4 Pitfalls To Avoid When Choosing a Composable CMS

Paul Yates
December 04, 2023 5 min read

Old-school content management systems (CMSs) are built using monolithic architecture - or legacy architecture as it’s also known. Whilst this worked well when the internet was viewed on a desktop, it’s struggled to keep up with the slew of new devices that let users browse from their phones, watches, or even VR headsets.

Enter the composable CMS, designed to be proactive rather than reactive and make it easier to reach your audience no matter where they’re browsing from.

What is a Composable CMS?

Monolithic architecture is made up of one, tied-up system, where every part is connected under a single unit. One codebase runs the entire platform and delivers everything your website needs to function both on the frontend and backend.

A composable CMS, on the other hand, is made up of separate units that work independently and are connected by APIs. Where monolith architecture is a complete, solid house, a composable CMS is a house built by individual bricks which can be removed, replaced, and adjusted to suit your ever-changing digital needs. 

If you’re considering switching to a composable CMS, you might have a bit of a learning curve to get through before you reap the benefits. To help you make the right decisions at every stage of your journey, we’ve put together the top 4 pitfalls to avoid. 

1. Be Sure You Find a Genuine Composable CMS

Not every composable CMS is equal. As with all software, there are some platforms that fall short of offering the full range of features and benefits that you’d expect. To spot a genuine, high-quality composable CMS, we’ve put together the signs to look for.

Modular Architecture

We mentioned that a composable CMS is made of many units, giving it a modular architecture. Be aware, though, that some CMSs claiming to be composable don’t work entirely in this way. 

You'll find a number of traditional CMSs are jumping on the bandwagon, adding composable capabilities as a bolt-on essentially. Whilst this may serve some needs; these platforms are still primarily based on a monolithic CMS, so you'll want to steer clear if you're 100% set on going composable.

When checking your software is genuine, make sure that each component can work separately, that components can be reused in different projects, and that any changes you can make to one component won’t affect any others.

MACH Alliance

Microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native, and headless (MACH) are the key features of a composable CMS. The MACH Alliance is a surefire sign that the CMS you’re looking into ticks all of these boxes. Head over to their site and see their members, or alternatively look out for the MACH Alliance badge on vendor websites.

API Led Design

Being API-first is a crucial part of the composable architecture. Your CMS platform should have a lot of detail about its APIs, including resources and documentation, and offer a huge variety that allows you to build flexibly and completely. You can also look out for the term ‘headless CMS’, which is an architecture that tends to be API-first.

2. Build Your Composable CMS Knowledge

Whether you’re used to working with monolithic architecture or this is your first time developing, a composable CMS platform can be a little complex to build with. There are occasionally developers who dive into their software without understanding the nature of composable architecture. Sometimes this works out fine and they’re able to learn as they go, but other times it can put new developers off of the architecture type, thinking it too confusing without understanding the benefits.

That’s why we always recommend expanding your knowledge before you begin. Learn about what goes where and how changing one component could alter another, getting to grips with the composable experience before you start to professionally build.

Building with composable CMS architecture can undoubtedly be easier than monolithic and provides greater flexibility. But, you’re only going to reap the benefits if you put in the effort to learn the technical side of this structure. 

3. Find a Composable CMS Vendor That Suits You

It might save time to go for the leading composable CMS platform, but it’s also likely to cause issues in the future. Why? Because brand awareness can be bought. 

Instead of choosing your software based on which name you see the most frequently, start conducting some thorough research into which composable CMS will actually work for you. There are plenty to choose from. 

Know What You Need

Begin by looking at your own needs. Consider which features are the most important, what characteristics you’d prioritise, and what you’re looking for in the software as a whole. If you have your own in-house developers, for example, might prioritise developer support and customer service. Membership organisations, on the other hand, may look for a CMS that has a proven track record of being integrated with their LMS or member zone.

Look at Pricing Structures

Before setting your sights on a particular composable CMS, it's important to fully understand the pricing structure and how these are likely to change in line with the growth of your organisation.

Unlike many monolithic CMS platforms which have simple tiered plans, composable CMSs are often priced base on usage. This is often in line with users or content types; so as you can imagine, the costs can quickly spiral if your organisation was to grow fairly rapidly.

Check Out Research

Alongside feedback from developers, it’s a good idea to check out more robust, reputable research, too. Forrester, for example, conducts research into the different CMS platforms currently available, giving you plenty of unbiased information about each of your options.

Gartner is also a good place to start, and they'll often do sector-wide reviews like The Magic Quadrant, in addition to user based reviews.

This sort of research opens up the way for smaller CMSs that pack a powerful punch to gain some well-deserved spotlight, so we always recommend our clients check them out. 

4. Too Many Must-Haves

One common pitfall to avoid is having too many must-have requirements that make your search almost impossible. As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of what your business needs, but this should translate into around 10 key selection criteria. Much more than that and you’ll struggle to find your perfect match.

Rather than thinking of nice-to-have features, only focus on your essentials. What do you really need from your composable CMS in order to get the most out of the platform you choose? Consider what you must, should, could, and won’t want from your software to learn more about what’s really important. 

Make Your Choice Easy With GRM

If you’re a business without the time to find a composable CMS that suits your needs, or a developer who could use a helping hand, our CMS experts at GRM are always keen to chat. From helping you make the smartest choice for your needs to handling your development for you, we can help in whatever capacity you need.

Get in touch today and let’s find the composable CMS that’s right for you.

Written by Paul Yates

Senior Business Development Manager