Explaining Headless CMS in just 4 minutes

What is CMS?

The Content Management System (CMS) is the simplest app-based platform for website development that can be used by tech and non-tech individuals. CMS has been long known for the development of fully dynamic websites that have a visual editor to manage front-end and back-end all at the same time. The most commonly used CMS is WordPress that helps in managing the website content and design from an easy to use the visual editor.

The idea of headless CMS emerged keeping in view the speed and security factor while managing all in one platform. Headless CMS is a back-end only CMS that has been separated from the presentation layer i.e. front-end.  It shows that the functionalities of CMS like storage, creation and management have been separated from the user interface like those in the themes. The solutions that have been decoupled are a perfect description of Jamstack Architecture.

Why was headless CMS required?

Building websites has been a matter of a few minutes through the no-code website builders for individuals and businesses. The websites could be managed through visual editors by adding up a theme and some plugins supporting the desired functionalities. If you keep on increasing the functionalities on the website to fulfil your individual or business requirements your website may get slower and more complex in managing. The images and the videos you have uploaded on your website will take some time in loading at the client interface which may annoy the visitors and they leave without viewing it completely.

Furthermore, the usage of mobile devices also increased when people shifted to tabs and mobiles from desktop computers. The sufferings of the traditional content management systems started here where the websites built on CMS started to fail due to the monolithic structure of the web development architecture. Two major benefits of using headless CMS are mentioned below;

  • The content can be delivered for display on any other device that is not attached permanently to the front-end.
  • Content from a centralized management platform can be rendered for multiple platforms.

Salient Features of Headless CMS

Headless CMS has been loaded with many features that make it simple and modern at the same time by adding cost efficiency and speed to its products.

  • The headless CMS provides pure content that can be used to build any application in any display style and any device. This makes the headless CMS rendering for multiple channels.
  • Although it doesn’t sound as simple as it is, the Jamstack technology saves some great expense for the business or individual through microservice feature based on decoupled back and front end.
  • It saves time because the front-end and back-end team are working at the same time and in parallel without creating any disturbance. The product web application or website can be published sooner saving time and money.The back-end is compatible with multiple platforms so a content placed at a single place can be published on multiple devices and forums.
  • The designing and re-designing can be changed anytime because the content and database are on a different platform and the front-end is only responsible for the user interface.
  • The process of deployment is easy and simple keeping the idea of pushing the back-end to SSG through a repository system.

These can also be considered as the benefits of using headless CMS and integrating it with a different front-end for not only building websites but also applications. Irrespective of your profession and technical knowledge you can develop your perspective of headless CMS and Jamstack technology.

Difference Between Traditional and Headless CMS

The structural difference between traditional CMS and headless CMS is the head or the front-end display or client interface. When you are using headless CMS, the headrests at a static site generator or another platform that is continuously maintaining and developing the front-end by making it visibly better and error-free. Whereas the traditional CMS has an approach of developing an all-in-one platform making it slower and monolithic. The features and enhancements being published frequently have been slowing down the monolithic architecture-based websites as mentioned earlier. It works as a benefit on one hand where the user doesn’t have to bother about the new stack developments being working on the back-end and just have to install updates.      

Some of the benefits of using Headless CMS are;

  • Using CMS is the traditional and classic source of website development that is a commonly used platform for everyone managing multiple tasks on a well-aware platform.
  • Choosing a technology that may suit your requirements may be a lengthy task as it involves a lot of research, brainstorming, technical knowledge while the CMS used as headless saves your time, resource and cost.
  • Your front-end developers can work on a separate and advanced platform rather than sticking to a structure where they have limited options for designs.
  • The headless CMS approach helps you in managing multiple devices using one platform and technology.
  • The headless CMS has been based on Jamstack technology that is based on the micro-services structure that provides benefits like speed, security and scalability.

The role of headless WordPress

For many reasons the WordPress CMS has become an obvious choice for businesses and individuals as it is the top-ranked CMS for almost 15 years. However, the new emerging trend of the decoupled approach of website development made WordPress headless for connecting with other platforms and static site generators to remain the market leader. In this scenario, WordPress had to leave behind the templating and the theming functionality and become a content API manager.

This feature makes headless WordPress a part of the Jamstack community by hosting REST APIs and other back-end support. Some CMS are based on NodeJS that also require hosting location or server, just like WordPress that is based on PHP. But from a user’s point of view, the headless CMS either based on PHP or NodeJS is the endpoint of APIs.

