Best hEadless CMS

12 Best Headless CMS Software 2021

In headless CMS architecture, the frontend of the CMS is decoupled from the backend. So that they can both work independently, and only communicate through an API.

The traditional CMS architecture is designed to build websites. They gave us the comfort of having our content, editing interface, and templates coupled together as a single system. It is made up of:

Backend: This includes where content is stored and may include the editorial interface. So, if you are an admin, this where you work.

Frontend: This the presentation layer that displays what people see on your website.

Traditional CMS platforms has the backend and the frontend coupled into a single system. Of course, this allows us to have both the content editing interface and the presentation layer in a single environment – it serves its purpose. However, with the recent surge in different frontend technologies and different content delivering channels, traditional CMS architecture is becoming obsolete. It was this problem that gave birth to the concept of headless CMS.

According to studies by Pupuweb, 86% of respondent are responsive to the idea of headless CMS, and 28% are already using the headless approach

What is a headless CMS?

The idea of headless CMS is separating the backend from the frontend. So, the frontend can be likened to a kind of head – which is the presentation layer that displays the content of the application. In like manner, the backend is likened to the body – which is where the content is housed and where any form of editing takes place. It is this concept of decoupling that is referred to as headless. Now the frontend can be treated as a complete system and likewise the backend. These two systems can then be connected through an API. When we talk of the frontend, what first comes to mind is a website. Frontend endpoint, however, may also include mobile apps, smart TVs, smartwatches, and more.

Now we don’t have to worry about delivering different content types to the numerous frontend device out there. Because from a central content hub at the backend. We can deliver a different kind of content and experience to our various frontend endpoints. For example, from our central content hub, we can deliver content to our website and mobile applications. As wells as deliver video content seamlessly to our smart TV frontend endpoint – if we have any, or plan to have one in the future.
Now that we have a full grasp of what a headless CMS, lets now dive into the best headless CMS for 2021.

1. Strap.io

The headless CMS Strapi is an open-source headless CMS developed in JavaScript. As a developer-first CMS. It gives the developer the freedom to work with any frontend framework they want and support different database types. While also allowing editors and automate content distribution across different digital channels. By default, Strapi supports Rest API, however, you can easily set up a GraphQL by using readily available plugins.

Pricing

  • Community: The subscription is free forever
  • Bronze: $29/month/project (billed annually)
  • Silver: $299/month/project (billed annually)
  • Gold: Contact support for pricing

Pros

  • It has a well-written and robust documentation
  • Strapi supports role-based permission
  • It is very easy to set up
  • The API support both REST and GraphQL

Cons

  • Deployment on the production server needs to be more documented
  • Not many plug-ins yet to expand the functionalities

2. Contentful

Contentful is one of the leading headless CMS out there. With a central content-hub, users can be easily deployed content across various digital channels and experience through an API. Thereby, making the contents editable in any intuitive web app. In addition, it integrates easily with third-party apps such as Dropbox, Flickr, Google Drive, and more. In other to ensure that content modeling and distribution is automated.

Pricing

  • Community: Free for up to 5 users
  • Team: Starts at $48 per month
  • Enterprise: Contact support for pricing

Pros

  • It supports multiple languages
  • Contentful loads very fast
  • The user interface is very friendly
  • With the Contentful built-in versioning features, you can easily make changes and revert whenever it is needed.

Cons

  • Granting role based permissions is not straight forward

3. Kentico Kontent

Kentico Kontent is a cloud-native headless CMS that gives developers the freedom to build engaging online experiences across various digital channels with any technology they want. As well as, allowing content creators to focus on managing content and building a workable business workflow. Kentico is secure and flexible for enterprises that want to improve their digital experience across various channels. Kontent also has numerous collaboration tools that make collaboration between team members or colleagues possible and seamless.

Pricing

  • Business: $99 per month
  • Premium: $1,999 per month
  • Enterprise: Contact support for pricing

Pros

  • Kentico Kontent dashboard is user-friendly and intuitive
  • A marketer does not need to attain a certain learning curve to use it
  • It supports team collaboration
  • The platform supports multiple languages

Cons

  • It is quite pricey for startups

4. Netlify

The Netlify CMS is an open-source CMS for your Git workflow. It provides authors and editors a friendly user-interface and the ability to build an intuitive workflow. You can use it with any static site generator such as gatsby, nextJS, nuxtJS, and more. To create web projects that are faster and very flexible. In this kind of architecture, content is stored in your Git repository or any other repository, for easier versioning, and multi-channel publishing.

Pricing

  • Starter: It is absolutely free
  • Pro: $19/member/month
  • Business: $99/member/month
  • Enterprise: Contact support for pricing

Pros

  • It provide a simple way to host jamstack websites
  • The user interface is responsive and intuitive
  • It is quite easy to integrate with Github and Gitlab
  • Easy deployment of website

Cons

  • Error logging is sometimes clumsy

5. Magnolia

Magnolia is an open-source enterprise content management system that grants users with various features and tools needed to publish content on multiple digital channels. The platform allows developers to work with any kind of frontend technologies of their choice such as React, Vue, Angular, and more. As well as, help users to content with customers across different platforms seamlessly. In addition, Magnolia CMS intuitive dashboard allows users to utilize data insight and analytics to drive business growth.

Pricing

  • Free trial: Yes
  • Paid plan package: Contact support

Pros

  • The dashboard is user-friendly and intuitive
  • API supports both REST and GraphQL
  • Integrates with different frontend technologies and databases seamlessly
  • Magnolia CMS has robust documentation for new users

Cons

  • It takes time to master all the features on the CRM

6. Contentstack

Contentstack is a headless CMS that brings business and technology together to deliver personalized and tailored customer experience across various digital channels. It allows developers to use the technologies and framework of their choice in the development process. As well as combining the best of CMS and digital experience technology to help businesses manage content across various digital channels.

Pricing

  • Start: $995 per month
  • Grow: $3500 per month
  • Scale: Contact support for pricing

Pros

  • Easy and safe to integrate third-party applications into your websites or apps.
  • It has an intuitive interface that provides a plethora of features such as rich text editors, collaborating editing, revision history, and more
  • You can manage and publish content without involving developers
  • Users can start building their projects immediately, without having to perform any kind of setup, configuration, or maintenance activities.

Cons

  • Asset URL changes whenever the content is updated, this is not too good if you share content URL regularly on social media platforms, or other channels
  • The price is quite high for small business

7. Agility CMS

Agility CMS is a headless CMS platform that is flexible; able to manage all your content in a central content hub and send it to multiple touchpoints across the customer journey. It enables users to create, customize, and manage websites, apps, eCommerce from a central content hub to deliver a compelling experience both on the frontend and backend. In addition, Agility CMS is JAMStacked focused. It integrates seamless JAMStack CMS application to produce a blazing fast website that relies on static files rather than web server calls.

Pricing

  • Free: Free
  • Standard: $47 per month
  • Pro: $579 per month
  • Enterprise: $2500 per month

Pros

  • The UI is intuitive and user-friendly
  • It is effective for faster delivery of content across multiple touchpoints
  • It integrates seamlessly with other application to deliver static websites
  • API supports REST and GraphQL when integrated with another tool like Gatsby

Cons

  • You need to attain a certain learning curve to use the platform conveniently

8. ButterCMS

ButterCMS is a SaaS application that comes with a CMS dashboard and content API. Users can query the API to pull content that can be displayed on a frontend that is completely agnostic and can be designed with any technologies of your choice. Also, it comes with built-in SEO and other features such as post scheduling, revision histories, content preview, and more. As well as, audio hosting, media file tagging, and in-browsing editing. To assist in making the content creation process very easy and seamless.

Pricing

  • Blog: $49 per month
  • Startup: $124 per month
  • Small Business: $249 per month
  • Agency + Enterprise: Contact support for pricing

Pros

  • The intuitive WYSIWYG interface makes it easy for users to create and update the blog whenever they need to.
  • The interface/UI was easy to use and packed with enough features to act as an excellent blogging platform.
  • The support team is very active
  • It comes with robust documentation for new user

Cons

  • Pricing is quite expensive for small business
  • UI can still be improved

9. GraphCMS

GraphCMS is a cloud-based headless CMS that supports GraphQL natively. It provides a central content hub where you can push your content to different digital channels and experiences. It can also be paired with a variety of eCommerce APIs to deliver a rich buying experience. GraphCMS support GraphQL natively, this implies that you need any third-party integration to use it.

Pricing

  •  Community: Free forever
  • Professional: $299/project/month (billed annually)
  • Scale: $299/project/month (billed annually)
  • Enterprise: Contact support for pricing

Pros

  • The user interface is friendly and intuitive
  • GraphCMS API support GraphQL natively
  • It has a roles & permissions feature that allows you to assign your collaborators’ different roles
  • It provides self-generated documentation for your APIs

Cons

  • Agility CMS dashboard needs some improvements
  • The content dashboard is developer-focused

10. Zesty

Zesty.io is an API first CMS platform that provides you with everything you need to manage your content across different platforms. The architecture separate ensures that the frontend architecture is agnostic. Allowing developers to use any development language they are comfortable with. In addition, the automatic SEO optimization feature automatically populates meta fields and makes edits as needed.

Pricing

  • Start-ups: $475 per month
  • Business: $3500 per month
  • Enterprise: Contact support for pricing

Pros

  • You don’t need to attain a certain learning curve to use the dashboard
  • Updates are deployed automatically as new a release is available
  • Content authoring and scheduling can be done easily
  • Automatic SEO generation

Cons

  • It is very difficult to change certain layouts

11.Sanity.io

Sanity is a cloud-hosted platform for structured content. It also provides access to multiple APIS, libraries, and tooling that helps you leverage the benefits of having your content available as a single source of truth. Sanity.io has customization at its core. As well as, top-notch collaboration feature, full version control with tracking and roll-back, live preview, and more.

Pricing

  • Standard: Free
  • Advance: $199/project/month
  • Enterprise: Contact support for pricing

Pros

  • It has robust documentation for new users
  • It is very easy to set up a project and customize it
  • The free package is quite generous
  • It has a pricing package that is suitable for startups

Cons

  • The user interface might need some improvement

12. Directus

Directus is a free open-source platform built on node.js and vue.js 3. It provides an intuitive admin app that allows the administrator or non-technical user to manage content stored within a SQL database. It can also be used as a headless CMS for managing content across different platforms. In addition, Directus generate custom API endpoints based on your SQL database’s custom schema. Therefore, you always have unhindered control over your actual database.

Pricing

  • Self-hosted: Free forever
  • On-demand cloud: $99/month/project
  • Enterprise cloud: Contact support for pricing

Pros

  • Documentation is robust and easy to understand
  • The user interface is simple and easy to use
  • You can easily create databases with all the security layer you may need for API authentication

Cons

  • It could be difficult to get support for specific problem because it is open-source

5 reason to use a headless CMS

Although, headless CMS has a lot of advantages. It may not be suitable in some situation
Here are lists of situations where you should consider a headless CMS:

1.Central content hub

You should consider a headless CMS if you want to have a central content hub. This is useful if you have an organization that is made up of different independent departments. Where each department has its independent website, but at the same time they are all under the umbrella of the same organization. Without a central content hub, it will be very difficult to share content consistently across these platforms. Because anytime you find interesting content published in a department other than yours, you need to seek permission or copy and paste manually.

This process becomes very cumbersome for an organization that publishes content regularly because you can’t keep track of changes in such shared content. A central content hub helps you automate the process. When you find content that gets your attention in the content hub, and you believe will be suitable to publish on your department website. Then with a simple click, you can share it on your website, although you are not the author of the content.

Also, this content contains metadata that points Google to the website that contains the canonical data. So, you don’t get penalized for sharing duplicate content. Whenever there is a change in the content, the content hub gets an update, as well as update all the delivery channels.

2. Separate upgrade from re-design

Decoupling also makes sense if you want to separate your upgrade from your re-design. In a traditional CMS environment, the backend and the frontend templating engine is a coupled system. So, when there is an upgrade, the templating system is completely different and needs a massive re-write. At that point, you might as well do a re-write of your frontend because you are going to re-build from scratch anyway.

Then, after some years, there is a need for another upgrade, and you have to repeat the process over again. However, in a decoupled system, the frontend is separated from the backend. Therefore, when there is an upgrade in the backend, you don’t necessarily need to re-write the frontend.

3. Adopting cutting-edge frontend technologies

Let’s say, your organization wants to adopt cutting-edge technologies. Or your companies constant need to adopt modern frontend technologies. With the current state of CMS, where the backend and the frontend are glued together. This can pose to be a difficult problem because the frontend and the backend are all in the same environment. In a decoupled system, however, you can adopt the latest frontend technologies as you will without any effect on the backend.

4. Eliminating tension between design and CMS

A headless approach also makes sense when you want to eliminate the tension between design and CMS. In traditional CMS, the designer may face the problem of trying to hack the CMS to make it comply with a non-negotiable fronted design. This may result in a complicated code base and difficulty in maintainability. When the CMS system is decoupled, this would not be a problem because the frontend is agnostic. Giving you complete control of the frontend design and layout.

5. Publish to many frontend and experience simultaneously

Decoupling makes sense when you want to publish to many frontend and experience simultaneously. Let’s say, I have multiple channels that are conversant with a specific kind of content type. Then in my content-hub, I can decide to send content to a frontend basically on the kind of content they receive.

6. Better security

Traditional CMS is prone to security breaches. This is because the content publishing platform and the CMS database are in a monolithic system. Therefore, a threat to the frontend also affects the backend. With headless CMS, you don’t have to be worried about a security attack on the frontend affecting the backend because it is only connected through an API.

Conclusion

When you have various frontend endpoints, and you want consistent content across this endpoint then you should consider headless CMS. Although, headless CMS architecture maybe a little bit more expensive compared to traditional CMS architecture. The price is, however, justified in the liberty it gives to the frontend designer, and the better security it offers.

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