Ups and Downs of Headless WordPress
Nowadays, a lot of websites are powered by WordPress (WP), and even more, are on the way. People have heard of WP or had previous experience with this platform. That’s precisely why WP is usually the number one choice when someone decides to create a new website.
To be honest, WP has come a long way from being just a blogging platform. Today, it’s one of the most powerful content management systems (CMS) in the world. Although excellent in its design, WP is still an open-source project created using the PHP programming language.
Everything works as seamlessly as you’d expect, but there are still issues that concern some web owners. That’s why modern developers decided to use the best WP offers and disengage from the rest.
This “new version” of WordPress is called headless WP, and it creates new opportunities for web owners to explore.
People usually get the wrong idea that headless WP is better than the standard WP. That’s not the case. Headless WP is just different and it provides a different approach to how websites are created using WP CMS as a foundation.
With that in mind, let’s explore deeper what headless WP really is, as well as its ups and downs.
What exactly is a headless WP?
As mentioned before, a headless WP was created when developers decided to take the best WP already had to offer and leave out all the rest. In development terms, this process means separating the front-end part from the back-end part of the development process.
Therefore, you’re left with the back-end part of the WP, which means you can still use it as a CMS to create and control your website content. At the same time, the front-end part can be custom-made and built upon the existing back-end.
Let’s simplify it a bit, shall we? The front-end is what users can see on your website, such as website layout, images, colors, etc. The back-end part is what the user can’t see, such as scripting, databases, the code itself, and so on.
So, let’s say you want to build a custom website, but you want WP features that allow you control over website content. Therefore, you keep the WP’s back-end processes while you decide to outsource front-end website development processes to a web design agency, for instance. They create a custom web design for your website and simply apply it to existing WP back-end processes.
So now you have a hybrid website that uses WP functionality and custom-built web design. That being said, your website is still powered by WP, only this time it’s disconnected from the rest of the WP ecosystem.
Why use headless WP in the first place?
When you decide to use WP to build your website, you’re pretty much stuck in the WP ecosystem. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. WP has a lot of options, features, and plug-ins to choose from that will help you customize and optimize your website as you see fit.
However, most of the add-ons created for WP are third-party software. Due to its open-source nature, anyone with enough skills can make something for WP, whether it’s an extension, a plug-in, or even a platform patch. This can lead to serious software conflicts and issues.
Therefore, when you have a WP website with a WP theme and a bunch of plug-ins and extensions, your website can look great and become quite well-equipped.
On the other hand, it will eventually become very bloated. This can significantly slow down your website speed and page loading time.
Software conflicts can lead to your website crashing more frequently than you’d like. These are just some of the issues some people simply don’t want to deal with. They look for other solutions and options, and that’s why headless WP was created, to begin with.
That being said, you still want to use WP due to its content management capabilities and other advantages, but at the same time, you don’t want to be dependable on third-party extensions and plug-ins.
The headless WP allows you to retain the best of WP while you have an opportunity to develop custom features on your own.
1. Headless WP advantages – website speed
Having a custom-made front-end part of your website can improve your website speed and page loading time. This is just too important for some websites to be left to the mercy of third-party extensions.
For all businesses, page loading time is, indeed, a crucial factor for an exceptional customer experience. Improving page load time could reduce the bounce rate from 41% to 37% for a Jigsaw puzzle brand, I’m-a-puzzle.
Businesses, such as eCommerce stores, can’t afford to have potential customers bouncing off due to slow page loading time.
Getting rid of plug-ins or extensions until your website is fast enough takes too much time. A custom-made front-end is fast and reliable as it is—no need to poke around to see what’s causing the bloat.
At the same time, these eCommerce store owners can leverage the advantages of WP’s back-end development and manage their web site’s content as they see fit. Not to mention the fact that eCommerce stores now have a lot of mobile users to accommodate.
You can’t really stake your entire business on a third-party WP theme whose creators claim it’s mobile-friendly.
You need a custom solution and a responsive website design that will run fast and perform exceptionally on every device. That’s why headless WP is the best choice for some website owners.
2. Headless WP advantages – It makes your website stand out
Uniqueness is the key to attracting customers and capturing their attention. The online market is very competitive and oversaturated to the point where consumers can freely choose which website they’d like to visit.
For business websites that rely on sales, attracting potential customers is vital for their success.
A headless WP can make your website truly unique. People will still recognize your website because it’s powered by WP, but then again, you have a custom-build layout and design they’re not familiar with.
When you land on a WP website, you expect a WP theme in most cases. Finding out that’s not the case will further intrigue your website visitors and encourage them to stay. The thing about headless WP is that you can apply and test different front-end solutions.
While you do this, your website content and the rest of the back-end processes remain the same. Therefore, if you’re currently engaged in marketing or some other activities, there will be no downtime for your website while you switch layouts.
The main reason is that the front-end part is applied directly to the back-end processes. Since it’s a separate development process, the front-end can be applied much as a plug-in would. It’s quite a seamless and painless process.
3. Headless WP disadvantages – You can’t use the WP ecosystem
WP is what it is today because of its ecosystem. Numerous plug-ins, extensions, updates, and features are what make WP a truly amazing platform. Once you opt for a headless WP solution, you can no longer have access to the WP environment.
For example, if you would consider adding a plug-in to your headless WP, you’d need to consult with a team of developers so that they can determine if it’s even possible.
Oftentimes, adding WP extensions or plug-ins requires a lot of tweaking so that everything would possibly work as it should. This can be problematic.
Being cut off from WP’s most prominent features can be difficult. Any additional functionality you might want for your website will have to be developed separately, and that tends to be expensive, especially in the long run.
Not many website owners can actually afford to have custom-made extensions and features.
When you consider the fact that most of the WP feature available to you are usually free, or they don’t cost much, it could be difficult to even consider a headless approach.
That’s why headless WP is an option, not a must. It all comes down to what you need for your website or business. If you don’t expect a lot of traffic on your website, a code that’s a bit bloated will work just fine.
Headless WP means separating the back-end and front-end processes.
That’s why some business owners decide to opt for the headless WP approach. After all, you get a chance to retain all of the WP’s capabilities and its CMS features while you have a custom website design especially made to suit your business or brand.
A combination of both WP and custom features is often the best approach.
However, there are always both ups and downs to consider before you can decide which path is the right one for you. The good thing is that headless WP is an option and not a necessity, so you don’t have to decide right away.