Don’t choose headless when building a website?
Why a headless CMS actually can be the best option for your next web project.
You’re on the lookout for a new digital platform, and you have heard that headless CMS is a smart way of handling content and staying future-proof. Who doesn’t want a CMS where you can feed your precious content onto practically any channel and device, without worrying about the presentation?
This sounds like a done deal, but not so fast! Rome wasn’t built in a day, there are no magical silver bullets, etc.
While headless CMS certainly is great for many scenarios, it is no “one size fits all” solution. In the recent past, if you primarily wanted to build a website, a pure headless CMS was a poor choice.
But is this still the case? Let’s find out.
This is how you pitch your next digital project:
What headless didn’t offer
It’s true that a headless CMS is essentially a database and an API that can distribute content from the database to different sources—like a website, an IoT device, or a smart watch. In a pure headless solution editors can focus on the content, which sounds great. But, historically (if you can call something just a few years old that), editors usually could not do the following:
- Build web pages
- Use a visual landing page editor
- Manage URLs
- Organize the website structure
- Preview how the content will look
- Manage user rights and permissions
- Manage SEO
- Handle complex image editing
The lack of these fairly standard content management features in many headless content management systems came as a surprise to digital managers and content editors.
See also: 5 reasons to go headless with Enonic »
What has changed?
The world and especially the content management industry are ever changing. The weaknesses of first-generation headless content management systems have led to vendors now widening their solutions and making them more complex.
Some headless CMS vendors have started adding expansions for traditional page building, while other vendors aim to give a more integrated offering with a headless approach for developers and a great user experience for editors.
Another factor that has radically changed the headless game is technological innovation within front-end frameworks. A showcase example here is Next.js. While not getting too technical, Next.js enables developers to build sites using the popular React framework.
React alone is primarily being used for building single page applications and client-side rendering, while Next.js includes server-side rendering. Thus, Next.js provides a framework that enables you to use the same technology for server-side and client-side rendering across multiple pages.
In other words, Next.js makes it possible for developers to build solutions without being locked in by a tight coupling between content and presentation, while the content editors can be productive in a familiar, editorial environment.
So, vendor maturity and front-end flexibility have together created a fully viable scenario for you to create a modern and complex website with a headless CMS, complete with a visual page editor and perhaps even a tree structure!
What a headless CMS offers now
So headless doesn’t lock you into small static sites or mobile apps anymore. Instead, you get access to:
- Front-end freedom: developers can build front-ends and solutions using various frameworks and technologies that can fetch and process content.
- Future-proof digital experiences: decoupling means that it’s easier for developers to make adjustments without interrupting content editors.
- Improved user experience: the above flexibility lets your team build better and richer digital experiences
- Smoother upgrades: if the API is backward compatible, developers can upgrade the CMS without changing clients.
The bottom line is that you can perfectly well choose a headless CMS when you want to build a website, due to technological innovation.
Just be sure to thoroughly research different headless vendors to discover what they really offer, and compare this with your actual requirements.
First published 15 July 2020, updated 6 April 2022.