How Vassar Home-brewed a Headless CMS

DPA11 Development, Programming and Architecture

Location: Cotton Row

TUESDAY, 3:00 - 3:45 p.m.

“Headless” or “decoupled” may be buzzwords you’ve heard recently applied to CMSs (Content Management Systems), but the principles they follow and systems they represent are neither fads nor new, and help us solve real-world problems in scalable, maintainable ways. It’s well understood that separation of concerns is a best practice, especially when applied to separating content or structure (HTML) from presentation (CSS)—this same principle applies to a CMS. Learn what a headless CMS is and the benefits of separating the content in a traditional, monolithic CMS from its proprietary HTML templating engine. Learn how we designed our system with facilitating change in mind, and can manage sites that share code, markup, and assets—while allowing for infinite variation at the site level. We employ simplicity, consistency, and principles such as progressive enhancement and individualized design to guide us. Using a server-side templating; centrally controlled server-side SASS compilation; and a headless, push CMS that publishes flat files has helped us achieve more efficient workflows, gain total control over our markup, and nimbly adapt to change.

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Raymond Schwartz
Senior Web Developer, Office of Communications, Vassar College

Ray Schwartz has worked at Vassar College for the last 10 years in both the Development and Communications offices. He’s a web developer with an interest in acronyms – BEM, BPs, CMS, CSS, DRY, JS, HTML5, OOP, PHP, RWD, SASS, SMACSS, SOLID, W3C, WAI, WHATWG, WPO—always striving to make things that work in a progressively enhanced, future-friendly, accessible way. He’s been published as a guest author on Chris Coyier’s CSS-Tricks blog, mentioned on the podcast ShopTalkShow a couple of times, landed a commit in jQuery, co-hosts Dev O’Clock Poughkeepsie meetup, and has spoken at HVTech meetups, HighEdWeb NY 2015, HighEdWeb NE 2016, and Cascade Server Conference 2015.