Contentful: Is It Just a CMS?
Any good website requires good content management, which is impossible without a dedicated system. Contentful is one of the best content management systems (CMSs) out there. So, why is that? Well, here’s the reasoning.
Each website has two sides. One is the front-end, or a user interface that is visible to the audience. The better its design and layout, the more traffic it will attract and the more potential leads you will get. The other is the back-end, where all the technical and managing processes take place. This is a legit “kitchen” of the website, so to speak. If these processes aren’t smooth, the front-end won’t function as intended.
To successfully combine these two sides, the first CMS-like technologies started to appear in the mid-1990s. Pretty soon, they evolved into complete and functional CMSs, and now these tools are used by the majority of websites.
The amount of tools that let you manage your website’s content is huge, with some big players on the market, such as WordPress, Shopify, and Contentful. Our team has worked with plenty of them, but we are not going to lie, Contentful became our favorite. It meets almost all business needs and is easy to use for website managers. Let’s discuss it in more detail.
What is Contentful?
Contentful is a cloud-based headless CMS created in Germany in 2013. The platform is designed mostly for helping businesses control their digital presence. It would be even more correct to call it an omnichannel content platform or a content infrastructure that organizes content and makes it scalable across multiple outlets.
The platform allows you to make, manage, and distribute content to any platform. Besides the freedom to choose platforms, Contentful also provides total freedom of building a custom content model so you can decide what content your business needs and quickly manage it.
RESTful APIs help you distribute your content across various channels:
- Mobile apps (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone)
- Smart devices
With an orderly UI, Contentful is a high-quality tool for creating, managing, and distributing your content online, both on your own or as a team.
How Contentful works
Before Contentful, the only way to manage a cross-channel user experience was to create a content system for each channel using a separate CMS. This approach makes updating and fixing websites really tedious and resource-consuming.
Now, Contentful unifies content management and distribution across all possible channels: web, mobile, or even IoT devices like smartwatches or smart TVs — in one editorial interface. Video, music, images, text, or other types of content — anything can be managed there, properly structured.
Contentful has a three-step flow for publishing content in an app or on a website:
- First of all, you specify a content model, which is an essential step to structuring your content properly. The content model here is a space with the content types that will represent only a particular kind of data. It can be text, images, location, or references. It stays independent from the presentation layer that displays the content. For example, for a content model like “a blog post,” you will need text, a header image, in-line images, referral links, and videos that can all be set up together.
- Secondly, your internal or external editors should add entries and assets. Entries mean the content itself. It could be news, product features, or anything else your business needs to display. These entries will be arranged according to the previously created content model. Assets in this case are images, audio, video, and other files attached to your content model. Your editor can manage all the content in a user-friendly and interactive editing interface.
- Finally, Contentful shows the content in a layout-independent way, so you can create pleasing solutions based on content creation and deliver it to the users as quickly as possible. You need to delegate content display management to developers or have someone to control them and help them out, like designers or editors. With the help of API Keys, you can determine which content will go to which platform. When the delivery is finally set up, the only thing left is to hit ‘Publish’. This tool is completely adapted to your needs.
What makes the difference here is that most CMSs are optimized for working with only one dominant type of content, which most of the time, is a website. These CMSs serve as website builders rather than holistic content management systems. They give you premade content models that limit the potential possibilities of CMS usage and are tied to only one presentation layer. Contentful, on the other hand, offers a CMS that works with all types of content and their respective presentation layers, so the number of ways you can distribute the content is truly overwhelming.
Contentful CMS: top features
Here are some features that make Contentful so special:
- Content distribution infrastructure. Contentful provides its content delivery network (CDN) with the main purpose of delivering content to users around the clock.
- Managing content models. You can create and customize each content model according to your primary business needs. Note: there are no premade content models, so you should define a content model that will be most suitable for your needs.
- Uncluttered UI. Contentful offers a simple and thoroughly tested user interface that is intuitive for everyone, even those with no software development background.
- Omnichannel content distribution. The Contentful API lets you deliver your content across platforms in literally one click. Mobile, web, or any other platform you can imagine will receive all types of content as soon as you publish it.
- Backup. All the data from your website or app is backed up on two separate servers and, if deleted, has a 25-day window for recovery, so there’s no worry about any accidental data loss.
- Codeless content management. Contentful’s UI allows even people with no technical background to seamlessly operate the platform. Because you do not have to code to use Contentful, you can add and edit content types as well as manage the content within the platform itself.
An important note: Contentful helps you manage the content, but it cannot be used to create a website or an app. This will require actual programming.
