WordPress is an outstanding CMS (content management system). It incorporates easily navigable website components and can be customized to execute virtually any task via the use of a range of plugins developed by WordPress experts. On the other hand, there are times when your requirements go above and beyond what can be done with the standard WordPress themes and plugins. Developing a frontend for WordPress requires you to write your own plugins and widgets, ideally in PHP, to display content. Surely, I don’t need to explain how inconvenient this can be for certain people.
Fortunately, there are other options available. One of the solutions is to use a headless WordPress CMS. What is headless WordPress? It is a site where you are able to fully manage the content of your website with the help of WordPress, and there are so many other front-end options available, that it will help in actually displaying the content to the visitors. There are many benefits to a website built with headless WordPress, but one of the main advantages is the ability to decouple content editorial teams from developers.
With Headless WordPress, marketing and content teams can keep using WordPress while developers can use tools they know like React, GraphQL, and a familiar Git workflow. This blog will explain what a headless WordPress CMS is, the benefits and drawbacks of utilizing it for your WordPress website, and how to install it. Before we get started, let us define what a headless CMS is and what distinguishes a headless CMS from a traditional CMS.
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What is a Headless CMS?
A headless CMS is any form of back-end content management system in which the content repository’s “body” is decoupled from the presentation layer’s “head.” A headless CMS’s content is provided via APIs for seamless presentation across several devices. A headless CMS is a content repository system that allows control of website content, has no presentation layer, and displays data on any device.
Therefore to overcome the limitation that was there on traditional CMS, Headless CMS is implemented – here the presentation layer of any website is known as the “Head” of a CMS. So, if you cut out the presentation layer then it is what we call “Headless CMS.”.
This type of headless CMS lets you choose the right presentation layer for a digital platform, but it doesn’t solve the main problem of organizing content so that it can be reused on many different platforms and channels.
Like a headless CMS, a headless architecture is a way to publish dynamic content across many platforms and devices. In a headless architecture, content is stored in its raw and unformatted state, and the way it looks when it’s shown doesn’t depend on a front-end system.
What is Headless WordPress?
In a Headless WordPress system, WordPress is used to manage content, but other front-end technologies are used to show content to site visitors.
Some people say that WordPress is a Monolithic CMS. Despite having a powerful backend for making and organizing content, the front-end is still very focused on how it looks. As a side note, WordPress adds display functionality to themes and plugins, which can be linked to the front end of a website. This can make the website look better.
With WordPress, however, you can use its powerful content management features to cut it in half, leaving behind a fast and lightweight CMS that is easy to use. Enjoy the content management that you’ve made in WordPress even as it grows beyond your theme thanks to the REST API.
In this case, you would be able to use all of the back-end features of the platform, but it would no longer be a proactive system. You would only be able to get the information you need when you need it. This is in contrast to how WordPress currently sends content to mostly browser-based sites.
Headless WordPress has both good and bad things about it, so now that you know more about it, you can decide if you want to switch from traditional WordPress CMS.
Benefits of Headless WordPress
You can do a lot with the Front-End using readymade WordPress themes and plugins. Front-End is also customizable using custom plugins and themes but not everyone wants to manage WordPress this way.
With headless CMS, You can keep the backend in WordPress that you know and love, and build the frontend using frontend technology like Vue, React, Angular. You can use WordPress API to get data from the backend and render it using frontend technology. This is especially beneficial for front-end developers who want to work inside another application, use different coding languages than what WordPress uses.
Additionally, what if you need to change your front-end system? Or, what if you want to redesign your site, WordPress makes these all easier, since your content is decoupled from the front-end. You can do the design changes as much as you want, but the content remains unchanged.
Optimized Site Loading Time
WordPress loads web pages dynamically. WordPress uses PHP to fetch all the required data from the database and assemble them into a page then send a page to a user. If a website has a lot of different plugins then it will take more time to load the page. We can use an optimization plugin to improve the performance but still, we don’t have that much control which we want on performance. slow page loads can hurt the user experience and reduce conversions.
With a headless CMS, You have a separate frontend that will interact with the WordPress backend using API to grab the web page content so you have all the control over performance. WordPress websites that are powered by the frontend are incredibly smooth and responsive, with millisecond load times, it helps to increase Core Web Vitals score and improve WordPress website SEO.
If you use Headless WordPress, you will drop a significant amount of weight. Your system only incorporates content databases and API calls. As a result, your website will be lighter in weight and much faster than traditional WordPress.
