What is Headless WordPress: Everything You Need to Know

If you’re running a successful WordPress website, chances are you’ve heard about Headless. But what is Headless WordPress and is it any different than traditional WordPress? WordPress is already a great Material Management System (CMS) because it provides an easy way to generate, organize, and modify content without becoming bogged down in the technical details of web development. However, no matter how fantastic it is, there may be times when you require even more customization options. Or, you’re looking for ways to optimize your website’s performance. WordPress’s headless CMS mode comes in handy in such situations. But that’s just scratching the surface – we’ve asked experts in all WordPress things  and here’s everything your need to know about Headless WordPress.

What is Headless WordPress, why do you need it, and how does it work?

“Traditional” Content Management Systems (CMSs) like WordPress consist of front-end and backend components. The front-end is what users see when they visit your website, whereas the backend handles all of the website’s data storage and management. In the backend, you may also modify the look of your website by changing fonts and colors, and add functionality by writing custom code or installing plugins.

Laptop with WordPress admin dashboard opened on it located on a wooden table
WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system but what is Headless WordPress?

A Headless CMS allows you to independently handle the front and back ends of your website. A Headless CMS eliminates the front-end and leaves only the backend and API, allowing you to continue using the CMS’s standard administrative interface to make posts and pages. In contrast, WordPress isn’t required for the front end to present your information graphically.

You can use this to share the content of your website on social media. For instance, via a Google My Business listing, or on your company wiki. You can use this method to distribute your content to dynamic web apps, static websites, or mobile apps.

But what is the connection to WordPress here? Even though it has been the most popular CMS for 12 years, WordPress isn’t a headless content management system out of the box. However, the REST API makes it easy to convert it. After installing Headless WordPress, the “What You See Is What You Get” (‘WYSIWYG’) editor turns off and the REST API takes over all of your site’s essential operations instead. Now let’s find out what are the pros and cons of using Headless WordPress.

Pros and cons of using Headless WordPress

In order to decide if it’s worth using Headless CMS, you first need to know what are the pros and cons of using it. Using Headless WordPress allows for more freedom and control. You, the developer, have full reign over the backend data management and storage strategies. You can also decide how you want to show your material on the front end.

Screen with WordPress script on it
In spite of the fact that you will still be publishing material using WordPress’s backend, you will be required to use JavaScript and the REST API for all essential WordPress maintenance tasks.

Other than that, utilizing WordPress as a Headless CMS has several advantages. Those things are:

  • Ability to publish on multiple platforms at once.
  • Simpler and more straightforward redesigns.
  • Enhanced efficiency and performance.
  • Increased scalability.
  • Separating backed and front-end minimizes security risks and your need to use different website security check tools.

While there are certainly advantages to using Headless WordPress, you should also consider the drawbacks before making a final decision:

  • There is no WYSIWYG editor meaning you will lose access to the live preview option.
  • Using it requires advanced programming skills.
  • It requires more complex maintenance which is always best left to the pros.
  • The plugins you use to enhance your site’s functionality won’t carry over to the app where your content is eventually published.
  • You’ll need to implement different user credentials.

How does Headless WordPress work?

The first key concept to grasp is that headless architecture is a special case of decoupled architecture. Both use an application programming interface (API) or a web service to access the content management and storage system. However, unlike decoupled, headless does not have a clearly defined front-end system.

You can use ReactJS, Gatsby, Vue.js, or any other front-end framework you like with headless since you have complete flexibility. This structure will serve as the basis for your WordPress site. WordPress’s REST API will be in charge of sending your content anywhere you choose after it has been published from the backend.

So, in a nutshell, you have the WordPress database where you store content and digital assets. To change that content, you use a content management backend or, in this case, the usual WordPress backend. You can use any front-end technology you like because of an API (the REST API). It pulls data from your content management system and pushes it to any channel or device.

How to “go Headless” on your website?

To transform your WordPress into Headless, you can either use a plugin or do it manually. In order to do it manually, you will need to begin with a brand-new installation of WordPress. You can install WordPress in the standard way, or use the one-click installer. Keep in mind that it’s important to choose a strong password and alter the default wp_ value for database and table prefixes.

WordPress needs a theme in order to function. Therefore, you will also need a blank theme. Since you won’t be utilizing WordPress to render the site’s content, you can get away with using only two files—an index.php file for site navigation and a styles.css file for styling, the latter of which should include the typical data like the theme’s name and the author’s.

A list of WordPress plugins on a computer screen
A plugin can transform a conventional WordPress installation into a headless CMS, as is the case with most other WordPress-related tasks.

Once you’ve finished setting up your Headless WordPress installation, you can begin utilizing the REST API to obtain material from it and display it where you’d like. When displaying content from headless WordPress, you can utilize any one of a variety of available JavaScript frameworks to build a static website.

Wrapping up

We hope our article helped you understand what is Headless WordPress is and thus decide if you want to use it or not. Or better yet, why not reach out to the experienced team of WordPress experts who’ll help you figure out the best solutions for your website? On top of that, they’ll also make sure you’re website is always running up to speed so that that aspect of your online presence remains immaculate.

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