Headless CMS vs. Traditional CMS: What's the Difference?
Headless CMS platforms offer a modern approach to content management, distinct in many ways from their traditional counterparts.
Webinarcare states in its study about headless CMS software that while 82% of users acknowledge the direct impact of digital experiences on revenue, 76% report lacking the necessary tools for delivering consistent content across various channels, which 75% of consumers expect.
Additionally, there's notable dissatisfaction with traditional CMSes, as those behind in digital adoption are 40% more likely to use such systems.
You might wonder what is the difference between a headless CMS and a traditional CMS.
Let's take a look at their key differences:
- Architecture: Traditional CMS platforms, like WordPress or Joomla, combine the backend (where content is created) and the front-end (how content is presented) in one package. In contrast, headless CMS platforms, such as Contentful or Strapi, separate these two elements. This separation allows for greater flexibility in how and where content is displayed.
- Flexibility and Scalability: Headless CMS platforms are known for their flexibility and scalability. They can easily integrate with various front-end frameworks (like React or Angular), enabling developers to create rich, responsive user experiences. Traditional CMSs, however, have limitations due to their predefined front-end templates.
- Content Delivery: With a headless CMS, content is delivered via APIs, making it easier to display content seamlessly across multiple platforms (websites, mobile apps, IoT devices). Traditional CMSs typically restrict content delivery to web pages.
- Customization and Control: Developers have more control over the presentation and structure of content with a headless CMS, as it doesn't impose any design constraints. Traditional CMSs, while user-friendly, offer less customization flexibility, often confining users to specific themes and layouts.
In conclusion, while traditional CMS systems offer simplicity and integrated solutions, headless CMS platforms stand out for their flexibility, scalability, and ability to deliver content across various digital mediums. The choice between the two depends on your specific needs and goals.
What is a Headless CMS?
A headless CMS is a content management system that doesn't have a front-end website building tool. Instead, it runs a content management layer on the backend instead of the front end.
According to Storyblok's CMS statistics, Approximately half of organizations rely on monolithic CMSs, while about 35% have embraced headless CMSs, and the remaining 15% either utilize website builders or have developed custom CMSs tailored to their specific needs.
Also, a significant 82.91% of businesses observed improvements in time management, budget efficiency, productivity, achievement of their KPIs, and revenue growth after transitioning to a headless CMS.
Additionally, 31.4% of these companies noted that adopting a headless CMS resulted in time savings in both content and project management.
Headless CMS platforms allow you to have complete control over all your data stored in the database and give you the option to easily integrate it with any other medium without worrying about complexity.
Removing all types of content from the CMS leaves only its structure and functionality. In that way, it becomes so much easier to replace your website from one web host to another.
Headless CMS refers to a content management system that powers decoupled applications or doesn't rely on the CMS to provide a front-facing user interface.
This approach is referred to as Content API (Application Programming Interface) or headless architecture in the content management world as well.
How Did We Choose The Best Headless CMSs?
When choosing the best headless CMS platforms, we meticulously analyzed several aspects to ensure a comprehensive guide:
- User Reviews and Industry Reputation: We delved into G2 ratings and user testimonials to analyze the platforms' reliability and user satisfaction.
- Core Features: Assessing each platform's standout features like user interface, speed, customization, and scalability was crucial.
- Integration and Flexibility: We examined how well these platforms integrate with other tools and their flexibility in terms of content delivery across various channels.
- Specific Use Cases: Identifying which platforms work best in certain scenarios, such as e-commerce or content-heavy sites, was a key factor.
- Pricing Structure: We compared the pricing models to cater to diverse budget requirements.
- Developer Friendliness: The platforms' ease of use for developers, including API availability and support for multiple programming languages, was a significant consideration.
TL;DR? Here is a quick look at what the top 10 headless CMS platforms are best for:
- Strapi: Best for fast performance and modern UI.
- Amplience: Great for e-commerce and AI content platforms.
- Directus: Perfect for managing SQL database contents.
- Ghost: Best choice for blogs and e-commerce.
- Sanity: Suitable for businesses requiring personalization and content performance analytics.
