Best Gatsby CMS in 2024
By Max Ikaheimo
1st September, 2022
If you're looking for a headless platform to power your Gatsby.js-based website or application, you're in luck.
Gatsby is a popular React-based, frontend framework that seamlessly integrates with a CMS to create high-performance, static sites. It is a one-stop, flexible solution for website development and deployment.
Gatsby can help you create amazing websites – but to get the most out of it, you'll need a good headless content management system (CMS).
However, there are a lot of CMS to choose from when building a Gatsby website. Which one is the best?
In this blog post, we'll take a look at the best headless platforms for Gatsby.js, you can make an informed decision about which is right for your needs.
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What is a headless CMS?
A headless CMS is a content management system where the content management repository, i.e., body, and the frontend of the system, i.e., head, are separate entities.
Decoupling of the frontend leaves a headless CMS with an API and a backend content managing technology. A headless CMS communicates with the view layer of the system through API calls for content delivery. A headless CMS can only store and deliver content.
Traditional CMSs have been a part of web development for a long time. A traditional CMS has a connected front and back end, where content is managed and displayed through a single application code base. WordPress is a popular example of a platform that uses a traditional CMS.
While a traditional CMS offers a straightforward way of developing websites, scalability has become a significant challenge for developers. That is where a headless approach to content management comes to play. It resolves many of the challenges of a traditional CMS. Following are some of the benefits that make a headless CMS preferable over a traditional CMS:
Design flexibility: Compared to the pre-built templates of a traditional CMS, frontend developers can present the headless CMS content with their choice of UI designs.
Content reusability: A headless CMS can connect multiple UI layers enabling developers to reuse content components. Content reusability allows developers to make multiple applications with the same content but different frontend displays.
Increased productivity: Separate content management and frontend development can be performed in parallel, enhancing overall productivity in a web development setup.
Increased Security: A hidden backend management and storage of content provides more security since the content is not tied to the user interface.
💡 Read more: Headless CMS demystifyed
Gatsby CMS explained
“..a great framework for building modern CMS-style websites”
Gatsby is a one-stop solution for website development, as well as deployment. It offers a cloud-based approach to storing and delivering content, resulting in blazing fast websites. For content management, Gatsby leverages headless content management systems for a flexible development experience.
Gatsby provides website developers with a framework for developing their site’s user interface. The content for the website’s UI is stored and managed by a headless CMS at the backend.
In addition to integrating well with a headless CMS, Gatsby has a diverse data layer with options to build from multiple data sources. Its data layer unites all the website data coming from any CMS, API, or database.
Overall, it offers a streamlined approach to frontend development with a simple configuration that creates developer-friendly and, ultimately, a user-friendly Gatsby site.
💡 Read more: What is Gatsby?
Following are some of the benefits of Gatsby that equally empower marketers and developers in building a rich web experience:
Scalability: Gatsby is a complete solution for web development and real-time site deployment. It offers website deployment through cloud-based content delivery networks (CDN) like Gatsby Cloud. A cloud-native approach to content delivery serves websites that can scale to manage increasing site traffic.
Speed: The combination of themes, plugins, and starters in the Gatsby ecosystem creates the perfect environment for accelerated site development. Gatsby’s smart page rendering preloads relevant content before it is even required, resulting in a fast and efficient site.
Cost-effectiveness: The cloud-based content deployment and hosting offered by Gatsby are both lightweight and cost-effective. Businesses using Gatsby do not require complex databases or servers to manage their content. Plus, Gatsby offers budget-friendly content delivery on Netlify or Vercel for cost-effective content management.
Security: Gatsby sites are less vulnerable to cyber attacks. That’s due to their static page rendering that delivers secure and safe HTML files when a page loads.
Why use Gatsby with a headless CMS?
Using a headless CMS with Gatsby can be beneficial in many ways for businesses to create modern, interactive websites. Some of these business benefits include:
Reduced development time
Businesses using Gatsby with a headless CMS can quickly develop and deliver their applications. Plugging a ready-made headless CMS minimizes the development time through quick and easy integrations. Gatsby’s developer experience allows developers to be more productive with their time and track their development progress along the way.
