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Future-Proofing Your Website: Is a Headless WordPress Website Right For Your Business?

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Content Management Systems (CMS) are essential for ensuring that website content can be edited even by those without technical expertise. If you’ve read our previous post on website development for CMS, you know the basics and benefits of using such a system and why we work with WordPress.

But did you know that there are multiple types of content management systems?

This seems like a niche technological fact that most people don’t need to know.

Or is it?

It never hurts to have a basic understanding of the types of websites that can be built for your business. This is especially true when you’re shopping for website development services. The last thing you need is to be upsold on an overengineered website that costs double your budget when a simple website for half the cost would have sufficed.

On the other hand, you should also know whether your website can grow with your business. A simple website saves money upfront, but it might not be adaptable to an expanding business. These factors dictate what kind of CMS is best for your website.

Traditional CMS

A traditional CMS, also known as a coupled CMS, is the most common type of content management system. This is the type you’ll see in most popular CMS including WordPress and Shopify.

In this system, content management and content delivery are handled in the same place. The management of content, known as the backend of a site, and its delivery, or the frontend, are tied together (coupled).

The backend is better known to users as the admin pages of the website. This is where you manage website settings, edit page content, and upload files. The frontend is the publicly visible part of the website. Typically, within traditional CMSs, you’re able to customize the design of the frontend from within the backend admin pages.

A coupled content management system has several benefits, including a simple configuration, faster setup and development, and less technical knowledge required to use it. The lower barrier to entry explains its popularity among the web community. Even those that have never had a website can easily learn the system.

Regardless, every system has its drawbacks and traditional CMS has its share.

The issue lies in the inseparable nature of the frontend and backend. The integration of the two means that the website code must weave the two parts together using one programming language that can manage both. This makes it difficult to change the code for one part without affecting the other. Updates to the frontend may require changes to the backend and vice-versa. That means more work for your website development team and more cost for you.

Something else to consider for your website is scalability. Scalability is the ability of a website to handle increased workloads or traffic, and should be considered if a business is growing. The last thing you need is your website crashing if it gets too popular! This generally requires changes to your backend infrastructure, but now you know that just changing the backend isn’t all that simple.

Traditional content management systems are excellent for simple, quick-to-build, user-friendly websites, but it limits options like scalability.

Why is this important? If you’re paying for a website and you know you want to add to it in the future, building on top of a flexible system is certainly better than creating a new website from scratch. A headless CMS is the better solution in this case.

Headless CMS

Where content management and delivery are interconnected for traditional CMS, headless CMS lacks this coupling. Headless, meaning no head, alludes to the absence of a frontend. Frontend isn’t just about how your website looks, it’s also about the actual data retrieved from your website backend and how to display it on specific parts of the website.

But why is there no frontend in headless?

Headless content management systems only provide the backend so you’re free to use any kind of frontend infrastructure you want. Freedom of choice with the frontend means the ability to add needed capabilities that weren’t feasible with a traditional CMS.

If you need a website optimized for even the slowest Internet connections, a headless CMS is better for that. Unlike traditional CMS that comes with several features that you may not even use, websites built via headless CMS only have features that they need. In addition, pages are more efficient with data retrieval and usage, utilizing only what’s necessary for each page.

The separation of frontend and backend provides additional benefits for complexity, scalability, and security. Does your site need to handle increased traffic? Does it need to be secure? Does it need intricate features such as an online store or user accounts now or in the future?

The separation of frontend and backend means that you don’t have to tamper with both ends if you only need to update one. Updating the backend means updating only the backend. This results in less work for your website development team and lower cost for you.

Make no mistake: headless CMS is not the solution for every website.

A simple website is indeed cheaper in the short-term. However, complex websites or websites that need to have capacity for complexity in the future are more suited for headless systems. Despite the higher upfront cost, a headless website can be more cost-effective for growing businesses in the long-run.

WordPress and “Headless” CMS

Let’s take a look at how to achieve a headless setup using WordPress. Technically, headless with WordPress isn’t actually headless at all! It’s actually called a decoupled CMS and you’ll see why.

In many cases, developers creating a headless content management system using WordPress want to retain the ease and familiarity of the WordPress system for its users. The backend, where the website’s content is managed, largely stays the same. It will have minor differences, but content can still be easily updated by non-technical users.

The frontend, the code that handles content delivery, is handled differently. Much like the headless CMS, developers have the freedom to choose any frontend infrastructure. This means that the frontend for this build won’t resemble a typical WordPress site.

However, native headless content management systems have no frontend built into them; they only have a backend. WordPress, on the other hand, has a frontend built into it. A “headless” WordPress setup simply detaches or decouples the frontend and backend. Hence, decoupled CMS is the more apt term.

What does this mean for non-developers? It means that those who have worked with WordPress will be familiar with this system. But despite resembling a normal WordPress backend, a decoupled site won’t entirely function like a traditional CMS nor will the frontend look like WordPress.

How much difference there is on a decoupled build compared to the traditional WordPress CMS can vary by setup. Regardless, a professional website development team should teach you how to use the system.

Do you have a growing business? Contact us today to get started on an adaptable and long-lasting website that will flourish with you.

    Angeline Manabat
    Web Developer


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