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Over the years, there has been a lot of talk on the internet about headless WordPress, a sub-theme of the headless commerce trend. For many people, it can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around (no pun intended).
While WordPress’s templates and plug-ins provide users with a ton of options, this setup has been criticized for being more rigid than some users. As an alternative, we’ll look at how Headless WordPress compares to traditional WordPress and how it can make your development more flexible.
As you will see, the most obvious difference between the two is their complexity. In most cases, WordPress requires very little coding experience. Conversely, to get the most out of headless WordPress, you will need to be knowledgeable about programming languages and frameworks.
Now that we’ve laid out your options, let’s take a deeper look at what separates Headless WordPress from traditional WordPress.
Traditional WordPress uses PHP to build the frontend of your website. It does this by dynamically producing visual HTML components based on the theme and content you input into WordPress’s interface.
All this becomes both the frontend and backend of your website. While PHP is fast and reliable, it limits your options. What if you want to build the frontend of your website using a different scripting language or framework for your website? That’s where headless WordPress comes in.
Headless WordPress takes frontend development out of the hands of WordPress. In other words, you are not limited to WordPress’s implementation of PHP to build the front end of your website. You can still use the WordPress dashboard, but you can just delegate it to generate the backend.
You can then employ a different framework for building the user interface of your website. This is why it’s called “headless” because you’re still using WordPress’ “body” for your website, but you’re using a different tool for its “face”. So, you are only using WordPress’ dashboard for data, not aesthetics.
You use these tools for the front end and then fetch your data using the REST Application Programming Interface (API) of WordPress. Normally when we use headless WordPress, the frontend and backend will be located on different servers. WordPress’s REST API facilitates communication between these servers – ie between the head and the body.
It saves you having to write and host your own backend. Sure, you can pay a developer to do it, but in most cases it will be more expensive. You can expect to pay a backend developer at least $60 per hour, which can be expensive for large projects. Using WordPress’ dashboard gives you more control, and can be used by novice and experienced developers alike.
Each development environment is different and thus has different configuration requirements. In most cases, you will need to create a new instance of your WordPress website and connect a database on the framework’s IDE. Then you have to configure the WordPress API from the dashboard.
Fortunately, most frameworks provide tutorials to help you get started. Some of the most popular framework options for the frontend include:
So how does Headless compare to traditional WordPress? To make it easier to understand, let’s discuss the pros and cons of each:
A variety of out-of-the-box solutions: If you decide to stick to traditional WordPress then you have access to the entire WordPress ecosystem. It includes all available plugins, shortcodes, sliders, galleries and themes. They are all thoroughly tested and guaranteed.
rapid development:Easy to use traditional WordPress. All of its visual components are provided to you through a wizard-like interface. Plus, there are plenty of resources out there to help you get the most out of traditional WordPress. You don’t need to create your own theme from the beginning. You can buy them or use WordPress’s long list of free themes. These elements allow you to develop vision-rich websites quickly.
WYSIWYG Experience: With the WordPress visual editor, you can see how your website will look on the fly. Additionally, you decide to purchase an add-on like Elementor or WP Bakery to visualize your design.
Limited to the mechanics of WordPress: While WordPress provides you with an impressive toolbox, it can be restrictive if not used properly. For example, it is nearly impossible to build a more dynamic project, such as a progressive web application.
compartmentalizationHeadless: The main advantage of WordPress is that it allows you to use WordPress as your backend and third party solutions as your frontend. They can work independently but integrate with each other. If anything goes wrong, it’s easy to troubleshoot which component is at fault.
Multifaceted talentHeadless: WordPress gives you a greater variety of tools to build more functional websites and apps. For example, you can implement a framework like Gatsby to fast static web pages. Additionally, you can work with third-party integrated development environments (IDEs) to build more specialized web apps.
more sophisticated controlsHeadless WordPress gives you more control over the presentation of your project. This gives you more frontend customization as you have more options for your layout and component positioning.
More content publishing optionsHeadless: WordPress enables cross-platform publishing, which means you are not limited to web applications. For example, you can use the WordPress API to build desktop and/or phone applications.
less user friendlyThe main advantage of traditional WordPress is its ease of use. You can delegate your WordPress project to another content developer or client, and it will be easy enough for them to understand how it works. However, collaborating on headless WordPress projects can be tough (especially for non-developers). Working between your frontend framework and WordPress backend often requires time and effort, especially if you have to study up on frameworks like Angular and React. If you are going to use headless WordPress, it would be best to document your development process.
too expensiveHeadless WordPress: Implementing headless WordPress can be more expensive than traditional WordPress. You will often have to pay for the frontend API/framework, development environment and WordPress’s dashboard/API.
Now that we understand what headless WordPress is, let’s explore what tools are available to you. The options below will include both frameworks and plugins. These tools should make your headless WordPress development experience run more smoothly. Before we begin, it is important to note that each development environment is different, and thus each will require its own unique configuration.
Ultimately, the success of your headless WordPress project will depend on what framework you use to build your front end. Each framework differs in functionality and accessibility. You will notice that we have briefly mentioned some of them in the above guide. Again, if you plan to do everything yourself, you won’t be stuck. Each framework provides you with a pack of tutorials. Additionally, they have thriving online communities that you can visit if you ever get stuck.
Choosing the right framework is important. But to emphasize once again, headless WordPress development is no easy task. However, you can make things easier for yourself by adding a plugin or two to make things easier for you. Here are some of the best.
WordPress is an amazing CMS, so it’s no surprise why it has such a huge market share. Still, sometimes, you just need a little more flexibility. While headless WordPress offers more flexibility and scalability, it may be overkill for simple projects. So before you start shopping around for frameworks, make sure you thoroughly research all the plugins available to you. When you’re sure you’ve reached the limits of WordPress, you should consider going the headless route.
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