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Ultimate Guide To Choosing Your Headless CMS

March 7, 2024 by Daria Andrieieva
  • User Experience
Best headless CMS

To succeed online, you must manage content effectively. But what about the best headless CMS options? This blog post will explore why content management is crucial and how headless CMS solutions, including open-source ones, are changing the game. 

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Understanding Headless CMS

A headless CMS is akin to a digital library for content that doesn't worry about how the content looks on a website or app. It stores and organizes content, like articles, images, and videos.


traditional CMS is like a library that also decides how the books are displayed on the shelves and where each book goes. So, it manages the content and controls how it appears on a website or app.


The big difference is that a headless CMS separates the content from its appearance. This separation gives you more flexibility because you can use the same content in different places and make your website or app look however you want without changing the content itself. 

The architecture of a headless CMS

As we briefly touched, the architecture of a headless CMS is designed to separate content creation and storage from content presentation. Here's how it works:

Content creation and storage

In a headless CMS, content creators can write articles, upload images, and manage all types of content. This content is stored in a structured way, often in a database, making it easy to organize and update.


The headless CMS provides an API, like a bridge, allowing other software (websites, apps, or any digital platform) to access the stored content. This API serves as a means for retrieving, updating, and deleting content.

Front-end separation

Unlike traditional CMS, a headless CMS doesn't dictate how the content should look like on a website or app. It leaves the design and presentation entirely up to the developers building the front-end (the part of the website or app that users interact with).

Content delivery

The front-end developers use the API to fetch the content they need from the headless CMS and decide how it should be displayed on the website or app. This separation of content and presentation allows for greater flexibility and customization.

Multi-channel capability

Since the headless CMS provides content through an API, we can use the same content across various digital channels, such as websites, mobile apps, IoT devices, and more. This versatility is a significant advantage in reaching a wide audience.


The best headless CMS will offer you flexibility, scalability, and adaptability to changing digital landscapes, making it a popular choice in modern content management.

Evaluating Headless CMS Options

With many headless CMS options with unique advantages, the question looms large: "What is the best headless CMS for my needs?".


This section will comprehensively explore the headless CMS ecosystem, dissecting the finest open-source and commercial solutions available.

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Criterias to consider


Scalability involves assessing how well a headless CMS can manage increasing volumes of content without compromising performance. Consider how it handles the importance of content and complexity, including metadata, relationships, and multimedia assets.


In addition to content, evaluate how the headless CMS options cope with growing website traffic. Does it provide features like load balancingauto-scaling, and resource optimization to ensure consistent performance during traffic spikes?


When choosing the best headless CMS examine its flexibility in structuring content to meet your specific requirements. Can you create custom content types and define their attributes to fit your content model?


Evaluate its support for various content types beyond the basics. Look for features that accommodate rich media like images and videos and structured data such as product information, user-generated content, and metadata.

3.Integration capabilities

When choosing the best headless CMS, assess the ease of integrating the headless CMS with your existing tools and systems, such as e-commerce platforms, CRM systems, or marketing automation software. Compatibility with APIs and standard protocols (RESTGraphQL) is essential for seamless data exchange.


Investigate the availability of developer-friendly resources, such as SDKs, code libraries, and sample code snippets. These resources can expedite integration efforts and empower developers to work efficiently.

4.Content delivery

Content delivery is critical, especially for global audiences. When choosing the best headless CMS, ensure that it offers fast and reliable content retrieval, minimizing page load times. Low latency is crucial for a smooth user experience.


Look for features like Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) support and content caching mechanisms. CDNs distribute content across multiple servers worldwide, reducing server load and improving content access speed.

5.Developer-friendly features

When choosing the best headless CMS, assess the availability and robustness of SDKs and APIs. These tools simplify the development process by providing pre-built functions and endpoints for interacting with the CMS.


Also, evaluate the platform's flexibility for customization. Can developers easily extend and tailor the CMS to meet specific project requirements? Creating custom plugins, themes, and templates can be invaluable.


In addition, comprehensive and well-structured documentation is a must. It should include clear examples, tutorials, and reference guides to help developers navigate the platform effectively.

Popular headless CMS options 

Now, let's offer a comparative insight into some popular headless CMS options without endorsing any particular one overtly:

  1. Strapi

    • Open-source headless CMS.

    • Highly customizable with a user-friendly interface.

    • Provides a wide range of plugins for extended functionality.

    • Scalable and suitable for small to large projects.

  2. Contentful

    • A cloud-based headless CMS strongly focused on scalability and content delivery.

    • Excellent developer tools and extensive API documentation.

    • It offers a generous free tier but can become expensive for larger projects.

  3. Kentico Kontent

    • A cloud-based headless CMS with a strong emphasis on content modeling.

    • Good support for multi-language and multi-channel content delivery. 

    • Offers a free plan with limited features.

  4. Prismic 

    • A cloud-based headless CMS with a user-friendly content editor. 

    • Strong support for content relationships and localization. 

    • Competitive pricing for small to medium-sized projects.

Remember that the best headless CMS varies depending on your project requirements and budget. Carefully assess each platform against your criteria to determine which one aligns most closely with your needs and goals.

