Headless vs web CMS: unmasking the pros and cons

ProductBy Mariana Bonanomi

Content Management Systems (CMSs) have one sole purpose: to help you manage and structure content easily. But how to know which type is your best option?

Traditional web CMSs typically include web editors as one of the main features. They usually come with pre-built templates and themes, which makes them even easier to use. While using a web CMS, you can improve your website SEO with specific plugins and become dev free since it’s built for non-tech users. However, it may hinder a seamless website performance.

Developers and tech enthusiasts prefer headless CMSs. This type of software saves them from frequent adjustments on the frontend. From seamless omnichannel experiences to enhanced performance and faster time-to-market, headless CMSs bring a fresh perspective to content creation and delivery.

Meanwhile, they allow you to implement content via an API, thus giving you the flexibility to set and maintain design system standards that can't be ignored.

In this post, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of both CMS categories and help you find out which option best meets your needs.

Your source for CRO and personalizationLearn practical tactics our customers use to grow their businesses by 20% or more.
Woman surrounded with marketing icons.

Table of contents

Web CMS overview

Web CMSs, such as WordPress or Shopify, have been the go-to choice for businesses looking to manage their website content efficiently. These platforms provide comprehensive features that enable users to easily create, publish, and manage content.

With a web CMS, the frontend and backend are tightly coupled, meaning that the content creation, storage, and presentation are all handled within the same system. That makes it easy to install plugins and applications, which is a great plus to edit and check published content and drafts smoothly.

One of the main perks of a web CMS is its user-friendly interface. It typically includes a visual editor allowing users to create and format content without technical knowledge. Additionally, web CMSs often provide pre-built templates and themes, making it easy for users to design and customize their websites.

These functionalities make traditional CMSs accessible to a wide range of users, from content editors to marketing teams, without requiring extensive coding or development skills.

Pros and cons of web CMS

Web CMSs still offer many advantages, making them a great business option. One of the key benefits is their all-in-one package. You can create, manage, and publish content in a single platform with tools integrated to handle your management needs.

Web CMS platforms provide a comprehensive solution that simplifies the content management process with a user-friendly nature. As mentioned earlier, they typically offer a visually intuitive interface allowing non-technical users to create and edit content easily. It empowers businesses to take control of their content without extensive training or technical expertise.

Finally, you will often find a large and active community of developers and non-tech users collaborating and sharing knowledge, allowing businesses to tap into a wealth of resources, including plugins, extensions, and templates.

Many CMS platforms offer marketplaces or repositories where users can find free and premium templates covering a wide range of industries, styles, and purposes. They serve as foundations for building and designing websites while saving you from starting from scratch. This includes placing headers, menus, sidebars, content areas, footers, and other essential elements. Also, templates often come with design elements such as color schemes, typography choices, background images, and overall visual style. It helps maintain a consistent look and strengthens branding across different website pages.

Modern CMS templates are designed to be responsive, meaning they adjust and adapt to different screen sizes and devices. This ensures a seamless user experience across various platforms.

However, web CMSs are not without their limitations.

One of the main drawbacks of these platforms is their limited flexibility. Since every change made in the frontend may impact the backend structure, It can hinder creation of unique and personalized user experiences, which is critical in our dynamic digital landscape where consumers have high expectations. Additionally, you may struggle to handle significant traffic or complex content structures when using it. This results in slower performance and potential scalability issues.

Furthermore, web CMSs often require regular updates and maintenance to ensure optimal performance and security. This can be time-consuming, and failing to keep the CMS current can leave vulnerabilities to security breaches or compatibility issues.

A device on the left receives website content that is linked to the presentation layer, while two devices on the right receive content through an API.
Headless CMSs allow you to implement content via API while in web CMSs content is tangled up with code

What are the best web CMSs in the market?

Each web CMS has various features and resources that might offer advantages depending on what you need to accomplish your projects.

Next, we’ll present you with those that we consider the best available on the market today. But we recommend you always explore what’s new to ensure you choose wisely and use the one that will help you build a website intuitively.


Webflow stands out as a powerful and flexible platform aimed at designers and developers seeking complete control over every aspect of design and code. Its ability to generate clean HTML, CSS, and JavaScript allows for detailed customizations and advanced integrations, making it ideal for complex and dynamic projects.


Wix is the perfect choice for beginners and small business owners looking for an easy and quick solution to create functional websites. With its highly intuitive drag-and-drop interface, Wix enables website creation without the need for technical knowledge. While it offers a wide range of features such as blogs and e-commerce, its greatest advantage lies in the simplicity of use and the speed at which users can get a site online, even if this means less flexibility in advanced customizations.


Squarespace combines design elegance with ease of use, making it ideal for users who want a professional-looking website with minimal effort. Known for its modern and aesthetically pleasing templates, Squarespace is particularly popular among photographers, designers, and businesses that value their site's visual appeal. It also offers robust e-commerce and blogging features and integrated marketing and SEO tools, balancing sophisticated design with intuitive usability.

