The Beginners Guide to Headless CMS (What is it and is it Worth it?)

A CMS (Content Management System) is the backbone of a website’s content. A CMS is used to create, edit and publish content on a website using a back-end system. Most CMSs are created with user-friendly intent so those without specialised developing skills can still maintain and run a website. 

headless CMS, however, is exactly what it sounds like — a CMS without a front-end, or, head. It is purely a back-end system that lets your content be presented in a different way by separating it from the front-end.

What are the benefits of a headless CMS?

Headless CMSs are fairly new approaches and additions to the CMS world and are designed to be a lot more customisable and scalable for the user. A headless CMS can be hosted on a cloud server or on your own server and is essentially a repository of information — just like a traditional CMS — but without the built-in front-end applications. The ultimate advantage it offers — its flexibility — can be explained better with the addition of APIs.

When you create content on a headless CMS, you’re actually creating data that can be used with APIs. These can then be sent to various heads — or, front-ends.  Using APIs, the information you input into the backend can be taken and adapted to whatever situation on the — these can be websites on various devices or even different digital experiences. This essentially separates the two parts of a traditional CMS — the front and backend.

Traditional CMS Vs. Headless CMS

The biggest allure of a traditional CMS (such as WordPress) is that it’s an all-in-one package that is easy to set up and use. Anyone can really use it. You can log in to the backend, write an article, view how it will look on the front-end and then publish it.

A headless CMS is not as simple to use but will give you a lot more scope and scalability — and most of that concerns the use of APIs and how they can be used to embed the information from your headless CMS into several front-ends across multiple digital experiences and platforms.

This flexibility allows developers and designers to work collaboratively in tandem as opposed to one of them waiting for the other to finish so they can start the next phase. Because a headless CMS is solely a backend, it is also much faster to use because it doesn’t have to render anything.

Additionally, it gives developers further versatility as they can work with front-end languages that they’re more comfortable with — whether they be JavaScript or PHP, for example. Headless CMSs also have smaller attack surfaces when compared to traditional CMS’ — resulting in a more secure backend.

A headless CMS is not for everyone, but for businesses where information is perpetually changing and must be updated rapidly — a headless CMS is a scalable solution worth considering.