Blazing fast sites
A website’s loading time directly impacts a business’s customer satisfaction level. Customers will not stay on a webpage that lags. To reduce site loading time, Gatsby with a headless CMS can benefit businesses. A site built with Gatsby with an integrated headless CMS will have blazing-fast loading with an interactive and user-friendly web page. The prerendering in Gatsby’s static site generation enhances the speed and performance of a site by leaps and bounds.
Flexible content management
Gatsby’s unified approach to managing content allows businesses to integrate and render data from multiple CMSes at a time in a streamlined manner. Vendor lock-in to a single CMS restricts businesses to limited content management functionalities of a single CMS vendor. Gatsby’s data layer offers businesses a wide range of headless content management systems to reduce vendor lock-in. Gatsby’s unified approach to managing content allows businesses to integrate and render data from multiple CMSes at a time in a streamlined manner. Managing content in this manner saves businesses from being locked into the limitations of a particular headless CMS.
A major advantage of using Gatsby with a headless CMS is the time and resources a business can save by reusing content components. Since the content is not tied to the application's front end, the same content can be repurposed to serve different channels or devices.
A headless CMS hides the content management layer from the user interface. A hidden content repository protects a business’s valuable site data from malicious attacks. With no server-side code or database to inject or attack, businesses can store and manage their content in a highly safe Gatsby CMS environment. Gatsby secures content delivery through protected HTML files that are delivered and displayed on the front end.
What can you build with a Gatsby CMS?
Gatsby covers a diverse range of web development use cases for businesses of all kinds. Here are a few examples of different types of sites you can build using a Gatsby CMS:
Custom landing pages: You can use a Gatsby CMS to quickly build and set up custom landing pages for a business’s marketing campaigns.
Company homepage: A company’s homepage tells customers all about their business. Developers can use Gatsby CMS to build attractive, interactive, and fast-loading company homepages.
Blog page: Gatsby CMS is the perfect platform for building customizable blog pages for businesses that leverage Jamstack to decrease bounce rates and increase viewer engagement.
Interactive forms: While surveys can be important for businesses, customers find forms irritating and confusing. With a Gatsby CMS, companies can build interactive forms that engage customers and guide them through all process steps.
Best headless CMS for Gatsby
Now that you understand how a Gatsby CMS can benefit your business, it is time to go through the different types of headless CMS that Gatsby can integrate with.
With the variety of headless CMSs Gatsby integrates with, comes the daunting task of choosing the right headless CMS for your web development needs.
Fortunately, we have gathered a list of headless content management systems, most of which Ikius has tried and tested.
To help you identify the best headless CMS that resonates with your requirements, let us discuss the details of the most popular Gatsby CMSs:
Hygraph, also called Graph CMS, is a headless CMS that leverages GraphQL to simplify complex content management. It pairs well with Gatsby as both are GraphQL-native platforms. One GraphQL API can query content quickly in a secure environment. When integrated with Gatsby’s framework, Hygraph enables developers to flexibly manage their content with custom content modeling.
Good for: Building large and complex sites that require development flexibility.
Price range: $0-$799 and up/month. Scales by usage.
Sanity is a headless CMS for building unique sites with customizability at its core. Sanity’s seamless integration with Gatsby enables developers to build completely customized sites that can be quickly deployed for market use. Sanity’s Gatsby Source Plugin offers live previews for developers to review their sites in real-time during production.
Good for: Small to enterprise businesses with the developer expertise to build sites requiring extensive customizations.
Price range: $0-949 and up / month. Scales by usage so you can start off small and pay as you scale.
Dato is a headless CMS with user-friendly and modular content management and distribution that non-technical business users can work with. In combination with Gatsby’s frontend framework, Dato can be used to create fast and high-performance sites.
Good for: Building marketing sites with dynamic content, requiring high levels of modularity.
Price range: $0-300
Good for: Building content-oriented sites, specifically e-commerce, that work with image-based content.