Technical and non-technical view for Headless

The technical and non-technical people do not think alike, mostly the non-technical people in the field of website development are the businesses who are more focused toward the sales and other business operational matters and they do not bother to get into any detail of the platform or the approach. While on the other hand techies are more inclined towards the programming language, and architecture. Any standardized CMS would be a great fit for those who work as bloggers, copywriters with a visual editor showing any change on the front end instantly. If they choose to move to a more stable technical architecture where they have separate interfaces for management and view, they might be reluctant or feel the use of some coding unaware of the fact that no development background is required for developing modern stack website like that on Jamstack technology using headless WordPress and Gatsby SSG.

While on the other hand, the developers, consultants, product owners and other technical people know the content system having the external APIs for building applications for headless CMS. The APIs used within headless WordPress have greater control over the back-end along with the content management while other APIs have lesser control. The people who have more knowledge about the programming language can have better readability on the coding language and technique.    

Benefits of Headless CMS from User’s Vision

There are different people and industries seeking webs solutions and they all have their requirements, reservations and comments. Their list of benefits has been built through their experience, market survey and business vision. Most of the tie, it’s the product owner who is looking into all the benefits but some other team members are also part of this;

Marketing Team

The marketing team is mostly worried about the SEO based content being available once on the front-end and require their website to be SEO friendly and rank higher in google. They are not one of the tech people who realize the design issues subject to the content they are delivering. So, they have a separate visual editor for maintaining content and changing it frequently.

Development Team

The development team can be divided into front-end and back-end independently with no restrictions involved for the stack and limitations of integration. Since there is no obstacle in using programming language so they are open for back-end and front-end. The front-end developers can create beautiful interfaces on their own choice of programming tool and libraries.

Designing Team

Another important team member involved in the product development is the designers who are looking at the best vision of the user interface regardless of framework, technology and content. The design team need beautiful animated images and videos to be available on the user interface making each colour and text speak for itself. So, they have open ground for creating the design of their dreams.

Team Beneficiaries – The End-User

How can we ignore who we are making all this for? The ultimate beneficiary of this modern stack development is the users and visitors, they experience fast and responsive website and apps. They can view their page without missing any content or information on any device they use, either desktop, tabs or mobile devices.

Working of Headless CMS

You may wonder if you do not have a presentation layer how would you idealize your content view and improve it accordingly? How do they work? How are they connected to the front-end? What if you change something from the back-end, how it will be changed on the presentation layer?

The answer to all these questions lies in the connector that we call APIs and processing of a headless CMS. So here are the simple processing steps of the headless CMS that will answer all your queries and reservations regarding headless CMS.

  1. The content is entered on the headless CMS as of regular practice but it does not show any presentation layer.
  2. APIs, i.e. WP GraphQL in case of WordPress working as a plugin to act as API function, will be exposed to the presentation layer for transferring the data fetched from backend and vice versa. The function of RESTful APIs in case of headless CMS is;
  • Add, Modify and delete any record
  • Get records all or one at a time
  • Build an end-to-end connection between the front and backend
  1. The headless WordPress is managed through its regular visual editor and you can manage without any prior development knowledge for APIs or database management.

The Future of Headless CMS

Everyone urges to collect the content of high quality and changing the content and designs with the changing trends of the business community is more important. The businesses who change with the changing trends grow faster and have a more secure market share. Same goes for the technology trends, we have observed changing technology trends for building websites and developing applications. One stack took over the other with time, research and a lot of working on the drawbacks of the previous one.

It’s not a very long time ago that we were discussing the benefits of Content management systems like WordPress and telling people how they can grow their businesses by building their website based on WordPress CMS. One thing in the discussion didn’t change and that is using WordPress, but it went headless this time to match the needs of Jamstack technology.

The headless CMS is the future for website development along with its integration with Static site generators like GatsbyJS. The modern stack development and revised architectures of the development have improvised the web with several benefits and giving businesses more global customers and other SEO benefits and more control over the businesses. Hence, it can be said the future of the web is brighter with the open community networks working on the improvements of the legacy systems. 

The platforms that have been working on developing Jamstack web solutions are using a variety of CMS like Contentful, Ghost, strapi, netlify CMS, WordPress and many more. Stackground is one the platforms using headless wordpress for developing Jamstack website themes and templates. Many other platforms use different platforms for their frontend and backend, Stackground is the only no-code web development platform using Gatsby as static site generator and WordPress as its headless CMS facilitating the users by using its commonly used platforms.

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