If you’re familiar with traditional CMSs, then you’re probably familiar with how useful they can be for managing content and publishing things to your website. CMSs like WordPress and Drupal are ubiquitous tools that companies and individuals use to manage content and make publishing easier. They’ve become an essential part of successful content strategies, and have changed how we publish content online.
But because companies are frequently publishing content in different places, like apps, websites, and other mediums, there is a need for a CMS that can take into account each different platform and make it easy to publish content. WordPress and Drupal have even made strides to make this sort of activity easier, but there is still a gap to be bridged when it comes to making your content available in multiple places.
This is where a new type of CMS, like a headless CMS, can come in handy.
What is a Headless CMS?
A headless CMS is a CMS that primarily organises content on the back end. That is, the CMS itself does not just live on your website. It stores your content somewhere else, like a database, or in a repository. Content is then made available to multiple front ends, usually through a rest API.
This allows for content to flow more freely to multiple platforms. Because you aren’t marrying your content to your website, you have more freedom to change where you make it available, and how you make it available. If you want to make your content available on two different websites and two different mobile applications, a headless CMS would be more versatile they say WordPress or Drupal to publisher content.
When using a CMS like WordPress or Drupal, you are usually limited to publishing or content to a website however because it’s a headless CMS use a rest API you can publish your content wherever you can consume endpoints for that rest API. WordPress has made changes to their platform to make this kind of functionality available, but it is still worth it to explore other options, even if you currently use WordPress.
Top 5 Headless CMSs
There are a vast amount of headless CMSs on the market, available to you based on what technology you prefer. For example, there are NodeJS, or Python based CMSs, CMSs that are provided by third-party services, and local CMSs where content exists only on your machine. What you choose depends on the different features you want and the different types of content you are publishing. And of course, your personal preference.
We’ll go over some of the most popular options currently available on the market. Each of these options has its pros and cons, so be sure to dive deeper depending on your specific requirements.
Netlify CMS is a CMS for static site generators. It makes it easy for developers of static sites to allow non-technical users to update and publish content on static sites.
This is a great CMS if you’re using Jekyll or GatsbyJS. Netlify CMS feels very much like WordPress and is easy to get up and running on a static site. If you’re heavily invested in static website generators, this is a great option, and with integration with GitHub, BitBucket, and GitLab, Netlify CMS will fit nicely into your existing workflow.
Forestry.io is a static site CMS that works for Jekyll and Hugo. It is a third-party hosted service. This might be a con if you prefer self-hosted and open source.
This is another very clean CMS that will make users of WordPress and Drupal feel at home in the editor you can easily set this up on a static site for non-technical users, and they don’t need to know how to edit markdown files or know how the back end of your site works.
Another third-party service, CloudCannon is a polished CMS for Jekyll. This CMS works great out of the box and comes with some wonderful features and integrations that will make users of Jekyll happy, like integrations with Bitbucket.
If you are using Jekyll, you should give CloudCannon a try. The ease of use and content editing experience make this a great choice for less technical teams.
Prose is the most limited headless CMS in this list. But it might be just right for someone getting started with a static blog. It’s a web-based interface for managing Jekyll sites on GitHub.
Because it is limited to just Jekyll and GitHub, Prose is best suited for those looking for a blog CMS but could be extended to larger projects with some effort.
Strapi bills itself as being “the most advanced open-source Node.js Content Management Framework to build powerful API with no effort.” This headless CMS is arguably the most powerful, and the most headless on this list.
This is a truer headless CMS because it is platform agnostic. Your content only exists on Strapi and is made available through an API.
Don’t limit yourself to just one platform because of your CMS. Make sure that your CMS works for you on all the platforms you want your content to be available on.
This is where a special type of CMS, like a headless CMS, can come in handy.