What Is Headless WordPress and Why Should You Use It? – MakeUseOf

Is headless WordPress right for your website? What about decoupled WordPress? Learn more here.
Have you heard of headless WordPress? Wondering how you might be able to incorporate its principles into your own site?
While the idea can appear somewhat complicated at face value, it's pretty simple to grasp once it's laid out for you. In this article, we’ll walk you through what headless WordPress is, discuss some of its advantages and disadvantages, and provide an alternative.
Let’s get started.
All WordPress websites have a front-end, which is what users see and interact with, and a back end, which is where administrators manage the content, structure, data storage, and so on.
Usually, the front-end and back end are coupled together in one system which allows content management systems to output content from the backend to the front-end seamlessly.
So what is headless WordPress? To put it simply, headless WordPress is where the back end and front-end of your website are completely separate systems based on different frameworks.
The front-end and back end of your website essentially become two separate entities. The back end uses the WordPress interface to manage all of your data and content, but the front-end uses an entirely different framework and interface.
This allows a greater degree of publishing flexibility, as your back end can then publish content directly to more platforms such as social media sites and web apps. With WordPress websites, all of this is made possible by the REST API.
Decoupled WordPress sounds a lot like headless WordPress, and they do share some similarities. The main difference is that headless WordPress has a WordPress-based back end that can connect with any other framework for its front-end, whereas decoupled WordPress uses WordPress for both its front and back ends, while hosting them separately.
In practical terms, decoupled WordPress offers the best features of conventional and headless WordPress, but headless WordPress offers much greater publishing flexibility than any other approach.
So which is right for you?
There are pros and cons to using headless WordPress. Here are the key points to consider:
Traditional WordPress is easier to work with, particularly for beginners. While most people don't need to know any programming languages to use WordPress effectively, you do need to have some coding skills (particularly in Javascript and other front-end languages and technologies) in order to use and maintain a headless or decoupled WordPress website effectively.
The What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) visual editing experience of WordPress is lost with headless WordPress.
Decoupled WordPress offers a way around this, however. Since you'll be using the WordPress front-end architecture, you can retain the benefits of visual editing in the backend of your website.
WordPress is a target for hackers and unethical web users. While it's generally safe to use and can be enhanced through plugins and by keeping up with basic WordPress security best practices, headless WordPress takes security to another level entirely.
There are a few different explanations for this. Firstly, because the back and front ends are kept separate, the risk of security threats affecting your back end is minimal, even if the front-end is compromised through third-party integrations.
Secondly, credentialing is more complex with headless WordPress, and while this does add to the level of complexity involved in its use, it also means that headless WordPress is generally much better protected.
Headless WordPress is by far the better option in terms of flexibility in publishing content. There is virtually no web-based platform that cannot be connected to a headless WordPress site, which makes it very useful for people who publish content to various channels or non-website channels.
Decoupled WordPress is also more flexible than conventional WordPress, but neither method quite compares with headless WordPress when it comes to flexibility.
Headless WordPress is the optimal option if easy integration with potentially complex third-party apps and software is important to you.
Because headless WordPress sites can connect with virtually any software, it's more capable of adapting to future frameworks and technologies than conventional WordPress. You don't have to worry about a potentially time-consuming or costly process of transferring your website from WordPress to some other framework if you ever decide to try something new on the front-end.
Both headless and decoupled WordPress require a more hands-on approach to website maintenance. But the result is a faster, leaner system that delivers significantly better performance.
By now, you may have noticed that there really isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. Conventional WordPress is generally perfect for smaller websites, but businesses or organizations with an omnichannel presence and the expertise to maintain a headless WordPress framework might find it more useful.
Decoupled WordPress offers some middle ground between headless and conventional WordPress but still requires advanced technical skills to maintain.
Headless WordPress might be a great solution for some types of websites, but it's not ideal for everyone. Especially not if all you're looking to do is build a simple WordPress website quickly.
Never set up a website before but want to try? Follow these steps to get your own website up and running in just a couple of hours!
David is a WordPress lover who is passionate about helping small businesses grow!
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