Headless CMS

Updated Sep 25, 2022#webdev#headless#cms#lists

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.