What’s the best headless CMS in 2024?

By Aatu Väisänen

31st March, 2024

Headless CMS isn’t the new kid on the block anymore. The market has matured, the hype train has slowed down considerably, and headless has become a category in itself.  

So, at least in that sense, predictions that said headless would become a multibillion-dollar market became true, and we’re witnessing an explosion of composable services and hundreds of platforms vying for our attention. 

But even in all that noise, a few platforms stand strong and ahead of the curve. So, if you’re shopping for a headless CMS, take a look and find what’s the best one for your use case.

    Table of contents

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Why go headless?

A headless CMS can really streamline your digital operations. Here’s the rundown on why it’s a smart move: With a Headless CMS, you centralize all your content and assets. This setup allows you to distribute your content effortlessly across various platforms—be it websites, mobile apps, or digital billboards—ensuring consistency and ease of management.

  • Streamline content management: A Headless CMS puts all your content in one accessible place, making it easy to publish across different channels. This means less juggling and more efficiency, allowing you to focus on what matters most - creating great content.

  • Flexibility with technology: One of the coolest benefits of a Headless CMS is its freedom when choosing your front-end technology. You're not boxed in whether you’re into React, Vue, or another framework. This flexibility can lead to better performance and a more modern user experience.

  • Boost your security: Separating your content management from the front-end layer adds an extra layer of security. This architecture makes it tougher for potential security threats to exploit your system, giving you peace of mind.

  • User-friendly experience: Traditional CMS platforms can sometimes feel cluttered and cumbersome. A Headless CMS offers a cleaner, more intuitive interface, making content management less of a chore and more of a pleasure. It’s designed to help you get the job done without the fuss.

TL;DR: Pound-for-pound comparison

Feature/PlatformAgilityHygraphSanityDatoPrismicContentfulStoryblok
Core ArchitectureHybrid (Headless with Page Management)GraphQL-nativeFully customizable through open-source backendGraphQL-nativeAPI-basedAPI-firstBlock-based editor
API TypeREST & GraphQLGraphQLREST & GraphQLREST & GraphQLREST & GraphQLREST & GraphQLREST & GraphQL
HostingCloudCloudCloud or self-hostedCloudCloudCloudCloud
Pricing ModelTiered (Free tier available)Tiered (Free tier available)Tiered (Free tier available)Tiered (Free tier available)Tiered (Free tier available)Tiered (Free tier available)Tiered (Free tier available)
Custom Content ModelsYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Real-time CollaborationLimitedYesYesLimitedLimitedLimitedYes
Localization and InternationalizationYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Asset ManagementBasicAdvancedAdvancedAdvancedBasicAdvancedAdvanced
Extensibility (Plugins, Extensions)YesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Tech SupportCommunity & PaidCommunity & PaidCommunity & PaidCommunity & PaidCommunity & PaidCommunity & PaidCommunity & Paid
Ideal Use CaseWebsites with structured content needing page managementProjects requiring complex queries and relationshipsCustomizable projects with unique content needsProjects that benefit from GraphQL's efficiencySimple to medium complexity projectsLarge-scale, enterprise projects with complex content structuresProjects needing a visual editor with block-based content
Feature/PlatformCore Architecture
AgilityHybrid (Headless with Page Management)
HygraphGraphQL-native
SanityFully customizable through open-source backend
DatoGraphQL-native
PrismicAPI-based
ContentfulAPI-first
StoryblokBlock-based editor
Feature/PlatformAPI Type
AgilityREST & GraphQL
HygraphGraphQL
SanityREST & GraphQL
DatoREST & GraphQL
PrismicREST & GraphQL
ContentfulREST & GraphQL
StoryblokREST & GraphQL
Feature/PlatformHosting
AgilityCloud
HygraphCloud
SanityCloud or self-hosted
DatoCloud
PrismicCloud
ContentfulCloud
StoryblokCloud
Feature/PlatformPricing Model
AgilityTiered (Free tier available)
HygraphTiered (Free tier available)
SanityTiered (Free tier available)
DatoTiered (Free tier available)
PrismicTiered (Free tier available)
ContentfulTiered (Free tier available)
StoryblokTiered (Free tier available)
Feature/PlatformCustom Content Models
AgilityYes
HygraphYes
SanityYes
DatoYes
PrismicYes
ContentfulYes
StoryblokYes
Feature/PlatformReal-time Collaboration
AgilityLimited
HygraphYes
SanityYes
DatoLimited
PrismicLimited
ContentfulLimited
StoryblokYes
Feature/PlatformLocalization and Internationalization
AgilityYes
HygraphYes
SanityYes
DatoYes
PrismicYes
ContentfulYes
StoryblokYes
Feature/PlatformAsset Management
AgilityBasic
HygraphAdvanced
SanityAdvanced
DatoAdvanced
PrismicBasic
ContentfulAdvanced
StoryblokAdvanced
Feature/PlatformExtensibility (Plugins, Extensions)
AgilityYes
HygraphYes
SanityYes
DatoYes
PrismicYes
ContentfulYes
StoryblokYes
Feature/PlatformTech Support
AgilityCommunity & Paid
HygraphCommunity & Paid
SanityCommunity & Paid
DatoCommunity & Paid
PrismicCommunity & Paid
ContentfulCommunity & Paid
StoryblokCommunity & Paid
Feature/PlatformIdeal Use Case
AgilityWebsites with structured content needing page management
HygraphProjects requiring complex queries and relationships
SanityCustomizable projects with unique content needs
DatoProjects that benefit from GraphQL's efficiency
PrismicSimple to medium complexity projects
ContentfulLarge-scale, enterprise projects with complex content structures
StoryblokProjects needing a visual editor with block-based content

