The 10 Best Headless CMS for React Projects You Can Use and Benefit From
When it comes to bettering the content marketing experience, React and headless CMS go hand in hand. No wonder – composable structure and super-fast rendering bring a new level of flexibility for both marketers and web developers. To enter it, you can start by checking our list of recommended CMS!
You may have heard about React.js and its rising popularity in the developers’ world.
In short, it allows you to build very advanced and content-extensive user interfaces that consist of smaller, independent components, which in turn enable you to connect unparalleled user experience with great performance.
This makes it a perfect framework to align with a headless CMS of your choice.
But which headless Content Management System for React projects should you choose? In this article, we'll try to support you in this regard.
After reading this article, you will know:
How React works and the reasons for its popularity among users and developers
React in the context of the headless and Jamstack approach
Why it is worth using React with a headless CMS
What the best React CMS are and why
React: how it works and why it is so popular
React, like Vue, has become so popular mainly because it allows for the rendering of web pages in a unique way, thanks to which user interfaces can feature outstandingly dynamic content. All the content updates take place real-time, without any delay. How is this possible?
The React framework is made of reusable components that are isolated – in order to change something, you don’t have to change the entire system. Because of the one-way data flow, the code remains stable.
Virtual DOM and reconciliation in React
The framework uses its own copy called virtual DOM (document object model), holding the same properties as the real DOM. Whenever a state of a component changes, React makes updates to the virtual DOM, comparing it to the previous version, which allows it to update the real DOM with just the needed data without the need to generate the entire page.
This process is called reconciliation, and is one of the most important React’s features. Thanks to this solution, React is best for cross-platform apps serving a lot of content and providing rich user experience.
A developer-friendly technology
The React developers seem to like it a lot, too. Not only because of competitive salaries but also for many more reasons.
The architecture of the framework is component-based, and those components are reusable, which:
Translates to better scalability
Facilitates the programming process
Enables a clean code structure
With React, you can build both web and mobile apps.
There is also one more vital reason why developers love React: thanks to its declarative approach, it is possible for a programmer to just state the desired outcome, and the technology will take care of all the steps along the way.
React in the context of the headless and Jamstack approach
Thanks to its aforementioned characteristics, React is considered one of the main technologies used in the Jamstack/Headless approach to development. But what is Jamstack and what is Headless?
Jamstack is not a specific technology, but rather a new method of creating websites and apps.
Such Jamstack websites are based on headless CMS – instead of handling the “head” in the CMS, it becomes a separate entity with data obtained from multiple sources. This is known as decoupling.
A headless CMS detaches the content (back end) system from the presentation (front end, aka the “head”). The content is delivered via an API.
Thanks to using a headless CMS, Jamstack Development enables the creation of stable, secure, and ultimately fast static pages with dynamic and versatile content.
Why should you use React headless CMS instead of a traditional CMS?
We have already mentioned why developers love React, and how it can contribute to creating high performing versatile platforms with rich content and extensive user experiences.
The main reason is that you can centralize content in one place (single source), even if you are using different channels to present it to the users. The content is decoupled from the UIs, so both processes can run independently. The testing of React apps is also content-independent.
What’s more, the headless CMS facilitates access to third-party APIs to enhance the website’s content.
Needless to say, the number and type of content-rich digital experience that can be built using React and a headless CMS is continually growing.
Although using a headless CMS may be tricky in the beginning, as you have to build the entire UI from scratch, it’s so much easier to scale and handle it in the long run, due to the lower system complexity.
Developers, instead of spending time on doing duplicate work, can dedicate themselves to enhancing the functionality and performance of the platforms and, for content teams, it’s a great game changer as it allows them to refine their workflows.
Criteria for Selecting the Best Headless CMS for React Projects
The world of headless CMS is really broad. There are over 100 such tools available on the market and they vary in many terms. The list can include:
The features available
Delivery approach and hosting
The very basic understanding of structuring and presenting the content
The targeted audience in terms of the company's size or business line
The complexity of the project
The type of website the headless CMS supports best
Thus, choosing the right headless CMS can be challenging... Or engaging, when you take a more positive approach. Nonetheless, you'll need to take into account several factors before you make an actual choice.
To make it easier for you, we gathered a couple of important criteria to include when doing market research on CMS for React. Mind the following questions so you'll be closer to being in the know!
Compatibility with Microservices architecture
One of the keystones of Jamstack is using APIs to enrich the website's functionalities with microservices. With this in mind, you're no longer limited to only what monolithic platforms offer as a package.
This gives you the greatest dose of freedom in choosing the optimal set of solutions for your specific requirements. You can have different, best-of-breed tools for:
Digital Asset Management
Product Information Management
Monitoring & Analytics
You can also change a specific tool when you feel it doesn't meet your expectations significantly easier than when you work with monolithic solutions. Why is that? The change won't affect the back end as much as it would if you used a monolith.
Key question: What are the available options to connect with APIs?
Applications and plugins management
Most companies offering headless CMS have their own specific ecosystems and rules for creating their content management tools interfaces and front ends. These can be referred to as plugins, extensions, tools, applications, widgets, custom components, and others. Their role is important because they complement widely known and frequently used frameworks and libraries.
