Headless CMS – the key to modern web content management
Creating attractive and user-friendly web pages is important because such sites help fulfill both marketing and business goals. In a rapidly changing information society, a headless content management system is an excellent choice for seamlessly adding and managing content.
2023-11-06 by Sebastian Pikand
Headless CMS – the key to modern web content management
Visually well-thought-out and user-friendly websites are essential.
Creating modern and attractive web pages is crucial, as such websites help to achieve both marketing and business goals. In a rapidly changing information society, digital marketing plays an increasingly important role in promoting businesses.
Content management systems (CMS) play a vital role in this context, as they are related to both web development and design fields. A content management system is a valuable platform for creating and organizing website content, whether it's blog posts, videos, or something else.
Content management systems can broadly be divided into two categories: headless CMS and traditional CMS. Let's take a closer look at both.
Headless CMS as the most modern solution
The characteristic feature of a headless CMS is that content creators have little control over the website's appearance, known as the front-end or head. This is why it's called a "headless CMS." The central role is played by the back-end, where content is created and organized.
To get a better picture, it's useful to compare a headless CMS with a traditional CMS. In a headless CMS, content is created, edited, and organized, but in a traditional CMS, there are also options to design the page – whether it's changing the text size and color, repositioning images, or other similar tasks.
It is predicted that the global headless CMS market will grow significantly between 2022 and 2030. In 2021, the market was estimated to be around $490 million, and the forecast for the period expects a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) increase to 20.5%. It is estimated that by 2027, the market size will grow to $1.5 billion. 1
Differences between headless CMS and traditional CMS
WordPress is probably the most well-known traditional CMS. It’s a platform used to create websites. WordPress allows for both changing the website's appearance and creating content through a single dashboard. This means that front-end and back-end are closely linked. Traditional CMS can be less convenient for developers because they are based on older web development frameworks, which are often less flexible. Therefore, it's more challenging to integrate innovative solutions and new technologies, which can lead to traditional CMS websites becoming outdated, especially when more complex changes are required.
Traditional CMS systems use plugins to add functions to a website (e.g., e-commerce, contact forms, booking systems). However, the abundance of plugins typically slows down the website. Optimizing page loading times for large WordPress websites can be a particularly challenging task, as developers may need to overhaul the system's architecture. Slow-loading pages negatively affect SEO, as Google does not rank slow websites highly and lowers their search results. This, in turn, can adversely impact sales and business.
Headless CMS is entirely based on the back-end and is not limited by rigid frameworks. The key lies in using an Application Programming Interface (API). API connects both to the database and the content management system. In simple terms, API is like a query that results in displaying a web page with the corresponding appearance to the visitor. Because the front-end and back-end are separated, developers can work comfortably with both.
In a traditional CMS, the front-end and back-end are closely linked, which means that issues on one side can affect the other – such as slowing down the page loading speed. In a headless CMS, the likelihood of errors is significantly lower because the front-end and back-end do not affect each other. Therefore, a headless CMS is a more secure choice, allowing easy scalability and changes to the site because the design architecture is not dependent on the back-end. Additionally, a headless CMS is more resilient against attacks, such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS).
Websites using a headless CMS are exceptionally fast as they employ various modern technological solutions:
Rendering methods, such as Server-Side Rendering (SSR).
Static Site Generation (SSG).
It's essential to highlight static HTML page generation, as it allows building a page using data and templates before displaying it to visitors. Therefore, static HTML websites load very quickly in browsers.
Hosting a headless CMS
Headless CMS hosting primarily involves implementing software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. Content and data are stored in the cloud, and application programming interfaces (APIs) are developed for their access and processing. Some CMS providers allow users to host their systems on their own servers and databases, which increases responsibilities in operations and management.
How to choose the right headless CMS based on project specifics?
The larger the company, the more complex headless CMS may be needed. However, headless CMS is also suitable for smaller projects. One of the significant advantages of a headless CMS is its ability to evolve and expand the project's architecture over time while maintaining full SEO friendliness.
Some well-known headless CMS platforms include ButterCMS and Strapi.io.