Open Source vs. Proprietary Solutions

When exploring your headless CMS options, one critical decision is whether to opt for an open-source or proprietary solution. Each has advantages and limitations, and choosing the right one depends on your project's unique requirements. 


Let's delve deeper into the world of open-source headless CMS platforms and choose the best headless CMS.

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Advantages of headless CMS open-source

  • Cost-effectiveness

Headless CMS open-source platforms are often lauded for their budget-friendly nature. They come without licensing fees, allowing you to allocate your resources primarily to development and customization.

  • Customization

Flexibility is a hallmark of headless CMS open-source solutions. With access to the source code, developers can tailor the CMS to meet your specific project's demands, create custom plugins, and adapt it to unique content structures.

  • Community support 

Headless CMS open-source platforms typically boast vibrant and engaged developer communities. This support network becomes a valuable resource for troubleshooting issues, sharing best practices, and gaining access to an array of user-generated plugins and extensions.

  • No vendor lock-in

Complete control over your content and data means reduced risk of vendor lock-in. You can seamlessly migrate to other headless CMS options or switch to proprietary solutions without facing significant data transition challenges.


  • Transparency

Headless CMS open-source solutions are synonymous with transparency. While using the best headless CMS, Developers can scrutinize the codebase for security vulnerabilities and implement necessary adjustments, enhancing overall security and mitigating risks.

Limitations of headless CMS open-source options

  • Complexity

Headless CMS open-source platforms may be more intricate to set up and configure than their user-friendly proprietary counterparts. This complexity often necessitates a higher level of technical expertise.

  • Limited official support

While community support is readily available, official vendor support may be limited or offered at an additional cost. This limitation can pose challenges for organizations requiring guaranteed support for critical issues.

  • Maintenance 

Open-source solutions may demand more ongoing maintenance efforts. Organizations must keep the CMS current, patch security vulnerabilities, and manage server infrastructure effectively.

  • Integration challenges

Integrating headless CMS open-source platforms with specific proprietary or legacy systems might entail more effort due to the absence of pre-built connectors, potentially leading to longer development timelines.

What is better?

Now, as we gain more information on the limitations and advantages of headless CMS open-source options, let's compare them to the proprietary solutions:  

  • Customization

Open-Source: Offers extensive customization options thanks to access to the source code.

Proprietary: Customization options may be limited, and modifications often come with vendor-imposed restrictions.

  • Support

Open-Source: Relies on community support or purchasing paid support plans.

Proprietary: Typically includes dedicated vendor support, often with service level agreements (SLAs) for issue resolution.

  • Security

Open-Source: Transparency allows for community-driven security audits and swift responses to vulnerabilities but requires vigilant maintenance.

Proprietary: Vendors frequently maintain dedicated security teams and provide regular updates and patches.


In the quest for the best headless CMS, the choice between headless CMS, open-source and proprietary, hinges on your project's specific needs, budget, technical capabilities, and considerations surrounding security and long-term support. Carefully evaluate available options to determine which best aligns with your objectives and constraints.

Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing the Best Headless CMS

Choosing the best headless CMS for your project can be simple when you follow a structured approach. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you make an informed decision while keeping your organizational needs, future scalability, and budget in mind.

Step 1: Define your requirements

Start by clearly outlining your project's specific requirements. What type of content will you manage? What features do you need? 

Step 2: Assess your budget

Determine your budget for the CMS project. Open-source options often have lower initial costs, while proprietary solutions may have ongoing licensing fees.

Step 3: Consider future scalability

Think about the future. Will your digital presence grow? Ensure the chosen CMS can scale to handle more content and traffic. 

Step 4: Explore open-source options

Research headless CMS open-source platforms. They can be cost-effective and highly customizable. 

Step 5: Examine proprietary solutions

Investigate proprietary CMS solutions. These often come with dedicated support and may be user-friendly. Consider keywords like "What is the best headless CMS" to find reviews and comparisons.

Step 6: Evaluate customization

Assess how much customization you need. Headless CMS open-source solutions allow for extensive customization due to access to the source code. Proprietary options may have limitations in this regard.

Step 7: Check support options

Consider the level of support you require. Proprietary CMS solutions typically have official vendor support, while open-source platforms may rely on community support.

Step 8: Review security measures

Prioritize security. The best headless CMS open-source platforms offer transparency for security audits but require diligent maintenance. Proprietary solutions often have dedicated security teams.

Step 9: Investigate integration capabilities

Evaluate how well the CMS can integrate with your existing tools and systems. This is crucial for seamless data exchange and content distribution.

Step 10: Gather feedback

Seek input from your team and developers. Their insights can help you make an informed decision and help you choose the best headless CMS. 

Step 11: Make a decision

Based on your research and assessments, make your final decision. Choose the headless CMS that aligns best with your project's needs, future growth, and budget.

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Remember, the best headless CMS is the one that suits your organization's unique needs and objectives. By following these steps, you can confidently navigate the landscape of headless content management systems and find the perfect fit for your project.


In this exploration of headless content management systems, we've delved into the intricacies of selecting the right platform for you. From understanding the significance of content management in the modern digital landscape to unraveling the advantages and limitations of open-source and proprietary headless CMS options, you're now armed with the knowledge to make an informed decision.

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