Headless CMS overview

The headless CMS was invented as an alternative to the limitations of web CMSs. Content managers like Strapi and Contentful are some of the most popular modern substitutes. Unlike a web CMS, a headless CMS decouples the frontend and backend, allowing for more flexibility and control. With a headless CMS, the content is created and stored in the backend but can be delivered through APIs to various frontend channels, such as websites, mobile apps, or IoT devices.

The term "headless" comes from the fact that the presentation layer of the CMS is decoupled from the website’s backend. Since this structure helps you make significant changes separately, headless CMSs are designed to handle high traffic and content efficiently.

Pros and cons of headless CMS

Besides its flexibility, one of the most significant benefits of headless CMSs is their enhanced performance and faster time-to-market. Since the frontend and backend are decoupled, businesses can leverage modern frontend technologies, such as static site generators or JavaScript frameworks, to create blazing-fast websites. This boosts the user experience and improves search engine rankings.

Additionally, headless CMS platforms often provide a more developer-friendly environment. With the freedom to choose their preferred technologies, developers have the flexibility to create custom designs and interactive experiences. This empowers them to push the boundaries of creativity and innovation, resulting in unique and engaging websites.

As for the drawbacks of headless CMSs, we can mention their increased complexity. With a decoupled architecture, businesses must manage the back and frontend separately. This can require additional development resources and technical expertise, making it less accessible for companies without dedicated development teams.

This happens due to its potential loss of user-friendly editing capabilities. Web CMS platforms often provide a visual editor that allows non-technical users to create and edit content easily. With a headless CMS, the content editing experience may require more technical knowledge or reliance on developers. However, a non-tech user can easily edit content and manage plugins once installed.

Since headless CMSs focus on content delivery rather than presentation, businesses may need additional tools or services to handle frontend functionalities, such as form submissions, web search, or AB testing. This can add complexity and potentially increase costs.

What are the best headless CMSs in the market?

If you’re looking for alternatives to tools with visual editors, headless CMSs may be your best option. A headless CMS diverges from web CMS models by affording greater adaptability to new technologies and allowing the website to be edited both on the front and backend. This decoupling enhances flexibility and control over content delivery across various platforms.

These are the most popular Headless CMSs nowadays:


Strapi is a highly flexible open-source headless CMS that simplifies the creation of APIs. It offers a user-friendly interface, making it accessible for developers and non-technical users. The platform supports REST and GraphQL APIs and allows developers to choose the most suitable approach for their applications. It accommodates diversified databases like MongoDB, PostgreSQL, MySQL, and SQLite. This versatility enables users to select the database that aligns with their project needs.

Strapi supports webhooks, allowing users to trigger custom actions or external processes in response to specific events within the CMS. The platform boasts an active community and comprehensive documentation, ensuring a supportive environment for developers. Strapi has gained popularity for its adaptability, ease of use, and applicability to various projects, from small websites to large-scale applications.


Contentful also allows developers to deliver content across various channels through APIs.

The platform offers a web-based content creation and management interface and supports multiple programming languages. Its API-first approach allows easy integration with various frontend technologies, making it suitable for building websites, mobile apps, and other digital experiences.

This content model defines how content types and fields are organized, providing a customizable and structured approach to its creation. This flexibility is precious for projects with dynamic or evolving content needs.

WordPress VIP

WordPress VIP is a premium hosting service for WordPress websites, providing high performance, security, and scalability. It is designed to meet the demands of enterprise-level organizations that require a robust and reliable WordPress hosting solution.

The WordPress VIP team handles the hosting infrastructure, security, and performance optimization. This allows organizations to focus on creating content and building their digital experiences without the burden of managing the technical aspects of hosting.


Hygraph stands out as a headless CMS emphasizing GraphQL, a powerful query language for APIs. It allows users to define custom content types and structures through its content modeling system. This feature accommodates diverse requirements, making it adaptable for various projects.

The platform facilitates real-time collaboration among team members during content creation and management. Multiple users can work concurrently, with changes reflected instantaneously. This emphasis on collaboration contributes to a seamless workflow for content development.

Headless CMSs offer many advantages, including heightened performance and accelerated time-to-market. Businesses can use it to harness modern frontend technologies like static site generators. You can also use frameworks like Next.js to develop exceptionally fast websites by decoupling the front and backend. This enhances the user experience and positively impacts search engine rankings.

Choosing between headless CMSs and web CMSs

Several factors must be considered when deciding between headless CMSs and web CMSs. The choice ultimately depends on the specific needs and goals of the business, but here are some things to evaluate:

  • Need for flexibility
  • Scalability
  • User-friendliness
  • Development resources
  • Personalization needs
  • Content needs
  • Expertise
  • Budget

Ultimately, a web CMS will give you a user-friendly interface and help you add different features to a single platform. However, a headless CMS is the perfect solution if you are looking for enhanced performance and scalability.

While headless CMSs make implementing AB tests and personalizing content difficult, it is easy with Croct. Croct is a headless CMS that allows you to manage dynamic content for personalizing your messaging and running AB tests.

If you want to learn more about the power of a headless CMS, create your free account and start using Croct today.

Let's grow together!

Learn practical tactics our customers use to grow by 20% or more.