Best Next.js CMS in 2023
By Diego Salinas Gardón
24th June, 2022
Next.js is a robust React-based web development framework that makes creating dynamic, responsive websites easy. It is an excellent choice for businesses of all sizes because it allows you to build fast content-rich websites coupled with a headless CMS (content management system).
However, with the myriad of CMSs in the market, it can be hard to make the right choice, especially when it comes to allocating your company's resources. And headless CMSs may get extremely costly.
To spend your money wisely, you need to weigh all the pros and cons of each headless CMS. It’s hard work, but after you’ve done with it, you can unlock Next’s advanced features.
Here, we will share a curated list of the best Next.js CMSs in 2022 and remind you what’s so special about Next.js.
This post covers
Table of contents
In this post:
Headless CMS demystified
Going headless may sound scary if you've used WordPress as your CMS. But rest assured, it isn’t as bad as it sounds.
A traditional CMS like WordPress manages content and allows you to present it on a website. Just like that. You don't have to handle anything too complex, but you don't get a lot of freedom of action and choice. While this approach used to be good for most companies, it’s often inefficient, especially if you want to scale your business. The new trend for companies who want maximum performance and flexibility is to go headless.
Here's how a typical headless CMS implementation works.
A headless CMS is a platform designed to store, edit, and manage content. It doesn’t have a “head” or presentation layer, meaning you can use it as a database—but with additional features such as authentication or caching. Because it’s decoupled, you can go for your preferred technology for the front-end. The CMS connects your content with the presentation with a REST or GraphQL API.
📈All in all, a Headless CMS gives you three main benefits:
No technology lock-in
All-in-one data source for multiple front-ends
We wrote an extensive article about what is a headless CMS. Read it if you want a deeper definition and use cases.
🧠 Read more: Headless CMS demystified
Such an enormous acceptance — eclipsed only by React — comes from developers, technical leaders, marketers, and business users.
Also, Next.js is the darling of many Jamstack developers, and not without reason, as it goes with the Jamstack architecture as peanut butter and jelly. It simplifies front-end development and delivers solid business benefits with less effort.
Better developer experience: With Next.js, you're not constrained to plugins or templates, contrary to what you have with a WordPress website. Instead, you have the freedom to build custom components as you wish.
Adaptability: Websites built on Next.js can work on any device and screen size.
Security: When coupled with a headless CMS, Next.js sites are virtually impregnable to cyber attacks.
SEO-friendliness: Server-side rendered applications built with Next.js make it easy for Google crawlers to read the page and identify its content, helping it rank higher.
Static site generation: Next.js can pre-render your pages at build time to ensure they load fast.
Blazing-fast loading times: A static website built with Next.js is fast and snappy.
Next.js is an excellent tool for companies that need performing sites capable of handling thousands of visitors simultaneously. You can use it to build medium to large websites, progressive web applications, and even native applications with incredible developer experience.
🤖 Read more: What is Next.js?
Next.js CMS explained
Not every headless CMS was created equal. Some are platform-agnostic, yet others favor one or two frameworks and meta-frameworks over others. So, you can find React CMSs and Vue.js CMS, Next.js and Gatsby CMSs.
In simple terms, a Next.js CMS is a headless CMS that integrates well with Next.js. Here's how the architecture looks under the hood:
With Next.js and a headless CMS, you can deliver content at lightspeed to different frontends and devices using global CDNs and Edge networks for caching.
Also, some Next.js CMSs come with Next.js website starters to help you develop a Next.js app with a few clicks, making site development simple and joyful.
Benefits of using Next.js with a headless CMS
You may think that a headless CMS is unnecessary for your website. But the truth is, Next.js is useless without a backend if you want an interactive website. And in this case, a headless CMS serves as a no-code backend — it helps to manage and serve your data from web APIs.
Next.js can be easily coupled with any API-driven CMSs built with RESTful or GraphQL architecture. With APIs, you can deliver content across multiple channels, from websites to Next.js apps to IoT devices, supporting omnichannel marketing strategies. That’s why Next.js is the perfect framework for companies and brands looking to go omnichannel.
Here's a diagram of a typical Next.js + headless CMS setup:
Also, Next.js is a powerful framework that frontend developers can use to build some of the largest websites and applications, with an incredible developer experience built on top of React –and if you need more help than just components, then Next.js has got your back.
It comes equipped with custom lifecycle methods for working efficiently with many headless CMSs, making building custom digital experiences a breeze.
What makes for a good Next.js CMS?
There are various kinds of CMSs out there: some are primarily self-hosted, while others offer a vendor cloud solution; some are open-source, while others are proprietary; some are git-based, while others are API-based. How to pick one among that many?
