Wednesday, June 19

Headless WordPress – A New Approach to Next-Generation CMS


WordPress – A giant name which comes immediately into everyone mind if someone is looking for a better, fast, reliable & SEO friendly content management system. WordPress originally released in 2003, with the whole sole purpose of providing users with the unique solution of managing content.

It has come a long way in these next 15+ years with a lot of changes in concern to design, security, plugins development & many more. Let’s have a quick look at some of the impressive WordPress statistics:

According to WordCamp reports, “WordPress powers over 75 million sites on the web”.

“WordPress share of the global content management market is around 60.2%” – Search Engine Journal

There were 32 million Google searches for WordPress in June 2019 compared to the 7 million searches for Drupal & 3 million for Blogger.” – Google Trends

Amazing to see such mind-blowing statistics. It seems like WordPress is alone athlete racing in a 500m race. Drupal & Blogger are not even in the picture frame.

In 2019, I have seen a new trend rounding up WordPress that is Headless CMS or Decoupled CMS. A lot of whispers are there around in the world market on this topic Headless WordPress/Decoupled WordPress. Even, If I look up at the Google trends of Headless WordPress, I can see a tremendous uplift in popularity for the same technology.

I understand for many users, the business owners this term might be confusing or difficult to understand the concept & decide whether to adapt to emerging technology or not.

You need not worry because through this blog post, I will be going to cover the complete aspect of Headless WordPress, how you can decouple WordPress with ReactJS, Gatsby & VueJS & many more. But, let’s first start with a basic understanding of Headless terminology.

What is Headless?

Headless means a body with without a head. Now you must be wondering from where these terms body & head comes in website designing & development.

Well, it’s right for any website there is a body & a head which completes the website architecture. The front-end of the site where you usually see graphics, text, etc. is termed as the head. On the other hand, from where you control these graphics & text is termed as the body.

Headless technology is not about choosing a new coding language, in fact, it’s about separating the front-end layer from the backend layer. With the help of APIs, data is retrieved from the backend layer & the same information is presented on the front-end.

What is Headless WordPress?

First of all, I would like to tell you that WordPress initially not intend to be headless CMS. Back in the year 2016, WordPress expert developers created the WordPress REST APIs, giving users the ability to get their WordPress sites headless.

Be default, WordPress architecture follows a monolithic approach or what you can term it as a traditional approach. The traditional approach usually couples both the frontend & the backend of the website. In the headless approach, the frontend layer & backend layer is decoupled & complete data from the backend is retrieved by the WordPress REST APIs.

You have complete freedom to choose a framework of your choice for the frontend design. It can be ReactJS, Gatsby (React-based framework) or VueJS. For the backend, you continue with WordPress. Now, the next questions arise why one should choose WordPress as a headless CMS over other available options likewise Drupal or Contentful. Let’s find out the topmost reasons which make WordPress as #1 choice for the users as a headless CMS.

Pros of Headless WordPress CMS

Can choose front-end presentation layer of your own choice:

With the headless approach, the users don’t require to select a particular theme (especially the paid WordPress themes) or ask their designers to design theme.

User can select from any of the available powerful javascript frameworks like ReactJS, AngularJS, Gatsby or even VueJS. Expert frontend designers can easily integrate these frameworks with the backend of your respective website.

Eliminating the need of a developer to control backend:

Gone are the days, when you have to contact your developer to update a piece of information (in graphical form or text). With the headless approach, a user can update the information of themselves without disturbing the front end design of the website. This approach has not only saved time but also the higher-cost which was involved in the website maintenance.

Better access to multichannel content publishing:

By saying multichannel content publishing, I mean to say that one can publish the same content for the readers in many ways. Some of the readers would love to read your published content in the form of the book whereas some will go through your content via smartphone or laptop/desktop. Now questions arise how access to multichannel content publishing will improve with headless WordPress.

Answer to the same question is Stack. A stack is the infrastructure of an app or digital object. With the headless approach, WordPress can be integrated easily into the Stack. One can set up headless WordPress to automatically share new content on all the channels that matter to you.

