Headless WordPress

20 min read

Headless WordPress” is a well-liked buzzword these days. Chances are, you could have heard it thrown across the digital water cooler; however, you aren’t fairly positive about what’s behind it. WordPress is an intensive, amazingly complicated platform, but it surely does have its limitations. While it’s a fully-featured tool for bloggers and web developers that provides many prospects, it doesn’t allow you to do the whole lot. For instance:

Yet, all of that’s possible with headless WordPress. It takes a bit of technical experience. However, by decoupling WordPress from its entrance finish, you need to use the again finish content material administration tools for practically something you’ll be able to consider. Ready to take a deep dive on this matter and see what headless WordPress can do for you? Then let’s get going.

What on Earth is Headless WordPress?

A content material administration system (CMS) normally comes with two components: the entrance finish and the finish. The again-finish is the place the “management” half is available in. In WordPress, that is the place you create and publish weblog posts and pages, together with managing varied points of your website similar to settings, looks, and different customers.

Headless WordPress


When people visit your website, the first thing they see is the front end. WordPress changes its appearance and updates pages as you work behind the scenes. It uses the REST API to request data from the hidden backend and port it to the public-facing website, among other things. This “coupled” CMS system works well for most customers, giving them both a way to create a website and manage written content quickly.

The disadvantage is that, because they rely so closely on one another, the entrance finish and the return finish of this sort of utility are sometimes inseparable. These two components are decoupled via a headless CMS, keeping only the finish intact. You’ve got your database, admin panel, and content material management capabilities – but no theme or website. You can, however, use the REST API to connect it to something else — an app, a custom-built website, and so on. The ramifications for builders are enormous.


Why Would You Want to Use a Headless CMS?

Making WordPress headless disconnects the entrance finish, leaving you free to use the again finish for any goal. Make your personal website, app, or content material administration tool out of it; the probabilities are limitless. (In truth, Tom Ewer has written a piece of six-part information on how to create a REST API app with WordPress right here on Torque.) WordPress is primarily coded in PHP, with a bit of Javascript thrown in.

Yet, like a headless CMS, it’s possible to attach your website to third-party purposes made in Ruby, Python, or different languages utilizing the API. If you wish to, you’ll be able to code your total website in a distinct language. And that’s precisely the purpose: you get the fully-featured WordPress set up with practically all its features intact and the flexibility to experiment with web frameworks that had been beforehand incompatible. Headless WordPress

Calypso is built on fashionable JavaScript and connects to WordPress by way of API. All you need to do is use the built-in REST API to attach your custom-made website and WordPress, and the whole lot will match collectively completely. This is how WordPress works already, however with a bit of code; you’ll be able to sever the default connections and exchange the entrance finish with your personal work. If it may connect with an API, you need to use it with WordPress.

The decoupling of WordPress may also enhance security, particularly in case you have your website and WordPress admin on completely different servers and domains. Hacks and DDoS assaults will only be capable of goal one among these endpoints. So if safety is an enormous deal to you, a headless CMS on a hidden server is perhaps the answer. In quick: If you wish to use the WordPress interface to hook up with a {custom} website or utility, you will use a headless CMS.

What Can Headless WordPress Do?

Decoupling your CMS frees up builders to strive for new issues and work with languages that, earlier than, couldn’t be paired with WordPress. You, in all probability, have several concepts brewing for what you need to use a headless CMS for, however, listed here are some extra particular use cases:

  • Use WordPress’s strong administration tools to create and hold observe of content material. In headless WordPress, if configured correctly, permalinks go properly to the editing web page. Add different authors and editors, use the consumer position system, and work collectively on tasks. You might even use it as a standalone editorial tool.
  • Code your public-facing website in a language you’re feeling extra conversant in – something apart from HTML/CSS, PHP, and Javascript – however, nonetheless, make the most of WordPress’s well-made running blog framework.
  • Even should you do know all these languages, WordPress does use its personal optimized model of every. Don’t wish to take care of studying WordPress PHP? Decouple it and use your personal code.
  • Change frameworks at any time — however, hold your content material secure. If sooner or later you determine to redo the whole lot from scratch in an extra related framework because you’re utilizing an API and never a hard-coded conventional CMS, switching the whole lot over is tremendously easy.
  • Create a utility that calls from WordPress to load content material. Headless isn’t restricted to only websites! You might use WordPress with all kinds of software programs.
  • Use frameworks and libraries that usually can’t work in WordPress like Ruby on Rails, Django, Vue.js, React, and many extras.
  • Multichannel, cross-platform publishing. Isn’t it annoying and time-consuming to post identical content material to your website, app, social media, and so on? Using REST API, you’ll be able to automate your entire course of publishing WordPress posts through several sources.

