Headless CMS: A Comprehensive Guide

Headless CMS will play a vital role in content distribution going into the future. Read on to understand everything about headless CMS.

By Paresh Mayani

Last updated on: January 18, 2024

Headless CMS - A Comprehensive Guide

Today, there is more demand for headless CMS than ever before. This is mainly because more and more people are getting online every day, and because of this, the customer journey has become much more complex. As a result, businesses have to cater to their target audience uniquely and with an amazing level of sophistication.

In writing and publishing, a content management system (CMS) sits behind a website (or blog), allowing multiple users to author and maintain content. It often supports editing, indexing for searching, publishing and updating pages, and integration with social media.

W3techs’ survey found that about 43% of the market share for CMS is taken by WordPress alone. But as the tendency to switch from PCs to tablets and mobile phones increases, it’s also becoming apparent that people are browsing the internet differently.

With recent developments in web technology, people are shifting towards using other types of content management systems such as Static Site Generators (SSG) and Headless CMS.

In this article, we’ll discuss Headless CMS and how it’ll become more prevalent in the future.

What is a Headless CMS?

What is a Headless CMS

A Headless CMS is a content management system that doesn’t require your site to be built around it and allows you to use its data in other places (like mobile apps).

It is a term that has been around for a while, but it’s still very new to the marketing world.

The concept is simple: you can use a CMS for more than just displaying content on your website – you can also use it to build an API and feed data into other systems. It follows this model by providing an API instead of rendering HTML pages.

It aims to separate the front end from the back end. In traditional CMS implementations, both the front and back end run on the same server or web application.

With headless CMS, the front end is hosted separately from the back end. This enables you to use different technologies for each part of your application. For example, React is used for the front end and PHP is used for the back end.

How Does a Headless CMS Work?

How does a headless CMS work

A headless CMS takes the content from your website and stores it in the cloud. It’s then made available on the internet, and you can access it wherever you are.

You create your content in one place and then update it from anywhere. The headless CMS doesn’t need to be installed on your server, so you don’t have to worry about keeping it up-to-date or maintaining it.

It also means that anyone with an internet connection can access all your content. It is excellent if you want your business to grow internationally or if you want employees to access information remotely via their mobile devices.

Headless CMS works with any web design and development tool used to create your website, including Bootstrap, Foundation, and CSS frameworks. You can also choose from a wide variety of third-party plugins for everything from eCommerce, social media integration and mobile optimization.

Difference between Headless CMS and Traditional CMS

Feature Headless CMS Traditional CMS
Architecture Modular Monolithic
Content delivery Omnichannel by nature It requires content to be manually recreated for different channels
Usability Requires tech knowledge It requires low knowledge of tech.
Implementation Tech team required A team is required, but not necessarily a tech team
Integrations Microservice integrations that you can add and remove with ease Only with plugins
Scalability Fundamental to its architecture Difficult to scale once its complete
Payment model Subscription-based in most cases Paid once in most cases

Advantages of Headless CMS

  1. Improved Omnichannel Experience

    One of the most significant advantages of headless content management systems is that they provide a better omnichannel experience for your customers.

    When using a headless content management system, it’s easier to integrate with your existing e-commerce platform. You can deliver a seamless experience across multiple channels, including your website, mobile app, and social media pages.

    It also makes it much simpler for developers to create a single interface that works across all devices. You don’t have to worry about building separate sites or apps for each different type of deviceโ€”instead, you can focus on creating one website that adapts to whatever device people use to view it.

  2. Content creation efficiency

    A headless CMS lets you focus on writing content rather than managing the underlying technology. This is possible because most headless CMS have APIs (application programming interfaces), which allow you to integrate them with popular content creation tools like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.

    With headless CMS, you can develop an app that lets editors and authors quickly add, edit, and publish content without logging in to a backend CMS interface. This saves time because there’s no need for them to wait for their changes to go through the approval process before publishing their articles.

    A headless CMS also makes it easier for non-technical users to manage their websites, as they can use popular web browsers, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, to make changes and updates online.

  3. Reduced time to market

    Headless CMS eliminates the need to wait for the development team to implement changes on the front end before they can be pushed out.

    Headless CMS allows developers to focus on building features rather than worrying about making changes in multiple places on a site or adding additional functionality that doesn’t exist yet.

  4. Performance and scalability

    With no front-end code running on your server, headless CMS can be optimized for high performance and scale without sacrificing flexibility and extensibility. Your website can handle more traffic because it’s not bogged down by bulky front-end code or plugins.

    Additionally, a headless CMS scales better because it doesn’t depend on database servers or other external services like CDNs or email servers. It allows you to easily add more servers when needed without worrying about dependency conflicts or performance bottlenecks.

  5. Superior software architecture

    Headless CMSs have an architecture that separates the front end from the back-end components. You can develop your front-end website with any technology: PHP, Ruby, Python, or even JavaScript. The backend component of the system is written in a single language (usually PHP or Java) and communicates with the database through an API.

    The main advantage of such an architecture is that it makes deploying your website much easier and faster than ever. You need to deploy your code on your server, which will run both frontend and backend components together without any problems whatsoever.