Cons of Headless WordPress CMS

Not suitable for the WordPress sites which depends on daily maintenance

I have seen there are few websites which are built on WordPress CMS and requires daily maintenance and that too performed by the users who are unfamiliar with basic coding basics.

The WYSIWYG editor will get disabled when someone uses WordPress as Headless CMS. WordPress REST APIs will handle the vital functions of the website. So, for a common user who is unfamiliar with coding for them, it would be a hard task to work without WYSIWYG editor.

Always a need for a frontend designer

There will be no front-end in the headless approach. The frontend design will be managed through Javascript frameworks. So, it becomes necessary to have someone in your in house team who is expert in maintaining Javascript.

Best Javascript Frameworks which you can Integrate with Headless WordPress

JavaScript frameworks are more flexible for designing websites & hence, they are favored by most of the frontend developers. JavaScript frameworks are a sort of tool that makes working with JavaScript more comfortable and flatter.  In the market, there are Javascript frameworks likewise Ember.js, Node.js, Polymer but, I have picked up the most popular Javascript frameworks in 2019. Let’s a quick view of their pros & cons.


ReactJs is one of the most popular Javascript framework based on the open-source JavaScript library. For making single-page applications, building an interactive user interface, developers prefer using ReactJS. Software engineer working for Facebook – Jordan Walke, developed this javascript framework – ReactJS. Back in 2011, React was first deployed on Facebook’s newsfeed and later on Instagram in 2012.

Pros of ReactJS

  • Better Performance: Because ReactJS is more flexible, therefore it can be integrated easily with popular CMSes without much trouble.
  • Availability of Rich Resources: As we know ReactJS is developed by Facebook, so the availability for the resources is abundant & are easily available on the web.
  • Component Structure can be easily maintained: ReactJS architecture is a component-based which helps in enhancing the reusability of the code & makes the maintenance part a much easier.
  • Huge Community: If you’ll have a look at GitHub for ReactJS community, you’ll find more than 1000 contributors present at the moment making a rich community than other Javascript frameworks.

Cons of ReactJS

  • SEO Indexing Issues: At present Google search engine is to not able to understand Javascript language, so ReactJS webpages are known to be non-SEO-friendly.
  • Wide Array of Assembly tool is required: For proper functioning, ReactJS need assembly tools & to be compatible with other frameworks & the libraries.

Popular sites which have adopted ReactJS framework: Facebook, Whatsapp, Microsoft, Paypal, BBC, Yahoo, Netflix and many more.


AngularJS is one of the oldest Javascript framework based on the open-source Model-View-Controller framework. For building dynamic single-page applications, developers prefer using AngularJS.

AngularJS is always up to date. Special thanks to the Google team who maintains AngularJS. And for the same reason, it is the first choice for the developers around the globe for building dynamic SPA(single-page applications).

Pros of AngularJS

  • Model-View-Controller framework: Because AngularJS is based on Model-View-ViewModel, so it allows the developers to act on the same application & data pool in privacy.
  • Abundant Resources: As we know AngularJS is maintained by Google, so one would expect extensive support as well as abundant resources. Google doesn’t disappoint their developers & hence every six months they roll out some new updates for AngularJS & keep on providing abundant resources & documentation on the same.
  • No need for Binding Data: With the help of a few snippets code in AngularJS, a developer can easily bind the data, thereby eliminating the need of writing special code for the same.

Cons of AngularJS

  • Hard Syntax: Recently AngularJS adopted Typescript which led to the syntax complexity.
  • Migration Issues: No doubt, Google is rolling out an update every six months, but the main concern revolves around migration. It is very difficult to migrate from older angular version, especially from AngularJS to the latest angular 7.
  • Thorough knowledge of MVM is required: Without a deep knowledge of Model-View-ViewModel, it is hard to work with AngularJS. The concept of MVM is based on breaking the business logic layer, presentation layer, and data layer into separate divisions.

