Headless CMS Platforms
These products won a Top Rated award for having excellent customer satisfaction ratings. The list is based purely on reviews; there is no paid placement, and analyst opinions do not influence the rankings. Read more about the Top Rated criteria.
Drupal is a free, open-source content management system written in PHP that competes primarily with Joomla and Plone. The standard release of Drupal, known as Drupal core, contains basic features such as account and menu management, RSS feeds, page layout customization, and system…
Founded in 1997 with a vision to create the first truly open content management system, Magnolia is presented as the fastest way to launch digital experiences. With a mission to help clients move fast and stay flexible, and boasting users among brands like Atlassian and The New York…
Optimizely combines a creative experience with artificial intelligence to personalize and orchestrate customer journeys. Optimizely Content Cloud hosts a content management system with AI-driven personalization that enables the user to deliver individualized content to each visitor.…
The Acquia Digital Experience Platform is an "Open DXP" with its two core pillars being content and data. Built on top of one of the largest open-source content management systems, Drupal, it aims to provide the flexibility and interoperability a modern organization needs. With…
CrownPeak is one of the best-known providers of an Enterprise-level CMS delivered via the cloud. It is used by many large agencies as well as companies in the financial services, healthcare, manufacturing and non-profit sectors.
Sitecore Experience Manager is an enterprise-grade CMS competing with Oracle WebCenter, IBM Web Content Manager and Adobe. It presents a fairly wide and comprehensive swath of inbuilt features. In Sitecore WCM editing takes place from within the page with its inline editor, allowing…
Tridion (formerly SDL Tridion) aims to connect people, processes, and information through a complete portfolio of collaborative Content Management, Knowledge Management and Headless delivery technologies. Combine with Accelerators for fast time-to-value and RWS Translation Management…
Contentful is a cloud based CMS solution that provides the ability to manage content across multiple platforms.The editing interface allows for managing content interactively and provides developers the ability to deliver the content with the programming language and template framework…
Storyblok helps teams to tell their stories and manage their content for every use-case: corporate websites, e-commerce, helpdesks, mobile apps, and screen displays. Storyblok features: Visual Editor: Live preview changes made on a websiteComponent approach: Nestable content bloks…
Kontent by Kentico is a headless CMS that enables users to build modern applications. On top of its headless foundation, Kontent includes an authoring experience that lets marketers focus on content creation and business workflows without requiring developer involvement. This is…
Bold is described by Quintype as the CMS that understands content. Bold separates the presentation of the content from the content itself. This makes it easier to create, curate and distribute content for modern consumption across different screens and screen-less voice devices. With…
Scrivito is a web CMS built to orchestrate digital experiences globally across multiple channels, react to market changes quickly and deliver results cost-efficiently. A Content Hub for Websites and AppsA SaaS CMS that complies with the highest security standards and doesn’t require…
Mura, from Mura Software in Sacramento, is a headless CMS designed to enable users to publish and pivot messaging at a moment’s notice, presented by the vendor as an agile platform that helps users to create meaningful connections by delivering personalized experiences to any audience.…
Muvi Flex is a video and audio hosting and publishing platform that delivers video/audio content to audiences across geographies, devices, and screens. Users can upload, host, organize, manage, and share audio and video content from a central cloud-based solution with CDN, DRM, Player,…
Contensis CMS provides a single place to create, maintain and deliver content. Its content modelling, authoring, and governance features helps teams to create and keep on top of well-structured content. Contensis boasts a flexible set of APIs to make it easy to use content in any…
What are Headless CMS platforms?
Headless content management systems (CMS) are the next generation of more traditional CMS platforms, built for the needs of the digital age. Specifically, headless CMS platforms have decoupled the backend database/content repository and the content authoring interface from the presentation layer. The content presentation layer can be thought of as the ‘head’ of traditional, or monolithic, content management systems. Thus, headless CMSs have severed the backend body of the CMS platform from the display ‘head’.
Rather than having one ‘head’ attached to the rest of the CMS, headless platforms make content available as data via APIs. Some vendors refer to headless CMSs as ‘API-first’ platforms for this reason. Other common names for headless content management systems include:
Content infrastructure software
Content hub software
Content as a service
Headless CMS Advantages
Headless CMS platforms work well for businesses that need to produce content that can be shared and displayed across digital channels and device types. Typically, traditional CMS platforms are attached to a webpage presentation layer, meaning the content created can’t be pushed to other digital mediums like mobile applications.