7 Best headless CMS in 2024

Agility CMS

If you're thinking about moving away from WordPress, Agility CMS is a solid option to consider, especially for larger enterprise websites that handle a lot of content and need a strong content editor.

Agility CMS has improved its tools and processes for migrating content from WordPress, headless WordPress, Drupal, or any traditional CMS. This ensures that your sitemap and asset URLs are effectively preserved, minimizing any negative impact on your site’s SEO and user experience during the switch.

Key benefits of Agility CMS

  • Ideal for: It shines for large web applications and enterprise-level applications, thanks to its straightforward data import capabilities, making it a go-to choice for those moving from WordPress.

  • Compatibility: Agility CMS is designed to integrate well with modern development environments, ensuring developers can work efficiently.

Unique features

  • Sitemap management: One of the standout features of Agility CMS is its sitemap management, which allows easy adjustments to your URL structure with a simple drag-and-drop interface. This is particularly useful for maintaining and updating content for SEO purposes.

  • SEO optimization: Agility CMS is unique among its peers for including comprehensive SEO fields right out of the box, similar to what Yoast offers for WordPress. This is a boon for content editors and marketers aiming to optimize content directly within the CMS.

  • Structured content and SEO: Using Agility CMS means you can improve your site's SEO by integrating structured content and managing pages efficiently, which is key for good SEO performance.

Hygraph

Hygraph is a strong CMS choice for complex projects requiring flexibility and robust features. It streamlines the process of setting up content schemas, editing markdown files, and managing different content types, making it a versatile tool for developers.

Key benefits 

  • Ideal for: Complex web applications that need a lot of flexibility

  • Price range: Free to $799 and up per month, with the cost increasing based on usage

  • Works well with: Vercel, Next.js, and React

Unique features

  • Native GraphQL playground: which is great for getting a clear view of your content schemas. Despite its technical capabilities, it remains user-friendly for content editors, offering straightforward tools for editing schemas and content models.

  • Solid localization capabilities: You can use its localization plugin to create content in multiple languages and present it to visitors based on their location. 

  • Superior developer experience: With a team skilled in GraphQL APIs, there's virtually no limit to what you can build with Hygraph, thanks to its comprehensive features and flexible content management system.

Sanity

Sanity is a unique Headless CMS and one of the most customizable options. I'd call it a blank canvas or an API-based CMS to describe it briefly. Sanity doesn't provide boilerplate fields by default, so you'll have to define everything in the code.

This is great, but this means you'll have to define your requirements in great detail – if you have an in-house developer, this is not a huge deal. 

Key benefits of Sanity

  • Good for: For small to enterprise companies that need granular and high-level customizability and have access to frontend developers

  • Price range: $0-949 and up / month. Scales by usage so you can start small and pay as you scale

  • Goes well with: Next.js and Vercel

Unique features

  • Excellent developer experience: This creates a platform where you can build anything imaginable just for you and you only. So, for example, in addition to reading data, you can write data and structured content into Sanity's database

  • Sanity Studio: Sanity Studio is a customizable, open-source content management system (CMS) that allows developers to build and manage content structures for websites and applications. It's part of the Sanity platform, designed for real-time editing and collaboration.

  • Superior content modeling: Sanity is fast and powerful with some drawbacks: Sanity feels super responsive and snappy. Technically and architecturally speaking, it's powerful, and you can model any content you can imagine. 

Dato CMS

Dato is great for marketing sites that need something a bit more. The platform is user-friendly and easy for non-technical users like a content editor, but don't let the simple UI fool you. Under the hood, Dato is a powerful headless CMS. You can build pretty complex and modular sites with it.

In our experience, Dato is excellent for smaller marketing sites that require dynamic content. Thanks to Dato's highly configurable block library and modular structure, you can easily build any layout you can imagine.

Key benefits of Dato CMS

Unique Features

  • Customizable UI: You can tailor Dato's interface to match your or your client's branding, including color schemes and logos, enhancing the overall user experience.