The way they're implemented is crucial for developers. It should be easy, predictable, and flawless. When choosing the proper headless CMS, take a look at their repository of plugins and study whether they're friendly for the development team.
Key question: How well does the headless CMS handle third-party tools to extend the platform's functionality?
One of the greatest benefits of headless architecture is that it gives robust and facile possibilities for presenting content on multiple touchpoints.
From the development point of view, it's easier, safer, and quicker to come up with a proper code when your architecture is made with back end and front end decoupled.
From the business perspective, you'll see savings with regard to a number of development work hours needed to complete the creation of front ends for any platform you want to be visible.
It makes your digital platform easily accessible to customers whichever device they use to connect with your brand: desktop, mobile, tablet, smartwatch, kiosk, ad stand, or any other you can think of.
Key question: How easy it is to present the front end on multiple devices?
Content marketers' experience
It's the content marketing team that will most frequently use the headless CMS you choose. If you really want to benefit from content creation, their experience should be flawless, flexible, and unhindered.
The levels of easiness, quickness, and intuitiveness of creating, modifying, and publishing content are factors that you should have in mind when selecting headless CMS for React.js.
Key question: How easy and intuitive it is for the content marketing team to operate the CMS?
Working with content is never finished: commonly, it needs to be updated, modified, upgraded, repurposed, merged, refreshed, retargeted, redesigned... What's more, content processes sometimes require involving a few people to work on the very same article or landing page.
A good headless CMS can improve content processes, the ability to collaborate... and even content marketers' moods and relations. Having this in mind, choose a CMS that matches your content processes' requirements.
Key question: How collaborative the CMS is? To what extent does it improve the content processes?
Content localization and translation
If you're active on many different markets, you know that customers in the United States may have completely different needs and expectations than customers located in Germany or Thailand. Their decision triggers vary as they can be accustomed to contrasting ways of making a purchase.
For increasing the selling value across different locations, sometimes it's good to have the very same product or service described and presented differently, in accordance to cultural context.
A good headless CMS provides such options so if you're in need of such solution, remember to include it in your research.
Key question: How supportive the tool is for managing the content localization efforts?
Usually, headless CMS require huge support from the development team, be it yours or the agency's. Due to the novelty and development complexity of headless architecture, there's a 99% chance that you won't be able to implement a headless CMS on your own.
It can be viewed as one of the greatest cons of headless but after you have your CMS implemented, the friction between marketing and development teams isn't really a thing.
Think of developers' satisfaction levels and remember to always ask what they think of a specific headless CMS in terms of their future working habits.
Key question: How likable and friendly is the CMS for developers to work on?
UX & front-end flexibility
With headless, you can build any front end you want. You're no longer confined to what monolithic solutions offer, and you'll easily customize the visual layer of your website.
A good headless CMS should provide the flexibility and freedom to create a unique front-end design that aligns with your brand identity and user preferences. Look for a CMS that allows for easy integration with popular front end frameworks (like Next.js, Gatsby.js, or Vue.js) and offers a variety of content delivery options, including API-driven content and real-time updates.
A CMS that empowers you to deliver a seamless and engaging user experience will help drive customer loyalty and increase conversions.
Key question: What possibilities on the front end does the CMS give and how desirable the user experience can you build?
Answers to all these questions determine the cost of CMS migration, implementation, and maintenance, the level of usability for content marketers, or actual content marketing effects.
Let's now take a look at a few examples of headless CMS that work hand in hand with React.js.
10 Best Headless CMS made with React.js
We have gathered a list of the 10 most popular and recommended React CMS, listing their pros and cons, main features, developer-friendliness, and prices.
Storyblok is one of the most popular React CMS solutions. Its most important distinctive feature is a visual editor, showing real-time changes to the website, which is somewhat similar to popular website editors such as Elementor or Wix.
Other interesting functions are the possibility of defining your own content models with various types of fields, and creating data sources, containing the most repetitive information, which you can refer back to whenever you need it.
The panels of Storyblok are clean and clear, which makes the work easy for both content teams, and developers. This CMS also supports easy multilingual website management.
When you need more automation, this React CMS also allows for using webhooks to connect it to any program you choose.
The prices range from 90 to almost 3,000 dollars per year, and there is also a custom option for enterprises.
In one sentence:
Storyblok is great for websites with lots of content, and bigger content editors' teams whose members have varying levels of tech competence. It will also be one of the best choices for your developers.
This open-source CMS provides vast customization opportunities, according to the users’ needs, thanks to support, plug-ins, and the possibility of creating custom components.
Content can be segregated into blocks, which enables collaboration in the team. Other tools and features enhancing content creation include possibility to design editorial workflow and add configurable content types. All the operations are neatly arranged in a dashboard.
Apart from a free option, there are plans which cost 99 and 949 dollars monthly, alongside a custom enterprise pricing solution.
In one sentence:
Sanity gives probably the greatest amount of creative freedom, yet setting it up requires some technical know-how.
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Butter is a classic headless CMS taking inspiration from WordPress (and it features an option to migrate existing content from this popular CMS).
It is, however, built on API and webhooks, which makes it compatible with any type of website developed in the Jamstack approach.
Its interesting features are CDN support, multi-site support, and a good testing environment.
As for creating and managing structured content, Butter has all the needed features, along with clean and clear panels, but there is hardly anything that will stand out from the rest.
The prices vary from 83 to 333 dollars a month, so it’s quite an affordable solution. There is also a custom enterprise plan.
In one sentence:
Butter is the best choice for centrally managed multiple websites with many users, as everything you require regarding site management tools comes with the package.
Dato’s back end is inspired by the well-known WordPress, which adds to its simplicity, as well as ease of configuration and use. It also contains plugins and customization possibilities.
The CMS is agreeable with various other technologies. Even on the free plan, it supports integration with site generators (like Gatsby), and GraphQL API.
Although Dato’s UI is simple, the functions and features are quite limited, and the CMS is hard to expand.
Besides a free version, one can choose a monthly plan of 99 dollars, or a custom version with unique pricing.
In one sentence:
Dato is a good solution for simple and quite generic projects or for less experienced developer teams.
Strapi is an open-source CMS with wide possibilities for customization (including a customizable API) and support for multiple databases.
Because of the virtual DOM, sites can be set up very fast with this solution, so handling even large amounts of content won’t be an issue.
The clear and simple interface seems somehow familiar, as it is in many aspects similar to WordPress.
Although Strapi is still in development, the community support makes it easy for developers to seek help when needed or make necessary alterations to the code themselves.
There is a free community plan, and three business plans – bronze for 9 dollars a month, silver for 29 dollars, and gold – a custom one.
In one sentence:
Strapi is a flexible React CMS that is best for smaller teams and websites.
Netlify is a React CMS that’s being developed as a single page React application. Its key value comes with an easy installation, real-time preview and many rich text enhancements.
It also enables the reviewing and editing of content in a workflow pattern, and any team member may be included. The platform is agnostic in terms of technology, meaning that you can use practically any static site generator to build pages.
There is a free plan, and there are paid options for 19 or 99 dollars monthly, as well as a custom enterprise pricing solution.
In one sentence:
Because of its ease of use, Netlify can also cater for the needs of less experienced users.
Agility is a headless CMS that is perfect for working with React. Its components are directly mapped to the modules that you will work with.
It also contains a drag-and-drop visual builder, making it easy for even less tech-savvy users to build sites, and custom content fields.
There is a starter kit called Create React App, which helps in setting up a developer-friendly environment. It contains a set of modules and the code necessary to connect to the Agility CMS, plus some basic styles.
It is rather an expensive CMS, with plans costing 1,249 and 2,499 dollars, and there is also a custom enterprise option.
In one sentence:
Agility is a CMS that will work well with React components and lets you enjoy the benefits of a content-first approach
Flotiq is an API-first CMS for creating and sharing content across multiple channels and teams, thanks to its auto-generated APIs. All you need to do is to prepare a data model and content types, and the platform will build a custom API by default.
Flotiq supports integration with other tools and features many free starters and templates that don’t require any extra coding. Among its functions, there is also versioning, advanced search, or customizable data views. All of this is accessible via a dashboard.
There is a free plan, and two more advanced ones for 49 and 499 dollars a month, so it’s a moderately affordable solution. You also have a custom enterprise pricing option.
In one sentence:
Flotiq works with any technology, framework, or language, but you need experienced developers to fully use its features.
This is a very user-friendly solution that is good for content teams, because it is somehow similar to WordPress, with clean and clear panels, and field-based editing, so the learning curve is quite short.
Among its most distinctive features are automated backups, and you can also integrate numerous third-party tools into the CMS (for example HubSpot, Stripe, or Slack). Cloud hosting is integrated into every pricing option.
It is a headless content management system compatible with many JS technologies, including React. However, the plans have specific limitations, and many options are not included in the basic tiers.
There is a free plan, and two more advanced ones for 99 and 299 dollars monthly. You also have access to a custom package.
In one sentence:
Cosmic offers a lot of creative freedom, but you need an experienced developer to fully utilize all its possibilities.
The most unique fact about this open-source content management system is that it doesn’t have a proper back-end editor – everything is being made via a visual editor, and changes are edited and saved real-time. This can be seen both as an advantage or disadvantage, according to your preferences.
It has been built to support React so, if you confine yourself to this technology, this may be a good fit for you. It is, however, not a good solution if you want to use your CMS as a database.
It is a free, open-source solution.
In one sentence:
Tina is a kind of an experimental content management system (or a visual editor), suitable for small teams or beginners, and for smaller projects.
Wrap-up: how to choose a headless React CMS?
As you can see, there are many options when it comes to choosing a React CMS for your project. Some of them are better for bigger enterprises and experienced developers, while others are better suited for smaller content teams.
Some of them allow more flexibility, and some offer more simplicity. One thing is sure: this decision should be custom-made.
We can help you make it.
Being an eCommerce & web development company, Naturaily offers implementations of headless CMS for various frameworks, including React. Just drop us a line!
Let's talk about Jamstack!
Contact us and we'll warmly introduce you to the vast world of Jamstack web development!
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