More and more people choose Jamstack to make their website super-fast and more SEO-efficient, and to get better results, they consider going fully headless, which also means, they are searching for the CMS that will help them build and manage content as effectively as possible.
However, there are just so many headless CMSs available on the market, and choosing the right one seems quite challenging.
And that’s why we have decided to describe the five most popular Jamstack headless CMS (or at least the ones we are working with quite often):
Apart from the features, benefits, and pricing of each of them, we will help you understand the most important things you should consider while choosing Jamstack headless CMS based on your specific business case.
But let’s start from the beginning!
What is a headless CMS?
Headless CMS (Content Management System) acts as a back-end-only content repository. Content is accessible via API for display on any site or device.
On the contrary to traditional CMS like WordPress and Drupal, front-end and back-end layers are separated, not tightly integrated. If „head” is the presentation layer (or the frontend) and „body” is the content repository – we chop the head off the body and hence the name „headless”.
Consequently, what’s left is raw content that is accessible through API calls. Therefore, CMS is now a content-only data source.
Now we can create a custom front-end using Jamstack frameworks or tools of our choice. Also, we are free to create as many “heads” as we want, the way we want.
Benefits of headless CMS
- Flexibility – complete control over the appearance of a website and freedom of choosing frameworks and tools.
- Enhanced security – since the content publishing platform is not bound to the database, the risk of hacker attacks drops considerably.
- Omnichannel – possibility to reuse and repurpose content to any digital channel.
- Developer-friendly – content delivered via API is easier to maintain and distribute. Also, developers can choose front-end tooling.
- Future-proof – since the presentation and logic layers are separated, changing the front-end layer won’t affect the functionality of CMS. Also, it will integrate with new solutions easily.
- Total content control – it’s you who decides where and when the content will appear on the website.
- Easy to learn and use – contrary to traditional CMS, headless one is purely for storing content, so you and your team will quickly learn how to use it to add and manage content.
- Scalability – you can scale, upgrade or customise your website without worrying about affecting performance.
Why use Jamstack with headless CMS?
- Building easy-to-scale, fast, and secure websites becomes much easier
- You can use content from headless CMS in more ways than just displaying it on a website
- Content will be accessible through many ways like REST or GraphQL
- Deploying takes seconds thanks to services like Netlify or Vercel
- Pleasant developer experience thanks to a wide range of Jamstack frameworks and other tools
- Possibility to preview content changes within your CMS
What’s important in choosing Jamstack headless CMS?
We like to take into account quite a few things before we choose a Jamstack headless CMS for our clients.
All of them are pretty much related to the business case and the objectives that the company wants to achieve.
- User-friendly / Intuitive – you will probably have different people in your team with different skills. Some of them will be less technical, so you want the CMS to be as easy and intuitive in maintaining as possible.
- Content Features – in other words, how easy will it be for your content team to build and distribute content. Which functions are automated and which are not?
- Compatibility – there’s also a technical part of building and maintaining your website. If you have chosen to work with a specific Jamstack framework, you need to make sure that your CMS is compatible.
- Complexity – many great CMSs may be just too big for your needs and have lots of functionalities out of the box you won’t even use.
- Price – this point is somehow connected to the previous one as sometimes there is no reason to pay (or pay more) for something that you won’t be even using. To avoid that, make a list of features that you absolutely need and compare them with specific CMSs.
Choosing Jamstack headless CMS
If you are looking for headless CMS that pairs well with Jamstack, there are many of them. You will find a comprehensive list (90 on the list so far) on the official Jamstack website. However, at Pagepro, we usually decide to work with one of the below systems.
Contentful is an API-first content management platform to build digital experiences with rich features like localisation and personalisation.
It is an excellent tool for simplifying, organising and structuring a bit more complex content creation processes. It’s a great option, especially for developers, to organise the content the way they truly want.
Main Contentful features
|RESTful API||Total programmatic control over elements of CMS like assets, translations, and other versions|
|GraphQL API||Allows for aggregating content from multiple sources with fewer API calls|
|Customisable interface||Support for different types of content like rich text, dates, collections, JSON snippets, and more|
|User roles management||Possibility to safeguard content by managing users and giving them roles and permissions|
|Multilingualism||Possibility to publish content in multiple languages and for different time zones|
|Flexible content types||You can either use one of the default content types or create a custom one|
|Ready-to-use SDKs for different programming languages||Software Development Kit (SDK) helps developers boost the development process|
|Configurable webhooks||Integrating Contentful with any API service is easy|
Cons of Contentful
- Potential cost of being flexible – flexibility offered by Contentful might cause problems in more complex projects. Problems occur when there is chaos from the beginning, and the project isn’t well-organised.
- Importing data may be tricky – you will need to do this using Contentful CLI (Command-line Interface) or via custom code and API.
- Better for new projects – as importing content is complex (as mentioned above), it may be better not to choose Contentful in some cases.
Prismic is a Content Management System and a tool for editing online content and building pretty much any kind of content or website experience.
Main Prismic features
|Flexible advanced API||You can display content wherever you want the way you want|
|Custom type builder||You can build custom types for your content using tabs, fields and components, so they fit your needs|
|Scheduling and previews||Managing, scheduling and previewing content changes becomes effortless|
|Full revision history||Made a mistake? You can go back and restore a change thanks to the revision history|
|Multilingualism||Serve clients and customers globally thanks to content in multiple languages|
|Dynamic layouts||You can define reusable custom components and build dynamic layouts for a variety of uses like landing pages|
|Integration fields||You can connect Prismic to the existing product catalogue and insert products inside pages and landing pages|
Cons of Prismic
- Availability of user roles – they are only available in a plan for organisations (starts from $100/month) and it may be a bit of a roadblock for smaller teams.
