The Ultimate Guide to Headless CMS

This guide will help you understand what a headless CMS is, the benefits of going headless, and how to choose the right CMS.

The ultimate guide to headless CMS

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What is a headless CMS?

A headless CMS is a content management system that enables you to deliver content to multiple channels simultaneously. This content repository allows users to create, manage and publish content without having to rely on a separate application or service. In other words, you don’t need to have an interface that users would navigate through in order to access published content. 

With a headless CMS, developers don’t have to worry about updating or maintaining any front-end user experience elements, which means they can focus more on developing the actual application they are building. A cloud-native headless CMS lets them create exceptional digital experiences fast, using modern technologies, such as microservices and static site generators.

Meanwhile, content creators can focus on content editing and publishing. Real-time collaboration helps you stay on track and improve your workflow. You can manage content at scale from a central hub, with the possibility of reusing the content across other websites and channels.

Detail of a woman’s hands working on her website

Traditional vs. Headless CMS

While traditional content management systems use templates and themes, headless CMSs let you manage the presentation of your website with your own code. A traditional CMS allows you to push content only to your website—simply put, you can’t use the same content across multiple channels and devices. Limited flexibility and reliance on templates are the main disadvantages of a traditional CMS. 

There’s a good chance you’ve come across another alternative to a headless CMS—a website builder that offers easy website creation by using drag-and-drop interfaces and powerful features like a page builder. However, it’s difficult to implement structured data on this kind of site. Some vendors also offer decoupled CMSs, which have drawbacks (you have to manage several environments while front-end development work is required for design).

6 reasons to go headless

Headless CMSs are changing the way content and development teams work. It’s a disruptive technology that’s gaining traction among major brands. The benefits are numerous, but below are some of the top reasons to consider going headless for your next project.

Using a headless CMS comes with many perks, including agility and flexibility, speed, easier scalability, high availability, increased security, a multichannel approach, ease of use, and a smooth learning curve. 

Let’s have a look at each of these in more detail:

Creating composable experiences

Benefits of a headless CMS

  • Agility and flexibility – Adapting to the new digital transformation requires a high level of agility and flexibility that will help you speed the process, ensuring your project is up and running. The headless architecture allows you to get started working on your project and deploy your applications immediately. Because the front end and back end are decoupled by default, you have complete freedom to choose how you want to build your application. This dramatically reduces your development time as well as the cost of creating new features for your website.
  • Speed – A headless CMS lets you add new content without having to wait for it to be published on your site. That means faster turnaround times for your writers and less time wasted waiting for pages to refresh. Since everything happens in a single request, less network overhead and fewer connections are being made. Fewer requests mean that you’ll get pages to your users faster. 
  • Easier scalability and high availability – Scalability is an important consideration when choosing the right content management system. Unlike traditional CMS solutions, headless CMS empowers developers to build a highly scalable architecture with high availability. Separation of the front end and back end ensures everything runs smoothly and at scale. Thanks to scalability, it’s easy to optimize your website seamlessly. 
  •  Increased security – With no portal through which visitors can enter data, your site is more secure against hackers and other threats. The separation of the front end and back end is a great advantage. The back end contains all the content, but it is not accessible to the front end. The system is set up in such a way that if there is a breach in one section, like a page on the website, it will not affect the other pages and functions of the site. 
  •  A multichannel approach – The main benefit of a headless CMS is that your website becomes fully functional through any channel or device—whether mobile apps, IoT devices, smartwatches, or single-page applications, to name a few. This way, your users will have access to the same content regardless of the device they are using. With Content as a Service (CaaS), you don't have to worry about the back end, just focus on building great content for your users. 
  • Easy to learn and use – With a headless CMS, you can manage your digital content and digital assets easily and on the fly. Unifying content in centralized content hubs allows teams to manage their assets and copy in one place, supporting multiple websites, apps, and other channels. When using the platform to create content or landing pages, each user can see only the relevant fields. Meanwhile, developers can efficiently work on your content infrastructure and interface.

3 examples of use cases

INEOS Hygienics

INEOS, a global leader in chemicals with 194 manufacturing facilities in 29 countries, needed to quickly communicate their offer to supply thousands of hospitals across the world with their hand sanitizers free of charge. The MTM Agency managed to deliver an on-brand site in only 24 hours. Within two weeks, the initial solution was replaced with a flexible, scalable platform that enabled the INEOS Hygienics brand to showcase their entire product portfolio to the general public.

In addition to that, the website had to be created in four languages to cover major European and US markets. The final solution allows the content team to easily build dedicated campaign landing pages, optimize their site for SEO, and integrate with popular third-party tools and services such as Stripe and SAP.

INEOS website and mobile app


Hartlauer, an Austrian retailer, decided to change their approach to content and build a more engaging digital experience for their customers. The new solution powered by now helps Hartlauer’s teams seamlessly support marketing, customer relationships, and omnichannel commerce. In addition, artificial intelligence (AI) models were designed specifically for the project to enhance services and support decision-making.

Hartlauer realized that they’d achieved excellent results, including a 30% increase in revenue, 50% more visits on the webshop, 25% increase in the average basket size, and 60% more user registrations on the webshop.

Hartlauer website and app


The PetCulture team had a clear vision of their pet e-commerce site. They wanted to create a place that would not only sell products for pets but also offer relevant tips and health advice and support the pet community in Australia. Moreover, to achieve a personalized experience, they needed to provide tailored recommendations based on each pet’s profile.

In addition to all that, their new store leverages integrations with best-of-breed services such as Shopify Plus, Bynder, and Salesforce. This way, the PetCulture team can deliver seamless user experiences across various channels and devices.

PetCulture website and app

Migrating 10 sites with over 50,000 products in 8 months

Having access to a single source of truth makes processes, decisions, and projects more efficient and consistent for American Bath Group. With at the heart of the architecture, the company can manage all of its content for multiple apps and websites in one place and deliver it to various channels.

American Bath Group website and app

3 things to consider when choosing a headless CMS

The infrastructure

Your content management system should provide you the right infrastructure in order to support your current and future content delivery needs. Before taking the plunge, make sure the vendor of a headless CMS offers the following features:

  • Fast and scalable content delivery – Does the headless CMS solution use CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) to deliver content smoothly and quickly, or will you need to take care of the setup yourself?
  • Availability – What are the guarantees the headless CMS gives in terms of availability? 
  • Security – When it comes to security, does the vendor provide a reliable security record? 
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution – Does the product offer an on-premise solution (which might slow you down) or a Software-as-a-Service model?

Developer ecosystem

Another vital thing to consider when picking a headless CMS is the developer ecosystem. If you’re looking to build an enterprise-level web application, then the developer ecosystem of the headless CMS will be just as important as the content management features. What features should the product offer?

  • Documentation – Does the vendor provide enough documentation for developers so they can learn more about the product?
  • API-based importing and management – Make sure the headless CMS empowers API-based importing, management, and delivery for programmatic content control.
  • Developer tools – JavaScript SDKs, a demo source code, and libraries—that’s what your developers need to get started with ease.

Easy content production

Did your developers decide on a particular headless CMS? Great! Just don’t forget that you need to think about the marketers as well. Go for a headless content management system that is easy to use and enables your content team to create and update structured content. 

  • Analytics – Can you get access to the insights providing info about customers’ engagement?
  • Empowerment – Does the solution support non-technical users to create various types of content or a content model? 
  • Personalization – Does the vendor provide a personalization engine to adjust customer experiences?

See in action

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