How to Make WWWow with
star image
Jamstack / Headless
A free guide!

Headless CMS: What It Is and How It Differs from Traditional CMS

As digital transformation continues to impact businesses, it's essential to have a content management system that can keep up with the ever-changing landscape. Although still effective for many companies, traditional content management systems have limitations in terms of scalability, flexibility, and performance. That's where headless CMS comes in.


In the ever-evolving digital landscape, staying ahead of the curve is essential for businesses to thrive. One such innovation that has gained significant attention lately is headless CMS.

Headless CMS provides a unique approach to content management, decoupling the front-end presentation from the back-end system. This separation empowers businesses with unmatched flexibility, enabling them to adapt quickly to changing technologies and deliver personalized experiences across multiple channels.

In this article, we'll explore:

  • What headless CMS is

  • How headless CMS differs from traditional CMS

  • The pros and cons of using a headless CMS

  • Examples of leading headless CMS solutions in the market

  • When you should consider using a headless CMS

  • The real use cases of headless CMS

Let's go!

Introduction to Content Management Systems (CMS)

Let’s start with the basics. The Content Management System (CMS) is a category of software that allows the design, management and update of websites or mobile applications in a dynamic way.

Additionally, to be considered a CMS, the software should:

  • allow for content to be managed separately from the website’s visual form

  • offer a content publishing chain

  • provide simultaneous use for several individuals

A CMS also allows for the structuring of a website’s content, such as categories, pages, articles, and the hierarchy of the site’s users. The latter is done by assigning them a precise title or particular authorizations, such as administrator, contributor, etc. WordPress is undoubtedly the best-known and most widely used non-headless CMS today: it is free, open-source, and used by over 455 million websites.

If you want to know more about the basics of building a website with Jamstack technologies, be sure to check our article about static site generators.

Now, let’s dive deeper into the understanding of this article’s topic.

What is Headless CMS?

Headless CMS is a type of content management system that separates the back-end (content management) from the front-end (presentation). Unlike traditional CMS, which combines both the back-end and front-end into a monolithic system, headless CMS allows content creators to focus solely on creating and managing content, while developers can focus on building the presentation layer.

The term "headless" refers to the fact that the CMS doesn't have a built-in front-end, meaning that it's "decapitated" from the presentation layer. Instead, the content is delivered through an API, which can be consumed by any front-end technology, such as JavaScript frameworks or mobile apps.

Headless CMS has become increasingly popular, especially in the context of Jamstack development. By decoupling the back-end from the front-end, headless CMS allows for greater flexibility and scalability, as well as faster performance and improved security. This is because headless CMS can be integrated with a variety of front-end tools, enabling developers to create highly customized and optimized experiences for users.

Headless CMS vs traditional CMS: main differences

A traditional CMS, such as WordPress or Drupal, is an all-in-one platform that handles both content creation and presentation. It has a front-end layer that is responsible for rendering the content in a presentable format for the users. In contrast, as we said earlier, headless CMS decouples the content creation and storage from the presentation layer. It provides content in the form of APIs that can be consumed by any front-end application.


The main difference between a headless CMS and a traditional CMS lies in their architecture. A traditional CMS has a monolithic architecture, where the content creation, storage, and presentation are tightly integrated. In contrast, a headless CMS has a modular architecture that separates content creation and storage from the presentation layer. This allows for greater flexibility and scalability.

Content Delivery

A traditional CMS has an integrated front-end layer that manages content delivery to the end-users. This means that the CMS controls the presentation layer, and the content is delivered through a templating system. The content is usually stored in a database, and the front-end retrieves it from the database and renders it on the web page.

On the other hand, a headless CMS provides content in the form of APIs that can be consumed by any front-end application. This means that the front-end application can be developed in any technology stack, and the headless CMS delivers the content through APIs. This decoupling of content and presentation enables developers to build custom front-end applications that are optimized for their specific use cases.


A traditional CMS is designed to handle all aspects of content management, including content creation, storage, and presentation. While this provides convenience, it also limits flexibility. The front-end presentation layer is tightly coupled to the back-end, making it challenging to customize the user interface.

In contrast, a headless CMS offers greater flexibility as it separates content creation and storage from the presentation layer. This enables developers to build custom front-end applications that are optimized for their specific use cases. For example, a headless CMS can be used to create a mobile application that consumes content through APIs, while a web application uses the same content to display it on a website.


Traditional CMS platforms are designed to handle everything, including content creation, storage, and presentation. As the amount of content and users grows, it becomes increasingly challenging to scale the platform. A headless CMS, on the other hand, separates content creation and storage from the presentation layer, allowing developers to scale each component independently.


