• wordpress
  • content management

The Ultimate Guide to Headless WordPress: Here’s Why You Need It

Last updated on Apr 17, 2024

Read More

The Ultimate Guide to Headless WordPress: Here’s Why You Need It

WordPress is undoubtedly a great platform for creating and managing a blog or website. Although, large news organizations with a lot of content may find it a complex platform to use. Primarily because WordPress is a resource-intensive platform, it can lead to performance issues for websites with high volumes of traffic, making scalability a struggle for them. Moreover, WordPress is not as flexible as some other platforms when it comes to creating custom front-ends or integrating with other systems. 

The WordPress Woes: Why Traditional Just Doesn't Cut It Anymore

  1. Audience Engagement: WordPress can be difficult to use to create an engaging and interactive user experience.
  2. Analytics: It does not provide native analytics tools, so news and media publishers need to use third-party tools to track their website traffic and performance.
  3. Security: It can be an easy target for hackers, raising some concerns related to website security.

For these reasons, some news and media publishers are choosing to use headless WordPress, which allows them to decouple content management from the front-end presentation. 

There are a number of reasons why you might want to use headless WordPress. For example, you might want to use a different front-end technology that offers more features. Or, you might want to create a website designed to be used on multiple devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and computers.

How does Headless WordPress Work?

Headless WordPress works by using the WordPress REST API. The REST API is a set of endpoints that allow you to access WordPress data from other applications. This means that you can use any technology that can communicate with REST APIs to display your WordPress content.

For example, you could use a JavaScript framework like React or Angular to create a custom front-end for your WordPress website. Or, you could use a static site generator like Gatsby to create a static website that is powered by WordPress data.

Headless V/s Traditional WordPress

Feature

Headless WordPress

Traditional WordPress

Architecture

Decoupled

Coupled

Content delivery

APIs

Static site generation

Flexibility

High

Low

Performance

High

Low

Security

High

Low

Benefits of Headless WordPress

While traditional WordPress is something you might be familiar with, Beadless WordPress differs from it in the following ways-

  • Decoupled architecture: Headless WordPress separates the content management system (CMS) from the presentation layer. This means that the content is stored in WordPress, but it can be displayed on any device or platform.
  • API-driven: Headless WordPress uses APIs to deliver content to the presentation layer. This makes it easy to integrate WordPress with other applications and services.
  • Flexibility: Headless WordPress offers a lot of flexibility in terms of how the content is displayed. You can use any presentation layer that you want, and you can even use different presentation layers for different devices or platforms.
  • Performance: Headless WordPress can improve performance because the presentation layer is decoupled from the CMS. This means that the CMS does not have to render the content, which can improve the loading speed of your website..

traditional vs headless

Image source

The best choice for you will depend on your publication's specific needs and requirements. If you need a lot of flexibility and performance, then headless WordPress is a good option. However, if you are a small publishers or just starting out, then traditional WordPress may be a better choice.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Headless WordPress to understand it better.

The Good, the Bad, and the Headless: Pros and Cons of Headless WordPress

A. Pros of Headless WordPress

  1. Lightning-fast performance and speed

A headless WordPress site is typically much faster than a traditional WordPress site because the front-end is decoupled from the back-end. In such a case, the content is only loaded when it's needed. This can result in significant performance improvements for content-heavy sites.

  1. Fort Knox-level security

In a headless WordPress site, the content is stored in a separate database, which means that it's not exposed to the same security risks as the front-end of the site. Additionally, headless WordPress sites can be more easily updated with security patches, as the front-end can be updated independently of the back-end.

  1. Flexibility and customization like never before

Headless WordPress gives you the ability to create a customized user experience for your site or different front-ends for different devices or platforms.

  1. Content management and distribution made easy

In Headless WordPress, the content is stored in a central location, which makes it easy to access and update. Additionally, it can be integrated with a variety of content distribution networks (CDNs), which can help to improve the performance of your site.

