CMS gives you centralized control over the presentation of your website. 

However, you might also have a mobile app or a web application that requires content. You want to manage this content in your CMS. This requires a decoupled architecture with a content API.

Both cases are relevant to many organizations, but having a single CMS that supports both options eases content administration and content delivery.

The Choice is Yours

Look at all of the channels and devices you use to engage with your customers. That content needs to be consistent, quickly updatable and perhaps personalized to the visitor's context. 

The time and cost benefits of a decoupled architecture are hard to underestimate. Updating individual channels one by one not only consumes time, but it opens the door to human error. 

A decoupled CMS enables you to take advantage of new and innovative technologies for creating rich web and mobile experiences, while ensuring your content authors and editors have a consistent approach to content management.