Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

What is headless wordpress and how to use it

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.

If you are not comfortable with programming and markup languages ​​such as HTML, CSS or JavaScript, you may find that hiring a professional developer is more worthwhile. If you plan on building powerful applets and web services, you may need someone who has experience with multiparadigm programming languages ​​like C# and hardcore Java.

Now that we’ve laid out your options, let’s take a deeper look at what separates Headless WordPress from traditional WordPress.

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.

How Headless WordPress is Different

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.

Headless WordPress makes for a more versatile content management system (CMS). It also gives users more options for web development. For example, you can implement a JavaScript-based framework like Angular, Vue or React. Or, you can choose to implement a separate PHP framework such as Laravel, CodeIgniter, or Symfony.

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:

  • Feedback
  • Angular
  • vue.js
  • ember.js
  • jQuery
  • Semantic-UI
  • foundation

Comparison of Traditional vs. Headless

So how does Headless compare to traditional WordPress? To make it easier to understand, let’s discuss the pros and cons of each:

Advantages of Traditional WordPress

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.

Disadvantages of Traditional WordPress

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.

Advantages of Headless WordPress

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.

Disadvantages of Headless WordPress

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.

headless wordpress solutions

headless wordpress solutions

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.

Best Framework for Headless WordPress

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.

  • React JS: React Meta (FKA Facebook) is an open-source front-end JavaScript library. It allows you to create visually rich interactive user interfaces. Due to its association with Meta, it is extremely popular at the moment.
  • AngularJS: Angular JS is an open-source JavaScript framework primarily geared towards building single-page web applications. This is a great alternative to React. Google currently maintains it.
  • Vue.js: Vue.js is an open-source JavaScript framework for creating user interfaces. What sets Vue.js apart from other frameworks is its Model-View-Model (MVVM) architecture and robust templating.
  • Gatsby JS: Gatsby is a static web page and site generator. Gatsby differs from traditional frameworks and methods in that it creates sites that do not require data sources. This makes these web pages load faster. However, you build Gatsby on top of a CMS like WordPress.
  • jQuery: You can’t compile a list of JavaScript frameworks and libraries without mentioning jQuery. It’s been around since 2006 and was originally created to make JavaScript web development more understandable. At present, it is still the most widely used JavaScript library on the market. For headless WordPress development, you will only need its UI library.
  • Foundations: CSS has come a long way. These days, you can build an entire webpage built primarily from CSS and HTML. The Foundation works on this principle. It provides templates and grids to help you create HTML and CSS-based front-ends. Additionally, it comes with JavaScript extensions in case you need them.
  • Faust.JS: Faust is a JavaScript framework specially built to help users build frontend GUIs for headless WordPress. It is built on Next.JS and uses GraphQL to retrieve the data. With Faust, you can render your site statically (SSR) or generate it server-side (SSG).

Best Plugins for Headless WordPress Development

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.

  • WP Gatsby: WP Gatsby enables you to use WordPress as a data source when you are using the Gatsby JS framework. This makes it easy to connect headless WordPress to Gatsby.
  • WPGraphQL: WPGraphQL is an alternative to WordPress’s implementation of the REST API. It essentially allows your frontend GUI to communicate with WordPress’s backend through a set of queries or commands.
  • Headless CMS: A plugin that extends the features of WordPress’ built-in headless API. It adds custom REST API endpoints, additional customization for widgets, image uploads for categories, etc. It can be used with WooCommerce and Gatsby.
  • FaustWP: A plugin that works in conjunction with the Faust.JS framework. This includes headless migration and facilitating communication between the WordPress backend and frontend.
  • Headless WP: A MiniOrange alternative to the Headless WP plugin. It makes the transition to headless WordPress very easy. You can easily disable WordPress front end and retrieve data from any WP tables or API endpoints.

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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