Disadvantages of Headless CMS

  1. Requires a higher skill set

    A headless CMS requires more technical knowledge than a traditional CMS, so it’s unsuitable for every project. It’s best used on complex projects requiring a lot of design and development flexibility.

  2. The Complexity of the Frontend Implementation Process

    The frontend implementation process is more complex with a headless system than with a traditional CMS because you have to use APIs to pull content from various sources. This means you have to learn how to use those APIs and integrate them into your website or application.

  3. A Costly Solution

    There is no doubt that headless CMS is an expensive solution for businesses, especially small ones. This high price tag requires a developer to build the system from scratch and integrate it with your existing website infrastructure.

    Also, the infrastructure needed to host your website, app, and other online properties will require separate payment from the CMS, the developer, and others.

  4. Formatting Challenges

    Headless CMS doesn’t control styles or layout, so they rely on external resources like CSS frameworks or JavaScript frameworks to provide these functionalities.

    These systems use YAML front matter to display content on websites, but it also has its limitations because it requires coding knowledge to do anything meaningful with it.

  5. Reduced Personalization

    Customers expect personalized experiences when they visit websites, but headless CMS cannot provide this type of functionality. Traditional content management systems allow users to add images, videos, and text to their sites through the front end.

    However, a headless CMS might not be able to gather enough information about users to provide personalized content because the content and delivery are distinct.

How to choose Headless CMS?

A headless CMS can be an excellent choice for creating and managing content. It offers all of the flexibility and agility of a traditional CMS but without the overhead of managing your server, database, and application code.

Before you buy a headless CMS, it’s important to consider the following:

  1. Ease of use

    Headless CMS should be easy to use so your team can create and manage content. If you’re looking for a simple solution, choose one that offers drag-and-drop functionality. If you want more control over the design of your website, look for a tool with more advanced features for creating custom templates and themes.

  2. Security

    Security is another important consideration when choosing a headless CMS. You want to ensure any content stored on your website will be safe from cyberattacks or data breaches.

    Most headless CMSes offer strong encryption and security protocols, but checking their reviews is still important before signing up. Some tools may not have been around long enough for there to be enough feedback about their security practices.

  3. Starter templates and themes

    Headless CMSes usually come with starter templates and themes. It makes it easy for users who are new to building websites or don’t have much technical knowledge to get started quickly by using pre-made templates rather than starting from scratch every time they build a new page or post on their website.

  4. Internalization and localization support

    Choosing a headless CMS system that supports internalization and localization features is better if your website targets multiple languages or countries. You can also use this feature to provide multilingual support on your website without changing its architecture.

  5. Editing support

    In case you need any editing support or tools like WordPress plugins, it’s better to choose a headless CMS system that offers this kind of feature set up by default or as an additional option.

  6. SEO

    The headless CMS must have built-in SEO features so that your content can be easily crawled by search engines and appear in their search results. This can help boost your website’s rankings in search engines and drive more traffic.

When to choose Headless CMS? Use cases?

A Headless CMS is usually used by large companies with multiple websites and must maintain a single content management system. Below are some of the use cases for headless CMS:

  1. Retail brands

    Retail brands usually have hundreds of products that are sold across multiple channels. The products vary in size, color, and shape. Keeping track of all these products and their variations can be cumbersome for eCommerce stores using traditional content management systems.

  2. E-commerce stores

    E-commerce stores use headless CMS to manage their inventory efficiently and quickly. They don’t need to worry about designing their content separately for each channel where they sell their products; they work everything through one platform.

  3. Websites

    Websites can use headless CMS to keep track of their content easily. Website creators don’t have to worry about maintaining separate versions of them for different channels like social media or mobile apps.

    Headless CMS helps them build one site version and then use it on any device. There are no cross-browser compatibility issues or other performance issues with traditional CMS.

  4. Products/Services

    A headless CMS can be used for all sorts of services and products. For example, a hotel website might use a headless CMS to manage its inventory and reservations; an online store could manage orders, and an airline could use it to manage its booking engine.

Top 10 Headless CMS for your business

  1. Contentful

    Contentful offers an API-driven headless CMS by working on it at a central hub, delivering content across as many channels and devices as necessary. Authors can use any smart device to edit their content from anywhere.

    Contentful advertises itself as a headless platform that is pure and that enables marketing teams to publish content on any channel.

  2. Netlify

    Netlify is a platform for deploying and automating web projects. Netlify has built-in support for the most popular static site generators, such as Jekyll, Hugo, GatsbyJS, etc.

    You can hire Gatsby developers from a Gatsby development company. Another option is to get a Gatsby development partner from a Gatsby development agency to leverage it by pairing the web framework with Netlify.

    Netlify developers help you create content more quickly while still enjoying the benefits of flexibility and security offered by static site generators. Furthermore, Netlify is affordable and straightforward to use. You can hire Netlify developers from a Netlify development company.

  3. Strapi

    Strapi is an open-source headless CMS that offers seamless content creation and distribution. You can hire a Strapi development partner from a Strapi development company that can build a website with this self-hosted content management system without any prior scripting experience.