- Unfriendly pricing – pricing is per user, which kind of punishes larger teams for being, well, large.
- Lack of easy-to-install extensions and integrations – although Webhooks are included in all plans, Prismic doesn’t offer simpler solutions as most headless CMSs do.
Prismic offers two types of pricing plans:
- For developers
- For organisations
Plans for developers:
Plans for organizations:
For more details about pricing, visit the official Prismic website.
Sanity is a flexible content platform built for developers by developers. It allows for collaboration and customisation in real-time to build data-driven content applications.
Main Sanity features
|Developer experience||Helpful community of developers, secure, scalable, and GDPR compliant|
|APIs – GraphQL and GROQ||You can use them for querying content the easy way|
|Structured content||Content is accessible via the Sanity API and can be reused across different digital channels|
|Review Changes||Sanity enables real-time collaboration with instant reviews and rollbacks – all within Sanity Studio|
|Image pipeline||You can upload images and transform them on demand|
|Instant updates||Make changes and see them instantly hot-reload in the next window|
Cons of Sanity
- Time-consuming – in comparison with other CMSs and regarding both maintenance and development.
- Tricky integration with third-party services – Sanity should be offering more advanced integration options like webhooks (other CMSs have better solutions for that).
Sanity offers a free plan to get started as well as premium plans for scaling app.
The cool thing is that Strapi is compatible with most of the static site generators on the market.
Main Strapi features
|Customisable API||You can get REST or GraphQL API to grab data without writing a single line of code|
|Content Types Builder||Content managers can create any type of content without asking developers for help|
|Media Library||Upload assets like images or video, find them quickly and edit without losing quality. Many additional features like automatic size optimisation or SEO optimisation|
|Roles and Permissions||Give users access rights only to the information they need. You can create custom roles with custom rights for custom cases|
|Internationalisation||You can create many content versions in different languages and for different countries|
|Built-in integrations||You can connect Strapi with your favourite third-party solutions effortlessly|
Cons of Strapi
- Production requires some knowledge – you will need someone with at least a bit of DevOps experience.
- Not fully responsive – Admin panel requires some work on it as it’s not responsive.
Strapi is an open-source self-hosted solution. It offers free (community) plan and premium plans to unlock Enterprise features.
WordPress is the most popular CMS globally, which powers more than 40% of websites in the world. Thanks to Jamstack, WordPress websites get a new life by becoming headless.
On the contrary to other CMSs mentioned above, WordPress is a full-stack platform that doesn’t require additional tools, plugins or a brand-new front-end to work. What’s worth mentioning, WordPress isn’t a Jamstack headless CMS by default.
However, pairing it with Jamstack brings many benefits of headless websites, making business owners and marketers stick with WordPress regardless of a wide range of headless CMSs.
Why use WordPress with Jamstack?
- Better fast page load speed and performance – people tend to switch from WordPress because of its poor performance that gets even worse over time as the number of pages or plugins grows. However, Jamstack is an antidote to that as it allows for creating a static website on top of WordPress. And it’s even more important for SEO optimisation and Google rankings since the introduction of Core Web Vitals in June 2021.
- Frontend freedom – you can choose any programming language to build your front-end and build it the way you want. You won’t be limited with WordPress themes or templates. This way, you can create a great user experience and consequently improve the conversion rate.
- Multi-channel publishing – thanks to the REST API, you can send content published within WP to other websites, social media platforms, or even a mobile or web app.
- You already know it – truth be told, changing CMS isn’t always necessary. If you like using WordPress and what you need is better performance, sticking with WordPress and pairing it with Jamstack might be a good idea. After all, WordPress is what you know as your pocket.
- Shorter development time – if you already have the CMS to store your content, all you have to do is build the front-end layer on top of it. It can boost the development process a lot, and if it’s time that you care most about, it might be a great idea.
- Better security – unfortunately, WordPress is known for being vulnerable to hacker attacks. Making WordPress headless separates back-end from front-end so there is no direct connection to a database and other sensitive data. Also, headless WordPress connects with every tool or solution through API, which makes hackers’ job much harder.
- Updating a website becomes easier – if you are working on improving the front-end layer, you don’t have to worry about breaking down back-end architecture. And this also works in reverse: if you want to make some changes on the back-end, your content will still be visible to users.
Cons of WordPress
- Hosting is needed – as WordPress is a self-hosted CMS, you need to maintain a server or invest in managed hosting.
- Requires maintenance – if you are taking care of WP yourself, you have to remember about maintaining it and updating plugins to minimise the risk of hacker attacks or breaking the website down.
- No support for page builders – do you like using WordPress Page Builders like Divi or Elementor? Well, headless WP doesn’t support them. However, if you like Gutenberg, there is a workaround (WPGraphQL Gutenberg).
WordPress is an open-source self-hosted platform, and that means you have to pay for hosting (and maybe for maintenance, too). Hosting costs will depend on the hosting provider of your choice.
Comparison of Jamstack headless CMSs
After learning some basic information about headless CMSs of our choice – Contentful, Prismic, Sanity, Strapi and WordPress – it’s time to compare them directly using a simple table.
|(Custom) Field types||🟢||🟢||🟢||🟢||🟢|
|Scheduling and releases||🟢||🟢||🟢||🔴||N/A|
If you want to learn more about headless CMSs and Jamstack itself, check out the following articles:
- What is Jamstack? Intro to superfast websites
- When to use Jamstack and when not?
- Why should you build a Jamstack website?
- Migration to Jamstack: The questionnaire
- Migration from WordPress to Jamstack – A complete guide
Still not sure which CMS to choose?