When Shouldn’t You Use a Headless CMS?

While headless WordPress is a modern resolution, there are belongings you should be mindful of as you determine whether or not to make the transition or not.

  • If you’re not a seasoned developer, this technique is probably going tougher than its price. Tutorials can assist you in getting began; however, as for maintenance and bugs, you’re by yourself. Headless WordPress could also be an excessive amount of a headache for newer devs.
  • Non-developers, similar to shoppers, authors/editors, and designers, will seemingly have a tough time. Navigating and dealing within the cut-up setting takes some adjustment. The conventional WordPress setup is easy to grasp for devs and non-devs, and should you’re building consumer websites, virtually positively superior.
  • Maintenance points. Choosing to decouple means having a separate back and front finish. In different phrases, double the upkeep, double the servers, and double the confusion if one thing goes mistaken. You additionally need to take care of the REST API connecting the 2.
  • Decoupling WordPress doesn’t go away. It is 100% intact. For occasion, the WYSIWYG editor and live preview won’t work. Other areas could also be buggy or require optimizing to your particular setup.
  • This route will be costly because it requires coding a {custom} entrance finish and dealing in a cut-up setting. As discussed earlier, upkeep will likely be tougher, so you’ll want to rent builders who know what they’re doing.
  • If you’re not concerned with coding your personal website, headless WordPress shouldn’t be the appropriate choice. Try one other resolution for multichannel publishing, like PressRoom or a hybrid CMS.
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In quick: should you’re not making a multichannel platform, don’t have the means to take care of a sophisticated setup, aren’t connecting WordPress to an app or separate website, and don’t wish to build your personal website or work with non-standard languages, you should follow regular WordPress.

What About a Hybrid CMS?

Hybrid CMSes are a very recent development. Headless CMSes were intended to address long-standing issues, including inconsistent content material deployment across platforms and developers’ inability to leverage new frameworks while keeping existing content material management solutions. However, they are not without flaws. They’re difficult to set up, necessitate an API to handle everything, and many of the CMS features you’re used to – live previews and editors, post permalinks, and so on – don’t work at all.

This is especially true in headless WordPress, where you won’t be able to preview posts or pages. This can be solved using a hybrid CMS. These platforms, like WordPress, offer content administration and website-building features, but they let you pick and choose which parts of your website are headless and which work the traditional way.

Headless WordPresss

Why does it matter so much? Basically, you can construct a website as easily as you do with WordPress while using features like post previews and live editing – but if you have content, you need to push to several platforms or add your own web framework; it only takes a few clicks. You can even utilize the built-in tools to build the majority of your website, then use an API to connect a third-party utility.

This is also feasible in standard WordPress via REST, but hybrid CMSes make the process run more smoothly for you. Unfortunately, aside from that, there is no simple way to convert WordPress into a hybrid CMS. To some extent, you may replicate it by using plugins that can automatically push your content to other platforms and connecting apps built into different frameworks using REST API. However, if you decide to go headless, there is no way to make live preview or other features function.

How to Make WordPress Headless

If you’d wish to take a crack at separating WordPress from its entrance finish, you could have several choices. You can use a plugin or code it yourself. The former will, in fact, be a lot simpler route, whereas the latter offers you extra control over the method. Whatever technique you select, you should be conversant in the REST API. If you’re not, this online REST tutorial can assist you in getting began. REST itself additionally has its personal set of tutorials that can train you the whole lot you have to know.

If you wish to strive for a plugin, the preferred one is WP Headless. All it does is sever entry to the entrance finish and make post permalinks redirect mechanically to the editor display. You can then use it as an organizational tool for the written content material. If you wish to join a distinct website, you need to use the API to take action. wp headless cms framework plugin


Your different possibility is WP Headless CMS Framework. While it has only a few customers, the plugin seems to go extra in-depth in performance and has very detailed documentation. It has several configurable choices, so you’ll be able to allow only what you want. This plugin doesn’t simply disable the entrance finish; it does much more to get you up and working with REST. If you’d relatively do all of it yourself, there are many tutorials on the market. Smashing Magazine has an in-depth guide to headless WordPress with loads of code snippets that walks you thru each step of the method. You may also like these tutorials on WordPress and Vue.js and how to build a front end for headless WordPress in React. And should you be taught best by way of watching, you’ll love the video below.


