WordPress Headless: Meet the Future of WordPress

WordPress Headless is a popular term that has been gaining momentum lately and many believe that this is the future of the platform. But do you know what that term means?

WordPress is an extensive and incredibly complex platform, but it has its limitations.

Although it is a complete tool for bloggers and web developers to create the most diverse websites, it does not allow you to do everything. For example:

  • Publish content to multiple platforms;
  • Coding your site in languages other than PHP and Javascript;
  • Use WordPress as an editorial tool without the website attached

However, all of this is possible with WordPress Headless. It takes a little technical knowledge, but by decoupling WordPress from your front-end, you can use the back-end content management tools for just about anything you can imagine.

Ready to dive into this topic and see what headless WordPress can do for you? So let’s get going.

What is WordPress Headless?

A content management system (CMS) usually comes with two parts: the front-end and the back-end.

The back-end is where the “management” part comes in. In WordPress, this is where you create and publish blog posts and pages, as well as manage various aspects of your website, such as settings, appearance and other users.

The front end is what people see when they visit your site. In WordPress, it changes its appearance and updates the pages as you work on the backend and modifies Themes.

For most users, this “docked” CMS solution works well, providing a way to easily create a website and manage written content.

The disadvantage is that the front-end and back-end of this type of application are generally inseparable, since they depend a lot on each other.

A Headless CMS decouples these two parts, leaving only the back end intact. You have your database, your admin panel and your content management tools – but no theme or website.

However, using the REST API, you can connect anything to it, from a mobile application, a personalized website, etc. The implications of this are enormous for developers.

Why would you like to use a Headless CMS?

Making WordPress Headless disconnects the front end, leaving you free to use the back end for any purpose. Create your own website, application or content management tool; the possibilities are endless.

WordPress is mostly coded in PHP, with a little bit of Javascript. However, as a Headless CMS, it is possible to connect your website to third party applications made in Ruby, Python or other languages using the API.

If you wish, you can code the entire site in a different language and have a better experience for your visitors.

And that’s exactly the point: you get the complete installation of WordPress with almost all of its features intact and the ability to experiment with web structures that were previously incompatible.

All you need to do is use the integrated REST API to connect your custom website and WordPress, and everything will fit together perfectly.

This is how WordPress already works, but with a little code, you can cut the default connections and replace the front end of your website with a PWA or an interface made in React or Flutter. If it can connect to an API, you can use it with WordPress.

Decoupling WordPress can also improve security, especially if you have your WordPress site and administrator on different servers and domains.

Hacks and DDoS attacks can only reach one of these endpoints. So, if security is very important to you, a Headless CMS on a hidden server may be the solution.

In summary: if you want to use the WordPress interface to connect to a custom website or application, use WordPress Headless.

What can WordPress Headless do?

Decoupling the CMS frees developers to try new things and work with languages that previously couldn’t be paired with WordPress.

You probably have some ideas for what you can use a beheaded CMS, but here are some more specific use cases:

  • Use WordPress’ robust management tools to create and track content. In beheaded WordPress, if set up correctly, the permanent links go straight to the edit page. Add other authors and editors, make use of the user role system and work together on projects. You can even use it as an independent editorial tool.
  • Encode your public website in a language you’re more familiar with – in addition to HTML / CSS, PHP and Javascript – but still take advantage of WordPress’ elaborate blog structure.
  • Even if you know all of these languages, WordPress uses its own optimized version of each. Don’t want to deal with learning PHP from WordPress? Unzip it and use your own code.
  • Change structures at any time – but keep your content safe. If, in the future, you decide to redo everything from scratch in a more relevant structure, since you are using an API and not a traditional coded CMS, changing everything is super easy.
  • Create an app that calls from WordPress to upload content. Headless isn’t just limited to websites! You can use WordPress with all types of software.
  • Use structures and libraries that don’t normally work on WordPress, like Ruby on Rails, Django, Vue.js, React and more.
  • Multichannel and multiplatform publishing. It is not annoying and time consuming to publish the same content on your website, application, social media etc. With the REST API, you can automate the entire process by publishing WordPress posts to multiple sources.

When not to use WordPress Headless?

Although headless WordPress is an innovative solution, there are things you should keep in mind when deciding whether to transition or not.

  • If you are not an experienced developer, this method is probably more difficult than it is worth. The tutorials can help you get started, but as for maintenance and errors, you’re on your own. Headless WordPress can be a major headache for newer developers.
  • Non-developers, such as customers, authors / editors and designers, are likely to have difficulties. Navigating and working in the divided environment requires some adjustments. The traditional WordPress setup is easy to understand for developers and non-developers, and if you’re creating client sites, it’s almost definitely superior.
  • Maintenance problems. Choosing to decouple means having a separate front-end and back-end. In other words, double the maintenance, double the servers and double the mess if something goes wrong. You also need to deal with the REST API by connecting the two.
  • Decoupling WordPress does not leave it 100% intact. For example, the WYSIWYG editor and live view do not work. Other areas may be in error or require optimization for your specific configuration.
  • This route can be expensive as it requires coding a custom front end and working in a divided environment. As mentioned earlier, maintenance will be more difficult, so you will need to hire developers who know what they are doing.
  • If you are not interested in coding your own website, headless WordPress is not the right choice. Try another solution for multichannel publishing, such as PressRoom or a hybrid CMS.

In short: if you are not creating a multichannel platform, you have no means of maintaining a complicated configuration, you are not connecting WordPress to a separate application or website and you do not want to create your own website or work with it you should follow normal WordPress.

Thank’s for your time!

Luiz Eduardo Oliveira Fonseca

Infra @ Powertic, Rails Developer, Mautic Docker and Saelos Docker Maintainer, Mautic Translation Reviewer, Mautic Brasil Community Administrator

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