  1. SEO: Climbing the Google ladder

In Headless WordPress, the content is stored in a structured format, which makes it easier for search engines to index and understand. Additionally, headless WordPress can be integrated with a variety of SEO tools and plugins, which can help you to optimize your site for search engines.

Overall, headless WordPress offers a number of advantages over traditional WordPress, including improved performance, security, flexibility, and SEO. 

 B. Cons of Headless WordPress

  1. Potential hurdles and how to leap over them

Operating headless WordPress requires a deeper understanding of web development for you to be able to maintain the front-end of your site. Additionally, headless WordPress sites can be more complex to set up and configure than traditional WordPress sites.

However, there are a number of ways to overcome these challenges. There are a number of headless WordPress frameworks and plugins available that can help you to get started. Additionally, there are a number of developers who specialize in headless WordPress development.

  1. The tech stuff you need to know

In order to use headless WordPress, you'll need to have a basic understanding of the following technologies:

  • JavaScript
  • React
  • Angular
  • Vue.js
  • HTML
  • CSS

Additionally, you'll need to be familiar with the following concepts:

  • REST API
  • JSON & JWT Token
  • Front-end development
  • Back-end development
  1. The complexity conundrum

Headless WordPress can be a complex solution, and it's not always the best choice for every website. If you're not comfortable with web development or if you don't need the flexibility and customization that headless WordPress offers, then you may be better off with a traditional WordPress site.

  1. The money talk: Potential cost implications

Headless WordPress can be more expensive to set up and maintain than a traditional WordPress site. This is because you'll need to invest in additional technologies and developer resources.

However, the cost of headless WordPress can be offset by the benefits of improved performance, security, and flexibility.

Top 5 Headless WordPress Providers

Here is a brief overview of some of the most popular providers:

Solution Features Pros Cons
React.js Component-based, Virtual DOM, One-way data binding High performance, Strong community support, Highly flexible Steep learning curve, Requires knowledge of JavaScript and JSX
Vue.js Component-based, Virtual DOM, Two-way data binding Easy to understand and develop, Good documentation, Lightweight Smaller community compared to React, Less resources and solutions available
Gatsby React-based, GraphQL data layer, Static site generator High performance, SEO-friendly, Rich plugin ecosystem Requires knowledge of React and GraphQL, Overkill for simple sites
Next.js React-based, Server-side rendering, Static site generation SEO-friendly, Supports both server-side and static rendering, Good for large scale applications Requires knowledge of React, More complex setup
Angular Component-based, Two-way data binding, MVC architecture Comprehensive framework, Strong community support, Good for large scale applications Steep learning curve, Heavyweight, Requires TypeScript knowledge
Frontity React-based, Server-side rendering, Designed for WordPress Easy to use with WordPress, SEO-friendly, Good performance Less mature and smaller community, Limited to WordPress

 

1. Gatsby


Gatsby is a React framework that makes it easy to create fast and beautiful headless WordPress sites. It's perfect for creating sites that need to be highly performant and SEO-friendly.

Top Features:

  • A powerful build process that generates static pages for your site
  • A wide range of pre-built themes and plugins
  • A vibrant community of developers and users.

2. React.js


React.js is a JavaScript library for building user interfaces. It is used to create interactive web applications that are both fast and scalable. Some popular headless CMSs that work well with React.js include Contentful, Sanity, and Prismic.

Top Features:

  • React.js is a declarative library making it easy to build complex interfaces without having to worry about rendering.
  • React.js uses a virtual DOM which makes it very efficient and fast.
  • It includes reusable components making it easy to build and maintain large applications.
  • Plenty of resources available to help you learn and use the library, owing to the large react.js community.

3. Vue.js

Vue.js is a JavaScript framework for building user interfaces. It is a declarative framework, which means that you describe what you want the UI to look like, and Vue.js figures out how to render it. 

Top Features

  • React.js is a very performant library as it uses a virtual DOM.
  • A scalable library used to build large and complex applications.
  • Highly reusable and can be used to build different parts of your site, such as your header, footer, and sidebar.
  • Highly customizable, allowing you to create your own custom components and hooks.

