What are the differences between Traditional CMS, Decoupled CMS, Progressively Decoupled CMS and Headless CMS?

Application built using Tridion DXA framework is using traditional or decoupled or progressively decoupled approach?

  • Where did you get the terminology from? Those terms can be interpreted in different ways. I found references to “progressively decoupled CMS” in articles about Drupal. But those use the term “decoupled” in quite a different way than SDL does (see Nuno’s answer). Jul 22, 2020 at 19:50
  • It is indeed linked to Drupal - see the other recent question from @Thakur here: tridion.stackexchange.com/q/21100/33
    – Nuno Linhares
    Jul 23, 2020 at 6:53

1 Answer 1


I am oversimplifying... but here's what applies to Tridion.

  • Basic Tridion (since 1999) is a decoupled CMS (Content Management and Website/Delivery are separate applications that can run completely isolated from each other)
  • Headless CMS is one where the Delivery of content for a website is done over webservices and there is no "CMS logic" inside your application. This allows for "easy" building of applications that consume content from your CMS from any platform (mobile apps, your own platforms, etc)
  • Tridion has been headless since 2015, when "Web 8" was released.

An application using DXA uses a headless framework to talk to Tridion's Content Delivery services.

In this scenario, Tridion remains a decoupled CMS, with Headless Content Delivery.

To cover the remaining 2 scenarios, which do not apply to Tridion:

A Traditional CMS is one where both Content Management and Website/Content Delivery run from the same application. This usually has the benefit of perceived performance - there is no "publishing", just a flag setting the content as "live" - but has the side effect of potentially exposing content that is not approved/live to your audience.

To be honest, I have no idea what is a progressively decoupled CMS, sounds like a made-up-marketing-word to say "we want to be decoupled but we're not there yet".

Hope the above makes sense.


I just saw you tagged your question with 2013-SP1. Tridion 2013 SP1 is not headless, it is decoupled. Headless was introduced in the following version of Tridion. Also, as the name implies, Tridion 2013 is 7 years old and as far as I know is out of support (or will be soon).

  • Note that Tridion 2013 Already exoosed an OData service, so I would argue that support for headless architectures dates back even farther. Jul 22, 2020 at 16:10
  • Fair point. I guess support for headless would then be with Tridion 2011.
    – Nuno Linhares
    Jul 23, 2020 at 6:46

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