Price range: Open source and free. Self-hosting package ranges from $0-29 per admin user/month.
Prismic is one of the easiest-to-use, headless CMS popular for assembling websites using reusable content sections called slices. Prismic’s component-centric approach works great with Gatsby to improve the developer experience and make it easier than ever to build a website.
Good for: Building small modular sites for businesses with limited development resources.
Price range: $0- 500 and everything in between. Scales well with usage.
Storyblok is a powerful and widely popular headless CMS targeted toward marketers and business users, empowering them to easily build and manage websites in a familiar environment. When paired with Gatsby, Storyblok makes it easy for non-technical users to quickly create and use their sites without starting from scratch.
Good for: Non-technical business users who are new to web development.
Price range: $0-$2,999 and up/month.
Kontent.ai is a modular headless CMS for developers and marketers that allows t easy and fast development of scalable applications. Kontent’s developer-friendly editing and collaborative features pair well with Gatsby’s lightweight, static, and secure site creation. Their combination is perfect for building content-heavy applications.
Good for: Enterprise-level sites for businesses working with large volumes of content requiring high availability.
Price range: $0- $2499 and up / month.
Limitations of Gatsby
While Gatsby offers a lot of benefits for web development, it is important to understand its technical requirements and limitations. Here are some of the technical aspects to consider when using it:
Compatibility with headless CMSs
Gatsby CMS is compatible with various headless content management systems, including Strapi, Sanity, DatoCMS, and others. However, it is important to ensure that your CMS of choice is compatible with Gatsby and its requirements. For example, some CMS may require specific plugins or extensions to work with Gatsby, while others may have limitations on the type or format of content that can be managed.
While Gatsby is built with a simple and streamlined developer experience in mind, it still requires some level of expertise in web development and related technologies. Developers must understand React, GraphQL, and other related technologies to work effectively with Gatsby. Additionally, there may be a learning curve associated with the specific CMS being used and with Gatsby's unique approach to site generation.
While Gatsby offers significant performance benefits over traditional CMS, it is important to note that there may still be limitations on the size and complexity of websites that can be built with Gatsby. In particular, websites with very large or dynamic data sets may not be suitable for Gatsby CMS. Additionally, since Gatsby CMS generates static files, real-time data updates may require additional development work and may be less efficient than other CMS.
You will need a web server that can host static files to deploy a Gatsby website. This may require specific hosting solutions, such as Valhalla, Netlify, or Vercel, which offer integrated hosting and deployment for Gatsby CMS websites. Additionally, some hosting solutions may have specific requirements or limitations on the size or complexity of the Gatsby websites that can be hosted.
Gatsby + headless CMS examples
We built a complete hosting system and delivered massive online live streaming experiences on Hotel Radio. In addition to live streams Hotel Radio offers e-commerce through Shopify, fully integrated into the site. Headless Shopify enables seamless shopping experiences on-site and during the streams.
We migrated Brightway's site from WordPress to Jamstack and saw an astonishing increase in Google Lighthouse's performance score. We also provided guidance and help regarding UI/UX when working with Brightway's designers to create a refreshed style for the brand.
The site is multilingual and features a fully customizable page structure with modular components and content for each locale. The content is managed with Sanity - an excellent Headless CMS for Brightway's use case.
Choosing your Gatsby headless CMS
A headless CMS is a valuable investment for businesses that are looking to develop flexible and scalable applications. But a headless CMS is just a body without a head. To further enhance the development experience, a headless CMS needs a front-end head like Gatsby.
Development with Gatsby creates a collaborative environment that empowers developers and business users. The combination of Gatsby and a headless CMS enables business users to track development progress and even make UI edits.
When it comes to choosing a headless CMS for your Gatsby project, the good news is that you do not have to choose just one. The ability of Gatsby to integrate multiple sources enables you to work on different sections of your site with multiple headless CMS. You can use this content mesh approach to leverage your choice of management systems that meet your site requirements.
Get in touch and let's discuss your business case