News and insights • Posted on 16 August 2021

What is a headless CMS?

The internet is dominated by websites using traditional content management systems (CMSs) such as WordPress. While a traditional CMS website can be perfect for your business, it needs to be constantly updated and has limited flexibility. We always have our eyes on the horizon for our clients and don’t necessarily think the old ways are the best. This is why we specialise in headless website creation – an innovative method of web development that offers you better control, quicker page load times, and a consistent level of security, without ever needing an update. Here, we explain how traditional CMSs work and discuss the differences and advantages of a headless CMS. 

How does a traditional CMS work?

First, it’s important to understand the difference between a CMS’ front and back end. 

In essence, the back end of a CMS stores and manages content, while its front end displays it to the user. If you imagine a clothes store: the shop floor, display windows and mannequins are the front end; and the stockroom and warehouse is the back end. 

In a traditional CMS, the front and back end is kept in the same “box”, which initially seems like the most sensible way of doing things. However, this approach can cause problems as the site grows or the channels used to access it become more diverse. 

Consider the clothes shop again, but picture everything (mannequins, excess stock, display stands, warehouse forklifts, etc) being moved onto the shop floor. It quickly becomes too cluttered for customers and salespeople to navigate efficiently. 

With a website, this can be damaging from a management and maintenance perspective. It may also impact the front-end user, generally affecting the speed and performance of a site. Implications of reduced speed will have a wider-reaching impact on rankings and conversion.

Not only can traditional CMSs slow down, but keeping everything together can have significant security risks as the system is accessed via the front end. This is why regularly updating traditional CMSs is vital to protecting content from new threats and ensuring bugs are rectified and not exploited. 

What is a headless CMS?

A headless CMS essentially cuts the front end (head) from the back end (body), places them into two “boxes”, and builds through an application programming interface (API) to generate a standalone static version of the site.

This approach enables greater speeds, more flexibility, and better utilisation of omnichannel architectures – an ever-growing challenge for websites. A single content item can be reused across various platforms, rather than needing to be reworked, which enables web developers to code more freely and perform more integrations. 

Not only this, but headless CMSs do not require updates to continue running efficiently, allowing businesses to focus on what they do best without worrying about bugs, speed, and security risks associated with out-of-date CMSs. In fact, headless CMSs are intrinsically secure because there is no way to access the back-end through the front, meaning there is nothing to exploit. 

The headless CMS approach gives you endless flexibility and great peace of mind when it comes to the performance and security of your business’ website. You have the ability to change what you want when you want to and the scalability of the solution is perfect for businesses with multiple websites and ambitious plans. As well as this, the lack of maintenance required to keep a headless CMS functioning is a huge benefit to providing a consistent user experience. Headless CMS systems like Storyblok are built for marketers and copywriters to create, manage, review and approve content within the CMS system. For more information, discover our headless CMS service

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Written by Jason Scarfe

Senior web developer Jason thrives on problem-solving, and loves getting creative with interaction-based websites.

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