The Benefits of Headless WordPress

December 5, 2017
Headless WordPress

Recently, I had the opportunity to check out the 2nd Annual WP-Engine Marketing Summit for Digital Innovators in Austin, TX. (WP equals WordPress, an open-source content management system for those not in the know). If you build WordPress websites and use WP-Engine as your host, this is an annual event that you don’t want to miss.

As a Web Developer and Manager at ROI·DNA, the session that really stood out to me was “Headless WordPress Innovation” by Phil Crumm, Director of Strategy at 10up, and Weston Ruter, CTO at WXP. Headless WordPress allows you to use WordPress as the CMS (Content Management System) for your Web/Mobile App, without building a WordPress theme or page template. This is accomplished by using the WordPress REST API to grab data from the WordPress install of your web/mobile app and display it on another front-end tool, like a JavaScript framework.

I’ve worked with WordPress for over a decade, and my first thought was “why in the world would anyone want to do this? It seems needlessly complicated.” Then I started thinking about my awful experiences developing in PHP frameworks and having to build CMS’ for web apps, and then it made perfect sense.

While WordPress is very flexible and a great option for a lot of website builds, there are plenty of cases where it’s not the ideal choice. Case in point, if you’re building a site for a SaaS (Software as a Service), or an online community app, you’ll more than likely need to build your own CMS from the ground up using a back-end framework. And as a lot of us have time and budget constraints (unless you’re lucky enough to have a UX designer wire framing out the CMS architecture for you), the CMS design and build up may be left to the development team, ugh… not a good idea.

If you’re following me, you can imagine that months go by and the dev team has been chugging away at the CMS build. It finally gets to the stage where you can pass the management system off to the internal stakeholders to demo—and… you’re likely to be met by blank stares. The CMS may “work,” but it’s incredibly clumsy to navigate and completely and utterly non-intuitive. Months have now passed and you now need to hire an expensive UI/UX pro to dig you out of your mess. The scenario outlined above is precisely why Headless WordPress is the wave of the future for web and app development.

With the introduction of the WordPress REST API, scenarios like the one described above will be a thing of the past. You can save time. Your clients save money. And, your front- and back-end developers can get back to focusing on their areas of expertise (and heck, might even have time for a beer with their team at the end of the day).

Interested in learning more about Headless WordPress, check out this tutorial:

Want to see it in action? Go here or here.

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