As a Content Management System (CMS) WordPress is a great platform that permits you to set up, manage, and refresh your content as frequently as you want without dealing with code. No doubt, WordPress is an all-encompassing, amazingly complex platform. Still, despite its many possibilities, it doesn't allow you to do everything, and in some instances, you might need more flexibility to use it effectively. In such cases, using it as a headless CMS could be beneficial.
What Is Headless WordPress?
A CMS comes typically with the front-end and the back-end. On WordPress, the back-end is where you set up and establish pages and blog posts and manage several aspects of your site such as appearance, settings and other users.
The front-end is what individuals behold when they visit your site. On WordPress, it alters its updates and appearance pages as you work behind the scenes. To achieve this, among other things, WordPress uses the REST API to request information from the hidden back-end and then ports it to the public-facing website.
To many, this coupled CMS solution performs well, as it provides a way to easily set up a website as well as manage written content. The downside is, back-end and front-end of this kind of application are mostly inseparable as they depend heavily on one another.
A headless CMS decouples the two, leaving just the back-end intact. You have your admin panel, database, and content management tools but there's no website or theme. Notwithstanding, using the REST API, you could hook anything to it — a custom-built website, an app and so on.
The main advantages of Headless WordPress are
Majority of enterprises are now embracing headless WordPress due to its scalability. Since you depend on API calls to deliver your content, you could swiftly scale everything up without your users experiencing any downtime. Additionally, a headless WordPress can integrate with almost every other platform because the front-end is absent. As such, it could be adapted to utilize the best possible technology.
Among the most significant benefits of going with a headless WordPress is that you are flexible to automatically publish your content on several channels at the same time. There is a centralized CMS in headless WordPress, so you won't have to be perturbed about reformatting your content for every platform. Rather, you only need to publish your content once, and headless architecture deals with all the leg work for you.
Every individual wants to handle a fast website, which means the longer your website takes to load, the more likely you will lose prospective clients who visit your site permanently. This is another part where headless WordPress proves to be greatly advantageous. When you remove the front-end, you remain with a simpler CMS.
All that remains now is the API calls and content database, which means that your content delivery will be faster and responsive even when posted on a static website. This, in turn, means that your content would be easy to consume mostly on mobile devices which is progressively more significant when you consider that more than half of the total web traffic comes from mobile devices.
However, once you separate the back-end and front-end, you efficiently reduce & mitigate the risk from many of the "attacks" against WordPress.
With no front-end to display your content, future redesigns become simpler as there is no need to create a separate instance of WordPress while the new design is being made. This means that your organization could easily be redesigned within a short time since there's no need to re-implement the CMS itself.
When Shouldn't You Use a Headless WordPress?
While headless WordPress is an innovative solution with several benefits, there are things you ought to keep in mind before taking the plunge. Here are some of the scenarios when you shouldn't use a headless WordPress:
When Operating On a Low Cost
If you are operating on a low cost, headless WordPress might just not be the one for you as it's a little bit expensive. This is because it needs coding a custom front-end as well as working in a split environment. Again as headless WordPress calls for more complex maintenance, you might need to hire developers who know what they are doing to get the most out of it.
When You Depend On Plugins to Get Functionalities
It's crucial to note that any functionality you've acquired by installing plugins on your website, won't transfer to the app where your content eventually ends up being published. Again, when you need new functionality, you won't be able to install the needed plugin. Therefore, if you depend on plugins for functionalities, headless WordPress may not be the best choice for your situation.
When Looking for An Easy-To-Use CMS
While regular WordPress may be a good idea for most people out there, its headless component makes it a bit hard to use. If you are a new developer, the maintenance and bugs might be too much headache for you.
What About a Hybrid CMS?
A hybrid CMS is a relatively new invention created to solve the long-lasting issues of hard content deployment across platforms as well as developers' incapability to utilize new frameworks while sticking to their content management solution. Notwithstanding, they are also a bit hard to create, need an API to handle everything and also many of the CMS characteristics you're accustomed to — post permalinks, live previews and editors, etc. — don't function at all. This is most apparent in headless WordPress since you have no way of previewing pages or posts.
A hybrid CMS offers a solution for this. Like WordPress, this platform offers website building and content management features — however, they allow you to choose which parts of your website are headless and which function the traditional way.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to convert a WordPress into a hybrid CMS except you try to emulate it to some magnitude by utilizing plugins that automatically shove your content to other platforms as well as connecting applications built-in to the other frameworks by using the REST API. However, if you decide to go headless, there would be no way to make a live preview or the other features function.
Using WordPress as a headless CMS is quite beneficial, especially if you want to enhance your website's performance. It gives you more flexibility over publication and content management options. With that said, it is not necessarily a viable option for every site as we have seen above.
About Fraser Clark
I've been a professional developer for over 10 years. I've been consulting and developing websites & software for small businesses, multi-nationals & governments.