Headless CMS

Updated Sep 25, 2022webdevheadlesscmslists

Traditional CMSs like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla have been around for so long that many teams are familiar with them and many websites are already be running on them.

A traditional CMS is responsible for both the backend management of content, and serving that content to end users. These things are tightly integrated. WordPress and Drupal now also support a decoupled mode which adds APIs on top to serve content.

Headless CMS is a API-first content management software that enables writers to produce and organize content, while providing developers with structured data that can be displayed using a separate system on the frontend of a website or app.

There are insane numbers of headless CMS out there with different quality and pricing, fully open-source and availalbe for self-hosted, or just a service on the cloud. This post only focuses on popular solutions.

Name GitHub Known For
Strapi 40k fully customizable, developer-first
Ghost 38.4k excellent built-in SEO options
Netlify CMS 14.5k git-based content
Directus 12.1k wraps any SQL database with a real-time API
Tina 6.6k visual editing experience for content stored in Markdown and JSON
Sanity 2.7k collaborate in real-time on structured content
Contentful N/A most common headless CMS used with Gatsby
Prismic N/A integrates with every frontend frameworks
DatoCMS N/A friendly, secure and powerful platform
Hygraph N/A first-class GraphQL content APIs

Choosing a Headless CMS

The headless CSS is also called as API-first CMS, content platform, content hubs, or even content-as-a-service. When you take a closer look, they all pretty much boil down to some database backend with a web-based user interface, and content made accessible through an API.

<Headless CMS> -------------> [Content API, Image API, Video API]
      ↑                                              |
      |                                              ↓
[Developer, Marketer, Copywriter]        [Website, Chatbot, Apps]

Deciding to use a headless CMS is one thing. It’s another thing to know how to choose the right one. There are several things to consider when choosing a headless CMS to work with:

  • Ease of use (setup, admin dashboard)
  • Content APIs (RESTful, GraphQL)
  • SEO friendly (URLs, titles, descriptions, covers)
  • Editing experience (roles, permissions)
  • Starter templates and themes
  • Internalization and localization support
  • Extensibility and plugins
  • Image optimization and manipulation
  • Customer support and training
  • What payment plans are available

Compared to the traditional approach, headless CMS is a relatively new technology. The CMS you plan to choose should be developed enough to have the essential features needed to meet your business needs.