Luckily, there’s a list of features a good CMS has to offer:
Comprehensive data modeling: Before uploading content, you need to specify your data's appearance. Some CMSs offer to define your data models via coding, while others rely more on UI diagrams, so you’ll have to decide which way you like more. Remember that there are many specific entity types and relationships — some CMSs support more relationship types than others.
Live previews: If you’re writing a blog or composing a page out of elements in your CMS, you would probably like to see what it looks like before posting. Here’s when live preview comes in handy.
Secure authentication: Your front-end has nothing to deal with authentication, so it’s is solely on your CMS — and you want it to be secure. Otherwise, your credentials may get stolen, and your website will get hacked.
Easy integrations: Some CMSs are completely agnostic of the front-end technology, while others offer specific optimizations via front-end modifications, e.g. slices in Prismic. If your front-end has to be integrated with the CMS, the integration should be easy to handle. Then, there are third-party integrations, which should be done with ease.
Localization: If you offer services in different regions, your CMS has to support different routes for different locales.
Most of the CMSs out there offer all of the aforementioned features to some extent — but at different costs. At the end of the day, your option of choice will depend on the project requirements.
🙋🏽♂️ Here’s a list of questions that will help you decide on what CMS for your Next.js project to pick:
Will you self-host the CMS, or are you looking for a SAAS solution?
How much vendor lock-in are you fine with?
How fast do you need to set up your CMS?
Are you planning to use GraphQL or REST APIs?
Do your CMS users possess technical/coding skills?
Is your front-end based on Jamstack or on server-side rendering?
What are your budget constraints?
So, let’s explore how different CMSs are suitable for different purposes.
What can you build with a Next.js?
👓 Read more: Best Next.js Examples in 2023
Best headless CMSs for Next.js
Editors can easily create and manage pages when using Next.js in conjunction with Agility CMS.
Agility offers content editors and marketers a toolbox full of UI Components integrated with Next.js (i.e., Page Modules and Page Templates).
Once you start with Agility, you'll see how easy it is to compose your pages. Plus, in Agility, editors can preview content changes in real time in a preview environment before publishing.
Also, Agility supports multi-locale development and comprehensive website analytics. But the pricing gets costly, so it makes sense to go for it with larger projects.
Agility and Next.js examples: UJET
Good for: medium to large web projects and enterprise websites.
Price range: $1249-2499+ per month.
Shameless self-promotion: We're Agility Partners
Sanity CMS is an on-premise developer-first CMS, which is one of the most customizable options out there. Sanity makes use of its own variation of GraphQL called GROQ. Also, the CMS has rich plugin support.
Sanity comes with an open-source editing environment called Sanity Studio that you can customize with JS-based configs. However, there aren’t many options for customizing the Sanity Studio via UI.
Sanity is a good option if you want your CMS to be perfectly suited for your team’s needs. But it’s not fast to set up: your developers will spend some time examining the configuration options and learning the GROQ query language.
Sanity and Next.js examples: Bluenose
Good for: small to enterprise companies that need granular and high-level customizability
Price range: $0-949+ per month. Scales by usage, so you can start small and pay as you scale. There’s a free tier for a maximum of three non-admin users
Dato is a self-hosted CMS famous for its fair approach to pricing: you get advanced functionality like granular user permissions for as cheap as $199.
With DatoCMS, you can build a static website that serves optimized image previews using GraphQL Content API and React components with a single line of code. Dato also lets you preview your edits to ensure everything looks good before going to production.
Keep in mind that Dato only serves content in GraphQL, and inverse relationships are still in beta.
Dato CMS and Next.js examples: Olifant Digital
Good for: Small to medium marketing sites where you need a high level of modularity.
Price range: $0-199+ per month
Shameless self-promotion: We're Dato Partners
Directus CMS is called this way because it allows you to almost directly modify the database of your choice. Directus encases your new or existing SQL database into a real-time GraphQL or REST API. There’s also an intuitive admin panel for non-technical users.
Directus works seamlessly with Next.js, and with a Discord community with thousands of members, it’s a great option for developers who want to use an open-source option.
Good for: Websites where you need modularity and low-level database access.
Price range: $0-25+ per month
Strapi CMS is a fast, open-source Node.js-powered CMS. It offers a flexible content modeling system, customizable APIs, and an intuitive admin panel. It’s easy to set up while having the ability to expand your features pool. Strapi offers both REST and GraphQL support.
Strapi works seamlessly with Next.js and allows all kinds of users to create infinitely scalable websites, Next.js apps, and shopping websites.
Its main way to specify content types is via GUI, so if you prefer textual configs more than visual, Strapi isn’t your option of choice.
