7 minute readWritten

What is a Headless CMS?


Andreas Sauer Follow on Linkedin

Co-Founder at take it_

If you want to develop a new website for your SaaS business or are planning a relaunch, you will sooner or later stumble upon the topic of headless CMS. Because Headless Content Management Systems(CMS) are on the rise and offer, in contrast to traditional systems like Wordpress or Pagebuilders (e.g. Webflow), enormous advantages for companies that want to use their website as a marketing tool.

So it's no wonder that companies, out of necessity, have multiple CMS systems in place to cover all their needs. But this doesn't have to be the case - careful selection of an appropriate headless CMS can solve many of these problems. Below, we explain what a headless CMS is, how it works, and the benefits it can bring you. Lets go.

What is a headless CMS?

First of all, there is the question what a headless CMS actually is: The most common explanation is that in a headless CMS the backend and frontend are separated from each other or connected via an API. With classic CMS systems such as Wordpress, the frontend and backend are closely connected, which ensures that the website is extremely dependent on your CMS. This is actually not problematic, because most classic content management systems offer you a whole eco system. Thousands of plugins and extensions help to design the website, do marketing and even integrate store systems. But what if you want to change the CMS? Then you face the problem that you also have to replace all the other tools that fill your website with functions.

With a headless CMS, on the other hand, you have to think of the entire website architecture a little differently. Let's say you're a fast-growing SaaS business and your website has several landing pages connected to marketing tools like Hubspot or Salesforce, a blog that you use for content marketing, and of course, since you want to grow, you also use an HR tool like Personio or Softgarden.

In the middle of this architecture is the website. Usually, we're talking about a Nuxt.js or Next.js JavaScript app here. The website defines how it looks. So the colors, fonts, layout and so on. However, the website does not know which images and texts will be displayed. So it gets the content (text & images) from the CMS via the API connection. The website also gets the information about which open positions are available via the API connection with the HR tool. So when an applicant applies for a vacancy, the website sends the application to the HR tool via the form, for example.

The same happens with the data of customers who want to download a whitepaper and enter their email address: this is sent to the marketing tool via the API connection and created there as a lead. You see: the website is your presentation layer, so to speak, and the content comes via API from the CMS and various other software solutions are also connected to your website via API. The whole thing is called JAMstack architecture. In the middle there doesn't even have to be a website, it can also be a smartphone app or a TV app that you supply with the same content from the same CMS. This is called omnichannel content publishing.

Advantages, of a Headless CMS:

There are many advantages to using a headless CMS. These include improved website performance, easy scalability, and integration of additional tools. It also enables omnichannel publishing, offers high flexibility and security. This modern approach is particularly future-oriented.

Website performance

Fast loading times not only provide a better user experience, they also have a direct impact on your search engine ranking. But why does the use of a headless CMS improve website performance? Several factors come together here.

First, by separating the frontend from the backend, developers can decide on their own frontend technologies. This allows them to choose their preferred technology and focus completely on optimizing it.

Secondly, by using a headless CMS, effective caching and content delivery networks (CDNs) can also be implemented, which also leads to shorter loading times and improves website performance.

Scaling & Integrations

As mentioned above, in a JAMstack architecture, all components of the website must be considered individually. While the CMS itself is responsible for content creation and delivery, other tools such as marketing platforms (e.g. HubSpot or Salesforce) or HR tools (Personio or Softgarden) can be integrated for job postings and applications. By connecting these tools via APIs, the CMS is not affected. Rather, this makes it possible to connect different tools to the website independently. The use of a headless CMS thus improves the scalability and flexibility of the website in contrast to a traditional all-in-one CMS system.

Omnichannel publishing

The use of a headless CMS offers SaaS companies the opportunity to create and maintain content in one central location, the headless CMS, and to publish it to various platforms and devices simultaneously. Those who had to use several content management systems and databases for this in the past now save themselves the tedious and error-prone copying back and forth.

Use of future-proof technologies

A headless CMS enables the use of modern JavaScript technologies in the front end. These are continuously being developed further and have a large developer community.

The decoupling of CMS, frontend and other tools, as well as the connection via APIs, offer a high degree of future-proofing, as each component of the website functions independently and is interchangeable. This allows the website to be flexibly adapted to changing requirements and technologies.

Which Headless CMS for SaaS Business?

Which headless CMS you choose for your SaaS business depends on several factors. First of all, you should be clear about your requirements and which features make sense for you. Of course, the budget is also an important factor. This is because the individual pricing models of the providers are based on the one hand on features and on the other hand on how many people will eventually use the CMS. Some headless CMS are SaaS solutions and are hosted by the providers themselves, others you can host on your own servers.

At take it_, we've worked with a wide variety of systems including Storyblok, Contentful, Strapi, Prismic, and Graph CMS. In the end, we focused completely on Storyblok because we believe it offers the best features and the most added value for our clients. We mainly develop corporate websites that are used as a marketing tool by a whole team of content editors, writers and marketers. Storyblok's intuitive visual editor provides the user with a page builder experience through real-time previews. But the collaboration features for teams also make Storyblok our favorite. Since our SaaS customers publish their content to an International audience, the various internationalization features are also helpful. In addition, Storyblok is GDPR compliant and hosted on German AWS servers in Frankfurt, which is especially important for our German customers.

Brands and companies that rely on Headless systems

You can't dismiss headless CMS as just a trend anymore. Even though Wordpress, is still the most used CMS, more and more companies are switching to a Headless CMS. Our customers, Germany's leading car sharing company Miles Mobility, as well as Europe's leading digital freight forwarder Sennder , rely on the Headless CMS technology from Storyblok.

How can you switch to a headless system?

A website relaunch can bring with it many complications, and those who have no experience with the new technology run the risk of making the project unnecessarily complex and lengthy. Therefore we recommend to be well prepared for the migration.

Should the new website get a redesign? Do you need a new concept for the user flow and content structure? Is there a blog that should be migrated from the old CMS to the new one? These are all important questions that we discuss with our clients and then present them with a detailed plan so that time and effort can be estimated.

As a certified Storyblok partner, we're here to help if you need help developing your new website. You can schedule a free initial consultation with us here.

In this article

  • What is a headless CMS?

  • Advantages, of a Headless CMS:

  • Which Headless CMS for SaaS Business?

  • Brands and companies that rely on Headless systems

  • How can you switch to a headless system?

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Written by Andreas Sauer

I help fast growing companies with scalable Storyblok CMS websites 🚀 Co-Founder @take it_

  • webdevelopment
  • storyblokcms
  • headlesscms
  • webdesign
  • jamstack