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What is a headless CMS?

headless-cms

Headless CMS (or decoupled CMS) is a content management system that does not rely on or bind itself to any user interface. The idea behind this approach is to separate the development of an application from its content management system, allowing developers to create rich and dynamic experiences without dealing with content editing, versioning, or publishing.

In short: you build your website how you want it using your favorite framework (whether Next.js, Angular, React, Vue, or something else). Then you use a headless CMS to load and display your content.

But why would I want that ?

There are many advantages of having a headless CMS:

  • It's easier to scale,
  • It's easier to develop,
  • It gives you decoupled components (which is a requirement for many modern full-stack architectures),
  • It can simplify your development and maintenance.

Headless CMS systems also usually come with some sort of user interface (UI) for editors to log in and manage content. This allows you to keep your development team out of the CMS business and focus on what you're good at.

This architecture has a number of fascinating benefits: your front-end application is completely independent of the CMS, it doesn't have to touch the server or understand its internal mechanics - all it does is fetch data and display it as HTML on your page. Since your front-end application doesn't have to deal with the CMS, it's much easier to write unit tests for it without having to initiate and manage a database connection or interact with an external system. You can also switch your front-end library easily - if you want to change from Angular to React, just update a configuration file or two, and you're done.

Finally, it's easier to scale since you're not dependent on an interface to handle requests in your server - if your website suddenly becomes really popular and traffic starts increasing dramatically you can add more servers and easily share databases without having to make any changes in the front-end application - it will just keep happily serving requests.

These are some of the many reasons why modern headless CMS has become very popular in the front-end development community. They give you an opportunity to use already proven and battle-tested solutions that can be easily integrated into your existing stack. It's much easier to pick a framework you're familiar with and have full control over the architecture, rather than learning how an existing CMS works.

How does it work?

The way headless CMS works is really simple. You have a server that hosts content - usually in some database format like JSON or as XML; you then configure your front-end application to connect to the API of your headless CMS and fetch contents from it when needed.

What are popular headless CMS solutions?

There is no clear answer, and the list changes all the time - our favorite one is Strapi, which is an open source Node.js platform that allows you to easily build your headless CMS powered by one of your favorite front-end frameworks or libraries like Vue, React or Angular, but there are others out there like Contentful which also have a great community behind them and are really easy to use.

Conclusion

Headless CMS is a great option when you want to remove the burden of content editing from your front-end development team and just focus on building something beautiful.

In the next article, we are going to show how you can install production-ready headless CMS called Strapi in a couple of minutes. In the meantime, we invite you to sign up for a free trial and see how easy it is to create the next great product with Strapi.

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