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Headless CMS

Headless CMS for Mobile

A Mobile CMS is often used as a backend for mobile applications and delivers content to several platforms at once from a common data store.

Key Takeaways

  • A mobile CMS can help companies create and deliver content worldwide to billions of mobile devices.

  • A true mobile CMS gives you all the features of a mobile BaaS and editorial workflows for non-technical users.

  • A mobile CMS enables you to deliver content to any portable device, including smartphones, tablets, watches, and VR headsets.

  • Headless CMS consistently generates more advantages than legacy CMS in a mobile-first and IoT world.

What is a mobile content management system?

A mobile content management system (CMS) is a type of content management system that enables organizations to create, manage and deliver content to mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets.

As of 2022, there were 6.6 billion smartphone mobile network subscriptions worldwide, a number forecasted to reach 7.5 billion by 2026. With a mobile CMS, brands are able to deliver content to this plethora of mobile devices whether they choose to access that content via Android, iOS, or a progressive web application (PWA).

What does a mobile CMS help you accomplish?

A mobile CMS enables businesses to perform a number of different tasks, which is why there are various interpretations of what a mobile CMS does. With a mobile CMS, you can:

Manage content in native mobile apps

If you have an iOS or Android app where users can purchase cars, a mobile CMS can store all relevant car information and deliver it to your app on both mobile platforms.

Manage content in mobile responsive websites

In addition to your iOS and Android apps for selling cars, you might also have a website that people visit from various mobile devices. If you don’t have a native mobile app, you can launch a mobile-optimized website instead.

A mobile CMS could help manage content for this website by supporting content delivery to all possible screen sizes, aspect ratios, and resolutions across smartphones and tablets.

Run a mobile application to manage an existing CMS instance

Companies with a website and a CMS might need a mobile app to manage content on the go. For example, if you have a news website built with a traditional CMS like WordPress.

You could create an iOS or Android application that allows you to add new articles and update existing news stories as they develop on the go, taking a part of your website and injecting it into a mobile app.

Alternative ways to manage content for native mobile apps

A mobile CMS is built to create and manage content delivered to a mobile device. However, many organizations end up using alternative methods to manage content for their mobile apps.

Build a mobile app and use it to manage content

The most common alternative companies use instead of a mobile CMS is building a native application. This offers a straightforward option for content, as all the content needed for the app could be hardcoded into the application itself. However, while this option is suitable for minimal or static apps that don’t require frequent updates, there are some drawbacks.

Drawbacks of this approach

  • A dynamic mobile application will be pretty large, consequently taking up a lot of space locally. Running this application will also require a lot of processing power from the device. The result is a slow and unresponsive application that damages the user experience.

  • Any content changes will be considered changes to the application and must be submitted to the App Store or Play Store each time there is an update. Each version will need to be reviewed and approved on top of the lengthy delivery cycles.

  • Changes to apps found on multiple platforms will need to be made manually simultaneously to keep everything in sync. This might seem like a small effort when running an iOS or Android app, but adding other devices, later on, will complicate things tremendously.

Use Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (Mobile BaaS)

Instead of hardcoding content for a mobile app, organizations can also use the mobile backend as a service. Mobile BaaS, or Mobile Backend as a Service, is a cloud computing model that provides a platform for developers to build and manage the backend infrastructure required for mobile applications. It offers pre-built backend services and features that can be accessed through APIs.

If you’re keen on open-source software, Parse makes a good option. For a GraphQL-based alternative, there is Graphcool, while Kinvey is a suitable option for enterprise companies.

Drawbacks of this approach

While mBaaS is a great alternative to hard-coding content within the mobile application itself - it also does a good job for simple noncontent-heavy applications, where the content is primarily static, and there is no actual content management system component.

Therefore, for mobile applications that need content updated frequently or where there is a need for proper editorial workflows, especially involving non-technical users, mobile BaaS isn’t the best option.

Characteristics of a true mobile CMS

A true mobile CMS offers the capabilities to create and deliver content to mobile devices and gives technical and non-technical users the features they need to manage that content.

  • Mobile content publication: A mobile CMS needs to easily publish content to multiple mobile platforms, including ones that may not even exist yet. Hygraph offers API-first content delivery to mobile responsive websites, apps, tablets, and any device imaginable.