Headless WordPress is used a lot to post content to a lot of different places. This means that you can post one piece of content and have it show up on a lot of different websites, apps, and social media profiles right away.
With the help of Headless WordPress, you are able to connect to the other website with REST API. You can share content on websites and multiple social media platforms. In simple words, when you make changes to some content, it will reflect across every device connected to it.
WordPress is a favorite target for fraudsters and people who don’t do the right thing online. The fact that headless WordPress is usually safe to use and can be improved with plugins and by following standard WordPress security best practices, raises security to a whole new level.
There is a low chance that your back end will be hacked because of security issues, even though your front end might be affected by third-party integrations.
You can’t keep the record of all the credentials when you have a Headless WordPress therefore it is a bit more complex to use, but thanks to that it also means that headless WordPress is much more secure than traditional WordPress.
With Standard WordPress CMS, you are not able to control each and every element separately. When the head is different and the body is WordPress then you’ll have limitless control over the development of the site.
Another important thing to think about when choosing a headless WordPress installation is how easy it is to grow. People who use your service won’t have to deal with a lot of downtimes because we’re giving out content through API requests.
Headless WordPress can be used with almost any other platform because the front-end isn’t there, so it can be used with almost anything else. Because of this, it is able to use the most cutting-edge technology.
Drawbacks of Headless WordPress
No WYSIWYG Editor
This means you won’t be able to use the “What You See Is What You Get” (‘WYSIWYG) editor in a Headless WordPress installation. You won’t be able to use the live preview feature. So, you won’t be able to see what your customers are seeing on the front end, which makes it hard to manage the process of making content.
As a result, if you don’t like programming or coding, you won’t be able to get all of the benefits of a static WordPress installation.
With the help of Headless WordPress, you are easily able to replace regular WordPress themes with static pages on the front end. Now because you have a static generator for you to show the content, It will be necessary for you to keep two different code bases up to date. Therefore, if you have two code bases in different places, then you need to set up separate workflows for maintaining them.
And as time goes on, it will become more and more difficult and time-consuming to keep headless WordPress websites up and running.
To get the most out of Headless WordPress, you’ll need a dedicated WordPress developer since you’ll need to integrate more advanced technologies and frameworks.
A lot of credentialing should be more strict than it is now. Users who use a headless CMS will need a different set of credentials than those who use a combined CMS. This can be a long process, but it will make the environment more secure.
Slow Without Configuration
The use of headless WordPress goes hand in hand with the need for developers to be able to work with the software. Headless WordPress can actually be bad for security and performance, at least if it isn’t set upright.
Using REST APIs can be very slow, even more so than loading and visiting a traditional WordPress site. Caching and the use of SHORTINIT can quickly solve this problem, but it’s not the only way. There are other things to keep in mind, too. For example, if you set up the APIs without knowing how to make them work better, you might have a much more frustrating time.
Another thing to think about is security. Even though headless WordPress makes your site more secure and less vulnerable to DDoS attacks, there are also some downsides to it. Use the API to load WordPress files manually, and you could leave your site open to hackers if you don’t protect it properly.
Examples of Headless WordPress
- Haruki Murakami
- The Guggenheim Museum
- Beachbody on Demand
- Facebook Brand Resource Center
How Do I Install Headless WordPress?
To manually set up WordPress as a headless CMS, you’ll need a new installation. You can either utilize the standard WordPress installation process or the one-click install feature offered by most hosting providers. Change the default wp_ value for database and table prefixes to anything else and use a strong password.
A blank theme is also required for WordPress to work. Because you won’t be using WordPress to show content, your theme can be as minimal as two files: index.php and styles.css
The index.php file in your theme will redirect users to the static website’s homepage, preserving the backend but removing the frontend. After setting up the redirect, upload it to WordPress and activate it.
When using WordPress as a headless CMS, you may need to add more content fields. In those circumstances, the Advanced Custom Fields plugin is commonly used to add more fields and call them via an API. This approach may require the ACF to REST API plugin to appropriately format the API calls.
Final Thoughts About Headless WordPress
However, since most small businesses and individuals do not have enough time to set up and learn Headless WordPress, it is not worthwhile. For big businesses who need a powerful multi-channel solution, headless WordPress offers the best CMS on the market. Read more about “Top 10 WordPress Development Companies in India” and “How to Make WordPress Websites Accessible for Users“.