You Should Keep E-Commerce and CMS Separated, Here's Why

couellet profile image Charles Ouellet Originally published at snipcart.com on ・3 min read

Why E-Commerce and CMS Should Be Separated

The original version of this post dates back to 2015. It felt like a necessary (and fun) exercise for us to go back to it today, 5 years later.

At the time, we presented the statement that e-commerce and CMS should be separated as a contrarian one. One that few people would agree with.

But web development has come a long way since then. Today, I bet many devs would agree with that statement.

We must have been right. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Humblebrag apart, popular dev trends such as the JAMstack promote the use of the right tools for the right job. By connecting multiple specialized services into one project, developers get the best solutions for their specific needs. They ditch the traditional mentality promoting jack of all trades CMSs.

More and more developers and agencies are selling this approach to clients, putting forward benefits like reduced costs and development times. I’ll come back to that later on.

E-commerce is one single piece of that web development puzzle. It can be a complex beast in itself, so why wouldn’t you want to handle e-commerce concerns in a dedicated software?

Time has only reinforced our belief that e-commerce and CMS should be decoupled. The good news is that it has become way easier to accomplish.

Let’s explore that initial statement in depth.

When did we realize this necessary separation of e-commerce and CMS?


Let me take you on a short trip down memory lane, before Snipcart was even an idea. We used to be geeks working in an awesome web development shop before our startup days. One day, a client came up to us with a specific need:

I’d like to start selling stuff on the website you developed for me a few years back. But I don’t want a new website, and I don’t want to spend much on this move.

Many agencies would’ve told him no. “We’re sorry, we need to update your old CMS site in order to set you up with a neat, modern e-commerce platform.” But he was one of the first to trust us with his business back in the days, so we told him we’d figure something out.

One morning, while the team was sharing coffee in our office kitchen, Charles came into the room and said:

Guys, what if we injected the products and cart directly into his frontend code, using only HTML and JS?

We were skeptical at first. A few days and lines of code after, we were convinced. Eventually, this one-time solution we came up with became a full product. That product became our bootstrapped startup, which became the profitable business Snipcart is today.

I’d like to tell you that we saw the rise of frontend-centric development and JAMstack coming. Truth is, it came to us as a (welcomed) surprise. And it blew many times past our wildest expectations.

Luckily for us, we happened to fit quite well in this ecosystem as a product. Something we’ve since totally embraced.

Before we turned Snipcart into a full-fledged product, we had already decided to leverage one specific technical insight: the strong distinction between great CMS and great e-commerce platform requirements. Snipcart was built on that precise foundation.

For us, delivering on that promise also meant one fundamental characteristic for our product: it needed to be tech-agnostic. Not restraining devs from working with a specific stack or XYZ website building tool. This has been at the core of Snipcart since the very beginning.

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