Benefits of a Headless CMS Versus a Traditional CMS

Content management systems offer business owners, website designers, and programmers a solid way to organize their data. Although both headless CMS and traditional CMS work, one may be more effective at increasing user engagement across multiple devices.

Traditional CMS

A traditional CMS contains the frontend files for the layout and design of your CMS. This includes cascading style sheets (CSS), Javascript, and HTML templates. The traditional CMS also contains the backend files which are its architecture. These files include the database, code, and schema. Everything is established in advance. WordPress is a perfect example of a traditional CMS.

Headless CMS

In a headless CMS, the frontend is separate from the backend, so it’s not an all-in-one construction. The “headless” term comes from the fact that the frontend is not connected to the backend architecture. To clarify, the presentation layer which is the layout and design is not attached to the database.


What’s similar between the traditional CMS and headless CMS is limited. They both have the ability to store content. They also have dashboards for content editing. But that’s where the commonalities end.

Storing Content

Traditional CMSs store content in a database, while headless CMSs store content in a repository in raw form.


A traditional CMS displays a dashboard for the user to select a template for how they want their website to appear. The dashboard is also where users will add and edit content or add pages to their website.

With headless CMSs, the dashboard is not for display. It’s for content editing and then disbursing the content to an application and device of choice.


How a Traditional CMS and a Headless CMS Deliver Content

After content in a traditional CMS has been manually edited, it gets placed in a database until the user decides to publish it. Within the application, there are usually several generic layout themes from which to choose to display the content.

A headless CMS requires developers to use application programming interfaces (APIs) to call and place content on a frontend. An API is a server component that when it receives a request, sends a response. A headless CMS relies on APIs to deliver content.

Decoupling Content Capabilities

Traditional CMSs are coupled, and it can’t be decoupled. Therefore, when a user attempts to change the design format, the content automatically changes too. Users can’t change the layout without affecting how the content will display. It’s not unusual for it to take a lot of manual modifications and time to get it right.

Headless CMSs decouple (separate) the content from the infrastructure. This gives developers the freedom to design the front-end using a favorite programming language such as Python, Node.js, Rails, or another. They can change front-end formats without altering the content.

Device and Channel Display Flexibility

The traditional CMS is limited in its display options. Content will look great on a desktop, but it’s locked into that frontend display due to the preset code. Traditional CMSs were designed to display content on a desktop and manage it that way, in-house.

headless content management system gives businesses the ability to deliver content as desired on a variety of platforms and channels. For example, you can even send raw content (content that hasn’t gone through a design filter) such as images and text. Headless CMSs make use of structured content.

Platform Updates

With a traditional CMS, developers will have to schedule updates manually. This applies to all content changes to be made on a website. Examples include making product description changes, correcting spelling errors, adding new blog posts, and other forms of content.

A headless CMS creates a more engaging user experience. Single-page applications (SPAs) can be updated dynamically without having to depend on server full page loads.

Main Takeaway

Headless CMSs help businesses remain competitive by providing a way to display content on different devices with ease. The traditional CMS is outdated because of the evolution of the digital platform.

In addition to creating websites, businesses are developing apps, conversational interfaces, mobile sites, and more. As explained by Contentful, “Meanwhile, the traditional CMS has failed to keep pace. Why? Because a CMS organizes content in webpage-oriented frameworks, making it impossible for the same content to adapt to other digital platforms.”

For a long while, the traditional CMS was all we had. Today, there’s the headless CMS, and it’s answering the call for flexible delivery of content, our way.


Sasha Douglass

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