Headless CMS: The guide to your headless content management system

12.06.2023
by Meike Müller
E-Commerce
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A headless content management system is a great way for many companies to better manage and distribute their content. Not only is the work of content creators simplified, but developers are also relieved of a lot of work. In this post, you'll learn everything you need to know about headless CMS, the benefits of making the switch, the different systems on the market, and much more!

Reading time 5 min

What to expect in this article:

 

  1. What is a headless CMS?
    1. Who is a headless CMS suitable for?
    2. The advantages of a headless CMS
  2. Which Headless CMS are available?
  3. Our conclusion
  4. FAQ: Questions and answers about the Headless CMS
    1. What is Headless Wordpress?
    2. Why Headless?
    3. When should I use a headless CMS?

What is a Headless CMS?

To be able to define a Headless CMS, let's first look at just the "CMS". CMS stands for Content Management System, which can be translated as "content management system" in German. It is a software that is usually used by businesses, educational institutions or online media to create, edit, organize and publish content. The advantage about a CMS is that no programming skills are needed to maintain online content on blogs or websites. A CMS usually provides a user-friendly interface that allows users to easily create, edit and format content. It allows content and design to be separated, so users can change the content of a website without affecting the appearance or structure of the website itself. This makes it easier to update and maintain websites.

A headless CMS is effectively the newest and most advanced version of a content management system. Unlike a traditional CMS, which manages both the creation and presentation of content, a headless CMS focuses solely on delivering content through an API (application programming interface). In fact, in a headless CMS, content is stored completely independent of presentation or output. Thus, content is not held in a pre-built template or page structure, but is managed as structured data in a back-end system and delivered via an API. This gives developers the freedom to display and present the content on different platforms and devices (e.g. websites, mobile apps, IoT devices), without any restrictions imposed by the CMS.

Who is a headless CMS suitable for?

A headless CMS is worthwhile for all companies and employees who want to create content and play it out and present it on different platforms. Nowadays it is important for companies in every industry to have a digital presence. For this reason, it is impossible to narrow down who does not need a headless CMS, for example. However, we have briefly compiled which groups of people could definitely benefit from a headless content management system if they integrate it into their business processes.

A headless CMS is used by the following people, among others:

  • Developers who want to have full control over how content is displayed and presented. They can retrieve the content through an API and display it in different front-end technologies or platforms. Developers have the freedom to create custom solutions and customize the content as per the specific requirements.
  • Content and marketing staff who want to publish content efficiently across multiple channels and platforms. They can customize the content to meet the needs of the target audience and create personalized experiences without depending on the limitations of a specific CMS platform.
  • App developers who want to create mobile apps and applications and integrate content on a regular basis. They can access content through an API and display it in the app, making it easier to update and manage content.
  • Digital agencies and their staff who create digital apps and website for their clients can also make use of a headless CMS to manage diverse content regardless of display and create a customized user experience.
  • Individuals with advanced technical skills who want to create their own custom website or application can also benefit from a headless CMS. They have the flexibility to customize the architecture and technologies according to their own preferences and requirements.

In addition, we have also noted for you the situations for which a headless CMS is ideal:

  • Multi-channel content presentation is made easier with a headless CMS. This means that different channels and devices can be used to present it. Content can be reused on websites, mobile apps, social media, IoT devices, and other platforms, among others.
  • Companies that already have an existing technology infrastructure, such as their own front-end architecture or existing APIs, can benefit from a headless CMS. They can use the CMS to manage and deliver content through their existing infrastructure rather than changing their entire architecture.
  • Headless CMSs are also popular in the e-commerce space. This allows content to be integrated into online stores, but also played out on other sales platforms.
  • Personalization and A/B testing: With a headless CMS, developers can more easily implement personalized content and A/B testing. Since the presentation layer is independent of the CMS, different versions of content can be tested and personalized experiences can be created for users.

Of course, there are many more use cases for which a headless CMS is suitable. Our featured situations are just a selection of the most popular cases where using the Headless CMS makes sense.

Headless CMS: The advantages

Using a headless CMS has many advantages. We would like to present them to you here. Of course, a headless content management system also has a few challenges. But we will discuss these later. First of all, let's talk about the many advantages of a headless CMS:

  • With a headless CMS, you're technically independent because you don't have to tie yourself to a specific technology. Furthermore, you are not bound to any frontend framework.
  • Furthermore, one advantage is that you can distribute all content on different platforms without having to pay attention to the presentation of the content. So you are completely flexible. Furthermore, you can easily reuse content, as it can be easily adapted to the different channels.
  • Since you separate backend and frontend, you can also scale better and prepare for growing data volumes and traffic. Performance is also better with a headless CMS. Content can be delivered directly to the end user via APIs, which can lead to better performance and loading speed.
  • Third-party system integration is easy. Since APIs are used you can easily integrate other systems like CRM, e-commerce platforms or marketing automation tools. Data can be seamlessly exchanged between different systems.
  • Another plus is that collaboration between multiple teams is made much easier with a headless content management system. Developers can focus on creating the front end, while content creators can manage and update content independently.