Headless WordPress

Innovate With Headless WordPress

Separating WordPress from its front end is easier than ever, thanks to all of the tutorials available. Simply installing a plugin might render WordPress headless in an instant. A decoupled CMS allows developers to code their own website in the languages they are most comfortable with, experiment with libraries and frameworks, utilize WordPress as an organizing or editorial tool, or publish the same content across many platforms.

All while attempting to make the most of the fantastic WordPress back end. If any of those scenarios sound familiar, you should consider using headless WordPress. It opens up many possibilities for developer creativity. It gives you the freedom to use the tools you choose without sacrificing the robust content administration system you already know.

How To Use WordPress as a Headless CMS

Headless WordPress is a brand new and more well-liked technique to build web apps that mix WordPress’s peerless content material administration with the power and suppleness of JavaScript front-end interfaces. With WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg, many builders see headless as the way forward for web app improvement. We’re going to take a more in-depth look at what headless WordPress is, learn how to use a headless content material administration system, and why you’d wish to. But first, let’s speak about how a standard WordPress website works and how headless WordPress is completely different.

Headless WordPress

When you visit a WordPress website, the server runs code that generates an HTML document. The document is then sent to your browser. Be a result, WordPress and web programs that work in the same way are referred to as server-side apps. Headless WordPress is a type of web application development known as decoupled or client-side development.

The app’s interface is built and managed within the consumer—typically a browser—rather than on the server, as you might have inferred from the name. The interface is created with content material collected from WordPress by a JavaScript tool running in the browser. In a horrific metaphor, WordPress’s head, its PHP-based front-end interface, is bypassed, leaving the CMS’s body (the CMS itself) on the server, administered remotely by an external app.

How Does A Headless CMS Work?

A way for a client-side web application and a server-side content management system to communicate with one another is required by both. That is the API’s point of view, and it gives this approach to app improvement a new name: API-driven app improvement. API-driven enhancements are now available. Using an API (Application Programming Interface), two pieces of software can communicate with one another in a standardized manner. When a program requires information or needs to instruct another program on what to do, it communicates with the other program through an API.

In addition, WordPress provides a REST API, which is a type of web-based API that allows the software to communicate with it over the internet through HTTP endpoints. In many ways, endpoints are similar to the web addresses that we use daily to access websites. They typically accept various requests, such as GET requests for retrieving information and POST requests for submitting information, among other things. For example, in the case of WordPress, the “posts” endpoint looks something like this: https://instance.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts.

When a software program makes a GET request to the “posts” endpoint of a WordPress website, it receives a list of posts and related data. Upon receiving a request that includes a post ID, the contents of the requested post are delivered. Another way to communicate with the CMS is through an HTTP POST request that includes information such as the blog’s title and body contents, among other things. In addition to serving as the headless backend of a mixed client-server system, the API allows any compatible software to communicate with WordPress. To complete the collaboration, we will also require a front-end or client-side program that will run in the browser. Progressive Web Apps, also known as PWAs, are another name for these applications, and we’ll go over how they work in the following section.

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What is a Progressive Web App?

WordPress was first launched in 2003. Back then, apps needed to live on the server due to browsers couldn’t run complicated interactive purposes. JavaScript, the only programming language that runs natively in web browsers, was far less successful than server-side languages like PHP. Over time, browsers, the web, and JavaScript developed. Today, JavaScript is as successful as different programming languages, and browsers are full of subtle features web builders use to build rich purposes like Google Docs. Progressive Web Apps: a time period coined by Google, are JavaScript apps that present local app-like expertise. Unlike server-side purposes, PWAs can:

  • Be put in on cellular machine dwelling screens due to Web App Manifests.
  • Work when the consumer’s machine is offline to allow your website within the subway or on an airplane — a characteristic enabled by caching and service workers that control how the application interacts with the community.
  • Smoothly load new content material and modify the interface without reloading the entire web page.
  • Send push notifications to cellular and desktop units.

A well-engineered PWA feels sooner than a server-side app as a result of, as soon as its code downloads, it may preload knowledge from the API and modify the web page without making community requests that add latency to each interplay.

Why Use a PWA with Headless WordPress?

WordPress is a superb CMS. It has stood the check of time, creating a loyal following and a novel ecosystem of plugins, making it some of the versatile and feature-rich content material administration platforms ever created. But the standard server-side model limits its potential.

  • Themes need to be written in PHP utilizing the framework built into WordPress.
  • Every web page load or interface change requires a community round-trip, including latency and irritating delays that degrade the consumer expertise.
  • WordPress can’t make the most of the newer web and browser applied sciences to supply local app expertise.

