What is a Headless CMS – A Quick Overview

This post provides an introduction to understanding the purpose of a headless CMS and how it can be used in web and application development.

In this post we’re taking a look at what a headless CMS is and why you might use one. First things first, CMS stands for Content Management System, if you’d like a general overview of what one of these is take a look at our article ‘What is a CMS’ where we give a quick overview of the features of a CMS and how helpful they can be.

So let’s say you’re already well versed in the use of CMS systems, a Headless CMS is in very basic terms made up of two parts, the head and the body.

The head is the content that you see on the front-end, for example blog posts or internal page text and content.

The body is the content management system, this is where you write all of those posts or that content and you store it.

But that just sounds like a regular website!

It does but the major difference is that the content is provided as data over an API rather than being connected / bundled directly with the head.

So let’s explore what a headless CMS is a little more:

When you’re producing content, traditionally it needs somewhere to be rendered on the front end for example in the form of blog posts, content etc. so a traditional CMS does the rendering and it’s all part of one self contained ecosystem / platform.

This makes a tonne of sense for many people, one set of content to one platform. Inputs result in front-end site outputs.

A Headless CMS is different because you produce the content in one location the CMS and output it via the API to one or multiple different ‘Heads’ so that may be a website, an application or many other forms of digital medium.

This makes the content easy to manage as it’s in one location, it also means that the front-end can be pretty much whatever you want, it doesn’t have to follow the same coding format as the CMS and there’s no access to your content via the location that is showing it.

This has a multitude of benefits which can include:

It can be faster – Without the CMS being bundled, processing is much faster as there is less for the browser / user to load when viewing your website. 

It can be more secure – With a headless CMS you could output your articles via the API to an entirely HTML and CSS based website for example. This means that front-end users can’t access the CMS to influence your content or read data.

It can be more flexible – For developers a headless CMS can provide the ability to customise both the head and the body elements of it individually and scale more easily as you’re not reliant on one bundled platform.

Picking a great Headless CMS:

If you want to find a headless CMS that suits your needs take a look at: https://jamstack.org/headless-cms/ 

When does it make sense to use a Headless CMS:

Fundamentally this will depend on your experience as a developer, setting up and managing a headless CMS setup is invariably going to be more complex than working with a platform based CMS where a large proportion of the setup is done for you.

However if you need a flexible system that will allow you to grow and you have a good understanding of web or application development already it may be a fantastic option.

Summary:

In this post we’ve taken a quick look at what a headless CMS is, this is by no means a detailed overview and to truly understand how powerful a headless CMS can be there’s more reading to be done. However to give you an initial overview and to cover the basics we hope this has been helpful, if so we’d appreciate a share or a comment cheers!

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