Traditional CMS vs. Headless CMS – The Full Comparison

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The future of CMS is quickly moving away from traditional, database-driven systems and toward API-driven headless or decoupled systems. The headless content management system architecture is rising in popularity in the development world.

To show you why is that we’ve picked six famous traditional CMSs and compared their main aspects (like the ease of development, price, functionality, purpose) to the headless, in detail.

The first one is, of course, WordPress. Believe it or not, WordPress runs around 40% of all websites worldwide.

Joomla is the second most known content management system and our second choice. It has significantly less audience than WordPress – it powers around 3% of all the websites on the Internet.

Drupal follows it. Despite being used by fewer websites than the first two, Drupal is still more trendy than Magento, Blogger, Shopify, or Squarespace. At present, it’s being used by 2.3% of all websites (while having a worldwide market share of 4.6%).

The following important character in our little story today is Magento. The eCommerce platform is the 9th most favored CMS globally (0.8% of all known websites). More accurately, the second most attractive platform in 2020, with an overall eCommerce market share of 12% globally.

The last two CMSs we will talk about are Umbraco and Episerver. Umbraco is the 11th most known in the Top 1 Million sites in the Open-Source category, and Episerver is the leading commercially licensed CMS in the Nordics (used by less than 0.1% of all the websites).

Traditional vs. Headless CMS – Ease of development

People usually find WordPress easy. It’s quickly flexible, making it possible to build almost any kind of website imaginable. Most of the folks use WordPress without any prior knowledge of designing websites. It’s likely because of the templates. You can choose from thousands of free website themes and customize them. Joomla is pretty much similar, but others are not that “friendly.”

For example, Umbraco is a powerful content management system designed for developers with a fully-featured environment for data management.

Drupal is even more challenging. It offers some themes, but most of the final websites in Drupal are custom-coded or at least highly customized. That usually means the developer had to roll up their sleeves and make something that looked good.

E-commerce websites require a developer’s work by default. For instance, Magento is justifiably a complete solution for building e-commerce websites.

The difference between headless and traditional lies in setup. Headless enables you to add CMS functionality where you need it in your existing tech stack. With older CMSs, the website is built “on top” of the CMS, meaning you will need to learn and (re)build your website based on CMS rules and processes.

Traditional vs. Headless CMS – Security

Every year, hundreds of thousands of WordPress sites get hacked.

The more attractive the CMS, the more vulnerable it will be to attacks. That puts CMSs from our article on top of the list.

Each of the six CMSs from our list is vulnerable to attacks, and the reason lies in their open-source frameworks. Such shared development environments offer several benefits, but they also have their share of flaws, many of which arise from a lack of accountability. Secondly, various plugins and themes are also exposed to attacks. Meanwhile, open-source headless options reduce vulnerability and make the entire stack more secure.

Unlike traditional CMS, which consists of backend storage and front-end presentation layer tightly coupled together, a headless CMS consists of a backend layer and connects to different front ends using APIs, thus removing the “head.” This detail improves security considerably.

At the end of the day, it’s not a battle between WordPress vs. Headless CMS, and it all comes down to the project’s requirements, budget, and deadline.

But for me, headless offers a better overall experience. And by that, I mean the user and developer, digital experience, and 👉 let’s explain that further.

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