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Headless WordPress CMS 101

Headless WordPress CMS 101

Web developers and content creators have been using WordPress for creating websites and administering content for almost two decades. However, the ever-changing advancements in the digital field and the need for better personalized web experiences led to a new approach in web development in the form of Headless CMS.

In WordPress development, there’s hardly a more popular trend right now than Headless CMS. And the stats show, Google Trends, there has been an increasing interest in the topic in the past five years.

headless cms google trends interest

Consequently, the number of brands that want to explore the headless CMS to scale their web presence is on the rise as well. So, if you’re still wondering what exactly is Headless WordPress CMS, and the benefits that you can gain by implementing it in your build, this 101 guide will hopefully answer any questions you might have

What Is Headless WordPress?

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Before we anything, let’s clarify what Headless means. The front-end of your CMS represents the website’s final look and feel, as well as every option feature intended for the end-users. The back-end is where you create, manage, and publish your digital content.

Basically, a headless CMS is one without a front-end. It includes only the Application Programming Interface (API) and the back-end that are necessary for administering content, organizing data, and creating workflows. The API allows the separate ends of the application to communicate with one another.

In contrast to a regular CMS, a headless CMS provides only a back end and an API, so it can’t be utilized for “publishing” content per se. That is, broadly, the major distinction between a headless and a traditional CMS.

Of course, removing the front-end can represent a real challenge for most of the WordPress users. Without one, most users can’t imagine what the output from a headless content creation method would look like.

A traditional CMS manages data through a MySQL database, retrieves it using PHP, and displays it in the browser with a front-end framework. The headless CMS disconnects the front-end framework so that you can use another front-end technology of choice. The data is provided to the frontend through an API.

Contrary to a regular CMS, where you need to abide by the rules and utilize specific programming languages, with a headless CMS, you have absolute authority for the content presentation. Without the “head”, you can combine with every single codebase and programming language.

For the front-end, you can choose any type of framework (ReactJS, Gatsby, VueJS). A framework is essentially the groundwork of your WordPress website. Regarding the backend, you can continue working with WordPress.

The WordPress REST API

WordPress REST (Representational State Transfer) API is a software architecture that allows two applications to communicate through exchanging data. The REST API converts WordPress into a headless CMS by separating the backend of the frontend, enabling you to use it as a development platform.

REST API Endpoints

Endpoints are data types in the REST API that developers can use to create, update, or delete content. If you want to create a website, app, or a plugin, you can make use of the API by including your endpoints.

Benefits of Using REST API

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The WordPress REST API makes WordPress headless CMS possible. Many advantages come as a result:

  • Contextual Solutions: The API allows developers to use any framework and development process that fits as a solution to a contextual problem at hand.
  • Content Flexibility: The content of a website that is backed by REST API is a portable one. Data is entered into once location, and through the API, it is transferred to websites, web apps, and mobile apps.
  • Better Integration: The REST API permits you to use WordPress with the integrations that are suitable for your business. That turns WordPress into a module, improving its integration with various tools that you need to run your business website.
  • Centralized Data: The REST API allows your WordPress website to be the focal point that puts your data together. Everything can be centralized on your WordPress site, giving content creators a simple interface to work with.

Why Should You Make Your WordPress Headless

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The most significant benefit of using a headless WordPress CMS lies in its exceptional flexibility. It is a much more preferable solution for projects that a traditional CMS just can’t support. Developers can take full command over a project, and the aspects in which data is stored and administered in the process.

The REST API helps developers to save a great deal of time and effort in their fundamental backend tasks, from content creation to bug fixing.

A headless CMS provides you with greater scalability as well. A scalable website can increase its resources as necessary. Having backend and frontend that are isolated from one another results in less maintenance downtime, and you can enhance and modify your WordPress website without affecting its performance.

Furthermore, with a removed front-end, WordPress becomes even more integrative with the majority of the available technology stacks and platforms.

Multichannel publishing can be much more efficient with a headless CMS at your disposal. Rather than continually adjusting content formats separately for each platform, with headless WordPress, you need only to publish the content once, and it will be automatically distributed across platforms.

An additional benefit of a headless WordPress CMS is the website speed improvement. Speed is pivotal from an SEO and UX standpoint, and users tend to leave websites that load more than three seconds. Headless WordPress facilitates and speeds up the content loading process, which can be of great value for large sites.

Headless WordPress CMS is perfect for enterprises that want to create an engaging and unique web experience for users. The architecture allows for more flexible and better cross-site content experience, so you can adapt your website better to every upcoming technology and web trend.

For example, in large-scale publishing Multisite network, you can move your content on numerous different channels. When you need a new subsite, it’s even easier to add one through an API. It’s beneficial for both content creators and developers.

