The Future is Now: Optimizely's role in headless

Adam Davey
Director of Technology

What became clear back in November at Opticon 2023 was that the year 2024 was going to be a significant one for Optimizely. The ongoing investment that the business has made in their platform ecosystem is now clearly reflected in the fact that they have now firmly cemented their position as 2023 - 2024 Leaders in the Gartner Magic Quadrant and Forrester Wave for DXPs. This is a significant achievement considering the fierce competition out there. 

So what makes 2024 such a big year for Optimizely? 


Introducing Optimizely SaaS Core

Headless content management has become a hot topic within the technology industry, providing businesses flexibility and freedom of choice to compose a solution that aligns with their business and customer needs. Optimizely SaaS Core is the new fully-managed headless version of the Optimizely Content Management System.

Gone is the time-consuming need to maintain patch levels and upgrade paths, now they offer a SaaS product that is always up to date, with an API-first, technology-agnostic approach for providing the headless building blocks for an overarching technology solution. SaaS Core stores content as pure data, absent of presentation, allowing teams to readily reuse content across multiple digital channels using their favoured front end frameworks.




The SaaS Core architecture consists of five key components:

  • CMS Platform – The Content Management System that sits at the heart of the solution
  • Optimizely Identity – Handles secure authentication and user management for the UI.
  • Optimizely Graph – Rapid and efficient content delivery to your frontend of choice using the GraphQL standard.
  • REST API – For managing resources in the CMS programmatically.
  • Visual Builder – A new visual experience builder is an elegant, drag and drop intuitive editing interface that puts the power in the hands of content creators, including on-page editing and previews. 

How does headless Optimizely differ in the headless space?

This is a crowded market with a range of market-leading platforms who have been serving API-first content headlessly for a number of years now. While there are a number of benefits to opting for a headless architecture, there also can be some inherent complexities for businesses particularly when they are at the early stages in their digital maturity journey.  

This is where I see Optimizely standing out ahead of their competitors in this crowded headless space:


Having worked with a number of players in this space, it is clear that no other platform can truly claim to provide this unified depth and breadth of offering.


  • Visual Builder – In our experience editorial and marketing teams are often underserved by the purely headless editing experience.  Managing complex content models without being able to effectively preview and content what many of these headless CMS can be challenging for teams new to this way of working. 

The new visual experience builder is an elegant, drag and drop intuitive editing interface that puts the power in the hands of content creators, including on-page editing and previews. This allows you to manage page templates using drag-and-drop functionality without direct developer intervention. In addition to this, Optimizely’s powerful personalisation capabilities can be embedded directly into the experience which really sets it apart from any competitors in this space.

Optimizely SaaS Core Visual Builder - Source:


  • ‘A single throat to choke’ - Rather than managing an array of headless SaaS providers for personalisation, recommendations, search and A/B testing, all of these powerful capabilities can be managed centrally within one platform.  

In terms of the procurement and contract management overhead this is a distinct advantage - Instead of having multiple SaaS contracts to manage, you have one.


The SaaS CMS Core becomes generally available from the beginning of Q2, with the Visual Builder following in quick succession.  Candyspace is already trying out the Private BETA of the SaaS CMS Core product and we are extremely excited about how this product is shaping up. For a team that likes to use its own frameworks of choice on the front end whilst at the same time leveraging a breadth of powerful product capabilities, these are exciting times for us and our clients. 

What is clear is that Optimizely have laid vital technical product foundations for a number of years with their strong and consistent track record of innovation. This coupled with the completeness of solution and the architectural flexibility of SaaS Core makes Optimizely THE player to watch in the headless space for 2024.