Headless CMS: What is it and should my business use it?
Monolithic CMS architecture has been the standard for years, but companies are now looking for increased security, performance and scalability provided by a headless CMS. Should you adopt this new approach to content management? Or stick with a monolithic system? Let’s dive right in and find out.
What is a Headless CMS?
So, what is a headless cms? Well, the “head” relates to where your content ends up, and the “body” is where your content is stored and authored. A headless CMS is a type of content management system that provides an alternative to authoring content over a traditional monolithic CMS, the CMS or “body” is decoupled from the presentation layer “head”. Content that is stored in a headless CMS is delivered via APIs and can be displayed across different devices simultaneously.
Headless vs Monolithic
A monolithic or traditional CMS has to be self managed, or managed on a server environment. These sort of systems are called monolithic as they pack everything into a single system and only have one context for presenting content, this is usually a webpage; for example, a “What You See Is What You Get” type of interface.
A Headless CMS can have content displayed across multiple devices and platforms at once, without the functionality and assumptions for how you want to work into a single system; giving you more freedom of choice.
There are so many benefits to choosing a Headless CMS over monolithic, here are a few:
The presentation layer is separated from the content meaning developer tools can be changed at any time, and benefit from sending your content to high-performance cloud-based hosting and build services like Vercel.
As mentioned above, your content is completely separate from the presentation layer so it’s a much smaller area of attack.
As a headless CMS doesn’t come bundled with unnecessary features or a requirement for plugins to do the most simple task, so it’s considerably faster than a monolithic CMS. Another added benefit to headless is the ability to create statically generated websites, meaning all the pages are created at build time; no database requests for visitors!
Using the Google PageSpeed Insights tool you can test your website against many parameters including:
- First contentful paint
- Speed index
- Largest contentful paint
- Time to interactive
- Total blocking time
- Max potential first input delay
The benefit of using headless CMS is that it would be hard not to score high with page speed providing the code structure and images are optimised correctly.
Using our own website as an example, with Prismic for content management and React on the front end, our website loads super fast especially as our site is quite image-heavy.
As content from a headless CMS is served over APIs, developers are not limited to what front end they can use. You can also change stacks completely without affecting the CMS.
Use cases for Headless
Headless CMSs are best used for websites and web apps, they integrate seamlessly with static-site generators like Gatsby and Next. Headless can also be implemented with eCommerce sites, for example, it’s possible to integrate headless content with Shopify, WooCommerce or SAP Hybris.
Conclusion - should you be using a headless CMS?
So, should you be using a headless CMS? Well, it depends on your project requirements. We’ve found that most websites can use a headless CMS over their current monolithic system, and the results are night and day; we even built our own website this way using Prismic as the CMS, speed, performance and content editing has improved immensely compared to our previous website using WordPress.
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