- Magnolia: Ideal for comprehensive content management with features like internal search.
- Contentful: Best for e-commerce websites with its ability to merge content in a single hub.
- Agility CMS: Suitable for businesses requiring high-speed API.
- Core DNA: Best for creating websites and applications in one place.
- Cockpit CMS: Great for creating dynamic websites with an open-source approach.
Best 23 Headless CMS Platforms to Increase Conversion
We prepared a list of headless CMS after doing comprehensive research about so many platforms. Let's check out the top 23 headless CMS platforms with their pros and cons, pricing details, and ratings.
Strapi is one of the most used headless CMS platforms. Strapi is an open-source headless CMS that is customizable and easy to use. Companies such as Walmart, eBay, Toyota, and IBM use this platform.
- Strapi has a modern and simple UI that is functional.
- Fast performance features with NodeJS and a modern codebase are available.
- Limitations on community plan access.
- The documentation might not be clear and understandable for some people.
Pricing: Free trial is available.
G2 Rating: 4.5/5
Explore G2 reviews for Strapi.
Amplience can be used as an e-commerce and AI content platform with its simplicity and customizability. It is an API-first, cloud-native, and headless platform that provides solutions with artificial intelligence.
- Integrates with so many platforms that you can use on your website.
- UI extensions are available.
- Built-in shortcuts are limited and can be improved.
- It is not suitable to use two different websites.
G2 Rating: 4.0/5
Directus is an open data platform where you can turn SQL databases into an API. Furthermore, you can customize your content entirely with this platform since it is an extensible headless CMS platform.
- Allows you to manage SQL database contents easily.
- API is user-friendly with different options.
- More documentation is needed since new features might be complex at times.
- There is only one central installation option on a server. It can be challenging to deal with multiple applications.
Pricing: It has a forever-free plan option.
G2 Rating: 5/5
Explore G2 reviews for Directus.
Being an open-source publishing platform, Ghost can mainly be used for blogs and e-commerce. Since it is a headless CMS platform, it is highly customizable, and anyone can use it.
- Ghost CMS has a minimal admin dashboard which is manageable.
- Thanks to CMS features, configurations and installations are simple.
- Some features, such as search bars, are not available on the free plan.
- It does not store previously used media and deletes their content if a user is deleted.
Pricing: Free trial is available. Starts from $29 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.1/5
Explore G2 reviews for Ghost.
Popupsmart integrates with this platform seamlessly, so you can create a Ghost popup quickly!
Sanity allows content creation as data with a headless CMS system. Nike, Cloudflare, Figma, Netlify, and National Geographic use Sanity.
- Personalization and content performance analytics are useful features.
- Customizable templated workflows, portals, and sites, asset management makes content management more effortless.
- Customization based on specific parts might be complex.
- Flexibility on different modules is limited.
Pricing: Free plan is available. The team plan starts from $99 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.7/5
Magnolia allows you to manage content in one hub. Also, you can reuse it on all your channels and the web easily. Furthermore, headless CMS personalization features make it possible to create unique websites.
- Internal search, approval process, versioning, and content authoring features make content creation easier.
- User community and access management features are functional for user experience.
- The UI is a bit complex to understand. It would be better with more documentation and guides.
- Big changes in new versions of the site make it hard to migrate from other versions.
G2 Rating: 4.2/5
You can quickly create a popup for Magnolia with Popupsmart.
Contentful integrates with many tools and helps you create your content quickly. It is mostly used for e-commerce websites.
- The content of a website can be merged into a single hub.
- Teams can collaborate on a specific project easily.
- Integrating apps with app frameworks can be complicated.
- It is not possible to clone content created on a different platform.
Pricing: Free plan is available. The team plan starts from $489 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.2/5
8. Agility CMS
Agility CMS is one of the most used content management systems. Page and module management is functional in this platform. Content editors and marketers can use this platform easily. Famous companies such as Pepsico and Mitsubishi Electric use Agility CMS.
- The API of the website is high-speed.
- It has flexible navigation structures and enterprise scalability features.
- The business plan is expensive.
- Search function is limited.