What headless CMSs are available?

A number of headless CMSs exist on the market that are suitable for different requirements and industries. All of these content management systems come with advantages and disadvantages, which of course we don't want to deprive you of. For this reason, we have gathered all the important information that could be crucial for choosing your headless CMS.

Directus

Directus is an open source CMS, which is suitable for projects with a customized database. Version 9 was implemented in the programming language Javascript. For integration into your company, you only need a node server and a classic database.

Directus Advantages Directus disadvantages
  • Is always up to date, because all data is retrieved directly from the database
  • There is a comment function in the CMS for internal notes
  • Rollbacks are easily possible. So no data can be lost.
  • Any SQL database can be transformed into an API or a no-code app.
  • There is always a preview
  • No-code dashboards and analytics can be easily created from the data
  • Developers should be familiar with scripting language
  • CMS is designed for developers, without developers implementation is very difficult

 

Contentful

This headless CMS focuses mainly on content and backend and is an API-first platform that allows to manage and create digital content. The company has a headquarters in Berlin, among other locations.

Contentful Advantages Contentful Disadvantages
  • Suitable for beginners
  • Developers have the ability to manage content through APIs and use their preferred programming language
  • Content can also be created in a web app
  • Content is easily discoverable, accessible and can be reused. It then doesn't matter what it is or where it is to be published
  • You can request a demo and register first for free
  • API-First Architecture
  • Customized interfaces, for example for Dropbox integration, etc.
  • Role-based access management
  • Content can be created at any time and from any device
  • Developers need to take care of functionality themselves
  • Knowledge of content modeling is important for workflow
  • Some things cannot be implemented with the modular system when it comes to layout

 

prismic.io

Prismic is a SaaS-based headless content management system that has been around since 2013. With Prismic you have the possibility to create an app and/or website, which is very modern due to the use of GraphQL as a query language.

prismic.io advantages prismic.io disadvantages
  • Easy installation and setup without spending much time
  • Multilingual for better coverage
  • Preview is available during content creation
  • User-friendly operation through drag and drop
  • Headless website builder allows fast work and development of websites
  • For developers, marketers and agencies a super solution for fast website creation
  • Prismic allows two ways for website and content creation: developers use "Slice Machine" and marketers use "Page Builder
  • Not to be used without developers despite the easy installation

 

Magnolia CMS

Magnolia CMS is a java-based headless CMS solution that is available as a free open-source variant, but also as a self-hosted and cloud version. Magnolia CMS is worthwhile for the technical department as well as the marketing department of a company.

Magnolia CMS Advantages Magnolia CMS disadvantages
  • Works with frontend frameworks like React, Angular and Vue
  • Access to content from other systems is native
  • Authors and editors can work independently, even without help from developers
  • A demo can be booked and there are demo videos as well
  • Magnolia CMS is well suited for e-commerce
  • Content can be created once and is then ready for publishing on different channels. There is preview, personalization options and contextual editing
  • Can be connected to any system from legacy to API-first
  • Implementation requires developers
  • Only basic functionality is included in what is called Native Digital Asset Management

 

Strapi

Strapi has been under development since 2015 and is based on the Node,js framework (javascript). It is an open source headless CMS that is available on GitHub.

Strapi Advantages Strapi Disadvantages
  • User-friendly admin area, can be flexibly customized and extended.
  • Has a robust API
  • Can be integrated with all frameworks
  • Self-hosted or cloud headless CMS depending on your needs.
  • There is also a live demo that can be tested
  • Drag and drop does not always work well with images

 

Butter CMS

Founded in Chicago in 2014, Butter CMS works for both individual freelancers working for different clients and businesses ranging from small startups to large enterprises.

Butter CMS Advantages Butter CMS disadvantages
  • Suitable for businesses and agencies
  • Multi-channel: For SaaS, e-commerce and marketplaces
  • Transfer of data from old CMS to headless CMS is possible without any problems
  • There is an integrated blog function, so using Wordpress is not necessary
  • Suitable for any technology stack, as there is a global API
  • Scaling, maintenance and security is handled by Butter CMS
  • Butter CMS also offers support
  • 30-day free trial is possible
  • SEO functions are also available
  • User interface needs improvement
  • Frequently used templates are not displayed

 

What are the challenges of implementing a headless commerce system?

If you want to implement a headless CMS, this is definitely a good decision. You will be able to simplify many work processes in your daily work. However, the implementation also involves some challenges, which can be mastered. If you have problems or don't trust yourself to integrate the Headless CMS, you know who you can turn to.

