Headless WordPress / Website Hosting


April 28, 2022

Headless WordPress / Website Hosting

A headless WordPress site is one that uses WordPress for managing content and some other custom frontend stack to actually display that content to a site visitor. While a site built with headless WordPress has many benefits, one of the primary advantages of this approach is decoupling content editing teams and developers.

With Headless WordPress, a marketing team and content team can continue to use their familiar WordPress interface and the development team can use the tools they love like React, GraphQL, in a Git workflow they are comfortable with.

WordPress is sometimes referred to as a ‘monolithic’ CMS. This means that, while it does have a robust back end for content creation and organization, it is still built to be pretty concerned with front-end display. WordPress also wraps display functionality into themes and plugins, so the front and back ends are tied together.

You can, however, take advantage of WordPress’s excellent content management functionality and effectively decapitate it, leaving you with a fast and lightweight headless CMS. By using WordPress’ REST API, you can extend the content management you’ve crafted in WordPress beyond your theme. 

In this scenario, you would still be able to use all the platform’s back-end functionality, but it would become a reactive system. Content would wait to be called upon and respond accordingly. This is in stark contrast to the current, more proactive way that WordPress pushes or delivers content to primarily browser-based sites. 

The Benefits of Headless WordPress

Faster Performance

WordPress websites that are powered by frontends like Gatsby are incredibly smooth and responsive, with millisecond load times and prefetched delivery on the edge.

Improved Security

Static-Site Generators, like Gatsby, acting as a frontend for WordPress have no active web servers and no reachable database, thus presenting a smaller attack surface. This approach prevents malicious requests, DDoS attacks, and accidental exposure.

Greater Flexibility

Frontends such as Gatsby can integrate WordPress content into complex, organization-wide websites which may combine WordPress content with content from other CMSs and web services.

How to Set up a Headless WordPress Website

If you decide that you want to move forward with a headless WordPress setup (which again means separating the back-end of WordPress from its front-end system), then you have a few different options available at your disposal to do so.

You can choose to code it yourself, or you can use a plug-in, with the latter, of course, being the easier route to take. Nevertheless, the former will offer more control over the entire process.

Regardless of your choice, it is a good idea to ensure you are familiar with REST API. 

You can check out an online REST tutorial to help you familiarize yourself with it and get yourself started. You can learn even more from the tutorials provided by REST itself.

Using Plug-ins

If you are interested in using a plug-in, you should consider WP Headless, as this is the most popular plug-in used. It will provide server access to the front end of the system and make it so that posting permalinks is an automatic redirect to the editor’s screen.

This can then be used as an organizational tool for any content already written.The API can be used to connect to a different site. Another plug-in that can be used is the WP Headless CMS Framework. It offers a more in-depth option with detailed documentation. It presents multiple configurable options, allowing you to enable or disable what you need or don’t need. You have more flexibility with this plug-in when it comes to getting up and running with REST API.

DIY Coding

Now, if you choose to code it all yourself, you can find plenty of tutorials to help you, such as the in-depth headless WordPress guide from Smashing Magazine that offers step-by-step code snippets.

If you prefer to learn visually and follow along with someone as they “do,” then this Headless WordPress walkthrough is right up your alley. The good news is that the online tutorials make it easier than ever to separate the front end and back end of WordPress so you can have a headless configuration moving forward, allowing you to post content across platforms with ease, code your site with familiar languages, and much more while still taking advantage of the familiarity of the back end of WordPress.

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