Headless CMS Explained: Definitions, Examples, Pros And Cons

headless cms

Over the past few years, a new breed of content management system (CMS), namely Headless CMS, has been the thing for businesses around the world. Whether you are a manager of a top-notch commercial enterprise or a newbie website developer, this type of CMS has definitely caught your eye at least once.

So, what is a headless CMS? How does it work? Why should you be using one? Scroll down to learn more

Headless CMS: Brief Introduction

What is a Headless CMS?

Headless CMS is an upgraded version of traditional CMS, operating according to the rules of headless technology. It has a decoupled structure, in contrast to the typical block structure.

headless content management system

A headless CMS is a backend-only content management system. It still focuses on creating, editing, and storing website content; however, the frontend and backend are no longer linked as in a traditional CMS.

The term “headless” arises from the separation of the “head” (presentation layer) and the “body” (content repository).

What is Headless CMS open source?

This term refers to headless CMSs that are free to use. More specifically, some platforms that support building this type of CMS cost next to nothing, yet you still need a developer to get your website up and running.

How does a Headless CMS work?

how it works

To begin with, headless CMS is like a city completely separate from your backend – another city. However, you can connect these two cities through technology API (application programming interface).

Because headless CMS has a separate structure, independent of any department, the content produced by its owner is stored in the cloud data. When the owner needs to distribute those contents to the interface, they connect the CMS to the backend by headless CMS API.

Henceforth, it can be delivered through APIs to multiple devices and platforms. This allows developers to build their own frontend instead of using a template.

This approach contrasts sharply with a traditional CMS (such as WordPress), where the backend and frontend are closely linked (coupling).

Headless CMS examples


Elastic is a SaaS company specializing in providing technology solutions. Specifically, they make data searchable, visible, and integrated. Besides that, they also offer cloud storage solutions.

headless cms open source

After a period of operation, the traditional CMS is no longer suitable for them. Therefore, Elastic changed to headless CMS. With more flexibility, the company can push more content. From there, their customer experience is also more dynamic and up-to-date.

IC Group

IC Group is a major digital advertising agency in the world. They have many loyal clients who are big brands like Microsoft, Subway, KitchenAid, etc.

headless cms examples

However, after a period of operation, their business encountered pressure. Their engineering costs became massive because of the outdated system. As a result, their service prices increase and become less competitive.

A headless CMS is their practical solution. The content is delivered efficiently without much cost. They even built a tool that allows for quick ad creation without coding.

Headless CMS: Pros And Cons

pros and cons


With the backend detached from the frontend, a headless CMS offers users more comfort and accessibility.

For starters, headless CMSs separate content from presentation, which means you can pick and choose any frontend that suits your needs.

Then, they allow you to play around with how your content is displayed without themes and templates. Developers and designers can generate unique user experiences by swapping content in and out. 

Thanks to a headless CMS, it will also be easier to plug your content into any second or third-screen experiences, such as mobile apps, kiosks, VR experiences, and any other kind of medium.

Finally, a headless CMS should be a boon to developers. They can still work on current programs and employ preferred tools or frameworks without interrupting previous CMS codes. This approach saves them time and effort, unlike traditional CMSs where cross-platform data problems are expected.


However, there are some other downsides to a headless CMS. 

One noticeable disadvantage is that it requires experienced developers to set up and operate. These are simply indispensable during the preparation phase; otherwise, you’ll be left with nothing to, say, manage the presentation component of your site, apps, and suchlike.

The cost is another factor that you should consider to avoid running into (financial) trouble. Headless CMSs can be pretty expensive to implement. The incurred costs are also noteworthy because you will need to pay separately for the CMS or the aforementioned developers and infrastructure.

Lastly, with a second-screen experience, your medium will be fixed. Unlike websites that allow for customizable zones and the ability to resize and rearrange dynamic content, a fixed medium (like a mobile app container or kiosk) is restricted to presenting dynamic content in a fixed zone. This means you can swap in and out content but can’t customize placement or presentation much beyond that.

