It’s become a buzz phrase and humorous pun simultaneously—going headless. When you hear a C-level executive or marketer saying, “We’re thinking of going headless,” they’re talking about a website in which the frontend is separated from the backend.
At our website agency, WebDevStudios, we’re hearing more and more of our enterprise-level clients inquiring about implementing a headless CMS configuration on their website platform, such as Headless WordPress. Nowadays, the idea of breaking apart your website and separating the two ends is a viable solution depending on your needs.
Defining Headless CMS and Headless WordPress
To be clear, when I refer to CMS, I’m talking about your content management system. This is the application in which you store and manage your website content, such as your static text, media, and blog posts.
Normally, when you have a CMS, you’re using a monolithic system such as WordPress. We call it monolithic because its architecture involves several layers, including the backend (database), functional (plugins), and presentational (themes) layer.
So, when you go headless, you now have a developer-focused, API-first website platform, rather than one that is focused on how the backend administration will feed the frontend design.
With Headless WordPress, it acts as a bridge between your main website platform, whichever framework you select, and your library of content (i.e., blog posts, static text, and media), which remains in WordPress.
Why would anyone want to go headless?
Simply put, you might want to go headless if your business calls for using your own proprietary software system or any other framework on the frontend of your site, yet you still require the power to manage your content in WordPress (or any CMS of your choice).
When choosing Headless WordPress, you will only use WordPress for the backend to easily store and edit content, while allowing a different frontend framework to act as the frontend. There are many great frontend frameworks to choose from, such as React, Angular, Vue.js, and more. Vue JS software development, for example, is extremely underrated.
Our development team at WebDevStudios is a big fan of Next.js. In fact, we built a headless starter powered by it. It’s open-source, so anyone is invited to use it to create their own Headless WordPress website.
Benefits of Headless WordPress
- Security is no hassle. Hosting your decoupled website frontend on the Jamstack virtually eliminates the threat of a WordPress server or database hack. Because your backend is separated from your front, hackers won’t even know you have a WordPress installed in the first place.
- WordPress is familiar. Content managers, editors, and authors know WordPress. If your website is not headless yet, but you plan it to be, switching over a Headless WordPress configuration won’t disrupt your content team. They can continue to work with the same system they know and love.
Tips For Setting Up a Headless WordPress Website
If you’re convinced that going headless is the right move for your next project, here are useful tips to get you started on the right foot:
Define Your Content Structure
You must know your content types and taxonomies. This will determine the shape of your data and how it will be presented on the frontend.
Select Your Technology Stack
Be sure to select a decoupling framework that will work well with WordPress’s existing data structures. We recommend Next.js, Angular, or React.
Create Reusable Components
When creating your frontend components, make sure they are reusable. This will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.
Have a Data Management Plan
If you plan on using WordPress as your backend, we recommend Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) to manage your data. ACF makes adding custom fields to your content types and taxonomies easy.
Use WordPress’ REST API
The WordPress REST API is a great way to get your content from WordPress into your frontend. It’s easy to use and well documented.
Cache Your Data
Caching your data will improve the performance of your headless website. We recommend using the W3 Total Cache plugin for WordPress.
Use a Content Delivery Network
A content delivery network (CDN) will improve the performance of your website by caching your static assets and delivering them to your users from a location that is closer to them. Cloudflare or Amazon CloudFront can be ideal options.
Optimize Your Images
Images can be a major contributor to slow loading times. We recommend using the WP Smush plugin to optimize your images for faster loading.
Minimize Your HTTP Requests
Test Your Website Performance
Before you launch your website, be sure to test its performance. You can use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool.
Using these tips, you can ensure that your WordPress website is secure and loads quickly.
Is Headless WordPress right for you?
It’s safe to say that going headless is here to stay. The technology continues to advance in the frontend and hosting spaces. For example, trusted hosts, such as WordPress VIP and WP Engine, have developed specialized hosting services specifically designed for Headless WordPress websites.
If your project vision is grand and requires the benefits of a frontend separated from the backend, Headless WordPress is a great way to go. The best way to determine that, however, is by talking with a trusted website development expert.