Choosing a headless CMS for your organisation

Headless CMSs are becoming increasingly more popular and with countless options available it can be daunting to decide which CMS is the best choice your organisation. In this blog we briefly summarize how to choose a Headless CMS for your company.

20 July 2020
Noman Ahmed Khan

The web is changing. We're in a middle of an inflection point where traditional legacy CMSs like Wordrpess are losing popularity and modern Headless CMSs are gaining traction. New options for content management for modern organizations provide an efficient way to future-proof your company's content layer. In this blog post we'll tell you how to choose one for your business.

Traditional CMS

Traditional CMSs are monolithic which means they consist of both Frontend and Backend providing the structure and template for your website and content. They usually don't de-couple the Backend and Frontend logic.

Some good examples of these traditional and legacy CMSs are Wordpress, Drupal and Joomla. As these CMSs give you many things out of the box, they take some of the freedom away from the user by being monolithic and rigid.

Monolithic CMS illustration

Headless CMS

Headless CMSs as the name explains, are CMSs without the head (Frontend). This allows developers to choose the Frontend framework or static site generator of their choice and craft it according to the project requirements.

Headless CMSs focus on the data instead of the presentation layer and they usually just offer an API to consume the data. Data driven API based approach for Headless CMSs means that we can use our content in different channels i.e Android or iOS.

This approach doesn't restrict companies and developers to a single platform for their content.

Headless CMS architecture

Headless CMSs consist of a Backend and a web-based user interface where all content can be managed by different teams and users without having any prebuilt Frontend templates. We're just defining data through an editor and consuming that data through an API.

Headless CMSs are often used with static site generators like Gatsby or Next.js for Jamstack development. By using static site generators with Headless CMSs we can optimize website and web app performance by 10x compared to legacy CMS approaches. This can be done by building static pages on build time instead of runtime. This forms the foundation for Jamstack.

With a Headless CMS and a static site generator (Jamstack) users don't have to request dynamic HTML from a web server at every instance. Instead we're now fetching pre-built static HTML and Javascript.

We can also make our websites and web applications more secure with a modern Headless CMS approach. By using a headless CMS with a static site generator and we reduce the attack surface for hackers by separating presentation and data. We've also covered Headless CMSs in our previous blog post in more detail: What is Headless CMS and why you need one.

Headless CMS for organisations

Using Headless CMSs content management becomes much easier and allows content creators, managers and marketing teams to update and make changes to the content layer. This removes the risk of accidentally breaking something in the Backend layer like you can with Wordpress and Wordpress plugins.

Headless CMSs provide flexible APIs (REST & GraphQL) that can be used to communicate with audiences via multiple different media channels. Headless CMS are a must have for modern businesses offering digital products and services. As your products or services start to grow, you need to be able to scale quickly, efficiently and with minimal costs.

How to choose the best Headless CMS?

Choosing the best Headless CMS for your business is very important if you want to future-proof your company web services. It's very important to think about some the essential aspects of Headless CMSs before making the decision.

  1. Authentication: Headless CMSs have different pricing plans depending on the number of users in the organisation. Managing roles and permission is an important part of content creation. The best Headless CMSs offers these integrated within the SaaS.

  2. Data types and relationships: Headless CMSs offers different ways of creating content types and relationships, Some headless CMSs offer a clean graphical user interface and other have custom schema in JSON format which is harder to manage by non technical editors.

  3. Image and media handling: Images and media are an important part of the content creation. So it's important to understand how much control you have over the images that are processed inside the Headless CMS. Some of the Headless CMSs provide assets plugins for Cloudinary that can do some great image optimization for better performance. Sanity allows hot-spot feature which preserves the area of focus when the image needs to be cropped additionally in a front-end.

    Media asset management is a crucial aspect of any software project and you should choose a Headless CMS which handles this well.

  4. Hosting: Some of the Headless CMSs are either self hosted or SaaS (cloud hosted). As the teams and projects start to grow choosing the best Headless CMS for your project is very important. Strapi is one of the open-source headless CMSs which provides self-hosting only to allow companies have complete control over their data.

  5. Data access API: There are many data-access standards that are offered by these Headless CMS solutions. Most of Headless CMSs offer a GraphQL API because of its fast performance and less round-trips between app and server. In any case, most Headless CMSs provide a REST API for easy integration to any application.

  6. Support and Documentation: It's advised to choose a Headless CMS with enterprise level support and documentation available since with new technologies it can be a bit of a learning curve to really get into the new model of content management. Some Headless CMSs have no support at all, some, such as Agility CMS have great technical and non-technical support available, others are somewhere in between.

Conclusion: Headless CMSs are the new standard for content management

Whether you're building a small scale website for your business or reworking your enterprise grade web infrastructure you should always use a Headless CMS for making sure you're prepared to take on the future of modern web development.

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Founder and CEO

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