Nowadays, Headless WordPress is a trending topic. Most of the people who once heard the term aren’t quite sure what it is.

WordPress is a comprehensive and state-of-art platform that features tools for bloggers and web developers to offer many opportunities. But it does have its limitations, and it doesn’t give you the scalability and freedom to do everything. For instance:

  • Publishing content across multiple channels
  • Developing your website in languages other than PHP and Javascript
  • Using WordPress as an editing interface without the website attached

But you can enjoy all these functions with headless WordPress. It requires some technical effort, but you can use the back-end content management tools for nearly any task by decoupling WordPress from its front end.

Let’s discuss in detail what headless WordPress can do for you.

What is Headless WordPress?

A content management system (CMS) usually offers two frameworks.

  • The front end
  • The back end

The back end is where the management part comes in. In WordPress, the back end allows you to create and publish your content like blog posts and pages and manage different aspects of your site, such as settings, appearances, and other users.

headless wordpress

The front end is what visitors see when they visit your website. In WordPress, the front end changes its appearance and updates pages as you work behind the curtain. To achieve this functionality, it uses the REST API to request data from the hidden back end and showcase it to the public front of the website.

This “coupled” CMS platform serves well for most individuals, providing both an easy way to create a website and manage written content and blogs effectively. The flip side is, the front end and back end of such applications are often impossible to separate as they depend heavily on each other.

On the other hand, a headless CMS decouples these two frameworks, leaving the back end intact. You have your database, admin control, and content management utilities but no theme or website. But with the help of REST API, you can attach anything to it, whether it’s an app, a website, or any other digital channel. It offers immense opportunities and scalability for developers.

Why Would You Want to Use a Headless CMS?

By turning WordPress headless, you disconnect the front end and acquire the freedom to independently use the back end for any purpose. Create your website, application, or content management platform out of it; the possibilities are overwhelming.

WordPress is mainly developed using PHP, with a little Javascript used for a topping. Yet, a headless CMS can connect your website to third-party platforms coded in Ruby, Python, or other languages using the API. If you want to, you can code your entire website in a completely different language.

And that’s exactly the lifeline here. You can enjoy the perks of having the features-rich WordPress installation and the ability to experience all the web frameworks that were previously incompatible.

Also Read: Top 20 Headless CMS – How to Choose the Right One 

All you have to do is use the built-in REST API to connect your custom-made website and WordPress, and everything will fit together perfectly. This is how WordPress works already, but with a little code, you can sever the default connections and replace the front end with your work. If it can connect to an API, you can use it with WordPress.

The decoupling of WordPress separates your content base from the presentation layer, which in turn improves security, especially if you have your website and WordPress admin on different servers and domains. All types of Cracking attempts, including Denial of Service – DoS attacks, will only be able to target one of these endpoints. So if you have huge security concerns, a headless CMS on a latent server might be the solution.

Outro to the whole debate is that you have to use a headless CMS if you want to use the WordPress platform to connect to a custom website or application.

Headless WordPress – Opportunities and Limitations

When to Opt for Headless CMS?

Decoupling your CMS gives overwhelming freedom to developers so they can try new things and work with languages that were not compatible with WordPress before. Below are some specific use cases of Headless WordPress:

  • WordPress’s robust management tools help you to create and track a record of content. In headless WordPress, if configured correctly, permalinks go straight away to the editing page. Add new authors and editors, utilize the user role system, and real-time collaboration on different projects. You could even use it as an independent editorial interface.
  • Code your front-end website in a language or platform you feel more experienced while still enjoying the perks of WordPress’s perfectly curated blogging framework simultaneously.
  • Even if you lack expertise in languages like HTML/CSS, PHP, and Javascript. Decouple WordPress and use your code.
  • Alter frameworks at any time while keeping your content secure. Suppose you decide to revise everything from scratch in a different and more relevant framework in the upcoming days since you’re using an API. In that case, the edge over hard-coded conventional CMS, switching everything over is quite simple.
  • Develop an application that calls functions from WordPress to showcase the content. Headless isn’t just restricted to websites as you could use WordPress with all sorts of digital channels.
  • You would be able to use platforms and libraries that are not compatible with WordPress, such as Ruby on Rails, Django, Vue.js, React, and many more.
  • Multichannel, multidevice, and cross-platform publishing is the core purpose of using API-driven headless cms. Isn’t it irritating and time-killing to post the same content to your website, applications, social media platforms, etc.? Using REST API, you can streamline the entire process, publishing WordPress content across multiple channels.

