“Headless Mode”

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Geoff Graham on

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A couple of months ago, we invited Marc Anton Dahmen to show off his database-less content management system (CMS) Automad. His post is an interesting inside look at templating engines, including how they work, how CMSs use them, and how they impact the way we write things, such as loops.

Well, Automad just released version 1.3.0 and it introduces a “headless” mode that brings it more in line with where the CMS landscape seems to be headed (pun intended).

And what the heck is a “headless” CMS? I always find that name to be a little weird, but the idea is that the engine for content creation is fully separated from the front-end display and instead stitched together by APIs. This means we’re able to get all the wonderful benefits of creating content in a CMS without being locked into its templating requirements. Chris has a more thorough explanation of the concept from a few years back.

A good example is WordPress and its REST API. We still enjoy the easy UI and extensible administrative features of WordPress, but can send the data anywhere via API to create the front end. Rather write your templates in JavaScript instead of PHP? Go for it!

If the CMS is a body and the front-end view is the head, then the body can unscrew its head and replace it with another. Weird, right?

In any case, whether it’s Automad, WordPress, Sanity, Contentful, Ghost, Netlify CMS, or any others in the growing number of API-first options out there, the move toward headless is a space to watch. HeadlessCMS.org is a good place to do that. We could see vast changes that lead to both better content and developer experiences, which is what all of this is trying to accomplish.