A Headless CMS is a content management system that stores and manages content without a built-in presentation layer. It provides backend content management capabilities while enabling front-end delivery through APIs to any digital platform, offering greater design flexibility and multi-channel content distribution.
A Headless CMS accelerates content management and delivery across multiple platforms, with its architecture promoting rapid editing, scalable content management, and enhanced security. It empowers developers with the flexibility to use their preferred tools, allowing for creativity and efficiency in web development. This makes it a robust and adaptable solution for modern digital strategies, ensuring content reaches its audience effectively and securely.
Headless CMSs shine in areas requiring flexibility, efficiency, and multi-platform content delivery. It's ideal for localized marketing websites, allowing rapid creation and updates of marketing content and microsites. In e-commerce, it enhances customer experience with fast-loading pages and personalized content. Its use extends to non-web content like mobile apps and digital signage, offering a unified approach to omnichannel marketing. For internal business applications, it's used in employee-facing intranets and vendor portals, streamlining content aggregation and distribution.
Headless CMS could positively impact your SEO by facilitating faster website loading times and improved website performance, both of which are key ranking factors for search engines. By decoupling content from design, they allow for more streamlined and efficient content updates, keeping websites fresh and relevant. With their inherent flexibility, Headless CMS platforms support structured data and metadata management, further improving SEO. Overall, the adaptability and efficiency of Headless CMS make it an advantageous choice for businesses seeking to strengthen their SEO strategy and online visibility. There’s also the considerations on things like CDN, security, asset optimization, etc., that you can read more about on Headless CMS and SEO.
The LEGO analogy works best here. Imagine you have a big box of LEGO bricks (that's your content) and lots of different LEGO boards (these are the different websites and apps). A Headless CMS is where you store all your LEGO bricks. Whenever you want to build something, you can take the bricks from this cupboard and put them on any board you like. This means you can use the same bricks to make a racing car on one board, an airport on another, and a pirate ship on another, without changing the bricks themselves.
It really depends on what you want to build and what other considerations you have when it comes to features, budgets, SLAs, API capabilities, etc. According to G2, some of the commonly mentioned top 10 best Headless CMS (alphabetically) are Contentful, Contentstack, DatoCMS, Hygraph, Kontent, Prismic, Sanity, Storyblok, Strapi, and Umbraco. Those would be a great starting point to research which Headless CMS is potentially the right one for you.
While all Headless CMS would have some variance to their feature set - here’s a list of common product-focused ones to look out for that all Headless CMS should cover:
Intuitive content modeling with a wide variety of field types
The ability to handle multiple projects and environments
Locales (ideally not just languages, but locale-based content; think Internationalization v. Localization)
Inbuilt asset management
Custom roles and permissions for users and APIs with Permanent Auth Tokens (PATs)
Rich editor experience with an intuitive editor and UI
Scheduled publishing, custom workflows, and content validation
A strong developer experience via well documented APIs, a CLI, SDKs for custom plugins, and a strong CDN network
Depending on your use-case, some features may be more important than others. For a good look into what feature coverage and SLAs you can expect with DatoCMS, check out our plan comparison.
Yes and no – you can use a Headless CMS to build websites, but its capabilities go way beyond that. If you’re still unsure on whether you need a Headless CMS, let’s talk!