What is a Headless CMS & How Can it Make Your Life a Breeze?

By Ten Squared, posted on the 1st of June, 2021 · 5 minute read

What is a Headless CMS?

Let's begin by defining what a CMS or content management system is. A CMS is a piece of software designed to allow you to create, manage, modify and publish content to a website in a straightforward way; no code required. One of the most popular CMS's in the world is WordPress. It is a versatile piece of software that enables you to build websites quickly and easily. These are great, however, the technology they were built on is beginning to age, that's where a headless CMS comes in handy.

Preserving many of the functions of traditional CMS systems, headless CMS's take it back to basics. They are simple to use, requiring less maintenance and serve a single purpose. You might be asking how is this possible and why would we choose a headless CMS instead? Well a headless CMS is designed for everyday people, whereas traditional CMS's are designed for both developers and everyday users, this means that navigating the maze of menus can be challenging and sometimes feel impossible. A traditional CMS can in fact be used to quickly build a new website with several design limitations. In essence, a traditional CMS is the website, you can use pre-designed blocks to add new sections, whereas a headless CMS is completely separate from the "guts" of the website, and simply pass through the content to the website.

How does a headless CMS compare in functionality?

For both headless and regular CMS's there is no coding required, they are easy to collaborate in, you can change and update SEO, you can easily update content and you can create new content. So where exactly do they differ? Currently, a regular CMS does not enable you to use the next-generation technologies we are coming to love, this means there are incredible new features that sites built on regular CMS's cannot take advantage of. Additionally, unlike a regular CMS's, headless CMS's are purpose-built for the website they are connected to. This means that your developer can develop the CMS to include everything you need or want and nothing that will confuse you or allow you to break your website.

How is a headless CMS developed and connected?

A headless CMS is built out on a platform such as Prismic or Contentful. The sections are then mapped to the section on the frontend, essentially telling the front end place this content here and that content there. When you push an update the existing content is replaced with the new content.

When a developer is creating the back-end of your site in the headless CMS they will hence copy your web page into the backend and add the content where it corresponds. Each section will then be labelled appropriately and they will connect that section to the core code of the website.

Is a headless CMS easy to use?

We love headless CMS's so much because of how simple they are to use. Additionally, we have complete control over how the content is published to your website meaning your updates to your site will not impact page speed. Uploading content is as easy as making a post to Facebook. The optimisation, formatting and all the other fun stuff is done automatically. This means that each image you upload to your website will be automatically optimised for speed.

After talking to our clients we have had outstanding feedback for how easy they find the new CMS to use and that it is a significant improvement when compared to their old WordPress CMS.

Can I create new content using a headless CMS?

This is an important consideration for many business owners, and the simplest answer is yes. Whilst you won't be developing brand new pages, you can discuss with your developers the pages you will need in the future, they can then connect it to the headless CMS ready for you to populate or duplicate in the future when you need it. This includes creating new services pages or uploading new blogs. In fact, we are developers and we still find the best way to create new blog posts is to use our own headless CMS.

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash