Complete Buyers Guide for the best Headless CMS

Off with the head!
Complete Buyers Guide for the best Headless CMS

Understanding what type of CMS would aid to your demands of content generation and dissemination.

Why Understand CMS and its Types?

If you’re a content creator, you’d have the desire to put out your content in the most polished way possible. You’d also need a platform that enables you to build your content, collaborate and provide additional help like SEO, SEM and other tools that would ease the process of finding the target audience. This is where finding the right content management system comes into play.

Nowadays, there is a new type of CMS that has taken the whole industry on a whole new level. It is none other than headless CMS. In this article, we have created a perfect guide to headless CMS. From telling you its basics to showing you the best options, you will find everything about headless CMS. Keep reading.

Guide to Headless CMS: What is a Headless CMS?

A headless CMS works independent of a front-end. This means that while one can create the content on this platform, one can deploy as many fronts and have the content published in which-ever way possible. This is because a headless CMS doesn't restrict your control on how the content is presented, which you can use to your advantage.

With the help of an API, one can publish the content to multiple channels. One can use front ends as websites, apps, smart watches and it even adapts to newer technologies!

A traditional CMS works with a front end and a back end locked together. Any user could create, store, publish and manage content. Separation of the front end layers assists in integration with other third party channels. This also keeps the content ‘future-proof’ as well as scalable, painting the overall health of the content for the benefit of the content generator.

If you have a team of dedicated content creators, a website and a subsequent reader-base then you’re probably on the look out for a CMS. This is a system that helps you create and distribute content to your channels. It’s a single platform where all your team members can come together with their work and have them distributed with ease.

Web pages are often written in HTML, JavaScript, and CSS programming languages. If you were to build a website without a CMS platform, then you would either need to learn to code or spend money to hire a team of experts who can code for you. Either way, it’s going to mean a lot of time and money.

Getting a CMS platform would solve this problem by allowing you to make a website without writing code or learning programming. Unless of course, you’re looking for a developer-friendly CMS which means you already know how to code or have a team at bay.

How does Headless CMS Work?

The working of a Headless CMS can be described as follows:

  • It provides the editorial team an interface for managing content.

  • It distributes content via API for developers

A headless CMS does not have a definite front-end or presentation layer. The content can be pushed to any front-end via APIs.

A headless CMS separates the head from the rest of the platform, making it independent from the design or the presentation. So, software developers can build the website hassle-free and use the APIs to access the content from the CMS.

Most of the headless CMSs are offered today as SaaS applications. This means that the user can use it as a web application. The APIs are hosted in the cloud-based back-end.

A web-optimized design will be different than a design for a smartwatch or voice assistant. Users often consider headless CMS platforms front-end agnostic because of the flexibility they bring in. They can publish raw content on any device using any framework.

Here is a step-by-step outline of how this works:

  1. Developer links an API in the stack to the headless CMS. For instance, a product catalog API that manages products and brands for a store.

  2. Developers create components in the headless CMS that a marketer can then use to add new content to the store. Using an API allows them to update multiple products at once.

  3. The marketer creates the content in the headless CMS and decides which channels should display the content(example - social media)

  4. The marketer publishes the content to channels. The API delivers the data through the components to the relevant front-end channels.

Choose the best CMS for your news website

Let’s learn about the parameters that help in determining which is the best CMS for your business: 

  • Security - Whatever you invest into, ensure it gives you the security you’re looking for. A little research and a couple of demos can help you understand what your best options are. It has become easy to gain access to your content and users’ data. This is precisely why you should consider using CMSs that offer two-factor authentication and protection against DDoS attacks. (Bold obviously does both and more).

  • Multilingual Functionality - The Internet has helped you go global, but don’t let English limit you. Having to use a translator can get cumbersome very quickly. Use a CMS that helps you translate content. This widens your audience and range.

  • Content Distribution - Enterprise Newsrooms with a dedicated team can ensure that they maintain a strong engagement with their readers while ensuring the content is omnichannel. What if a CMS did that for you? Consider a headless CMS or its hybrid variant - decoupled CMS to achieve this.

  • Seamless Integrations - You want to give your readers the best experience on your site/app. Does your CMS automatically convert content to shareable twitter cards or if it pops up different channels to share them on. With easy integrations, you can amplify the effectiveness of your CMS and allow your users to have content that works for them.

  • Customer Support - As a publisher, you need a solution that doesn’t let off without a parachute. Look at the reviews and seek an open front about the degree of support you'll get post onboarding the platform.

  • Search Engine Optimization - Do you have a team dedicated to ensure that the page title, meta-data, URL, alt-tags, etc are all in place? This is crucial as it decides if your news visibility to a larger audience. Therefore, it is mandatory to get a CMS that is SEO friendly.

  • Responsive Mobile - The biggest red flag for a CMS today is if it isn't mobile friendly. It’s about all the user experience after all. You need a CMS that uses the technology CSS3 and preserves the look and feel of the website across all the devices with responsive designs.

  • Ease of use

    If your CMS isn't making work easy, then it's not working out. You want a CMS that makes it easy for you to create and edit content that goes on your website. Having an easy drag and drop interface, so you can add different elements on your pages. It should be smooth, quick and navigable for you to work around with the content on your site after publishing it.

  • Data portability

    The right CMS platform will come loaded with tools that help you export your data elsewhere. Why would it hold you back? For instance, you may eventually decide to choose a different platform or a different hosting company. Data portability would make it easier for you to move around with complete freedom, no matter how great the platform sounds, watch out for portability!

Difference between a Traditional, Headless and Decoupled CMS

According to the type of organisation and the number of people involved, one may choose an appropriate CMS that fits their purpose and provides the service needed.

While a headless CMS does not have a front end, a traditional CMS does and it works as a database. A traditional CMS comes with a front end. This means that you have very limited control over presentation and any integrations.

Decoupled CMS is essentially a hybrid headless CMS. It has a back end and front end application that work independently of each other, where the front end is predetermined with a specified delivery pattern.

With the advent of the hosted headless CMS, one can now use cloud based storage while also having the option of support with regard to the server, which essentially means that the host would manage the back end for you while you can dedicate your time to create content.

Therefore, unlike the traditional CMS, one doesn’t have to burden themselves with site traffic or any over the top, tech complexities.

Advantages of a headless CMS

No guide to headless CMS is complete without discussing the advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with the positives:

1. Security :

The CMS essentially manages all the content that are contributed by multiple writers. This goes through levels of approval to check if it qualifies for public consumption or not. Once it goes live on the website, it can be secured or encrypted in order to avoid any copyright issues. With a website, one can experience DDOS attacks which would ultimately result in your website shutting down, most headless CMS come equipped to deal with a situation like this. In addition to this, as a headless CMS works independent of the front end, if front end does experience trouble, it would not harm your content or workflow in any way. Furthermore, you are allowed to also restrict access, so while someone can contribute content, they cannot make any changes or view other content, a scenario you can use with the case of freelancers or photographers.

2. Multichannel :

In the era of growing internet access, it is important for readers to have the content available on various fields. This would ensure that their reading experience isn’t hindered as one doesn’t depend on a single medium to receive information. Having your content available on various platforms like social channels, news aggregrator sites, etc. increases reachability. Headless CMSs allow you to distribute your content and have it customised on various platforms by deploying appropriate integrations, enhancing the overall reading experience.

3. Scalability:

If your site gets too much attention then a headless CMS allows you to add more servers to deal with the page traffic. It’s easier for you to manage the traffic, depending on your service provider.

4. Availability:

Essentially it just means that even if your CMS application goes offline, it would not reflect on the web applications.

5. Future-Proofing :

As there are no technical changes required within the CMS, re-branding is super easy and fast.

It allows a user to store data, user editing interface, display and publish data. Future proofing is essential in a time like now because there have been rapid development made in the technological field. For instance, with the launch of smart watches, one needs to adapt their content with the smart gadget, with the right CMS you can do this with ease. Your CMS would be friendly to any newer fields and provide you with the ease of dissemination.

6. Omni-channel distribution :

When you allow readers to continue reading the same content via different devices for the purpose of continuity it is called an omni-channel distribution. This is important for readers as they tend to switch their devices and having the ability to continue reading the article where one left off, aids continuity and leads to a dedicated reader base.

Disadvantages of a Headless CMS

- As a headless CMS it might get complicated to hunt for an appropriate head and manage it in-house. Having third party tools to plug the gap can be expensive.

- While a headless CMS allows you to upload an embedded video URL from youtube or dailymotion, it might not have the ability to store a video onto to the platform.

- A headless CMS doesn’t come with the front-end, for the same reason, it doesn’t look into about the presentation of the content. It may therefore be difficult for a non-technical person. This can be resolved by hiring someone who is good at architecture for the purpose of proper content modeling.

- A headless CMS doesn’t independently care for SEO. One can enhance the tools and the level of SEM with the help of additional integrations by configuring the CMS for the same. Although front end interference is required for SEO, most CMSs do need a proper configurations with which they can actively assist with SEO.

List of Top Headless CMS

Below is a list of some of the top headless CMSs in the market:

Bold CMS -

The Bold CMS allows you to create your content easily. It allows for omni-channel distribution while allowing you to choose as many external integrations as you deem necessary. Collaborative work and easy editing are one of the most swift on this platform. It's an API centric, headless CMS that comes with top notch security in the digital environment, provides a customisable workflow along with regular version updates while everything is hosted and managed.  To know more, clear here

Contentful -

Contentful is a cloud hosted CMS. It is API centric and falls under the category of headless and decoupled CMS. The API helps access and modify data which proves to be quite beneficial for the designers. It allows you to organise the content in the hierarchy you desire.

Directus -

It is a free and open source CMS. It would fit into the headless CMS category. A database as a service, manages SQL database architectures. It works on a comprehensive API. It allows complete control over the database schema as well. Works well for multi-client projects thanks to its light-weight framework for content management. However, it does not allow to customise templates.

