How to Choose the Best CMS for Mobile Apps

With a multitude of potential CMS suitors on the market, how should you go about choosing the best one for mobile applications?

Here's a clue:

Don't choose a CMS developed with solely mobile apps in mind.

You want a flexible solution that works across all devices and channels. Something that slots neatly into a microservices architecture, and boosts efficiency and collaboration at every stage.

Let me break down exactly what to look out for.

Here’s how to choose the best content management system for mobile apps:

CMS for mobile apps

Choosing a CMS for mobile apps?

Download this 8-point checklist for choosing the best CMS for mobile apps.


How your content management system (CMS) can determine the success of your mobile apps

Here are some stats for you:

Needless to say, how you present your brand through a mobile phone screen is of the utmost importance, and a mobile application is the best way to govern this.

In the past, native mobile apps have been the norm. These are apps that are developed for and installed on specific mobile devices. If you've ever downloaded an app from the App Store or Google Play, then this will have been a native app.

Recently we've witnessed the rise of the PWA (the progressive web app), which looks set to eclipse the native app altogether. These are websites that look, feel, and in many ways, act like native apps, even though they appear in your standard browser. They load with no network, sync in the background, and send push notifications. Here's a good example:

Choosing the right CMS for your business can be the difference between a mobile app that succeeds or fails. A great CMS creates, manages, and distributes content to your mobile apps efficiently and seamlessly.

But, you don't want a CMS designed solely with mobile apps in mind. The best CMSs manage content through any channel and device, whether it be a mobile app, desktop, wearable, or IoT device.

Read this next: Headless CMS Use Cases


How to choose the best CMS for mobile apps

1. It has to be “hybrid”

A hybrid CMS (sometimes known as decoupled CMS) combines the API-driven headless architecture with the front-end elements from a traditional CMS; so you get the best of both headless and traditional CMS. 

What is a hybrid (or decoupled) CMS

(This is what “hybrid” CMS looks like. It combines the best of headless and traditional CMS into one platform)

This is in stark contrast to the more traditional coupled CMS, which has its front- and back-end fused, restricting what you publish and where.

Admittedly, if you're creating the same kind of content, for the same channel, over and over, then a simple coupled CMS will be sufficient and significantly cheaper than headless alternatives.

But, this is so seldom the case in this increasingly omnichannel world, where, for example, customers research online purchases in-store and make in-store purchases driven by promotions on mobile apps.

You need the ability to provide customers with a consistent experience across all touch-points, creating customer loyalty, and driving sales.

With a headless CMS, in-house developers and agencies are free to create their own front-end layers or (more often than not) work with third-party SaaS providers.

This freedom translates to a wider choice, lower costs, less time and money spent on maintenance, and complete autonomy over how you display content to a diverse range of customers. You're not tied to a monolithic CMS that you can't change without an expensive, organization-wide upheaval.


2. It should slot neatly into a micro services architecture

Forward-thinking companies are striving for a micro services architecture - one that uses cloud technology to disassemble monoliths into a set of independent services developed, deployed, and maintained separately.

Each service, whether it be your mobile app, payment gateway, or inventory management system, is connected via an API (application programming interface) – such as GraphQL or REST, and your CMS must be able to slot seamlessly into such a system.

Five reasons why micro services beat monolithic architectures every time:

  1. They can be broken down into their constituent parts: Each service can be deployed and redeployed separately, without compromising the integrity of the system as a whole.
  2. They are more manageable: One group of developers can understand each service in its entirety, while nobody can comprehend a whole monolithic architecture in full.
  3. They are more resilient: Thanks to better security and fault isolation. Bugs and breaches can be 'contained' in one service.
  4. They are easy to upgrade and modify: Which leads to greater flexibility and agility.
  5. They are inherently scalable: Individual services can be scaled up and down independently.


3. It has to promote content reuse

"Content reuse" is the practice of reusing pre-existing chunks of content, multiple times, to create something new. The benefits are obvious:

  • Reduced costs of content creation, review, and maintenance: Instead of duplicating content several times over, which is a colossal waste of resources, teams can concentrate their energy on developing new content that can itself be reused at a later stage. The pool grows and grows.
  • Reduced translation and proofing costs: Content can be translated and reviewed once and reused several times.
  • Improved content consistency: When content is published repeatedly through different channels, your message becomes more consistent, bolstering brand identity.
  • Increased content quality: Each time a piece of content is reused, it's improved upon, and errors are identified and removed.

A great CMS for mobile apps should promote content reuse at every stage. It should serve as an accessible, well-ordered, centralized repository for all content so creators can pluck pieces from the archives, reuse them and/or incorporate them into something new.