  • Designed for the modern web: It integrates well with Next.js and Vercel, making it a strong candidate for developing fast, static sites with a solid customer experience.

  • Dynamic content management: Thanks to its highly configurable block library and modular structure, Dato enables the creation of dynamic, engaging content layouts 

Prismic

Prismic is a straightforward Jamstack CMS for smaller website projects. While it's possible to create anything with Prismic, it does not excel in content-heavy digital experiences since it lacks a lot of basic features others provide.

However, this is sometimes good because it's easy to iterate quickly, and small, simple marketing sites are quick to set up with Prismic.

Key benefits of Prismic

  • Price range: $0- 500 and everything in between. Scales well with usage.

  • Good for: Small and quick sites that don't have heavy requirements for content management.

  • Goes well with: Next.js over Gatsby. Does not integrate directly with Vercel or Netlify.

Unique features

  • Simplicity and speed: Prismic shines with its straightforward approach, making it perfect for quickly setting up small, simple marketing sites without the need for extensive content management features.

  • Cost-effective scaling: With a price range accommodating various budget levels ($0-$500), Prismic scales well according to usage, offering an affordable solution for smaller projects.

  • Minimalistic UI: The platform boasts a clean and minimalistic user interface, which simplifies the process for users without deep technical knowledge, facilitating a quick start to projects.

Magnolia

Magnolia CMS is an enterprise-level content management system known for its robustness, scalability, and flexibility. It offers a rich set of features for managing extensive content across multiple channels, making it suitable for large organizations and businesses. 

Magnolia supports both traditional and headless CMS architectures, allowing developers to deliver content via APIs to any platform or device while maintaining a high-quality user experience.

Key benefits of Magnolia CMS

  • Price range: $0- 3,000 and everything in between. Scales well with usage.

  • Good for: Magnolia CMS is particularly well-suited for large enterprises and organizations that require a robust, scalable CMS to manage extensive content across multiple channels. 

  • Goes well with: It supports headless architecture, making it compatible with modern front-end frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue.js for creating dynamic, user-centric web applications.

Unique features

  • Personalization: It offers powerful personalization features, enabling marketers to tailor content and digital experiences to individual user preferences and behavior, enhancing engagement and conversion rates.

  • Multichannel content delivery: With Magnolia, content can be managed from a single place and published across various channels, ensuring consistency and efficiency in content distribution.

  • Developer-friendly: Magnolia provides a set of tools and features designed to streamline the development process, including customizable templates, easy integration with front-end frameworks, and a flexible API.

Storyblok

Storyblok is a great headless option for companies that need a marketer-oriented visual editor. Storyblok empowers marketers and content editors to build performant digital experiences, and its API-first architecture ensures that developers have a blank slate to work with. 

Plus, the ability to drag, drop, and reuse content blocks is a huge time-saver for everyone.

Key benefits of Storyblok

  • Good for: Non-technical users

  • Price range: $0-$2,999 and up/month

  • Goes well with: Vercel, Next.js, and React

Unique features

  • Marketer-oriented: Storyblok features a visual editor that empowers marketers and content editors, making it accessible for non-technical users to create and manage digital content effectively.

  • Flexible & API-First: Its API-first approach gives developers the flexibility to work with any design and technology stack, ensuring that digital experiences can be customized to meet specific needs.

  • Content Reusability: The ability to drag, drop, and reuse content blocks significantly streamlines content creation and management processes, saving time and resources.

  • Compatibility: Storyblok integrates well with modern development frameworks and platforms such as Vercel, Next.js, and React, making it a versatile choice for building fast and scalable digital experiences.

Closing thoughts

The headless CMS landscape offers a powerful toolbox for building modern web experiences. This guide explored seven top contenders, each with unique strengths:

  • Agility CMS: Ideal for large enterprises migrating from WordPress, with a focus on SEO and ease of use.

  • Hygraph: Perfect for complex projects requiring flexibility and strong GraphQL capabilities.

  • Sanity: A highly customizable option best suited for developers who can leverage its API-first architecture.

  • Dato CMS: Designed for user-friendly content management and building modern, modular websites.

  • Prismic: A straightforward CMS for quick setup of small marketing sites with a focus on simplicity and affordability.

  • Magnolia CMS: An enterprise-grade solution for managing extensive content across multiple channels.

  • Storyblok: A marketer-oriented platform with a visual editor, ideal for non-technical users and content reusability.

Remember, the best headless CMS isn't a one-size-fits-all solution.  Consider your project's needs, technical skillset, and budget to find the perfect match and unlock the potential for exceptional digital experiences.

The good news is that Ikius partners with many of these leading headless CMS platforms. This close relationship allows us to provide our clients with tailored insights on each option and ensure we select the perfect tool for their project goals. 

We don't just pick a platform—we work alongside you to craft the website you want and need.

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