    Because it is 100% JavaScript and very customizable, Strapi aids developers in completing projects more quickly. In addition, a user-friendly interface helps marketing teams distribute material more quickly.

  4. Ghost

    Although Ghost’s initial architecture resembled a typical monolithic web application, it has since evolved into a fully headless CMS that works with any front-end you connect it to. It has a front end and an admin client by default. You can replace them with your JAMstack.

    You can hire a ghost development partner from a ghost development company to publish content and grow your business around it.

  5. Storyblok

    Storyblok greatly assists in communicating your story and managing information for all use cases, including corporate websites, e-commerce, help desks, mobile apps, and screen displays.

    Storyblok is a headless CMS combined with a Visual Editor that helps developers, marketers, and content editors. Storyblok features contemporary headless architecture with the user interface of a page builder. This allows Storyblok development partner flexibility and the editor a user-friendly, self-explanatory interface.

    You can hire a Storyblok developer from a Storyblok development company thatโ€™ll help you get better content experiences with cross-platform distribution.

  6. Sanity

    Sanity is one of the top headless CMSs that gives designers a quick iteration cycle. It keeps developers out of the design process while providing regular updates of production code.

    Real-time collaboration, personalized editing settings, and practical previews are just a few of the features offered by an industry-leading headless CMS. Because Sanity sees content as data, businesses can utilize its APIs to distribute material among other platforms.

  7. Agility CMS

    Agility CMS wants to be the fastest and best headless CMS available. Developers can work more quickly, thanks to the freedom provided by this content platform. In the meantime, marketing teams can control the content across many platforms.

    Agility CMS gives editors the tools they need to reuse content, interact with authoring capabilities, and accomplish more without the aid of developers.

  8. GraphCMS

    Your editorial and development teams will have total independence with the GraphQL native Headless CMS. From an editorial perspective, it is similar to other CMSs, but because it effortlessly integrates with all frameworks, including React, Gatsby, and Vue, it is the best option for developers.

  9. Butter CMS

    Another API-driven headless CMS is Butter CMS. The platform has a number of features, including a user dashboard, customizable content modeling, support for several sizes, content updates, and webhooks.

    You can use a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface to interact with this content management system. This feature lets developers view the final product’s appearance while the document is being modified.

  10. Directus

    Directus is an open-source platform that offers a user-friendly admin UI for managing content and covers custom SQL databases through a dynamic API.

    Your database schema is mirrored by its API, which gives you total control over the design and optimizations. All Directus software is available without charge under the GPLv3 license.

How can SolGuruz help with the Headless CMS Development?

If you are looking for headless CMS developers in India, then you have come to the right place. SolGuruz is a leading headless CMS development partner to multiple companies.

We have a team of highly skilled and experienced developers who can help you create a customized headless CMS system that will meet your business requirements.

SolGuruz offers three different hiring models:

  1. Monthly contract basis

    In this model, you sign a contract and pay a fixed monthly amount to the headless CMS developers. You’re not charged extra if they get more work done in the month.

    This model is best suited for medium and large businesses that want to develop their website monthly.

  2. Hourly model

    In this model, you’re charged an hourly rate for every hour that developers spend working on your project.

    Developers are paid based on their hours each month, so it’s suitable for small businesses that want to develop their websites at an affordable price.

  3. Projects basis

    In this model, you’re charged based on how much work you do for them. There are no fixed charges or minimum commitments here. It is up to you how much work you require from the developer, and you will pay him based on that work.

FAQs

Is headless CMS good for SEO?

Headless CMS is good for SEO because it allows search engines to crawl and index your site more easily. Headless CMS works well when preparing for omni channel queries across different devices.

Is Strapi faster than WordPress?

Strapi is faster compared to WordPress. The installation takes less than two minutes, and the admin panel does not refresh after saving. When compared, WordPress is substantially slower than Strapi to offer the identical thing. The technology on which WordPress and Strapi are based is the cause.

What is the most popular headless CMS?

The answer is Sanity, which has been around since 2016. Itโ€™s the most popular solution for building websites using headless technology and has a growing community of developers and agencies who use it as their go-to platform.

What can a headless CMS be used for?

A headless CMS can be used to power any website or app. It is the backbone of most modern websites and apps and allows information to be stored in one place and used across different platforms.

Why is it called headless CMS?

Headless CMS is a term used to describe content management systems (CMS) that lack a front-end interface. Instead, they expose data to other applications via APIs.

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Written by

Paresh Mayani

Paresh is a Co-Founder and CEO at SolGuruz, who has been exploring the software industry's horizon for over 15 years. With extensive experience in mobile, Web and Backend technologies, he has excelled in working closely with startups and enterprises. His expertise in understanding tech has helped businesses achieve excellence over the long run. He believes in giving back to the society, and with that he has founded a community chapter called "Google Developers Group Ahmedabad", he has organised 100+ events and have delivered 150+ tech talks across the world, he has been recognized as one of the top 10 highest reputation points holders for the Android tag on Stack Overflow. At SolGuruz, we believe in delivering a combination of technology and management. Our commitment to quality engineering is unwavering, and we never want to waste your time or ours. So when you work with us, you can rest assured that we will deliver on our promises, no matter what.

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