GraphCMS -

An API first GraphQL-native headless CMS. With a clean interface, staging comes easy. It allows one to centralize editorial and marketing content while streamlining workflow, allows to select the preferred development framework. However, one of the cons would be its customizability and extensibility which seems to be limited at the moment. It also requires you to manually refresh the dashboard for the purpose of viewing the new content.

Agility CMS -

Allows you to choose any formatting language along with a light-weight CMS which further enhances the flexibility and speed.

Contentstack -

A SaaS based headless CMS helps you control traffic and control your data without the hassle on the tech end. Customers seem to like the speed of publishing and the minimisation of complexity.

Prismic -

One that allows for easy online editing and is a content-as-a-service digital exposure. With preview and schedule options for the editorial benefit along with content versioning, multi-language support and integration with existing catalogs to bring products to the web.

Kontent -

For the purpose of management of multilingual content and collaborative efforts, Kontent is favoured by the users. However it isn’t ideal for a company that is looking for complete control over the presentation.

Why Bold is a Leader in Headless CMS

For year, Quintype’s Bold CMS has been a top choice for various media houses in India and abroad. 

Here are some reasons why: 

Reusable Cards - Have relevant content for one story in another? Use Bold’s reusable cards to import bits of information from your database to enhance the quality of your story. Reusable cards in CMS help you avoid the added burden of having to type it out again. You can simply pull in cards and use them wherever they hold good.

Live Preview - Bold allows you to view how your content would look like when published without having the public see it. This allows you to work on the presentation bit of it. You get to view how the content would look like on desktop, mobile and tablet. This feature assists you to visualise data better and share information that is reader friendly.

Editor Access On Mobile : Bold understands the need for on-the-go editing. So you’re free from having to turn on your laptop every time you need to use your CMS. With its responsive design, you can basically use all tools, smoothly through your phone and stay updated with the activities happening in your CMS regularly.

Content Organisation: With dynamic content thrown around your website to cater different wings of audience, it is important to have a CMS that helps you organise this content through entities, story attributes, card attribute and custom story types. Bold helps you develop a hierarchy of content in order to ease the access and aid in any further development which is fundamental for managing your overall data.

Security : A growing problem with most popular CMSs is that of security. Bold takes into account that you need to maintain the authenticity of the content you create. You are also provided with a two factor authentication as well as DDOS protection to maintain the overall health of your website.

Auto-Scalability : As a cloud based CMS, you never have to worry about your website being affected with increased traffic. The hosting company assures you auto-scalability with any increase in your page traffic allowing you to celebrate the situation rather than having to worry about managing it.

Use Cases For Headless CMS

There are lots of use cases for Headless CMS. This is the beauty of Headless CMS as it can be helpful in any and all business, it meets each unique requirement.

Here are some common use cases that are seen more frequently in comparison to others.

  • Headless CMS is useful while separating content from your website’s front-end or Tech Stack.

  • Websites and Web Applications that use JavaScript Frameworks like Vue.js, Next.js, React.js, etc.

  • Websites created with static site generators - Gatsby, 11ty, Jekyll.

  • Enrich your eCommerce platform.

  • Native Mobile app development

  • For omnichannel distribution.

  • Improve experience on existing web applications and mobile apps.

  • Digitally native startups.

Besides so many use cases, there are many benefits of Headless CMS.

Who Uses Headless CMS?

Headless CMS is perfectly suited for companies aiming to create a better customer experience for the internal and external audience. Regardless of the industry, vertical, or size, every business can benefit from the adoption of a Headless CMS. A CMS is especially beneficial for businesses that deal with content and ecommerce elements.

Headless CMS allows companies to connect with a larger audience and scale organically. Headless is definitely best for those who wish to streamline their content operations and enforce consistency within their business processes, it helps maintain workflow and manage easy updates.

Headless CMS is the solution for each and every industry that deals with digital information. Today, there is no such industry that does not deal with digital content at all. So if you ever catch yourself asking ‘is Headless CMS beneficial for me?’

The answer is definitely yes.


1. Will your CMS enable you to accomplish your monetization goals without destabilizing the platform?

The best CMS for your news site will be tailored around how you plan to make revenue. You shouldn’t have to change your revenue plans according to the system you have, it's not supposed to hold you back. revenue plans based on the capability of your system. Remember, your business has two problems: readers, revenue and everything else.

2. Will you dictate your workflow to your CMS or will your CMS dictate your workflow to you?

This is more common than we’d like. Many publishers fail to foresee their growth as a team and thereby their tech falls short. With the right CMS, you can have an ever growing team and it will adapt to the workload. Before you know it, your workflows are held together by tape and glue.

Your CMS should empower your editorial team. This is why you need a solution that is tailor made for digital publishers - like Bold.

Your CMS should empower your editorial team. This is why you need a solution that is tailor made for digital publishers - like Bold. We are offering a free demo of the CMS. Call us to schedule one today. 

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