Popular sites which have adopted AngularJS framework: Google, YouTube, Freelancer, Upwork, Udemy, Nike, Telegram, Weather, Crunchbase and many more.


VueJS is third most popular Javascript framework based on the open-source javascript framework. For streamline & building responsive UI, developers prefer using VueJS. First released in 2014 & is developed by the independent software developer -Evan You.

Pros of VueJS

  • Small Size: Success for any javascript framework depends upon its size. Out of all the javascript frameworks, VueJS has the smallest size of approx 18–21KB. So users require very less time to download & use it.
  • Simple Structure: The reason why VueJS has gained popularity in very less time is because of the simple structure on which VueJS is based. Any user can understand this Javascript framework easily and can integrate the same with any web application.
  • Better Flexibility: VueJS offers you great flexibility. With the help of virtual nodes, a user can write HTML file, Javascript file easily.
  • Much Faster Configuration: VueJS has a built-in MVM model which enables faster configuration compared to other frameworks like AngularJS or ReactJS.

Cons of VueJS

  • Poor Support: Unlike ReactJS or AngularJS which are supported by big giant names Facebook & Google respectively, VueJS is owned by an independent software developer. So because of the same reason, the market share of VueJS is on the lower side. Developers who are relatively new to VueJS might find difficult in finding abundant resources.
  • Small Community: VueJS community is from non-English speaking eastern European countries which rarely participates in group discussions.

Popular sites which have adopted VueJS framework: Adobe, Alibaba, Grammarly, StackOverflow, 9gag, Xiaomi.

As you have gone through the most popular Javascript frameworks in concern to their pros & cons, so the choice is yours to choose the best framework. But if you’ll look at Google trends below, then I would recommend going for ReactJS. Even if you’ll ask me for my personal choice, then I would also have recommended ReactJS.

Image Source: Google Trends

These days you must have heard about a very popular open-source framework based on React – GatsbyJS. If not, then let’s have a glance on the same.


GatsbyJS has gained popularity in the market within less frame of time. Gatsby is a static generator just like Jekyll, Hugo, which is based on the React & is powered by the GraphQL. Gatsby is mainly used to build static sites that are PWA (Progressive Web Apps). GatsbyJS makes use of the latest technologies including ReactJS, CSS, latest web pack & modern javascript.

You can pull down any form of data from any CMS (WordPress, Drupal, Contentful), APIs, databases directly into your pages using GraphQL.

Pros of GatsbyJS

  • Based on ReactJS: One of the most significant advantages Gatsby owns is that it is based on ReactJS -which is the most popular javascript framework in 2019. ReactJS has extensive support, rich availability of resources, component-based architecture, thereby by making Gatsby more popular among the users who are looking to build high engaging static sites.
  • Well built & better-architected plugin system: Unlike other Operational Support Systems (OSS) tools such as Babel & Webpack, much of the power of Gatsby is provided by plugins.
  • PWA features out-of-the-box: By adding a single plugin, Gatsby can provide offline support as well, changing your complete site into a full-blown Progressive Web App.
  • Smooth Developer Experience: The plugin system makes it simple to continue, typically with a single npm install and some lines in the configuration file. When you’re writing local content or developing, Gatsby has live-reload, so you see your changes instantly.

Future of Headless WordPress

Headless CMS is a new model in web development, but its applications are endless. In the API-driven world of the latest web, it takes content management to a new age. With a headless CMS approach, you can write your content and use its API to retrieve content on any platform you can imagine of. Whether it’s your static site, mobile app, or even your chatbot.

And finally, despite its age, WordPress remains as first choice CMS because of flexibility that WordPress offers its users. No doubt, WordPress is fully responsive making your site adaptive across all devices & browsers, but it can still make your website slower. In this competitive world, everybody wants to be at the top of the world. So, WordPress with Headless CMS is worth trying out because of its enormous advantages over the traditional CMS.

Article written by kunal.khullar.

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