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Supercharge your site with Next.js and headless CMS

Learn how you can build a fast and modern site with Next.js and a headless content management system.

In the ever versatile world of front-end frameworks, Next.js is a rising star. It enables developers to build really fast sites with React, due to prerendering and other goodies. But while Next.js is cool and all, content will not manage itself, nor will your fully fledged website build itself. This is where a headless CMS comes into the picture!

A small site can usually be handled with hardcoding, but if your site exceeds a certain volume of content or involves non-technological people, there is simply no way around a CMS. In traditional content management systems, rendering has been an integrated part, but Next.js is decoupled from the CMS—making it a perfect fit for a headless CMS.

How does it work?

A headless CMS separates presentation (head) and content (body). To remove this link, the content should be structured and thus compatible with several clients and technologies. In this way, the content becomes reusable and can be presented uniquely on different clients. In opposition to regular content management systems, a headless CMS outsources the rendering to third-party front-ends and frameworks, like Next.js. 

In addition to having an editorial graphical user interface, the essential part of a headless CMS is that it offers APIs. This makes it possible for different front-ends to fetch the content as data.

See also: Changing headless CMS forever: Enonic + Next.js »

If you compare headless CMS with a database, the similarities are striking. A database arranges its contents in types and a specific structure, and a headless CMS works the same way. Its structured content can be reused across different clients—on your website, in an app, or in digital signage. This creates an obvious match when you need to build a content-rich website using the Next.js framework, as its contents then can be used and repurposed in different channels.

In addition to being omnichannel, thanks to a headless integration, Next.js also allows developers to use React for building blazing fast applications and websites. The combination of any channel plus speed for end users—with content as data plus the rapid and visual Next.js for developers—is priceless for any modern stack project wanting that competitive edge.

Why does it matter?

Old content management systems based on PHP or other similar languages lock developers into a specific framework, where the CMS decides how everything must be done. Developers have had enough and don’t want this kind of arrangement anymore!

Next.js allows for both rapid and visual development, resulting in super fast pages ready to be deployed anywhere. When combined with a suitable headless CMS, developers really get the best of both worlds. A happy developer makes for outstanding digital experiences, thereby resulting in happy customers.

But remember, a headless CMS can be a pain if chosen poorly. Firstly, many first generation headless content management systems are geared towards developers only, meaning that there is no content editor-friendly user interface. Many such systems lack tree structures, visual page editing, and contextual previewing, causing headaches for the editors.

While headless CMS is mainly directed towards front-end developers, also they can struggle with things like URL management, synchronisation between CMS and clients, and “forced” updates from the cloud vendor.

You should therefore carefully consider your required features of all prospective headless vendors, in your endeavor to make the most out of Next.js.

Webinar: Build your website with Next.js and headless CMS

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