What is a headless CMS?
A headless CMS is a back-end only content management system (CMS). It is built as a content repository that makes content accessible via a REST API for display on any device.
In other words, a headless CMS is a content management system, which essentially includes a back-end technology for storing content and an API for connecting to a preferred device and delivering those content data.
A CMS is called “headless” as its “head”, which refers to the front-end or the website, is separated from the “body”, meaning the back-end or the content repository.
Unlike traditional CMS, which includes not only content but also website structure and design, a headless CMS is created to store content in its “pure” format and grant access to other components like delivery front-ends or analytics tools through its APIs. In this case, you manage and control your front-end only with your code.
Image 1. Traditional and headless CMS structure layers;
*Presentation and web delivery layers, site structure, templates, or design.
Among the most common features of a headless CMS are microservice architecture, APIs, multi-channel publishing, admin interface, workflows, user roles and permissions, media library, taxonomy, content types and many more.
Why headless CMS?
Headless CMS allows business to engage their customers with personalized content in every phase of the customer journey. With “pure” content format, it becomes easier and faster to display it on any websites or devices like smartphones, tablets, smartwatches or even virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa. If your business plans to support multiple channels, go headless. If it doesn’t, then it’s better to stay with a traditional CMS.
Another scenario, when you may consider using a headless CMS, is when you don’t have a website but a mobile app or an Apple Watch app. You could simply publish your content without managing content input for those different platforms.
In a traditional CMS, there are plenty of complex relationships between code and content. This is not the case for a headless CMS, which simply uses APIs to render content within the website’s codebase and doesn’t interfere with any CMS code. So, with a headless approach, it’s possible to integrate with any codebase, using any programming language and tools and go through any development process.
Developers claim that with headless CMS it becomes less problematic to take care of content repositories, create and author content, enhance collaboration, and improve workflow. It is also easier to maintain as there is no need for constant version and security updates.
Popular Headless CMS Vendors
About: Contentful is a headless CMS, which enables digital teams to use their favorite frameworks and services to build products for the modern, multi-channel world.
About: Kentico Cloud is a cloud-first Headless CMS for digital agencies and their clients. It allows to provide content to any channel and device through an API. It organizes content in a cloud-based content hub.
About: Directus is a free and open-source headless CMS. It is an API-driven content management framework for custom databases. It decouples content for use in websites, apps, or any other data-driven projects.
About: Prismic.io is a headless, API-first, hosted, proprietary CMS – with a web app for creating and publishing content.
Perch Runway 3
About: Perch Runway 3 is a content management system that can operate in a headless CMS mode. However you can also have the best of both worlds. In many real life situations what you need it is both web content and headless content, which you get right out of the box with Runway 3.
Are you using a headless CMS already or considering to start using one? If you need any help or expert advice, feel free to reach out.