When Not to Use a Headless CMS?

No doubt, headless WordPress is an innovative approach, but there are some aspects you should keep in mind before deciding whether to switch from conventional CMS to headless CMS or not.

  • If you’re not an expert developer, headless CMS can be more difficult to you than it’s worth. Tutorials can help you get most of the stuff done, but as for maintenance and bugs, you will find yourself in deep trouble while handling errors, crashes, and failures. Headless WordPress may be too much of a headache for immature developers and editors.
  • The Non-developers, such as clients, authors/editors, and designers, will plausibly face some difficulties. Navigating and working in a shared environment takes some time. The conventional WordPress setup is easy to understand for both developers and non-developers. Specifically, if you’re creating client websites, it’s a superior approach.
  • Opting to decouple comes amid some maintenance issues. The separate front and back ends mean you double the maintenance effort, double the servers and double the complexities if something goes unplanned. You also have to adjust the REST API connecting both frameworks.
  • Decoupling WordPress doesn’t mean getting things 100% as most features like WYSIWYG editor and live preview won’t work. Other areas may be messy or require further improvement to fulfil your specific requirements.
  • Transition to the headless platform can be expensive as it requires developing a customized front end. As mentioned above, maintenance will be more difficult, so you’ll need to hire professional developers who know how to deal with the issues.

Hybrid CMS – An Alternate Solution

To minimize efforts and chances of failure, you can opt for Hybrid CMSes that are relatively new and easy approaches. Headless CMSes were introduced to curb the overwhelming issues of distributing complex content across different platforms by allowing developers to use modern frameworks while sticking with their content management platform.

Despite the earlier benefits, they’re difficult to set up and require an API to handle everything. Many other CMS features you’re used to, such as live previews, post permalinks, etc., don’t function. This is specifically the case with headless WordPress, as you’ll have no gateway left to preview posts or pages.

This is where hybrid CMS joins the stage. Like WordPress, these platforms provide content management and website building utilities. Still, they allow you to choose which segment of your sites will become headless and work conventionally.

headless ecommerce approachImage Courtesy: e-spirit.com

You can create a website as easily as WordPress while enjoying the perks of utilities like post previews and live editing. On the other hand, if you distribute your content over multiple platforms or want to integrate your web framework, you need to make a few clicks, and you are all done.

You can even develop most of your website with built-in software tools and then use an API to link an application developed using another framework or language. This feature is also available in default WordPress using REST, but hybrid CMSes make this process a lot simpler for you.

As far as WordPress is concerned, there’s no easy way to turn it into a hybrid CMS. You can emulate it to an extent by using extensions that can automatically distribute your content to other channels and connecting apps built-in to other frameworks with the help of REST API. But if you are gearing up to go headless, there’s no way to make live preview or other features available.

If you’re not interested in coding your website, headless WordPress is not your cup of tea. Try another platform for multichannel publishing, such as PressRoom or a hybrid CMS.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, a decoupled CMS provides developers with an opportunity to program their site in their preferred languages, use many libraries and frameworks, use WordPress as an organizational or editorial utility, or publish the same content across multiple channels. 

If any of these utilities sound like your requirements, you should certainly give headless WordPress a try. It opens up new corridors for developers to innovate and provide the freedom to use the utilities they want without losing the robust content management system they are familiar with.

If you are; 

  • Not developing a multichannel platform, 
  • Don’t have the resources to handle a complicated setup, 
  • Aren’t going to link WordPress to an external application or separate website 
  • Don’t want to create your site or work with different languages, 

Then it would be best if you did not go for the headless approach.