ButterCMS – fast and secure content management
ButterCMS is a popular content management system designed specifically for developers and companies that need to manage websites quickly and conveniently. ButterCMS stands out from other content management systems with its easily integratable APIs, dynamic content creation, and user-friendly interface. ButterCMS uses SaaS hosting, and content is stored in the cloud.
The creators of ButterCMS have emphasized security and performance, ensuring that websites operate smoothly and are protected against cyber threats.
Strapi.io – highly flexible and customizable content management
Strapi.io is a versatile and powerful open-source content management system that allows for flexible management of web content. Strapi.io is known for its extensive customization options.
Since Strapi is an open-source, self-hosted content management system, it provides full control over servers and databases. However, this also means that Strapi requires more technical knowledge and skills.
WordPress – combining with a Headless CMS
Although WordPress is a traditional content management system, it can be combined with various other technologies, using WordPress solely for content management. Other technologies can be used for building the website, such as Next.js and Vercel, which enables the creation of fast and dynamic websites. Next.js is a popular web development framework, and Vercel is a hosting service that works well with Next.js. This approach is becoming increasingly popular because it allows maintaining the simplicity of WordPress without sacrificing website speed.
Strengths and advantages of headless CMS
Taking the above into consideration, headless CMS platforms offer several advantages, which are described in more detail below.
Excellent user experience
The most significant advantage of a headless CMS is the convenience in content creation. There is no need to edit content in multiple places, ensuring a consistent user experience across different devices and screens. Additionally, the structure can be increased over time if the need arises.
API-based or Git-based approaches allow developers to choose a programming language without being limited to specific frameworks or technologies.
Fast and smooth development process
Platform-specific restrictions are absent, making website development more manageable. This allows the seamless integration of various external systems and technological solutions.
Scalability as the business grows
Headless content management systems allow gradual system complexity growth. Adding new functionality, subpages, or other digital elements is simple, as is restructuring content.
Headless content management systems automatically manage software and component updates, saving time and money. This enables developers and marketers to focus on creating a user-friendly experience.
Moving away from PHP systems
Secure development process
Headless content management systems provide excellent support and encourage developers to use various frameworks and open-source APIs without compromising security. This simplifies experimenting with new and unique solutions.
Limitations and constraints of headless content management systems
While headless content management systems offer many advantages, they also come with certain limitations.
As more components are added to a headless content management system, the system's structure can become more complex. This may require additional resources, such as hiring an experienced development team or increasing workload.
Visual content limitations
Since the back-end and front-end are separated, editing the presentation of visual content is not as flexible. In other words, there is a lack of dynamism. For example, it may be challenging, if not impossible, to change the size and layout of elements.
When using headless content management systems, separate fees are incurred for the presentation layer (front-end). This can make the design, creation, and management of a project more expensive. The more components added to the system, the higher the development costs.
Optimizing content for SEO in headless content management systems
Traditional content management systems are closely tied to a specific website domain and control how content is rendered. This makes it easy to add plugins to modify titles, descriptions, and other meta tags to ensure website SEO-friendliness. In headless content management systems, the method of rendering content is not directly determined, so SEO optimization needs to be approached differently. However, the principles remain the same: optimizing image sizes, structuring text with well-organized heading hierarchies, and so on. The functionality for SEO may vary depending on the specific headless content management system. Some headless content management systems are designed with a strong focus on SEO, such as ButterCMS, Strapi, Contentful, and Ghost. These systems make it easy to create extremely SEO-friendly websites, so achieving a perfect 100-point score is not a problem. In fact, better SEO-friendliness is one of the advantages of headless content management systems that encourage users to transition from traditional platforms like WordPress.
Headless content management system as an excellent choice
In summary, headless content management systems offer several advantages, including a great user experience, a fast and flexible development process, scalability, and automated updates. These systems also allow for a smoother transition from older PHP systems and easier integration of modern solutions. However, headless content management systems come with some drawbacks, including complexity, limitations on visual content creation, and increased financial costs. Optimizing content in headless content management systems requires a slightly different approach than in traditional systems but enables the creation of highly SEO-friendly websites. Headless content management systems are becoming increasingly popular and can be an excellent choice for both large and small businesses.
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