How to choose a headless CMS

3 August 2023

How to choose a Headless CMS

Chiara Hiller, Marketing Lead

How to choose a Headless CMS in 2023

In 2023, it’s harder than ever to choose a Headless CMS.
When there are so many options, how do you know which one is the best fit for your needs?
Don’t stress, just keep reading, we got you covered.

You're not sure what a Headless CMS is? Read this post first.

What is a Headless CMS and why is it relevant in 2023?

While a traditional content management system (CMS) typically offers users a pre-defined set of templates and themes for frontend presentation, the customization options are limited.
In contrast, a Headless CMS is highly customizable and flexible, as the backend (where content and data are stored) and frontend (the interface users see) are decoupled. If you'd like more information about what a Headless CMS is, read this post first.
But why would you even switch to a headless CMS in 2023? For one, technology is developing faster and faster. And you don't want to fall behind, do you? Thanks to the headless architecture that has no fixed presentation layer, content can be published anywhere. There is no limit when it comes to devices, platforms, channels – but also personalization and scalability.
If you need more reasons to switch to a Headless CMS, just consider agility and speed: The time required for maintenance, frontend updates, and rollouts of campaigns is significantly reduced. Furthermore, a headless CMS is a good fit for the growing trend of microservices architecture, as it allows for separate development of individual pieces of content.
Of course, we could come up with many more arguments, but let's keep it short and sweet: Headless CMSs are becoming especially relevant in 2023 for organizations that want to keep up with the rapidly evolving digital landscape and deliver high-quality digital experiences to their customers.

How to choose a Headless CMS in 2023 - important factors

So what should you consider to choose a headless CMS that moves your business forward?

Keep in mind that it's not only the development team that should be happy with your choice. Marketers and editors will also work with the CMS on a daily basis, and their needs should be met equally. To ensure that, here are the most important criteria to consider when selecting a headless CMS in 2023:

  • Integration with frontend frameworks and technologies

    While all headless CMS solutions offer either a REST API or a GraphQL API, having an SDK (Software Development Kit) and example applications can make development faster. So, make sure to check if an SDK for your (or your developers') preferred technology is available.


  • API capabilities and documentation

    No, not all APIs are the same. A headless CMS with very robust API capabilities can provide an even more seamless and flexible content delivery experience, as more integrations and customization options are possible.

    Documentation is another important factor, as it provides developers with a clear understanding of how to work with the API best, what resources are available, and how to use them. Good and comprehensive documentation makes the lives of your developers easier.

    Ideally, you will find a Headless CMS that offers a robust and flexible API, as well as clear and comprehensive documentation.


  • Content modeling and schema management

    Content modeling is the process of defining the structure and organization of the content (like content types, fields, and relationships between them) within the CMS – and each system handles that a little differently.

    Schema management means managing and modifying the content model over time, as your needs may change.

    A suitable content model makes it easier to create and manage content, and for developers to build applications that consume that content. Schema management ensures that the content model remains adaptable to changing requirements.

    Check the solutions for content modeling of different Headless CMSs: Is it user-friendly and suited for your needs? Do you have the ability to version and track changes to the content schema? Does it allow for custom development of content types, fields, and relationships?


  • User roles and permissions

    To control who can access and edit which parts of the content, many Headless CMSs provide (customizable) user roles and permissions. This is especially useful when larger teams work together and use the same CMS, as roles help to keep sensitive information safe and provide clarity regarding various responsibilities.

    Therefore, when selecting a headless CMS, it's important to consider how it handles user roles and permissions, and whether it provides the flexibility you need.


  • Pricing and Licensing

    Most Headless CMS options offer different pricing packages that come with limits. Examples of these limits are the number of users, content items, or API requests. Other factors that can influence the price are the support hours of the vendor, training services, and add-ons or plugins.

    Vendors of headless CMSs have various licensing models, like subscription-based or perpetual licenses. Subscription-based licensing usually provides access to the latest software updates and support services, while perpetual licensing requires a one-time fee, and the user may need to pay for additional services and updates. However, perpetual licensing allows indefinite use of the software. Subscription-based licensing requires ongoing payments to maintain access to the CMS.


  • Scalability and performance

    While Headless CMSs generally scale and perform better than traditional systems, there are still differences between the various products.

    If you're looking into open-source solutions, make sure that the community is active and continually improving the CMS. To do so, you can have a look at the product's GitHub page.


  • User interface

    This should be a no-brainer. But in 2023, there are still a lot of content management systems with overly complicated user interfaces around. That results in long training and onboarding periods for new users and confused team members. So when comparing different headless CMS options, check their user interfaces: Do they have a clean and well-structured look? Does the handling seem intuitive? What duration does the company indicate for the introduction?" to "What duration does the company suggest for the onboarding process? A good user experience motivates your teams and new users equally.


  • Features

    Different products come with different features. Depending on your use case(s), some features that might be useful are image optimization, an image editor, content scheduling, live preview, and live collaboration. But: More features often come with a higher price. Think about what features your teams would need, and then check and compare the features of different Headless CMSs in order to make the right choice.


Finally, it is important to check whether a headless CMS is open-source or proprietary. While open-source platforms offer more flexibility for customizing and making changes, they typically necessitate more in-house development effort in comparison to proprietary products, which are handled by the vendor.
After you've decided on the criteria your headless CMS should meet, show them to your IT and content team to really make sure that all of their needs have been considered, before comparing different Headless CMS solutions and making a choice.

Conclusion

The market for headless CMS has grown a lot recently, and we strongly recommend taking enough time with the decision. By considering all of the factors described above, you'll be able to choose a Headless CMS that helps you reach your company's goals while empowering your teams to create better and future-proof content. If you're curious and want to see a user-friendly system in action, make sure to give caisy a try.

Content management is hard.

But it doesn’t have to be.