Headless CMS – What is it? A short and sweet explanation

Natalie Miller
Natalie Miller
October 8 · 4 min read
headless CMS - lightbulbs on yellow background

Alright, let’s break it way down.

Firstly, what is ‘Headless’? This term, put very simply, is the act of decoupling your front-end customer touchpoints with your back-end server. An expression that we stumbled upon that we thought accurately described this was “the divorce” of the front-end and back-end.

(Thank you, genius Elise Dopson, for your article for Shopify Plus).

Secondly, what is a CMS? The acronym stands for ‘Content Management System’. It is a computer software or application that uses a database to manage all content.

Why are we linking ‘Headless’ with ‘CMS’? Well, because the tech field always has cool sounding terms like this, so it matches the modus operandi, and secondly, it helps you visualize how this works. We are a tech company, full of creative and software wizards, so having a mental picture for terms always helps us a lot.

A ‘Headless CMS’ means that there is no default front-end system. Instead, customer-facing content is kept raw and, therefore, can be published anywhere through any framework. This is massively beneficial. Why, you ask? Let us explain!

Nowadays, customers are accessing your online store through various channels and devices. Adopting a ‘Headless CMS’ stance will allow you to create content that is specifically suited and made bespoke for each of the sites you cater to. Any tech person working on your front-end is free to create as many ‘heads’ as they want/or as your business needs. If you need a certain format for mobile device web visits, they can design the interface differently and more suitably than if you needed an interface for smartwatches, for example.

Stay with us, things are about to get a bit more tricky.

It’s important to note that going this route means that you don’t have a template format of how your sites and channels are going to look – they need to be developed and designed from scratch. And the way that content is delivered to your customers for these sites is through API’s.

Okay, let’s take a second. What’s an API again? An Application Programming Interface is a connection between computers or computer programs.

Right, we’re moving forward.

We now understand the term, we understand that it needs to be built from scratch, and we know how the whole system ‘communicates’. But the big question is, why would you want to do this?

You want to be flexible! You have a site, or want to create a site that is uniquely yours. Likewise, you’d like for each of the channels that your services or products are displayed on, to be easy to use/change/tweak and also, match your brand image perfectly.

Creating all the tech language and coding will happen behind-the-scenes as per usual. Taking this route, though, will give your tech team the freedom of being able to implement a flexible system architecture for any delivery channel.

Another big reason is scalability! Obviously, having a site with multiple bespoke heads, that you can interchange as you please, will also allow you to grow as you please. You’ll be able to take all your front-heads with you as you continue to grow your site and won’t be buckled down by a rigid interface.

The next step would be choosing the correct CMS software for your needs. There are loads out there that have various features and functionalities such as Contentful, Hygraph, Builder.io, Storyblok or Sanity (which powers this website) and the list goes on. We know a lot about going ‘Headless’ and we also happen to conveniently know a lot about the various CMS software out there. Should you find yourself needing a hand or some guidance in which software to choose from, and how to turn your website into a headless dream, then get in touch with us!

We hope that we’ve answered all your ‘Headless CMS’ questions, and if we haven’t, well, then we hope our next few blogs will help clear things up! Stay tuned!

P.S. when we said ‘’the divorce’’ of the front-end and back-end, we meant a happy divorce. One where ‘’each side comes out a winner since changes to one side can be made without disrupting the other.’’ — Thanks, Elise!

Found this helpful? Share this post with your colleagues and friends

Natalie Miller
Written by

Natalie Miller

Marketing Manager

Subscribe to our Newsletter now!

Stay up to date with all our exciting news! We look forward to sending you useful and helpful information for all your e-commerce tech needs. Enjoy our Especial content, created 'E-specially' for you.
By filling in your email, you agree to our privacy policy.


Would you like us to help you choose suitable CMS software?

Let us help you find a suitable solution!