4. It has to be framework-agnostic

There are lots of different mobile app development frameworks, each with their own sets of strengths, weaknesses, and evangelists within the developer community.

Five of the most popular frameworks in 2019:

  1. React Native: Open-source and developed by Facebook. Ideal for developing apps quickly for both Android and IOS with a single co debase.
  2. Flutter: Open-source and developed by Google. A powerful tool for cross-platform developers with an active community.
  3. Ionic: Open-source and perfectly suited to creating hybrid apps (those that combine elements of both native and web applications).
  4. PhoneGap: Open-source and developed by Adobe. Fast and easy-to-use, requiring only basic knowledge of popular technologies like HTML, CSS, and Javascript.
  5. Xamarin: Acquired by Microsoft in 2016. Used to develop apps with near-native performance. Based on C#.

The important thing when it comes to choosing a CMS for mobile apps is that it's framework-agnostic - not limited to apps built using a specific framework or frameworks. Only a framework-agnostic CMS is truly future-proof.

eCommerce CMS Checklist

What to ask your eCommerce CMS vendor

Download this eCommerce CMS Checklist


5. It has to be device-agnostic

A CMS for mobile apps needs to be device-agnostic too - entirely machine-independent, working just as effectively on a tiny smartwatch as it does on a giant smart TV, and everything in between, without any special adaptations.

Device agnosticism sounds good, but many developers build their apps for specific operating systems. If a mobile app has been built for Android and you’re an iPhone user, then you’re out of luck until the developer makes an iOS version.

This method of developing mobile apps is inefficient - no developer wants to isolate large segments of potential users. All of the frameworks in Section 4 support both iOS and Android, promoting content reuse and efficiency. Your CMS has to be device-agnostic too.

6. It has to be industry-agnostic

Whether it be publishers, financial institutions, or healthcare organizations, most industries have bespoke CMS solutions. But the best CMSs for mobile apps are industry-agnostic - agile and flexible enough to compete creatively and intelligently in an ever-changing marketplace.

7. It has to manage content workflow intelligently

Content workflow is "how content is requested, sourced, created, reviewed, approved, and delivered." If content within your organization is frequently delivered late or stuck in limbo, then your content workflow could be to blame.

Whether simple or complex, your workflow needs to be carefully defined within your CMS to ensure the highest level of collaboration and efficiency.

For mobile apps, you want a CMS that will smoothly guide you through a streamlined flow of planning, creating, revising, approving, optimizing, publishing, reporting, editing, and reusing content.

Why are content workflows essential?

  • Content creation is broken down into manageable, actionable steps
  • A shared roadmap is created, so everyone is on the same page
  • Approval is sought and provided effectively - no more endless back-and-forth emailing
  • Team roles and responsibilities are clear, improving accountability and reducing overlap

8. It has to be scalable

Seasonal user fluctuations, sudden traffic spikes, and company-wide expansion and contraction all affect the consumption and requirements of your mobile apps and the CMSs behind them. To retain efficiency in the face of such change, you need a CMS that scales in tandem with varying patterns of usage.

Monolithic CMSs have traditionally been terrible at scaling. To manage the ebbs and flows that are part and parcel of modern business, you have to build significant redundancy into the system - a waste of resources for which you have to pay.

Cloud-based SaaS solutions of all kinds excel when it comes to scalability, and cloud-bases CMSs are no exception. You can increase or decrease capacity on a pay-as-you-go-type basis providing resiliency in the face of change. It's a cheaper, more flexible, and agile way of working that doesn't require a dedicated IT team for maintenance.

Top 5 content management systems (CMS) for mobile apps

Here are our picks for the best CMS for mobile apps:

1. Contentful

Contentful has a clean interface and flexible APIs that allow content to populate instantly on any number of mobile apps. Editors make content updates once, and Contentful publishes them everywhere, simultaneously.

2. Contentstack

Easy and intuitive, even for non-technical eyes (marketing team), Contenstack pulls the CMS strings of several high profile customers, to include Shell, Sky, and Walmart.

3. Core dna

An all-in-one digital platform that serves as an ideal CMS for mobile apps, combining content management with eCommerce, intranet, and marketing.

4. Kentico Kontent

Focussing on all things CaaS (content as a service), Kontent offers a distraction-free, collaborative writing experience when creating content for mobile apps.


5. dotCMS

An open-source alternative, with a free edition to download (enterprise plans available too, of course), dotCMS can be hosted either on-prem or in the cloud.

Download the guide
Sam Saltis
Sam Saltis

An entrepreneur at heart with over 20+ years of experience in building internet software, growing online companies and managing product development.

Loves all things SaaS, technology, and startups.

You can find him feeding his beloved fish when he's back in Australia.

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