Recommended: WordPress Publishing Explained: Key Revenue Growth Techniques

TechCrunch, one of the tech news industry leaders successfully, capitalized from headless WordPress through a 2018 website overhaul. Now, their platform has clearer design and UX, the various modules are maintained efficiently, and the clutter of ad placements and design is fixed with better page layouts and fluid content interactions.

tech crunch headless cms overhaul

Or, in a massive eCommerce platform, through headless WordPress, you are more flexible with massive amounts of data and product information, as opposed to traditional CMS settings where structural and data limitations can often be an issue.

Marketing teams can benefit a lot from using a headless content management system in creating better overall omnichannel experiences. Google reports that about 85% of consumers will begin the customer journey on one channel or device and complete it on another.

An omnichannel strategy can retain up to 89% of your customers. That means that if you want to scale your WordPress build for each device and channel, you will need an effortless content creating and optimization experience on your platform, which is what a headless CMS provides you with.

Challenges of Headless WordPress

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The headless WordPress technology offers great advantages over the traditional form of the CMS. But, with every new technology, some hurdles need to be addressed before you scale the platform to a higher level.

Formatting content can be quite tricky when you can’t preview what the content will look like. Thus, additional actions need to be taken to foresee better how the content will appear when live.

While using headless architecture comes with some security advantages, you’ll have to set up permissions and user credentials to protect confidential content from non-authorized users, which can be tedious. Without proper security actions, a headless CMS can be a serious risk.

You must regularly set up and review user permissions to protect your content, which can be tiresome.

A headless WordPress means that you will no longer be able to preview and test what the end-user sees when opening your content. To maximize your WordPress CMS, you’re going to need a team with top-level coding knowledge. You will have to maintain the front-end and the back-end separately, in lots of cases on a daily basis.

Using WordPress as a Headless CMS

An ordinary WordPress CMS has three fundamental elements:

  • Database for storing content
  • CRUD API for editing the content
  • A method for presenting content to the end-users

However, when in headless mode, the only thing the end-users see is going to be your stationary website, and all you need from your CMS is a means for providing content in the form of data, as opposed to HTML.

The following is a summary of all the steps necessary to set up a headless WordPress CMS:

  • Have a freshly-installed WordPress.
  • Utilize a blank theme that redirects to the static site.
  • Retrieve the data through the WP REST API.

A theme is the element of your WordPress site that displays the content to the end-users. The theme is made from a couple of files in the wp-content/themes/theme-name directory: the index.php and style.css.

You will need to ensure that you have both of these files in the wp-content/themes/exampleblanktheme directory, and then activate the blank theme in your WordPress admin. Users that visit your site will be redirected directly to wp.yoursite.com. This keeps all the WordPress components that you need, such as the admin panel, file URLs, and the API endpoints untouched.

You should make the API available under a different domain than the one of your main site, for example, subdomain such as wp.yoursite.com.

The REST API allows you to use an interface for interacting with your site by transceiving data as JSON objects. It’s a framework for the WordPress Block Editor, and it can help you activate your theme, plugin, or custom app for content management.

Through the REST API, you’re able to build a fresh front-end experience or move your WordPress content in a different application. The options with headless WordPress are limitless.

By disarming the CMS from the frontend, a headless CMS enables the usage of any type of framework for displaying content. The developers can work with languages such as JavaScript, and use an API to manage data.

Developers are in control of the website’s markup and UX through client-side technologies to create smooth interactive experiences. If the frontend needs to be displayed differently, the CMS will keep the data, without any complex migrations.

A headless CMS creates two separate elements: the CMS and the frontend view. With the disjunction, the performance and the UX can be substantially improved. The CMS is focused on content management, and the client-side technology is centered around displaying the content in the browser.

That means fast in-browser experiences, without waiting for PHP to render the full page. For example, if you’re using Node.js, the browser can handle considerably more requests than PHP because of the asynchronous nature.

A traditional CMS displays data through the CMS. With the API, the data that is being stored in headless WordPress is ready anytime, and it can be used for creating websites or applications.

Popular Frameworks to Integrate with Headless WordPress CMS

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The following are the most popular frameworks that you can use for building websites with headless WordPress:

  • ReactJS: This is an excellent framework for building engaging UI and single-page apps. Popular websites that use this framework are Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, PayPal, and Netflix.
  • AngularJS: It’s an older JavaScript framework useful for building dynamic experiences. Popular sites that use the framework are Google, Nike, Crunchbase, and YouTube.
  • VueJS: A framework that is excellent for creating responsive UI, with small size, good configuration, and a simple structure.

Wrapping Up

As the latest in web development, the range of possibilities with Headless WordPress CMS is limitless. With API-driven web development, administering content is taken to a different level. Whether it’s your website site or an app, mobile app, the headless approach can help you create content and use the API to distribute the content on your desired platform.

WordPress continues as the first-choice CMS due to its flexibility and features that it offers to developers. A Headless WordPress CMS is worth a shot because of the advantages that are provided over any other traditional and headless CMS platform.

For more questions and help regarding Headless CMS and WordPress, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the DevriX team!

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