What is Headless WordPress? | Gatsby

What is Headless WordPress? | Gatsby

Category: WordPress

Tags: wordpress

Date: June 10, 2022

The way we work now — how software and websites are built — has changed radically. Cloud-based modular architectures have become the standard: reusable components that enable developers to scale projects almost effortlessly, expand easily into new channels, and iterate new sites, features and products faster than ever before. However, many organizations encounter a major roadblock on this shining road to the digital future: content.

Content has become a bottleneck for the modern agile business. Companies are attempting to deliver ever larger and more ambitious online experiences while still using last-century tools — traditional content management systems — as a platform.

The number one traditional CMS, WordPress, now powers one out of every three sites on the internet. WordPress dominates largely because it excels at solving many of the problems around managing content on the web, and because its user interface is reasonably intuitive and end-user friendly. It allows less technical folks to take ownership of maintaining, updating and creating new content for their own websites. 

However, classic WordPress is starting to show its age. FIrst-generation WordPress websites are plagued by slowness, security vulnerabilities, poor SEO, and other issues. For now, many companies are making do with their legacy solution; for them, WordPress is still good enough. It keeps the content flowing. But forward-thinking companies focused on digital transformation have already ditched their traditional WordPress. For them, “good enough” is no longer good enough. 

The Problem with Traditional WordPress

What, exactly, are the problems with classic WordPress? Can one out of every three websites really be so very wrong?

Well, yes. Especially for developers. In a traditional CMS, everything is packaged together and the technical architecture tightly links the frontend (design and layout) to the backend (code and content database). Using a classic WordPress implementation, then, means you lose control over your site’s structure — you can’t build it the way that’s best for your project, you can only build it the WordPress way. It means an inability to define canonical URLs, the page element that informs Google and other search engines to crawl a website and how to categorize — and rank — its contents.

Ultimately, classic WordPress is monolithic, slow, and exposes sites to security vulnerabilities. Here’s how:

These are the burdens of first-generation CMSs in general, and WordPress in particular. Fortunately, the future is here…And it’s headless.

What is Headless WordPress, anyway?

“Headless” sounds dramatic, but essentially it means breaking down the monolith. Decoupling the part of an application that you see and interact with from the part that handles the mechanics of building and deploying the site. 

When it comes to WordPress, going headless refers to keeping the familiar WordPress interface for collaborating on content creation, editing and updating. However, behind the scenes, you’ve ditched the cumbersome WordPress theme layer for faster and more efficient architecture powering how your content gets built, deployed, and presented to viewers. 

Why is Headless WordPress better?

Headless WordPress solves a lot of first-generation WordPress problems simply thanks to superior architecture. Headless WordPress is faster, more stable, inherently secure, and inherently scalable. It’s also orders of magnitude cheaper to host.

If this new way to use WordPress is so truly amazing, why hasn’t the whole world gone headless? you may rightfully inquire. And, in truth, WordPress Developers have been excited about the possibilities of “headless WordPress” for several years, but at first the hype outpaced the tooling. Building a site with decoupled architecture required a high level of JavaScript experience to implement. Worse, the final product couldn’t quite deliver the super seamless publishing experience content creators crave because — unlike traditional CMSs — early Headless WordPress implementations lacked an easy way to preview content changes before publishing. 

Gatsby set out to solve those difficult problems. We wanted to make it simple to rich create web experiences with Headless WordPress that are performant for website users and fun for developers to build — and that deliver the same feature-rich and user-friendly CMS experience your content team relies on. 

Headless WP + Gatsby 

Well, great news: now you can have it all!

Gatsby Cloud’s new integration for WordPress bridges the gap between WordPress as a headless CMS and Gatsby-powered apps to deliver a complete, blazing-fast publishing experience. Gatsby Preview delivers a first-class preview experience for content editors, building near-instant previews that display not just the page you just created or changed, but your entire siteThe Gatsby + WordPress source plugin pulls your existing posts, pages, and other WordPress content into Gatsby for quick, easy templating while WPGraphQL works in the background to serve up this content to your Gatsby build pipeline. This opens up the entire Gatsby ecosystem of (secure!) plugins to supercharge your new frontend — and also make it crazy easy to add new features and best-in-class solutions like Stripe, Shopify and Algolia to your site.

While the only difference your content creators notice is how much faster the site just became.

This content was originally published here.

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