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What Is API-First CMS?

An API-first Headless CMS is a modern approach to content management that prioritizes using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to deliver content across various platforms and devices.

It is called headless because it relies on headless architecture and decouples the front-end presentation layer from the back-end content management system (CMS).

In a traditional or coupled CMS, the back end where content is managed is tightly linked with the front end where content is presented. This approach often restricts content delivery to specific platforms, typically web-based ones.

In contrast, an API-first headless CMS separates content management from content presentation, allowing for greater flexibility. The content stored in the back-end database can be served to any platform—such as websites, mobile apps, IoT devices, and more—through APIs, usually RESTful and often in JSON format. This decoupling allows developers to use any programming language or framework on the front end, providing them with the freedom to create custom experiences across different platforms.

How Do API-first CMSs Work?

Content creators input and manage the content in the CMS. When content is requested (for example, when a user opens a mobile app), the headless CMS delivers the content through an API call. The front-end system can render and display the content regardless of its technology stack.

The API-first approach implies that the CMS is built with the API as the primary means of content delivery rather than as an afterthought or addition to a traditional CMS. This approach is beneficial for businesses that must deliver content to various channels, as it provides a more efficient and streamlined way to manage and distribute content.

It's worth noting that while an API-first headless CMS offers greater flexibility and scalability, it may require more development effort for the presentation and display of content compared to traditional CMSs since it doesn't provide out-of-the-box front-end solutions.

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