Pricing: Has a free plan for developers, which is limited to 5000 entries per month. The business plan starts from $900 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.4/5
Explore G2 reviews for Agility CMS.
9. Core DNA
Core DNA allows you to create websites and applications in one place. In addition, API-driven features make it easy to customize a number of elements on a website.
- The UI is minimal and easy to understand.
- You can combine content management tools since they integrate easily with many platforms.
- Starter plan is costly if you want to try it out first.
- Integration of third-party APIs can be complex.
Pricing: Starts from $1250 per month. Has a customizable enterprise plan as well.
G2 Rating: 4.5/5
Explore G2 reviews for Core DNA.
10. Cockpit CMS
With Cockpit CMS, it is possible to create dynamic websites using headless CMS. Furthermore, since it is an open-source platform, you can easily customize your website and create unique websites.
- Allows you to see comprehensive data with a search option.
- Gives the opportunity to utilize a normal stack of web technologies.
- Documentation and community may not be sufficient at times.
- The interface is a bit complicated.
G2 Rating: 4.1/5
Explore G2 reviews for Cockpit CMS.
Hygraph accompanies you to achieve a more developed digital experience. Thanks to the number of integrations, you can also develop your website and customize it.
- Has a rich text editor and content authoring features that help you create quality content.
- Shows analytics of the content performance so that you can measure your traffic.
- Migration of data when you change your model might be complex.
- It is not mobile-friendly.
Pricing: A Free-forever plan is available. Professional team membership starts from $299 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.6/5
You can create a Hygraph popup with Popupsmart since it integrates seamlessly with this platform!
Kontent.ai makes content production easier so marketers and content creators can use it without getting confused. It also aims to provide a better online experience.
- Integrates with other platforms that can better content creation and marketing activities.
- UX and design are easy to use for starters.
- URL slugs may not generate accordingly.
- Monthly payment is a bit expensive.
Pricing: Free plan is available. The Scale Plan, which offers more features, starts from $2,499 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.3/5
You can read G2 reviews for Kontent.ai.
13. Dot CMS
Using Dot CMS makes it possible to build content-enabled applications. You can easily create mobile apps, single-page apps, and websites with this headless CMS platform.
- Content scheduling, rich text editor, and content authoring features make content creation easier.
- Allows users to customize content and integrate with other platforms.
- Software crashes occur from time to time.
- Hard to understand at first, UI would be more functional and easy to use.
G2 Rating: 4.1/5
14. Butter CMS
Butter CMS is an API-first headless CMS platform. Companies such as Salesforce and Indeed use this platform as well.
- It has an automated publishing feature.
- Image management and reusable content are functional development features.
- Creating interactive and dynamic content might not be possible since some features are limited.
Pricing: Starts from $83 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.7/5
Prismic is another API-based headless CMS platform that you can use to publish content.
- Managing the content is functional with cloud service.
- Integrates with other platforms easily.
- Filtering the contents might be difficult.
- Occasional crashes occur, and load speed might be slow.
Pricing: Free plan is available. Starts from $7 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.3/5
Storyblok is a great headless CMS platform for creating e-commerce websites and mobile applications.
- Content authoring, content repository, and rich text editor features make content creation more accessible.
- It supports various front-end frameworks, and you can customize your website easily.
- It does not support some platforms, and their plug-in may not work properly.
- Lacks flexibility while creating models.
Pricing: Free plan is available. Starts from $90 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.4/5
Contentstack allows users to create their content quickly. Since it is a headless CMS, customizing certain parts of a website is also possible.
- It has content scheduling, content authoring, and content repository features.
- Internal search and rich text editor features make it more user-friendly.
- It might be challenging to locate the input fields for some monitors.
Pricing: Starts from $995 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.6/5
18. Arc XP
Arc XP is a cloud-native content management solution that provides solutions for enterprise businesses, retail companies, and media organizations. This platform can be useful for distributing content and automating workflows.
- You can deliver context-driven digital experiences with this fully hosted and low-code tool. *Robust tool that offers solutions for content marketing and e-commerce.
- It might be difficult to customize components to suit each user.
