What is Headless WordPress?
WordPress is a popular platform used by over 43% of all websites worldwide.
It does have restrictions in terms of multichannel publishing.
A headless WordPress lets you distribute content on various channels. It decouples your website’s content database for more flexibility.
We cover headless WordPress and show whether it is suitable for your business.
What is Headless CMS
A headless CMS is a backend-only content management system. It separates the presentation layer from the backend logic layer.
The traditional CMS has two subsystems -
- A frontend system -To display the content
- Backend system - Storage and managing content.
Both the systems are united in a traditional CMS architecture. In a headless architecture, the systems are separate.
Headless CMS shares the stored resources via an application programming interface (API).
An API is software that allows two applications to interact with each other.
Headless CMS makes content accessible via a RESTful API or GraphQL API.
It allows for multi-channel distribution. Display the content on mobile apps, smart devices, wearables, refrigerators, etc.
Some of the highlights of headless CMS include -
- Custom fields and front-end solutions.
- Creating omnichannel experiences.
- Raw content is converted into many displays.
- Responds to API calls.
It is called headless because the “head” or the frontend is decoupled from the “body” or backend.
You can add multiple heads to the framework and share your content.
What is Headless WordPress
WordPress is a monolith application. The backend and frontend are combined into a single platform.
The user interface and data access code are joined, and most of the functions happen in a single process.
Website owners can manage the entire website from one intuitive platform.
Headless WordPress -
Headless WordPress works differently - It removes the frontend tools and leaves only the backend management tools.
You will now share the content via WordPress REST API.
A different front-end application handles how the website looks.
You can develop and manage the front-end as as a separate application.
The headless WordPress will only handle content management.
Benefits of Headless WordPress
1. Multichannel Publishing
At first, you will be using WordPress for standard desktop and mobile websites. You may want to send your content to additional interfaces as a scaling business.
Some of the frontends include -
- Mobile applications.
- Virtual assistants like Alexa.
- Social media sites
- Smart devices.
In such cases, headless WordPress can serve as a centralized source. You can add different post types to multiple publishing channels.
Any change in the CMS is automatically shown on every connected device.
In a traditional CMS, you would have to format the content on every interface. It is not a scalable option, so headless is a better choice.
2. Front-end Flexibility
Using headless WordPress, you can keep the content management part of the CMS. It allows you to outsource the frontend to any software required.
The software can make requests to WordPress API. It is also helpful for frontend developers that want to work on other applications.
The web developers can use different coding languages than WordPress.
3. Improved Performance
WordPress renders web pages in a dynamic manner. It does not store static site HTML pages to serve to users when requested.
The hosting server creates an HTML page each time the request is made.
WordPress uses PHP to collect the resources from the database. It then assembles a page and sends it to the user. The process can lead to slow page loads.
In headless WordPress, the front-end delivery is done by a separate tool. It makes the process much faster and speeds up your site.
You can deliver a better user experience and get high conversions for your site.
4. Lightweight Design
Headless CMS only consists of the content database and API calls. It makes the content delivery system responsive and fast.
You also get more control over the frontend design. You can create customized frontends that are lightweight and optimized for high performance.
Drawbacks of Headless WordPress
1. Requires Programming
Traditional WordPress offered a code-free experience. However, with headless WordPress, you will require coding skills.
Headless WordPress requires a time investment, and you have to maintain two systems.
You also have to take care of the security and upgrades in both systems. Ensure that you have enough resources to handle the management.
You may not be publishing content at a high rate. In such cases, the maintenance required to run the site is not worth the switch.
3. No Visual Editor
You will not have the visual editor or drag-and-drop features in headless WordPress.
It will also remove the live preview option as the frontends will differ. You won’t be able to test the frontends from WordPress.
4. Additional Costs
You have to hire frontend teams to build and maintain the site. It requires additional investment for developers and resources.
You have to maintain two different instances for one website.
Traditional CMS vs. Headless WordPress
See the difference between traditional CMS and headless WordPress CMS.
|Traditional WordPress CMS||Headless WordPress CMS|
|API first approach||No||Yes|
|Replaceable technology stack||No||Yes|
Who Should Use Headless WordPress?
Headless WordPress is valid for the following cases:
Isolated frontends for better website security.
Separate content management from the tech stack.
Showcases your content on native mobile applications.
If the site does not require regular updating, headless WordPress will be helpful.
You want customized frontends for various channels.
Future-proof your business with personalized experiences.
Invest in developers and resources for headless WordPress.
Who Should Avoid Using Headless WordPress
Businesses can avoid headless WordPress for the following cases:
Do not want to invest in frontend developers for your website.
Don’t want to regularly maintain two sub-systems.
Cannot configure and optimize the API
Your website relies on specific plugins that work best with a frontend application.
If you are not interested in cross-platform publishing.
Would like to use WordPress visual editor and WordPress themes.
How to Set up a Headless WordPress Website
You can add headless WordPress setup in two primary ways -
- WPGraphQL -
You can use plugins such as WPGraphQL for headless WordPress. It allows you to convert WordPress installation into a GraphQL API.
You can create data schemas for the CMS platform. Any frontend application can use the schemas to retrieve data from the CMS.
Use a GraphQL-powered API over the WordPress REST API if you want to write your data schemas. It also allows you to write runtime code. It shows how your API handles specific requests.
CoCart is another WordPress plugin to consider. It takes a WooCommerce store and adds a headless API.
The frontend clients can request store data such as product and cart content.
The plugin is helpful if you want to launch a multi-channel store. You can manage your content from one WordPress/WooCommerce back end.
You can also use the Headless Mode plugin. It sends the WordPress user trying to access your old site to the new front-end address.
You can use a DIY coding approach to headless WordPress.
There are many tutorials online to configure headless on the WordPress site. You can also use frameworks such as Gatsby.
It is notable for its compatibility with WordPress. You can deploy your website via Gatsby’s cloud service.
Headless WordPress unlocks a variety of new opportunities for WordPress developers.
You can work with new frameworks, tech stacks, and delivery channels.
For large businesses with resources, the headless approach can be suitable. You can offer customized content at various touchpoints for the audience.
To learn more about WordPress news, check out the CloudPanel blog.