Headless CMS Vs Traditional CMS


headless cms vs traditional cms

The structure of a headless CMS is discrete, as shown by its microservice backend system. By contrast, a traditional CMS employs a block structure and a monolithic architecture. 

Specifically, the storage and display layers of this technology will stick together. Even the most minor changes to one layer will affect the other layer. Therefore, the process of expansion or maintenance must be meticulous.

In terms of hosting & delivery, a traditional CMS still uses the in-house approach and supports a limited number of devices. This is not the case for a headless one, which stores data in the cloud and allows limitless devices.

Platform dependence

Thanks to headless CMS’s loose structure, users can choose a flexible headless solution like Headless Magento with complete APIs to build their backend. They can then select another third-party ERP to design the UI that displays the content from the CMS since they are entirely unrestricted in choice.

Therefore, it can be seen that they are not completely dependent on any platform. They can change to extensions that better suit their needs whenever they need them. They can even connect to the Wix frontend and change to the Magento interface whenever you want.

In contrast, traditional ones will often limit them to using only one of the features from the original platform because the change would be complicated and expensive.

Freedom to create content

content management system

As for a headless CMS, users have more freedom in creating and publishing content. Traditional CMS users’ choices are more restricted; however, their operation process is much easier. 

This difference results in one of the most crucial outcomes: reach. A traditional CMS allows for “one-to-one” reach to your channels, while a headless CMS grants “one-to-many” (or multi-channel management) access.

Why Should I Use A Headless CMS?

headless ecommerce cms
  • You will have a website that operates on new JavaScript frameworks such as React, Angular, or VueJs.
  • Receive better maintenance and greater scalability for your website.
  • Your content will be displayed and distributed to multiple devices and platforms, for instance, a website, a mobile application, and so on.
  • The desire for full access and control over how your content is (and should be) displayed will be fulfilled.
  • You want to minimize the technical expenses of operating a CMS.
  • You want to make changes to your team members’ mindset. By using a headless CMS, they should be product-focused and content-oriented. As things no longer center on frontend display as traditional CMS, better work outcomes should come in no time. 

Headless CMS Platforms

Open-source platforms

As mentioned above, these platforms are free. You are granted full access and will be able to manage them to your heart’s content, for example, SonicJS, KeystoneJS, Sanity, etc.

Among them, Sanity.io is one of the most popular platforms. It is trusted by many market leaders, such as Nike, Cloudflare, and Netlify.

Yet, you will have to spend a fortune to hire experts to design your CMS for you because developing it using these platforms requires a deep technical understanding. 

Monthly payment platforms 

For monthly payments ones, we have Kentico Kontent, Butter CMS, Sanity, etc.

The name speaks for itself: These platforms often have different prices and require a time-based subscription. 

On the other hand, the process of building and developing these platforms is more straightforward than open-source ones. Editors can also manipulate it. However, because headless technology is complex, you still need to hire experts to get a quality CMS.

However, since the total cost you need to pay to use all the platform’s features is often quite expensive, you will get a lot of support from the customer care team.

A Credible Headless CMS Development Agency

It’s not difficult to find a unit that provides headless CMS construction service. However, not all of them deliver high-quality services at an affordable price.

If you are also wondering about this issue, consider Tigren. We have been providing headless development services and eCommerce solutions for over 10 years.

headless cms development service

Bottom Line

Creating and managing content has become an essential part of every business in the digital age. Hence, it stands to reason that CMS has been capturing a lot of attention.

Be it a traditional or a headless CMS, each has its own merits and demerits. We are no stranger to WordPress, a conventional CMS that allows people to build their websites within just a few clicks. However, if one yearns for better scalability, greater accessibility, cross-platform distribution, and optimized customer digital experiences, a headless CMS will serve as a panacea.

Read More:

A Must-read Guide Of Headless Website

Headless Commerce Guide: Definition, Architecture, Examples, Benefits

Magento 2 Headless: Why Is It A Must-Have Tech For Rapid Growth?

Headless PWA Frontend For Magento: Thorough Understanding In 5 Mins