WordPress’s builders added the REST API as a result of they had been conscious of those limitations. They needed a possibility WordPress customers might use to take full benefit of the fashionable web without giving up WordPress’s strong content material administration and publishing features. For many companies, a Progressive Web App is a superb various to a local cellular app. PWAs are cheaper and simpler to develop, and also you only need to handle a single codebase for the web, iOS, and Android platforms. However, PWAs have some limitations in comparison with native apps: if you have to use on-device {hardware} similar to sensors, native code is your only possibility.

How Do I Convert WordPress Into a PWA?

You have a WordPress website, you’re on-board with headless, and PWAs sound unimaginable. But you lack a vital element: you want a Progressive Web App that speaks WordPress’s language. And there’s the catch: utilizing a PWA with headless WordPress is extra sophisticated than simply putting in a brand new theme. But after you have determined to leap with a PWA, there are several methods to realize your aim.

Install a PWA WordPress Plugin

PWA plugins convert your current website right into a progressive web app. They’re probably the easiest technique to convey advantages similar to offline performance, home-screen setup, and fluid interfaces to your WordPress website. However, plugins present much less control and customization than the opposite choices we’ll focus on. There are several PWA plugins to select from, together with PWA and Super Progressive Web Apps.

Build a Progressive Web App

As we’ve mentioned, Progressive Web Apps are unbiased client-side purposes that interface with WordPress through the REST API. In principle, you might develop a PWA in plain JavaScript. However, most are built on a web utility framework similar to React, Angular, or Vue. Web frameworks assist builders in building responsive interfaces from reusable parts. Both React and Vue supply tools so that builders can stand up and work shortly, and, as a result of they’re enormously well-liked, you’ll don’t have any hassle discovering somebody to build a PWA on your WordPress website.

Use A Site Generator

Gatsby is a website generator that can populate a static React-based website with content from the WordPress REST API. A basic WordPress website builds a web page from scratch whenever a customer requests one, working code and making database requests, all of which take time. On the other hand, a static website generator pulls content from WordPress and generates the pages all at once.

It provides everyone with the same HTML and JavaScript. Static webpages become tremendously fast as a result of this. Gatsby can create PWAs and Manifest files for setting up home displays and Service Workers for offline functionality. It comes with a WordPress supply plugin that makes importing data from WordPress into your static PWA app a breeze.

Performance and Flexibility

Headless WordPress isn’t for everybody, and lots of customers are proud of a standard server-side WordPress website. For customers who wish to mix WordPress’s content, material administration features with fashionable web applied sciences’ efficiency and suppleness, a headless WordPress website with a Progressive Web App is the best of each world.

What exactly is “the WordPress method” to go headless?

In my opinion, any service that generates a static model of your WordPress website falls into the category of headless WordPress. That’s because, at the end of the day, these websites are using WordPress APIs to generate these static files, just like Gatsby or any other application. They design a WordPress website for you that incorporates staging features into the design. You can work on your website using WordPress and then use their publishing system to send a static version of the website to production.

Another reason why it’s appealing is that it addresses a problem that other headless WordPress solutions do not: simply doing things the WordPress way. Custom WordPress blocks or plugins, for example, may generate output that includes not only custom HTML but also CSS and JavaScript, depending on the configuration. Consider using a “carousel” plugin or block to display a series of images. Because you are only pulling post content from an API and pasting it into a web page, that carousel will not function properly.

Either you’ll have to find a way to incorporate the CSS and JavaScript from another source, or you’ll have to accept that this isn’t the way things are done anymore in your organization. Please create your own carousel by connecting the photos to metadata somehow, pulling them from the server-side, and displaying them on the client. Theoretically, it should be compatible with Strattic because the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code on the static website is up to date. As a result, because you don’t have PHP, Strattic had to hand-code form connectors, and they rely on client-side Algolia for search, Disqus for feedback, and so on, because there isn’t a server-side programming language available.

It’s fun to think about all of these things.

However, as I do so, I notice that the majority of the ideas and discussions surrounding headless WordPress are centered on the developer. WordPress attracts a large number of users who are not professional builders. Although this is the case, they manage a WordPress website that uses the plugin and theme ecosystem. Wow, that’s really cool, and it’s amazing how well WordPress caters to different markets.

Many more WordPress website owners aren’t builders than there are, and I believe that this alone will prevent headless WordPress from becoming anything more than a niche idea for a long period of time. But fine, if they want to include GraphQL in the core, I’ll gladly accept it. Thank you, and good luck!

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