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Micro CMS - A lightweight content management system for building websites faster

Posted by Akash Joshi on November 7, 2019

Content management systems are necessary for building any company’s online presence.  Types of content management systems vary depending on the needs of the business and often smaller systems are more effective for building websites faster, such as a micro CMS.

A micro CMS is any lightweight CMS allowing you to get started with minimal hassle or time investment. In a traditional CMS, you are expected to set everything up by yourself. However, a micro-CMS is more of a managed solution, which has everything set up already including hosting. You connect to it via APIs, extending your content workflow in a much smoother way. 

There are 3 varying definitions of micro CMS'  all with distinctive pros and cons.

1. Online Publishing Platforms

One of the older definitions of a micro CMS, introduced by CMSWire, is that of the end-to-end online writing platform. Solutions like Medium, Blogger, or dev.to, allow users to write content on the website using the writing interface.  The content remains on the website itself and is not extractable from there. 

Generally, the writer doesn't have a unique identity on the website as the website won't allow either enough theme customization or unique domain identification. However, this is good enough for writers who are just starting out or teams who don't want to fiddle too much with their writing platform.


Advantages :

  • Minimum overhead required to get started.
  • Publishers only focus on writing.

Disadvantages :

  • Very little control over content presentation.
  • Publishers may not be able to extract written content from the platform.

Discover why using these platforms may not be the best for you.

2. Minimal File Structures (Flat-File CMS) 

Another definition of micro CMS is the flat-file CMS. In flat-file CMS', the data is stored in minimalist file structures like Markdown or JSON. During compile-time, these files are converted into HTML files based on styles and other configurations that you have applied.

 Advantages :

  • Unlike the Publishing Platform solution, you own your data. 
  • There are some visual editors present for flat-file CMS'.
  • The website is secure, as your data doesn't have to be fetched from a platform each time.

Disadvantages :

  • A small amount of technical knowledge is required in creating or editing these files, eg, md, JSON.
  • Flat-file CMS' does not allow extensive web-page customization, as you are limited by the format of the flat-file.

3. API driven CMS (Headless CMS) 

The most modern definition for micro-CMS is the API driven CMS. In an API driven CMS, data is stored online in a CMS and is accessible via API for the developers. Posts or articles can be added visually to the CMS, and it doesn’t require a highly technical person to use the CMS platform. The micro-CMS is also highly scalable, as the API microservices can scale easily to a large number of users.

Advantages :

  • Writers don't need technical knowledge to get started.
  • Scales to a large number of users.
  • Complete control over data.
  • More control over internal role separation.

Disadvantages :

  • Slightly higher initial setup time.
  • Hosted solutions for API driven CMS could be costly.


What's the best micro CMS for your team?

For non-technical, individuals, an online publishing platform makes sense as they don't have to deal with the initial coding stages to get started with your blog. The publishing platform also handles content hosting and other features like comments, so the individual doesn't have to configure them.

For small technical, writing teams that don’t need a fancy UI for non-technical users, a flat-file CMS would make sense to start with as it requires minimal set-up to get started with. The data also belongs to the team and allows for the blog to be scoped to the team's domain. With a smaller team size, it may also be relatively easy to train technically savvy writers in the structure of the flat-file being used as a CMS.

For larger teams (10+ people, including a developer), where speed matters along with scale, micro-CMSs make the most sense. Although API driven CMSs require some set up time, this investment pays out the most in the long run. Writers won't require technical knowledge to get started with writing, and once set up, developers won’t need to get involved with updating content. Developers just need to integrate the API properly with their website.

Hosted micro-CMS solutions like ButterCMS handle all the complexities of scaling for the development teams, so the dev team only focuses on the product and the writing team focuses on the writing.

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