- It may have a bit of a long learning curve for complete beginners.
Pricing: You need to request a demo to get the pricing details.
G2 Rating: 4.1/5 Read G2 reviews for Arc XP.
Using Zesty.io can build your website easily since it is an outcome-oriented platform. Being a headless CMS, Zesty allows you to optimize your marketing activities. Companies such as Epic Games and SONY use Zesty as well.
- Drafting, editing, and publishing content is easy since you don't need a lot of technical expertise.
- Internal search of content is possible.
- Publishing content takes some time.
- Minor bugs may occur when there is an update.
Pricing: Free trial is available. Starts from $475 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.6/5
Explore G2 reviews for Zesty.io
Developers and content editors can easily collaborate and work together using Enonic. Since it is a headless CMS platform, customizing and editing content is possible.
- It integrates with other platforms properly.
- Easy to understand at first, thanks to comprehensive documentation.
- It takes time to build and publish new content.
Pricing: Free trial is available. Starts from $990 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.5/5
Explore G2 reviews for Enonic.
Being a headless CMS platform, Prepr brings data and content together. So, in that sense, it is possible to improve your website's content and user experience.
- Integrates with other platforms conveniently.
- API has a low response time and is easy to use.
- Some issues might not be clear in the documentation since it is not wholly completed.
Pricing: Free trial is available. Starts from $399 per month.
G2 Rating: 4.3/5
Explore G2 reviews for Prepr.
Optimizely is ideal for businesses needing to produce and repurpose content rapidly, thanks to its headless CMS structure.
It offers flexibility for developers through its headless API approach and a global Content Delivery Network (CDN).
- Functionalities include approval workflows, project management, targeting, media management, and comprehensive content management.
- Provides hosting options using Microsoft Azure's cloud platform
- The user interface needs to be more intuitive.
- Customer support should be improved.
Pricing: You need to get in touch with the sales team and request pricing.
G2 Rating: 3.9/5
Bloomreach is a specialized headless CMS platform tailored for e-commerce merchants to craft engaging online experiences.
Features like Bloomreach Experience Manager offer a robust content management solution, optimizing audience experiences.
- Provides responsive templates that ensure a consistent and enhanced experience
- Bloomreach Academy serves as an extensive knowledge base
- A high volume of events can lead to data overload and lead to extra effort to manage.
- Customer support can be enhanced.
Pricing: You need to contact the sales team and request pricing.
G2 Rating: 4.6/5
Discover G2 reviews for Bloomreach.
That is all for headless CMS platforms! By using these platforms, you can quickly form your brand's online presence. We explained their key features, pros and cons, pricing details, and ratings so you can choose the one that suits your business needs.
We hope you find what you have been looking for and build unique websites easily! Comment below which works best for your company, and share your thoughts with us! :-)
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need a Headless CMS?
It would be best if you had headless CMS since it allows customizing a website easily. If you have an e-commerce website or blog that you create content regularly, using Headless CMS platforms can be beneficial.
You don't have to know complex coding; headless CMS platforms assist you in customizing your website correctly.
Since these platforms do not focus on front-end development, you can easily establish your website and edit your content according to your needs.
What are the Benefits of a Headless CMS?
A headless CMS is a content management system that allows decoupled software applications to provide a complete end-to-end content creation, management, and delivery process without enforcing any proprietary systems.
Since you do not have to write any code, you can focus on building the platform itself. In that way, you won't worry about technical issues. These platforms help you to concentrate on the platform itself. The performance of a website increases and becomes more effective.
With headless CMS, content resources become accessible and reusable as well. In addition, hosting and delivery are stored in the cloud with headless CMS platforms. So you can personalize your platform and connect with other platforms too.
Which is the Best Headless CMS?
We have listed 23 headless CMS platforms with their pros and cons. However, it can be said that Strapi, Ghost, Sanity, Hygraph are among the best headless CMS platforms that you can consider using. These platforms have higher G2 ratings and are easy to use.
It depends on your website's and company's needs for sure. You can choose from this comprehensive list of headless CMS platforms we have prepared according to your needs.
Feel free to look at these blog posts as well: