Are you looking to build a custom headless CMS (Content Management System) but don’t know where to start? Wondering what are the advantages of a headless CMS? What are the best tools and technologies to use? What are the steps to creating a custom headless CMS? Web development is an activity of trust.
Headless CMSs are becoming increasingly popular and are used by many companies to power their websites and applications. They allow for greater flexibility in how content is presented and can be used to create personalized experiences for users. Building a custom headless CMS can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it is possible to do it yourself with the right tools and knowledge.
Throughout my life, I’ve witnessed the tremendous technological changes that have taken place, especially in the field of web development. After graduating from a prestigious university with a degree in Computer Science, I’ve spent the last decade working in web development, primarily focusing on CMS development for various technology companies in the US.
Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work with many experienced web developers in LA and have been involved in numerous projects that required a rich and personalized user experience. This personal and professional exposure to the booming tech field in California has given me first-hand insight into the growing trend and benefits of using a headless CMS.
Being part of the tech industry, where countless startups and tech companies strive to create the most innovative and user-friendly web experiences, I’ve come to appreciate the efficiency and flexibility that a headless CMS offers. Considering how competitive this tech scene is, having a custom headless CMS has become a necessity for many companies to stand out and ensure that their web content meets the needs of their diverse user base.
With this guide, I intend to share these insights from my personal experience in the field to help you understand and navigate through the process of building your own custom headless CMS.
What is a Headless CMS?
CMS stands for Content Management System, which is a kind of software that enables non-technical individuals to create, manage, and alter material on websites. With a CMS, you may make a website without having to start from the beginning with the coding (or even know how to code at all).
Headless CMS is a type of content management system that separates the content from the presentation layer. With a traditional CMS, the content is stored and managed in the same system as the presentation layer, meaning that any changes made to the presentation layer will affect the content that is stored. With a headless CMS, the content is stored and managed separately from the presentation layer, allowing developers to make changes to the presentation layer without affecting the content. This allows for greater flexibility in how the content is presented to users.
What is the Difference Between Traditional CMS And Headless CMS?
Traditional CMS aims to be a single solution to managing both the content and the frontend, whereas a headless CMS deals strictly with the content and has no impact or input on the frontend. Content created and edited in a headless CMS is published via an API, providing the flexibility to get the content out in as many ways as possible regardless of how it’s presented.
Why Choose Headless CMS?
Headless CMS is a content management system where the backend and frontend are fully disconnected, having no front end at all. Its main advantage is that it allows content to be distributed to multiple channels and devices through API endpoints. This means content can be pushed to phones, smartwatches, tablets, IoT devices, CRMs, digital signage, and more. A Headless CMS is an ideal solution for businesses that need to publish content to various places.
Reasons to choose a headless CMS to include its ability:
- Simplify upcoming redesigns.
- Provide users with a better, more individualized experience.
- Improve front-end production performance.
- Developers and designers should have more freedom and flexibility.
Headless CMS offers a great advantage to developers as it allows them to use the latest technologies to create a future-proof digital experience, due to its compatibility with any frontend presentation layer or device.
Benefits of Building a Custom Headless CMS
Headless CMS is gaining popularity as a content management system due to its many advantages over traditional CMS. Because a headless CMS shifts the responsibility of the user experience onto the client (such as a browser or an app), it offers several benefits. These include increased flexibility, scalability, and customizability, as well as decreased time and cost of development. With a headless CMS, organizations can create content that can be used across multiple platforms and devices, which allows for a more consistent user experience. Additionally, headless CMSs are more secure and easier to maintain.
Benefit #1 – Flexible Development
Headless technology allows developers to create apps, sites, and solutions on multiple platforms using their preferred programming languages, without being tied to any specific frontend technology.
Benefit #2 – Improved Experiences
Frontend developers can be freed from the constraints of backend structures, providing them with more time and resources to create richer, more responsive digital experiences.
Benefit #3 – Increased Speed
Presenting to the client differently makes it possible for backend processes to function more quickly and efficiently than ever before.
Benefit #4 – Low Costs
The cost of a headless CMS is usually less than that of a traditional CMS, depending on the customer’s choices, the complexity of the setup, and the chosen business pricing model.
Benefit #5 – Reduced Time to Market
By separating the frontend from the backend, the time it takes to develop a product can be significantly reduced. This same principle can be applied to the content creation team, allowing them to focus on the content itself rather than how it will appear on different frontend layers. This also allows for one source to be used and reused.
Benefit #6 – Ease-to-Use
Headless CMS is essentially a database, meaning that it may offer fewer options in terms of switches and sliders for content creators. This is because the focus is on the content itself, rather than on a wide range of presentation options.
Benefit #7 – Flexibility
Developers can take advantage of the headless API to extract data from their desired clients with great versatility.
Benefit #8 – Cloud Scalability
Cloud-readiness is a key feature of most headless systems, allowing them to scale to meet long-term growth and accommodate traffic surges through the use of multiple environments, clusters, CDNs, and other advanced technologies.
Benefit #9 – System Security
Security concerns must be resolved by the business. Moreover, the API is frequently hidden behind several lines of code and is typically just accessible for reading. Last but not least, a headless CMS administrator is often situated on a separate server and domain from the main platform.
5+ Tips For Building Custom Headless CMS
After you have settled on the decision to go headless, a few important things must be taken into consideration. One of which is this important question: Out of the many headless CMS systems out there, which one should you choose? This is a decision that should not be taken lightly, but there is no need to be overwhelmed. With any software selection, there are a lot of features and components to think about, but these five are essential when selecting a headless CMS.