  • Workflow management: A mobile CMS needs to offer editorial workflows, especially for non-technical users. It should support agile teams and allow them to deliver projects faster, allowing editorial and development teams to work in parallel. Hygraph offers a variety of workflow management tools, from custom roles and permissions to scheduled publishing.

  • Dynamic content: It needs to support dynamic content that is changing frequently without delays to the release cycle.

  • Localization: Considering the escalating consumption of content globally and the vast number of mobile devices available, a true mobile CMS should support localization and multiple mobile frameworks. Hygraph provides internationalization and localization features that enable organizations to manage content with different locales from one content piece reducing clutter and speeding up global content creation.

  • Security: Authentication, monitoring, encryption, and compliance features to secure all data to be shared to the mobile device. Hygraph’s security features include enterprise-grade security measures and governance to handle secure data and ensure compliance.

Why you should use a headless CMS to manage mobile content


A headless CMS is API-first. Unlike traditional content management systems, such as Drupal and WordPress (where the API can be added via third-party plugins or was added at a much later stage of development), Headless CMS was built from the ground up with the API at its heart. This can either be a legacy REST API or a GraphQL API.

Separation of concerns

A headless CMS separates content from the presentation layer (frontend). Giving the right tools to the right people is another differentiating factor of a headless CMS, whereby developers match the right presentation of content to the right platform by utilizing the API. Meanwhile, content creators produce and manage content with the tools they’re used to.

Built for multiple devices

A headless CMS is natively multi-platform and omnichannel-ready. Because a headless CMS provides content via an API and doesn’t dictate how content needs to be presented, such a content management system, by nature, supports all platforms. This can range from any platform, from smartwatches and smart fridges to AR and VR platforms. Theoretically, as long as a device can receive content via API, a Headless CMS can deliver content.

Performance and security capabilities

A headless CMS guarantees stability, API performance, and security. Though there are self-hosted options for headless CMS, it is preferred to rely on a cloud-based provider’s expertise and full-time dedication to manage the critical aspects of system stability so that developers can focus on building engaging mobile applications instead of doing risk-heavy DevOps infrastructure work.

Challenges of mobile content management

While a headless CMS offers the capabilities required of a mobile CMS, that doesn’t mean that mobile content management is a walk in the park. Some of the challenges that organizations need to worry about include:

The differences between iOS and Android

When developing mobile apps, it’s essential to account for the distinctions between iOS and Android interfaces. Each operating system has its unique code base (APK for Android and .ipa for iOS) and screen size and resolution variations that must be considered.

Android enjoys greater popularity globally, while iPhones dominate in markets like North America and several European countries. Consequently, if your goal is to reach both audiences, you may need to develop an application for each platform. However, if you opt for a web-based app, you must create separate apps tailored to each interface.

The need for responsive design

The challenge with mobile responsive websites is that between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems, not to mention various smartwatches and other smart devices with a screen, there is a multitude of devices and screen sizes. Choosing to build a mobile responsive website means that you have to deliver a consistently smooth user experience across all of these screens, regardless of how different their sizes and proportions may be.

The good news is that, more often than not, a mobile responsive website is a counterpart to an existing desktop website. This presents a few options on how to manage content in this case.

Suppose the existing desktop website is already powered by a content management system, especially if it is a legacy CMS. In that case, you may utilize existing themes and plugins to make your desktop website responsive. For other content management system providers, you may rely on the expertise of your design and development teams to make your existing website responsive.

If, on the other hand, you are building both the desktop website and the mobile responsive website from scratch, it is an excellent opportunity to consider the benefits of a headless CMS. With a headless CMS as your mobile CMS, you can deliver the same content through the same API to two different platforms.

In other words, content creators would produce the content once, and the CMS would efficiently distribute it to any platform. In this case, it would be a desktop and mobile responsive website. You could even throw more devices into the mix, such as a VR headset, a smartwatch, or an electronic billboard.

Creating a seamless user experience

Ultimately, another challenge with mobile content management is that mobile, though a popular channel, isn’t the only one where customers will interact with a brand. Therefore, creating a high-quality seamless user experience for every channel is essential.

Accomplishing this is only possible with a headless CMS that can deliver content to multiple platforms and provide content creators and developers with the tools to manage the digital experience.