Headless CMSs, on the other hand, offer businesses the freedom and flexibility to choose which digital mediums to share their content across. Another key benefit of headless CMS platforms is that the same piece of content can be pushed out across multiple digital channels—there’s no need to create multiple instances of it for each medium.
Limitations of Headless CMS Platforms
While headless CMS platforms work well for a wide variety of digital marketing needs, they are less appropriate for certain types of businesses. One key drawback of headless CMS software is that it doesn’t include the tools needed to build a website like traditional CMS platforms do. Since the content presentation/display has been ‘cut off’ from the rest of the system, users looking to build a website with a headless CMS won’t be able to. So a headless CMS platform may be less well suited for marketers looking to easily preview, upload, and tweak content to their website or blog.
On the one hand, this affords developers more flexibility in terms of designing a website with the tools they like best. But this also makes it harder for users without a technical background to get a new website up and running quickly. Another drawback of headless CMS platforms is that they will require additional development support to do things like preview content in different display formats.
Headless CMS Features
The primary distinctive features of a headless CMS are a decoupled backend (content repository and content authoring interface) from the frontend content display. Besides this hallmark structure, most headless CMS platforms will have the following capabilities:
Content authoring interface
Content types and taxonomy
User roles and permissions
Omnichannel content publishing via APIs
Some hybrid CMS platforms offer additional content creation features that include:
Approval & authoring workflows
Headless vs. Traditional CMS
The biggest and most identifiable difference between headless CMS and traditional CMS platforms is that headless CMSs lack a dedicated presentation layer, or ‘head’. Rather than push content directly to a website or blog, headless platforms deliver content across digital mediums via APIs.
In many ways, native headless CMS platforms built with a microservices architecture are better suited to meet the needs of digital marketing. This is likely the reason that many platforms that were originally traditional CMSs have started offering APIs and integrations so users can ‘decouple’ the frontend and backend of the platform. Some examples of these type of CMS platforms include:
Both native headless CMS platforms and traditional CMS platforms that now offer integrations to effectively decouple the backend and frontend of the platform are included in this category.
Different Types of CMS Platforms
As mentioned above, there is a key difference between traditional CMS and headless CMS platforms. Even though many traditional, or monolithic, CMS platforms have added content APIs to their platform—they were still originally designed with an attached presentation layer.
In terms of ease of use for end-users, who are typically marketing professionals and content writers, headless CMSs can have a less user-friendly content authoring and editing interface. For marketers that are used to creating and publishing content using a WYSIWYG editor and plug-and-play content templates—getting comfortable using a truly headless platform can be difficult. Traditional CMS are often more user-friendly for marketing and other non-technical end-users.
Along with headless and traditional CMS platforms, there are also hybrid platforms that aim to give users the best of both worlds. These platforms are decoupled CMSs with content APIs that also offer a presentation layer (or front-end). This means they have robust content authoring and editing capabilities. For example, they might offer content templates or a WYSIWYG editor. This makes them more user-friendly than many native headless platforms, while still affording developers the flexibility and freedom to deploy content across various digital channels using the content APIs.
Examples of traditional CMS platforms include:
Examples of true headless platforms include:
Examples of hybrid platforms include:
Pricing InformationPricing for comprehensive headless CMS platforms that can support upwards of 10 users typically starts between $400-$450 per month. Most vendors charge either monthly or annually. Some platforms like Drupal and Prismic offer a free or open-source version of their CMS.
Frequently Asked Questions
Coupled CMS platforms, also called traditional or monolithic CMSs, have the frontend content display attached to the backend database and content authoring and editing interface. On the other hand, ‘decoupled’ CMS platforms have severed the connection between the two. Native headless CMS platforms that were built with content data APIs are decoupled by nature.
More recently, CMS platforms that were originally built to be coupled have started offering integrations that allow businesses to use the CMS platforms as a decoupled system.
According to end-user feedback on TrustRadius, some of the most popular (based on the number of reviews for each product) headless CMS platforms include:
Visit TrustRadius’ headless CMS platforms page to see alternative products and read in-depth end-user reviews.