By development lead at Aspectus Group, Marko Batarilo

 

Website trends…they go in and out of fashion and it’s hard to keep up. But one we have been keeping an eye on is the headless CMS trend. Yes, we’ve been talking about it for a while but as per the WPEngine Summit last year, it’s firmly back in the spotlight – mainly because of WPEngine’s big investment in the Atlas solution.  

The basics 

CMS stands for Content Management System, which is a complete solution for managing and publishing online content – of which WordPress is the most popular. 

Websites consist of a front-end (the interface) and a back-end (the architecture required for storing data, tweaking elements with code, building new functionality, etc). For WordPress, the aim was to combine both back- and front-end with an all-in-one solution, with headless – these two areas are separated and managed separately. WordPress now want in on the action. And they’re right to – the main benefits of headless are faster performance, improved security and greater flexibility.  

Should you go headless? 

The short answer is: it’s not straight forward. 

WPEngine published a global research report in 2021 about the current state of 

headless adoption among enterprise organisations which has risen to 64%. And for those that are yet to adopt, 90% are considering it in the next year. 

The report further suggests that headless is set to become the future of the web. While I wouldn’t complain about that, the truth is more nuanced than that and really depends on who you talk to. 

This research was “distilled from survey results of 400 IT or technical employees, with a knowledge of headless, in the U.S., UK, and Australia. Respondents came from organisations with at least 1,000 employees and revenue that averaged out to $2.7 billion”. 

The clue to why headless might not be for everyone is in the above paragraph. 

Not all technologies are a one-size-fits-all solution and there are many situations where headless WordPress might not be the right choice. 

Yes, there are clear benefits:   

  • By using a static-site generator to act as a front-end for WordPress, your files and data are safe from being exploited through a variety of known vulnerabilities. 
  • Static sites also tend to be faster and smoother, which would be favourable for SEO and user experience. 
  • Headless provides more opportunities for integrating the front-end with other CMSs and web services within the organisation. 

The biggest drawback of headless is the cost, both the initial investment and for ongoing maintenance. 

If your site depends on daily maintenance and management by users who are not familiar with coding, you’re better off with a monolithic CMS. Headless WordPress removes the front-end, you would need someone on your team with good JavaScript skills who could maintain it and amend it when required. 

For large enterprises, this will likely be fine, since they might have a dedicated team in place. For SMEs, this could create an ongoing problem. Without a considerable publishing volume, the cost of implementing the technology may outweigh the benefits. 

However, this may change soon enough. WPEngine is working hard on their Atlas solution, which looks to be an affordable and less-complex way of implementing headless WordPress. Atlas wasn’t yet in a good place, but with recent developments and the 2022 roadmap, it’s worth keeping an eye on it and considering implementation. But, for now, it’s not worth losing your head about.  

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