Tip 1. Business Needs
Consider what your business needs from a headless CMS, and take stock of what key stakeholders are looking for in a content management system. What channels and devices does your organization need to publish content to? What do the marketing and development teams hope to get out of a CMS? As headless CMSs tend to be more technically demanding than traditional systems, the development team will be essential in delivering the desired digital experience. Evaluate the different headless CMS options to ensure everyone’s needs are met.
Tip 2. Developer functionality and ease of use
When deciding on a headless CMS, you must consider your development team’s buy-in, as well as the usability of developers. The development team will select the frontend coding and user interface frameworks, but it is crucial to evaluate the native SDKs and APIs utilized on the backend. Features such as mature REST APIs, secure and preview APIs, and content management APIs are essential to review. Moreover, consideration should be given to issues like the maximum number of API calls and the availability of GraphQL data manipulation and queries. To further improve usability for developers, make sure that the system’s native SDKs are compatible with the coding frameworks, languages, and technologies preferred by the development team.
Tip 3. Omnichannel capability
Headless CMS’s omnichannel capability is one of its most important features. It’s important to understand what this cross-channel publishing capability entails, and which channels are most relevant to your organization. Websites and mobile apps are essential, but if you need to reach less conventional outputs such as IoT devices, digital signage, and voice-controlled UIs, it’s important to have APIs on the back end that are ready to support these channels. A good headless CMS will have content APIs that can push headlines, imagery, body copy, and other content to various channels in the appropriate format for the device or interface. It should also generate the metadata needed to ensure your content is visible across all platforms. For instance, Drupal can generate schema.org tags to optimize content for voice search.
Tip 4. Content and authoring role workflow
No matter how advanced the technical features of a CMS are, the content should remain the focal point. Depending on the CMS, the creation and authoring role processes can vary, so make sure to select the one that best fits the needs of the authors and editors who will be responsible for populating it. For larger organizations with multiple users, the system should be able to provide different access permissions and should be taken into account when considering the cost. Additionally, the CMS should support multiple workflows to ensure the content is properly managed. Lastly, check the system’s ability to preview content across multiple devices to make sure it meets the requirements.
Tip 5. Technical and sales support
When it comes to content management systems, just like any other software solution, technical and sales support is essential. Developers on-site may be able to handle many issues but occasionally you will need to get in touch with the client for help. To avoid future difficulties, make sure the CMS provider you choose has adequate support staff that can be accessed 24/7 throughout the year.
Cost of Custom Headless CMS
It can be difficult to accurately estimate the cost of a headless CMS, due to the often hidden nature of SaaS businesses and their request-based pricing model. Before deciding, you should carefully consider the projected lifetime cost of the system, and whether it will be worth the investment in the long run. Make sure to know how your desired solution is priced, what factors can affect the cost, and what the estimated lifetime cost of the solution is.
Beware of promises that seem too good to be true; although headless CMS can be inexpensive to start with, they can require extra resources as traffic increases. Most headless CMS solutions are on par with traditional content management systems in terms of cost. Depending on the business, you might also have to purchase additional solutions to complement the database, such as a presentation layer. On the other hand, some modern headless CMS have presentation layers already built in, reducing the need for extra solutions and thus the overall cost.
How to Build a Custom Headless CMS
Creating a custom headless CMS can be a daunting task, but with the right tools and knowledge, it is possible to do it yourself. Flatlogic Platform offers a simple solution to create a custom headless CMS system, granting you full control over your source code. With no-code development, you can customize your system to match the needs of your business without needing to be a coding pro. As your business evolves, you can scale and adjust your CMS with ease due to the flexibility that the Flatlogic Platform offers. Enjoy the scalability of a traditional system with the tailored features that you need – with Flatlogic Platform.
How to Create Custom Headless CMS with Flatlogic Platform?
Using the Flatlogic Full-Stack Generator you can create CRUD and static applications in a few minutes. To start using the Platform, you need to register on the Flatlogic website. Clicking the “Sign in” button in the header will allow you to register for a Flatlogic account.
Step 1. Choosing the Tech Stack
In this step, you’re setting the name of your application and choosing the stack: Frontend, Backend, and Database.
Step 2. Choosing the Starter Template
In this step, you’re choosing the design of the web app.
Step 3. Schema Editor
In this step, you can create your database schema from scratch, import an existing schema or select one of the suggested schemas.
To import your existing database, click the Import SQL button and select your .sql file. After that, your database will be opened in the Schema Editor where you can further edit your data (add/edit/delete entities).
If you are not familiar with database design and find it difficult to understand what tables are, we have prepared some ready-made sample schemas of real applications that you can modify for your application:
- E-commerce app;
- Time tracking app;
- Book store;
- Chat (messaging) app;
Or, you can define a database schema and add a description by clicking on the “Generate with AI” button. You need to type the application’s description in the text area and hit “Send”. The application’s schema will be ready in around 15 seconds. You may either hit deploy immediately or review the structure to make manual adjustments.
Next, you can connect your GitHub and push your application code there. Or skip this step by clicking the Finish and Deploy button and in a few minutes, your application will be generated.
Headless CMS provides a combination of a database and an API for distributing content to any channel, making it an unbeatable choice for an ever-changing digital landscape. Although there are challenges to this technology, smart strategies, and next-generation capabilities can help to overcome them. Flexibility will be essential for future success, allowing businesses to choose the components that best suit their needs.