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Where to begin when you're using a headless CMS for the first time

Traditional CMSes get a bad reputation. Clunky, hard-to-use content behemoths that become a pain to maintain as you produce more content.


I'm sure if you're reading this article, you know all of this already.


Content teams are abandoning the traditional CMS for something better.


A headless CMS is where the old way of managing content dies and the new way begins. A fresh start. A chance to create something powerful for your team, that increases productivity, user experience, brand awareness, along with many other positives I'm sure you've heard about.


Most importantly, switching to a headless CMS is an opportunity to make a tool work for you rather than you for it.


But if you don't take the right steps, you could end up in the same position you were in with the traditional CMS.


Here's a place we think you should start.


Interviewing stakeholders. Who are your stakeholders? The people whose work will interact with the headless CMS. Content editors, marketers, developers, engineers, translators. Stakeholders look different for every team, so your list may look different than the groups mentioned.


You have a lot of power in this process — you're shaping the way that each of these groups will work


The success of your headless CMS will be determined by these groups of people, which is why it's important to interview them and agree upon the requirements needed to achieve success.


Set up time with each functional group that will work on your project


Try to start with the people on your team you already have a strong relationship with. This makes it easier for them to be open with you about their process, and for you to have a candid conversation about the project.


Most importantly, see if you can record the conversations you have with your stakeholders so you don't have to worry about taking notes during the interviews.


Looking for some sample questions to ask? We have those available for download below. 🙂


Once you're done interviewing, it's time to take notes


When you're listening back, take notes of specific challenges that your teammates mention.


For example, let's say you interview your coworker who's responsible for writing content for your company blog.


During the interview, your coworker tells you that she spends a lot of time looping in engineers to update SEO page titles and descriptions every time there's a change request from the marketing team.

This is an important piece of information because it tells you that SEO elements are something you can focus attention on in your content modeling that will save your team time, make your content more accurate, and allow you to remove engineers from the content management process.


As a requirement, this could look something like this:


As a blog editor, I should be able to edit SEO elements for a blog post, like the page title and description.


You're probably starting to feel like there's a lot to do before you can even get to creating content models


You're right, there is, but talking with stakeholders and developing requirements is essential for a successful headless CMS.


Teams that invest time in this step are far more likely to set up a successful Contentful project than those who don't


Why? Because they use their current challenges to inform a vision their entire team can work towards, and make Contentful the tool to pull it all together.