Best headless CMS for Jamstack

Choosing a headless CMS can be hard with many options out there. Here we list some of the options available along with their strengths and weaknesses.

28 September 2020
Aatu Väisänen

We had an interesting summer at Ikius - we were going through the process of choosing and settling on a new go-to headless CMS that would suit both our and our clients' needs the best way possible.

To summarize what we needed from the "go-to" headless CMS:

  1. A high level of customisability of content types

  2. A clear and an intuitive UI/UX for the actual content editors

  3. Easy maintainability for the database and the dashboard: preferably not self-hosted

  4. A GraphQL API with an official Gatsby source plugin to query the content

  5. Reasonable pricing plan for our needs

The trouble of choosing the best Headless CMS

With many options available, the task of choosing a new go-to headless CMS wasn't easy. There are many factors to consider when choosing one and many of the options have strengths that fit both our needs and the needs of (at least some of) our clients. Some, on the other hand have weaknesses that might not be that big of a deal for some companies but are a dealbreaker for us.

Agility CMS

We also took a look at Agility CMS, which seems like a very promising player in the headless CMS field. For developers, it's great because of the high customisability - I might even use it for some of my personal projects in the future. Agility offers a huge amount of customization while maintaining a clear model for managing content.

Agility CMS is great for enterprise content management and allows easy page management. Unlike other Headless CMSs, agility offers a strict model for generating the pages for your website or app. Agility has built in SEO, sitemaps and lots of other great features right out of the box.

agility logo

While having great customization options and a strict content structure, the UI/UX of the content dashboard takes a bit of time to get used to.

Agilty CMS's team are developing the CMS rapidly, and we're seeing huge improvements in the UI and Content modeling flows. We're really excited for the future updates for Agility, and can really see the potential in bigger and more complex enterprise projects.

Contentful

Contentful was also on our list of prominent go-to headless CMS candidates - it has a lot of great features, and it is arguably one of the best options in terms of out-of-the-box usability.

The major drawback in Contentful is the pricing model which is just way off for us and our clients for the time being. For projects where the price doesn't matter, Contentful is a perfect fit.

Prismic.io

Prismic.io, the headless CMS we at Ikius have been using in the past, has a very simple and a clear UI which some clients appreciate. Prismic offers a lot for a small price, which might be something smaller and simpler sites benefit from. On the other hand Prismic.io has some major limitations in terms of features and customisability, which is why Prismic excels more in smaller website projects.

Strapi

Strapi, another of the headless CMS candidates we considered, seemed promising at first, but soon proved to not be the best option for us because of having to self-host everything. While self-hosting is not bad we like to use SaaS to a certain degree, to streamline certain processes.

Sanity.io - the winner

Last, but not least, we chose to take a look at Sanity.io. Right from the first look on the features and pricing of Sanity, we really got interested. They seemed to offer a wide range of features, a comprehensive documentation, an official Gatsby source plugin AND Gatsby Cloud integration support.

They offer an easily reachable customer service, and the best pricing model from the all the headless CMS candidates we looked at. On top of all of this, we found out that Sanity.io doesn't require us to host everything if we don't want to - brilliant!

Convincing point

Because everything about Sanity seemed promising at first glance, we dived deeper by testing out how configuring content types, adding content and using the studio dashboard works. We fell in love with the workflow of Sanity right from the get-go: a great CLI tool and the full customisability is something we really appreciate as developers.

Being able to define fully custom content types with the Javascript is just awesome, compared to the cumbersome process of pointing and clicking on buttons and switches on a GUI just to be able to define a limited range of content types. The way Sanity handles it is so much better.

So, at this stage Sanity had four out of our five requirements for a headless CMS checked: the only thing still needing to be checked was having a clear and an intuitive UI/UX on the content dashboard. Right when we first opened the Sanity studio, we became convinced that this is it - Sanity will be our go-to headless CMS from now on.

The UI/UX of the studio is clear enough for both developers and content editors to use it easily, but what really convinced us to confirm our decision, was the fact that Sanity even offers a possibility to customize the appearance of the studio dashboard. This allows us to adjust some things when needed to keep our clients and ourselves happy.

We at Ikius are more than pleased with deciding to have Sanity.io as our go-to headless CMS.

Conclusion: many options for many situations, the best headless CMS depends on your project

We chose to go with Sanity, as we're an agency with small and medium clients. We also have to iterate quickly and we need a set of tools which allows us to work in high paced cycles with changing requirements.

Sanity might not be the perfect choice for every project. However it is one of the most flexible, affordable and technically perfected CMS for any content management.

The best Headless CMS for you depends largely of your project and your specific needs. Sanity might not be right for you, instead you might look for something that offers more structure, such as Agility CMS. If you need help choosing a Headless CMS for your company - contact us.


Max Ikäheimo
Founder and CEO

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