We would now like to briefly explain the challenges so that you can prepare yourself for what to expect:

  • Since a headless content management system consists of a separate frontend and backend, you need to connect them during implementation so that they can communicate with each other via APIs. For this architectural complexity, you need a good understanding of the systems' data flow.
  • You'll also need to integrate data from different sources, of course, so that you're always up to date in the CMS. For this reason, you need to know how to pull data from, for example, the product system, the merchandise management system, or the payment provider.
  • You also need to build an API so that it is flexible, but also secure. Developing a well-structured and powerful API is therefore crucial.
  • Later on, when scaling your CMS, you will of course need to know how to handle higher traffic and what adjustments you need to make.
  • You should also have enough knowledge that you can always maintain your headless system and adapt it to technical innovations.

We will be happy to help you set up your headless CMS for your company. We will be happy to meet your individual needs and integrate third-party systems for you, to make your professional life as pleasant and efficient as possible. Feel free to contact our experts directly by phone or via our contact form. We look forward to helping you and supporting you with our expertise!

 

Our conclusion

Overall, headless content management systems are always practical for those who don't want to be tied to a front-end. However, they do provide some features that make it easier to distribute content on different platforms. In principle, a headless CMS is interesting for all companies that want to manage and create content while keeping the upper hand. Which headless CMS is the best solution for your business is not something we can answer in general terms. The different options all have advantages and disadvantages that you have to weigh up individually for you and your company. However, we are happy to assist you before you make a decision.

 

 

FAQ: Questions and answers about Headless CMS

We hope you got a good overview of the Headless Content Management System. Finally, we have a few frequently asked questions that we will answer for you. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact our team of experts by phone. We'll be happy to help you out!

  • What is Headless Wordpress?

    Headless WordPress is an architecture where WordPress is used as a headless content management system. In the traditional WordPress approach, both content management and presentation are handled by the WordPress backend. Headless WordPress, on the other hand, uses WordPress exclusively for content management, while content presentation is handled by a separate front-end technology or platform.

     

    In the headless model, WordPress exposes content through an API, such as the REST API or the GraphQL API. Developers can then use this API to embed the content in any front-end technology, whether it's a single-page application (SPA), a mobile app, a Progressive Web App (PWA), or another platform.

     

    Some advantages of Headless WordPress are:

     

    1. flexibility: the Headless architecture allows developers to display WordPress content on different platforms and devices, taking advantage of modern front-end technologies.

    2. Scalability: since the presentation layer of WordPress is separate, the system can better scale to large amounts of data and high traffic demands.

    3. ease of use: content editors can continue to use the familiar and user-friendly WordPress interface to create and manage content, while developers can focus on front-end implementation.

    4. reusability: content managed in WordPress can be reused on different platforms, saving time and effort in content creation.

     

    It is important to note that Headless WordPress requires an advanced technical implementation and usually requires more developer skills than the traditional WordPress approach. However, it offers great flexibility and allows businesses to showcase WordPress content in innovative and customized ways.

  • Why Headless?

    There are several reasons why businesses choose the headless content management approach:

     

    1. presentation flexibility: With a headless CMS, content can be presented across multiple platforms and devices, including websites, mobile apps, voice assistants, digital displays, and IoT devices. Decoupling content and presentation allows organizations to customize content in a variety of contexts and optimize the user experience for different audiences and channels.

    2. better performance: because the presentation layer is separate from back-end management, a headless CMS can focus on content delivery, which can lead to better performance and loading speed. Content can be delivered directly to the end user via an API without the need to handle additional layers or templates in the backend.

    3. technology independence: with a headless CMS, companies are not tied to a specific technology or front-end framework. Developers have the freedom to choose the technologies and frameworks that best fit the needs of the project. This enables the use of modern tools and technologies to create the best user experiences.

    4. scalability and future-proofing: a headless CMS offers high scalability and future-proofing as it can easily handle increasing traffic and new technologies. Organizations can add new channels and platforms without impacting the backend infrastructure.

    5. Personalization and A/B testing: Headless CMS enable easier implementation of personalized content and A/B testing. Using APIs and front-end technologies, content can be dynamically customized based on user data and preferences to deliver personalized experiences.

    6. Easy integration with third-party systems: Using a headless CMS facilitates integration with other third-party systems such as CRM, ERP, e-commerce platforms, or marketing automation tools. By using APIs, data can be seamlessly exchanged between different systems.

  • When should you use a headless CMS?

    A headless CMS is suitable in the following cases, for example:

     

    - Multi-channel presentation of content

    - Customization of the user experience

    - Technological flexibility in the choice of front-end technologies

    - Scalability and performance requirements

    - Integration with third-party systems

    - Projects managed by experienced developers

     

    But of course, you should always weigh whether it makes sense in your individual situation to integrate a headless content management system. Also, it may be that in other cases than those mentioned above, it is beneficial to work with a headless CMS.

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Meike
Meike
from 12.06.2023

Hello, my name is Meike. I take care of the EXWE back office and am responsible for our social media channels. All of our articles are meant to make your life easier and help you make decisions. Nevertheless, it can happen that something remains unclear, so: If you have questions about this article you can easily reach me at +49 231 93149827.

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