Overwhelmed with options?
Are you building your first (e-commerce) headless CMS and you don't know what headless CMS platform to choose?
What are the best headless CMS in 2020, so you can at least narrow down your choices and start... somewhere?
Which system matches most of your feature requirements?
Here's a top 10:
1. But First: What Is a Headless CMS, More Precisely?
Relax, I won't bore you with too many details — we already have an in-depth post on the differences between headless and traditional CMS.
So, if we were to sum up the concept in just a few words, we could say that:
A headless content management system is an architecture where content is separated from the presentation layer (the client-side front-end).
Meaning that you get to create, store, and edit "raw" content (with no design or layout) in the backend and deliver it wherever needed —wearable, mobile app, website — via API.
In short, what you get in a headless architecture is:
- a database to store your content in
- a dashboard for editing your content
As for the "head" that serves your content to the end-user :
- you're free to build your own front-end, from the ground up
- … and even multiple front-ends, if needed, that will all use calls from the API to retrieve and display content
2. … Then What's a Decoupled CMS?
Headless CMS vs decoupled CMS: what's the difference? And why headless over decoupled?
The role that the API plays…
That's what makes the difference (and why you'd want to go for a headless approach):
If, in a decoupled architecture, the API plays the role of an intermediary between back-end and front end, in a headless architecture the API can be used by any of the front-end portions for pulling data.
In other words, a decoupled CMS does come with a built-in front-end delivery layer, that you can rely on, but a headless approach is an API-driven content repository.
Which gives you more flexibility for delivering content to any type of display layer.
… to multiple "heads".
You're free to distribute it wherever it needs to get displayed.
3. Why Choose a Headless CMS? Top 9 Benefits
Before I "divulge" the best headless CMS in 2020 to you, here's a shortlist of the key advantages of using a headless CMS software:
- you get to engage your customers with personalized content across an entire network of digital channels, at different stages in their journey
- you can deliver richer digital experience, tailored to each channel
- you gain platform independence
- you're free to choose your technology of choice
- you benefit from cross-platform support
- you get to manage your content from a central location and distribute it to multiple platforms/IoT-connected devices, in a universal format
- you're free to manage all your platforms from one interface
- your development team gets to choose the development framework of their choice, integrate new technologies and, overall… innovate
- you're free to redesign as often as you need to, without the dread of re-implementing your entire CMS from the ground up
4. … And When Should You Use It? 5 Best Use Cases
How do you know for sure that you need to adopt this approach?
You know it because your scenario describes one of the following use cases for headless CMS:
- you're building a site using a technology you're familiar with
- you're building a website with a static site generator
- you're building a JS-based website or web app
- you're building a native mobile app
- you're building an e-commerce site and you know that the commerce platform you're using won't… cut the mustard as a CMS; or you need to enrich product info in your online store
5. What Are the Best Headless CMS in 2020? Top 10
"Which CMS should I use?" you wonder.
"The one that meets most of your requirements…"
So, you should start by pinning them down. What features are you looking for in a CMS?
Maybe you need a system that should:
- be straightforward and easy to use for the marketers/non-technical people in your team
- be built on… Node
- be highly customizable and editable for your content team to be able to change overlay text, logo, background video/image
- be simple to set up
- integrate easily with Gatsby
- support multi-site setups
- not be tied up to (just) one specific database
- provide ease of content entry and rich-text support
- provide a granular permission system
- provide native support for content types
What are the features that your project couldn't live without?
Now, with that list of "mandatory" features at hand, just drill down through your top headless CMS options in 2020.
Here they are:
A purely headless CMS that ships with a visual editor, as well.
Why would you go for Storyblok? What makes it one of the best headless CMS in 2020?
- it provides the experience of a page builder for all those non-technical users in your team: editors get to manage content via a more user-friendly interface
- it grants your developers easy access to the APIs they need
Its major selling point?
It allows you to choose your own language, framework, technology…
And these are the 3 good reasons to go with Prismic as your headless CMS:
- it allows you to model your content schema and to add your content
- you're free to choose whatever framework that meets your feature needs: React, Vue, Next, Nuxt, Node, Gatsby…
- you're free to choose either GraphQL or RESTful API to query content
Here are some of the best reasons why you'd use a Drupal 8 API-first architecture:
- Drupal's a mature and enterprise-level headless solution backed by a wide community, used by more than 1 million sites globally; you get to tap into its massive module collection and even create new custom ones to extend your website's functionality
- its JSON:API follows the JSON:API specification; developers in your team can start using the API even if they're not experts in working with Drupal
- you get to load your GraphQl schemas straight from your Drupal content repository; there's a specialized module for this: the GraphQL module
- you get to use all of Drupal's famed features (granular access to content, processes, workflows, modules, etc.) right away; you get them out-of-the-box since the REST API is… rooted deep into Drupal
5.4. Strapi, One of the Best headless CMS for Gatsby.
It's an open-source Node.js headless CMS, a "host it yourself" one, that allows you to build Node.js apps in… minutes.
Why would you use it?
- because it generates available RESTful API or uses GraphQL shortly after installation, making data available via customizable API
- because it allows your developers to invest all their resources in writing reusable app logic (instead of having to use some of that time to build an infrastructure)
- because it supports plugins that extend the platform's functionality
- because it's open-source: you'll find the entire codebase on GitHub
Looking for a platform-agnostic solution?
A… content delivery network that would enable your development team to manage and distribute (and reuse) content to multiple channels?
Then this is the API-driven headless CMS you're looking for.
Here are 6 other reasons why you'd want to put Contentful on your shortlist:
- consistent APIs
- easy to set up
- you're free to create your own models
- easy to use: ships with a robust, non-technical, user-friendly UI
- you get to add custom plugins quick and easy
- you get to set your own schemas to get displayed the way you want them to, across different apps
Good to know! There's even a Shopify extension available. What it does is connect your online store to your content, stored in Contentful.
And if you'll need help with building, fine-tuning, and integrating your content hub, we're ready to tweak Contentful to your needs.
END of Part 1!
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