Security is a critical aspect of any CMS platform. In a traditional CMS, the security of the platform is closely tied to the front-end presentation layer. This makes it challenging to secure the platform against potential security threats. A headless CMS, on the other hand, provides content through APIs, making it easier to secure the platform against security threats.

Content Workflow

With a traditional CMS, the content workflow is usually built into the platform. This means that there is a specific process that content creators need to follow to get their content published. In contrast, a headless CMS does not have a built-in workflow, meaning that the workflow needs to be created separately. While this may add some complexity, it also provides greater flexibility in terms of customizing the workflow to the needs of the business.

Content Marketing Processes

A traditional CMS is designed to handle all aspects of content management, including content creation, storage, and presentation. This can make it easier for marketers to create and manage content in a single platform. However, this can also limit the flexibility of the marketing team. With a headless CMS, content can be created and managed in a more flexible manner, allowing the marketing team to tailor their content creation and distribution processes to their specific needs.

Cooperation between Marketing and IT

A traditional CMS is often managed by the IT team, while the marketing team handles the content creation and delivery. This can sometimes result in a communication breakdown between the two teams, causing delays and miscommunication. With a headless CMS, the content creation and delivery process can be managed more collaboratively between the IT and marketing teams, resulting in more efficient workflows and better communication.

When Should You Choose Headless Content Management System?

While a traditional CMS may be still more convenient for some businesses, a headless CMS offers greater flexibility and control, making it an attractive option for businesses that require more customized content delivery solutions.

When considering which type of CMS to use, you should consider the specific needs, content creation and delivery processes, and the level of customization required. There are certain situations in which a headless CMS is the ideal solution. Below, you'll find some scenarios in which your business might consider choosing a headless CMS.

You Have Complex Content Management Needs

If your business has complex content management needs, a headless CMS can provide the necessary flexibility and scalability to meet those needs. For example, if your business has a large and diverse content library that needs to be managed and organized in a highly specific way, a headless CMS can provide the necessary tools and infrastructure to do so. Additionally, if your business operates in multiple languages, a headless CMS can easily manage the translation process and ensure that all content is accurately localized.

You Need Customized Content Delivery

If your business requires highly customized content delivery, a headless CMS is a good choice. With a headless CMS, you have complete control over the front-end presentation layer, which allows for highly customized content delivery to specific channels, devices, and user segments. This can be especially useful for businesses that require personalized content experiences for their customers, such as e-commerce businesses or media companies.

You Strive for Multi-Channel Content Delivery

If your business needs to deliver content across multiple channels, such as websites, mobile apps, and social media platforms, a headless CMS is a great option. With a headless CMS, you can create content once and deliver it to multiple channels, without the need to duplicate content or manage separate content repositories for each channel. This can save time and resources while ensuring a consistent brand experience across all channels.

You Want a Developer Empowerment

If your business has a strong development team, a headless CMS can provide them with the tools and flexibility they need to create custom content solutions. With a headless CMS, developers can easily integrate with third-party applications, build custom front-end solutions, and create highly customized content workflows. This can empower your development team to build innovative solutions that can drive business growth and revenue.

You Require Improved Website Performance and Speed

One of the major benefits of using a headless CMS is improved website performance and speed. Traditional CMS platforms typically come with a built-in front-end presentation layer, which can be limiting in terms of customization and performance optimization. With a headless CMS, however, you have complete control over the front-end presentation layer, which allows for greater flexibility and optimization. By decoupling the back-end content management system from the front-end presentation layer, a headless CMS can significantly improve website performance and speed, resulting in faster page load times and a better user experience.

You Want Increased Conversion Rates and Customer Engagement

Using a headless CMS can also lead to increased conversion rates and customer engagement. By delivering highly personalized and targeted content to users, businesses can increase customer engagement and drive more conversions. With a headless CMS, you have the flexibility to create custom content experiences for specific user segments, devices, and channels, which can help to optimize the customer journey and increase conversion rates.

You Look for Better Scalability and Flexibility

Another advantage of using a headless CMS is better scalability and flexibility. As businesses grow and evolve, they often need to add new channels, devices, and platforms to their content strategy. With a headless CMS, businesses can easily scale and adapt their content delivery strategy to meet changing customer needs and market trends. This can help businesses stay ahead of the competition and maintain a competitive edge in their industry.

What approach to web development should you take when considering a headless CMS?

The answer is easy: Jamstack!

Why it’s good to consider headless CMS and Jamstack technology? To really dive in, we recommend reading our article What is Jamstack. Nevertheless, let’s try to summarize this broad topic now.

Jamstack is a web development architecture that has been popular for some years, which consists of compiling a dynamic website in the form of static pages, in order to speed up its rendering and thus improve the user experience.

What’s crucial to note here, however, is that Jamstack allows all of this without corrupting the back-end logic. This architecture responds well to the newest website development trends, making it one of the most popular choices for developers.

To sum up, Jamstack development goes with the following perks:

  • SEO friendly as a static site

  • fast as a static site

  • great digital customer experience as a dynamic site

  • no development skills are required to update the site’s content if we use a headless CMS

  • very low resource requirements

Jamstack can have yet another benefit, that is not so obvious: improving team cohesion. This is due to the chain reaction in your team: the content creator is happy because they are using their favorite content management platform, the developer is happy because they can use their favorite technology, and the marketer is happy because the site has a good SEO performance.

What’s even more important, Jamstack provides a more advanced solution, especially now when companies are looking for multichannel interactions with their customers. It ensures flexibility, scalability and faster integration with multiple platforms. Although a traditional CMS is easier to use and manage, it can be difficult to scale, develop and improve in the long term.

The Pros and Cons of Headless CMS

Now that we have a good understanding of what headless CMS is and how it differs from traditional CMS, let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of using a headless CMS for your business needs. While there are some challenges that come with using a headless CMS, there are also many benefits that can make it a valuable investment for your company.

Main advantages of a Headless CMS

Flexibility and Scalability

Headless CMS allows for greater flexibility and scalability compared to traditional CMS. You can create and manage content in a more granular way, which means that you can easily adjust the content to suit different devices, platforms, and channels. This also allows for a more efficient content creation process, as you can reuse content across different channels without having to recreate it each time.

Improved Content Marketing

Headless CMS provides greater control over content marketing. You can easily manage content workflows and approvals, as well as track content performance across different channels. This helps you to optimize your content marketing efforts and improve your ROI.

Better Customer Experience

Headless CMS enables you to deliver a more personalized and seamless customer experience across different channels. By managing your content in a more structured way, you can easily tailor your content to specific audiences and devices, and deliver it at the right time and place.

Enhanced User Experience

Headless CMS also allows for a better user experience, as it enables you to create more dynamic and interactive websites and applications. With headless CMS, you can easily integrate different technologies and APIs, and create more engaging and responsive user interfaces.

Improved Performance

By decoupling the back-end content management system from the front-end presentation layer, a headless CMS can significantly improve website performance and speed, resulting in faster page load times and a better user experience.

Improved Sales Outcomes

Headless CMS can also have a positive impact on sales outcomes, as it enables you to create more effective and targeted sales and marketing campaigns. You can easily create and deliver content that is tailored to specific customer needs and preferences (e.g. across different localizations), and that drives conversions and sales.

Cons of a Headless Content Management System


Headless CMS can be more complex and challenging to implement compared to traditional CMS. The first requires a greater level of technical expertise, especially at the implementation stage. You may need to invest more time and resources in training your staff and developing the necessary skills and expertise to manage and optimize your headless CMS.

Potential Integration Issues

Headless CMS may also present integration issues, as it requires integration with different technologies and systems. You may need to work closely with your IT team and other stakeholders to ensure that your headless CMS is integrated smoothly with your other systems and technologies.

Lack of Pre-built Features

Another challenge with headless CMS is that it may not come with pre-built features and functionality like traditional CMS. This means that you may need to develop or customize your own front-end components and user interfaces, which can be time-consuming and costly.

What Are the Best Headless CMS tools?

There are many headless CMS solutions available in the market today, each with their own strengths and features. In this section, we'll explore some of the leading headless CMS solutions and what makes them stand out.

These tools are designed to make content creation and management easier and more efficient. Whether you're looking for a solution that's developer-friendly or one that prioritizes user experience, there's a headless CMS out there for you.


Strapi is the next generation of JavaScript-based open-source headless CMS that can be used to create, manage and make rich content experiences available on any digital device.

Biggest advantage: Strapi works with various frameworks on the market, including Gatsby, Nuxt.js and Next.js.

Biggest disadvantage: Its Drag&Drop feature can quite often result in repeated images.


Contentful is both the oldest and the best known headless CMS. It couldn’t miss our list as it’s the second choice after WordPress with consideration for usage and customer satisfaction. In the same survey, we can read that Contentful also gained 5.58% usage and got a higher satisfaction rate, while WordPress lost 10.08% since last year. It’s just more proof of the growing popularity of Jamstack.

Biggest advantage: Codes to automate the configuration of the environment according to the content model and to manage migrations from one environment to another.

Biggest disadvantage: It doesn’t fully support developers with all its functionalities.

This cloud-based CMS is particularly suitable for flexible editing supporters. With the help of the Content Hub, teams can organize and collaborate more efficiently.

Biggest advantage: Tracking and analysis functions of the customer experience are also included in the free start-up version.

Biggest disadvantage: As an open source headless CMS, is only suitable for small, simple projects with a few participants, because the upgrade is cost-intensive.

Netlify CMS

The extensible CMS can be used with any static website generator. NetiflyCMS optimizes all digital assets and serves to cache with cookieless domains. In addition to fast static hosting, web-based command-line services are also available.

Biggest advantage: Content teams enjoy the intuitive workflow and editor-friendly user interface. Your own website can be uploaded to Netifly CMS by simply dragging and dropping.

Biggest disadvantage: With 100 GB bandwidth per month and only 1 team member, only small projects can use it freely but there are also other plans to choose.


The Hygraph native headless CMS with frontend agnostics is based on the aforementioned API query language, which was originally developed by Facebook. Today, it acts as an alternative to REST (Representational State Transfer).

Biggest Advantage: Hygraph allows experienced developers to build and manage content APIs based on GraphQL that are able to distribute content across all channels.

Biggest Disadvantage: There are some issues with customizability and extensibility.

To get a deeper best headless CMS comparison, check our article regarding the topic. We’ve described 15 selected Headless Content Management Systems in detail, so you can get a full perspective!

Real-World Use Cases for a Headless Content Management System

Being a Jamstack & headless web development agency, we've got some nice experience with upgrading websites with headless CMS and managing migration projects.

Naturaily & Best IT


Best IT is one of the top partners for digital transformation in the DACH region. As a digital agency established in 2000, they are considered pioneers in the eCommerce area.

They wanted their new website to be of the best quality and up-to-date with the current digital environment. Best IT's marketing team also started to experience inefficiencies with their WordPress-based content management.

Any visual changes had to be combined with changes to the overall architecture. They observed a gradual worsening of the site's performance. This also negatively impacted their SEO strategy.

Therefore, it was necessary to find a solution that:

  • Provides good performance

  • Can reduce the time developers need to manage the site

  • Gives more convenient opportunities to the content team

  • Is fully editable, modular, and future-proof

Solution & Effects

Meeting goals required improving the website usability and user experience through implementing new designs and increasing the website's performance by switching architecture to Jamstack. We used the headless CMS of Storyblok combined with Next.js.

As a result, Best IT can now proudly use a website that reflects its advanced digital environment expertise.

Thanks to Storyblok, users can simply use modular blocks that are easily modifiable and arrange them accordingly.

Other outcomes:

  • We developed 70 different modular React-based components

  • The website can additionally be easily scaled up with API-based microservices

  • Thanks to Next.js, their website is technically static, yet equipped with dynamic elements

Performance change:

  • Lighthouse Performance metric 24 -> 100

  • Time to Interactive 4.3 s -> 0.9 s

  • LCP 1.4 s -> 0.6 s

  • FCP 0.61 s -> 0.30 s

Naturaily & Urban

Background is an app/web service for booking treatments from the spa and the clinic to your home in just 60 minutes.

When they approached us, any content changes on the website, design or copy related had to be implemented by a developer, posing issues in terms of resource prioritization and efficiency.

Urban’s content team wanted to have more control over structuring, targeting, and designing particular pages for particular groups of users. They also needed a performance boost as Core Web Vitals are crucial for Google’s ranking and SEO.

Solution & Effects

Our main aim was then to change the website’s architecture from slightly outdated monolithic to ultra-performative Jamstack, and recommend a headless CMS optimal for their workflows.

For this headless CMS implementation project, we went with Storyblok. Why? It has an actual visual editor with a preview giving content marketers the possibility to quickly check their modifications. It also gives the utmost flexibility in terms of setting up the behavior of the whole content management system and its dependencies.

Outcomes include:

  • Drastically increased performance – Lighthouse metric went up from 30 to 96 when went live

  • Content management and pages customization made easier and quicker – cut the 1-month process to just 1-week

  • More control over implementing SEO and content strategy added

  • The amount of work for developers decreased by 100%

  • More autonomy for the content team ensured

Choosing the Right Headless CMS for Your Business

Okay, that's all! We've explored the concept of headless CMS and its differences from traditional CMS, discussed the advantages and disadvantages of headless CMS, and provided real-world use cases and examples of leading headless CMS solutions.

We've also covered when it's advisable for businesses for choosing a headless CMS and how to select the right one for their specific needs.

If you still need the professional assistance of a web development company specialized in headless CMS implementations and migrations, simply 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!