4. Next.js


Next.js is a framework built on the latest react features. Next.js uses server-side rendering (SSR), meaning that the HTML for your pages is rendered on the server before it is sent to the browser, ultimately optimizing your website’s performance.

Top features:

  • Generate static pages for your site that are then served by a CDN, again boosting site performance.
  • Automatic caches for your pages reduces the number of times that the server needs to be re-rendered.
  • SEO-friendly as it automatically generates sitemaps and robots.txt files, as well as support for hreflang attributes.
  • Highly secure framework supporting features like automatic HTTPS, automatic code splitting, and automatic caching.

5. Angular

Angular is a powerful and versatile framework that can be used to build a wide variety of web applications. It is also highly scalable and performant, which makes it a good choice for headless WordPress sites.Angular is a component-based framework, which means that it is easy to build reusable and modular code. This can help you to save time and effort when developing your headless WordPress site.

Top Features:

  • Angular is SEO-friendly. Hence, your headless WordPress site will be more easily indexed by search engines. 
  • Compatible with other plugins like Elementor.
  • Angular is secure and helps protect your sensitive data.
  • Angular is well-maintained and has a large and active community of developers who are working to improve Angular. 

6. Frontity


Frontity is a react framework that runs separately on a node.js server while your wordpress is used as a headless CMS. 

Top Features

  •  A navigation-ready HTML page for lightning fast loading speed.
  • Frontity supports CDNs that serve static assets from a network of servers located around the world, improving your site’s performance.
  • A built-in testing suite, which can help you to test your headless WordPress site before you deploy it.
  • Multiple languages to translate your WordPress into.

If you are creating a Headless WordPress CMS, there are two WordPress plugins that can help your WordPress back-end connect to the front-end layer.

1. HeadlessWP

HeadlessWP is a plugin that turns your WordPress site into a headless CMS. It's a great choice for businesses that want to use the power of WordPress without the overhead of a traditional WordPress site.

Top Features:

  • A simple setup process
  • A wide range of integrations with other popular tools and platforms
  • A support team that is available 24/7
  • Helps decouple your WordPress content from its presentation layer for you to power multiple front-ends, such as a React app, a Vue app, or a native mobile app.

2. WP GraphQL


This plugin helps you to build rich JavaScript applications using GraphQL, a powerful data query language, and WordPress. To get started, you first need to install the plugin on your WordPress site. Once the plugin is installed, you can access the GraphQL API in your WordPress dashboard.

Top Features:

  • Efficient data fetching to improve the performance of your WordPress site.
  • It accesses multiple root resources to get all the data you need in a single request.
  • Its built-in GraphiQL IDE allows you to explore your WordPress data and test GraphQL queries for easy debugging.
  • Add custom fields and mutations to your GraphQL API.

When choosing a headless WordPress provider, there are a number of factors you'll need to consider, including your budget, needs, technical expertise, features, etc.

Headless WordPress is a powerful tool that can be used to create a variety of different websites. If you are looking for a way to improve the performance, flexibility, or scalability of your website, then Headless WordPress could be a good option for you. However, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of Headless WordPress before making a decision.

If you're looking for a way to create a faster, more secure, and more customizable website, then Headless WordPress is a great option to consider.

Looking for different plugins for your website? Check out the best WordPress plugins for you blog. We have a list of 14 plugins to choose from.

All Posts
Punya Batra
Punya Batra
Punya is a full-time content marketer and a part-time blogger who loves to explore the unique stories behind brands. She pens down short stories, poems, and one-liners in her free time. Her dream is to publish her thoughts as a book someday.

Related Posts

WordPress Post Scheduling Plugins: Which is the Right One for You?

The world of news and media publishing is highly fast-paced where main[...]

7 Essential WordPress Plugins for News Publishers

Whether someone is running a niche blog focused on a specific industry[...]

Boost Your News Site's Performance with Proven SEO Tactics

Traffic is the primary source for publishers to increase visibility an[...]