After creating a digital experience with the tools suitable for your business needs, your content will be displayed on all of the platforms, so you only need to create and manage it once.
Contentful easily works with all the latest versions of the following desktop browsers:
The older versions of these browsers are also compatible with Contentful, but its functionality may not work at its full capacity. Also, Contentful doesn’t support mobile browsers.
Reasons to use Contentful
Why do businesses use and like Contentful? Well, here are the reasons:
- Fast implementation. Thanks to Contentful being an independent SaaS platform with customizable content models, you can start editing, delivering, and distributing your content literally in minutes. Easy configuration and a user-friendly infrastructure give Contentful an advantage over traditional CMSs.
- Security. All the content on Contentful is encrypted by default. Your drafts and finished content models are secured, so no worrying about leaks or service disruptions: your audience will only see the content when you publish it.
- A channel-agnostic system. You can create and publish content on all possible channels with a built-in editor and an integrated media library to update source files without crushing any public links. Additionally, Contentful is optimized for mobile with synchronization, image compression, and support for offline persistence.
- Huge caching and redundancy. It ensures fast content delivery and high-level critical data safety: if all the redundancies fail, the great majority of your content will still be available from the cache.
- GraphQL API. GraphQL is a query language and server-side runtime that prioritizes giving users exactly the data they request. In Contentful, such an API defines exact server responses and collects content from multiple sources using fewer API calls without overloading the back-end systems.
Contentful is fast, reliable, and engaging, so working with it requires less effort from the managers than with a traditional CMS. In our opinion, Contentful seems to be the most efficient and productive way of publishing content properly, especially across several channels. You gain the freedom to publish and distribute your content to a variety of platforms, while still being able to change their structure and design whenever you need.
Developers are also quite fond of Contentful for several reasons:
- Easy learning. The process of setting up Contentful and putting it into action does not require highly specialized knowledge or skills. It makes learning the algorithms of the platform fast and easy.
- RESTful API. The stateless API with compact JSON payloads gives full programmatic control over the CMS.
- A microservices architecture. It’s easy to manage your structured content with fully decoupled write and read APIs. Contentful provides a fault-tolerant content platform that evolves with your business needs and new apps.
- Extendable interface. The Contentful team enables additional UI extensions and other projects to facilitate working with the platform. Even if some feature is not built yet, it’s clear how to implement it with the existing tools.
- Speed optimization. Advanced caching techniques are tightly integrated with external CDNs to deliver API payloads in the sub-100 ms range.
- Language- and framework-agnostic. While most traditional CMSs can put some restrictions on using different languages and make you build your app with a particular framework, Contentful supports SDKs for the most popular languages and open-source components for apps, design systems, and web editor interface.
- Development support. The Contentful team builds trustful and empathetic relationships with the community, encouraging collaboration between developers. All Contentful improvements are based on feedback and real-project experience.
Popular cases of using Contentful
A lot of popular web services and brands rely on Contentful CMS for managing their content.
Chanel, one of the world-famous fashion houses, used Contentful for a new collection pop-up solution for its clients in Asia. The on-site experience invites them to an app for receiving recommendations on the lipstick shades based on their personality traits.
A famous emailing service, Mailchimp, used this CMS to remove publishing bottlenecks, replace their hard-coded marketing website with something that could be updated by people with no technical knowledge, and eliminate manual work that had been slowing down their marketing website.
LightBlik, a leading European green energy project, wanted to make its website a leading content distribution channel with a focus on mobile platforms. The CMS should also be scalable enough to handle the company’s growing digital presence. In addition, they wanted to provide their non-technical specialists with the ability to create and manage content without the help of developers. Thanks to Contentful, they managed to cover all their needs and achieve high results.
Atlassian, an Australian enterprise software company, wanted to structure content into modular and reusable chunks, provide users with proper customer service, and streamline localization. With the help of Contentful, they organized omnichannel publishing that allows content sharing across their products and the support portal. They were also able to cut time on making content changes to landing pages from two weeks of developer time to five minutes for a non-tech editor.
Other famous brands using Contentful include:
- Spotify, an online audio streaming service
- Shutterstock, a photo library
- Figma, a graphic design platform
- Coursera, an online learning platform
- Mozilla, a web browser
- Leroy Merlin, a French-based DIY retailer
So, as we can see, there truly is a wide range of possible Contentful applications. Contentful CMS allows you to build a high-quality experience that is pleasant for the audience all while being easy for the editors to manage, even with no technical knowledge. Being platform-agnostic and omnichannel, it meets all content management needs with its versatile tools. Having experience in working with Contentful, we can say that it’s one of the most efficient ways to make your content hit the target.
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