Strapi has a per-admin-user pricing type, so it may get expensive fast if you plan on having many admin users.
Good for: Progressive web apps and static sites
Price range: $0 - $29+ per month
Storyblok is a perfect CMS for JAMStack websites created with Next.js or otherwise. In fact, you can set a boilerplate Next.js starter in less than five minutes.
Storyblok is suitable for both technical and non-technical users. Its visual editor provides solid tools, including a live preview.
Its architecture is component-based and can be easily integrated with Next.js. However, sometimes it may require too many front-end changes and constraints for your liking.
Good for: Blogs and marketing sites
Price range: $0-$2,999+/month.
Hygraph is a solid GraphQL-based CMS option for complex Next.js projects where you need flexibility and power in the same package.
With Hygraph, developers can wield Next.js' high-speed server-side rendering, static exporting, CSS-in-JS, and preview mode. It unlocks the benefits of highly performant sites without compromising developer experience.
Good for: Complex projects where flexibility is a must
Price range: $0-$799+/month
Shameless self-promotion: We're Hygraph partners
Payload is a TypeScript-based headless CMS that is still in its early days but is quite promising.
One of Payload CMS’ core ideologies is that it does not impose any of its own structure on you as a developer. You give it an Express server to use—not the other way around, providing developers with unparalleled freedom. Documentation has also been consistent so far.
Payload and Next.js website examples: Payload CMS
Good for: React-based applications, native apps, and progressive web applications
Price range: $0-89+
Prismic is one of the best known Jamstack CMS. It’s known for its editor-friendly UI. Using Prismic, it's easy to quickly create small, simple marketing sites and medium ones.
Prismic employs the concept of slices, or custom-coded blocks, for modeling your UI. There’s the Slice machine to craft your custom slices. Also, you can reuse slices from page to page. But so far, there’s no way to bulk-update slices used across multiple pages.
Prismic’s guides and documentation are good, and it’s possible to schedule and preview content. But the vendor lock-in may be too much for some use cases.
Prismic and Next.js examples: Veri.co
Good for: Small and medium sites, composable commerce websites (there’s a native integration with Shopify)
Price range: $0-500+
We can help you
Team augmentation: Work with a team of Nordic talent.
Headless architecture implementation: Unlock faster, better digital experiences with Next.js.
Serverless implementation: Quickly build and deploy new features and functionalities.
|Next.js setup tutorial
|GraphQL / REST
|+ / GraphQL hooks
|+ / Dynamic layouts
|+ / hooks
|+ / hooks
|$0 - $29+
|+ / hooks
|+ / hooks
|+ / hooks
|Simple yet very clear
|+ / hooks
Ikius showcase: Next.js + Headless CMS examples
Olifant Digital tasked us with building an SEO-optimized, blazing fast website. We did it by taking three of the best tools for the job. Dato CMS for content management, Next.js for next-gen frontend, and Vercel for quick deploys.
Now, thanks to these three awesome tools, Olifant Digital has a three-times faster Next.js website that’s great for SEO, and one that allows them to create content swiftly thanks to Dato CMS.
🐘Olifant Digital: Website development with Next.js and Dato CMS
Blue Nose tasked us with building a new marketing website capable of handling cruise reservations. Their previous legacy CMS was buckling under the demands of Blue Nose’s customers, and it couldn’t even support mobile browsers. Imagine that.
We chose Next.js, Sanity CMS, and Netlify and built a next-gen website capable of taking Blue Nose to uncharted, more profitable waters. With the help of a Nextjs CMS, Blue Nose increased its conversion rate by 50% with a simple, but effective website.
These two projects aren’t the only ones we’ve built with Nextjs. Take a look at more sites we’ve built with this incredible framework and see for yourself.
🚢 Blue Nose: From legacy to headless with Sanity, Next.js, and Netlify
Like most people, you may think that a headless CMS is unnecessary for your website, especially if you have a great team who can handle content management without extra help. Or maybe you think you don’t need the added expense or complexity of a headless CMS.
But as your business grows and your content requirements go beyond what you can handle, you will soon realize how much a headless CMS can help. Headless CMSs and Next.js are a match made in heaven. Next.js is a robust React-based web development framework that makes creating dynamic, responsive websites and applications easy.
Next.js is a great choice for companies and brands because it allows you to build components and content-rich applications using a headless CMS as your backend. With its rich feature set and ease of use, we believe Next.js will be the go-to framework for web development in the future.
If you feel like Next.js sounds like a great framework to power your digital experiences, take a look at our Next.js development services, contact us, and we’ll take it from there.
Get in touch and let's discuss your business case