Should I Invest in a Headless WordPress Site?

should i invest in a headless wordpress site?

Headless CMS websites are having their day in the sun. There has been a steady rise in interest over the years, with 68% more interest in 2022 alone compared to the year before. 

This means more business owners are turning to a headless CMS (often WordPress) as the best solution for them. And at Pixel Jar we agree that a headless WordPress website may be exactly what your business needs. 

But that doesn’t mean you should jump in blind. The unique nature of Headless WordPress means that there are several factors and potential pitfalls to consider before making the decision. 

What is Headless WordPress?

We’ve spoken before about Headless WordPress and its incredible potential for businesses – check out that post for more information!

As a quick reminder, a headless WordPress website is when you decouple the frontend from the backend. This means that they are no longer dependent on each other like they are with a traditional monolithic setup.

This provides more flexibility – allowing you to embrace new technologies and push your content to different platforms – and can also heighten your website’s security. Most importantly of all, it provides far superior speed and performance, which is the main reason why businesses are increasingly choosing to go down the headless route. 

If you’re considering a headless website build, you likely already know this and the undeniable potential of this approach might have you fired up to get started. But before you take the leap, there are some points you should keep in mind to ensure the reality lives up to expectation. 

The Cost vs. Benefit Ratio of Headless WordPress

Building a headless WordPress website is more expensive than its traditional counterpart. And it’s essential that anyone considering this option is aware of the costs involved before setting out. Yes, there are one or two areas where the cost of a headless CMS may be cheaper. For example, static files are less expensive to host. Overall, the build is going to be more expensive. Why is this?

It all comes down to the complexity of the build and the level of expertise needed to carry it out. A normal WordPress website can theoretically be built by anyone without any knowledge of coding. A headless WordPress site will need multiple developers who are capable of building and maintaining a front and backend, and have deep knowledge of JavaScript. 

What’s more, the price difference is not insignificant, with Headless WordPress costing two or three times as much as a normal build.

Now, the ROI that you can get from going with the headless option can mean it’s worth this extra expense. Recent studies show that a website that takes one second to load has a conversion rate that’s three-times higher than a five-second load. This should generate more income but in an ecommerce context, maximizing conversions has a marked impact on revenue. 

That’s why you should look at the cost vs. benefit ratio of a headless WordPress site before you begin a project. 

Headless WordPress Requires Ongoing Technical Expertise

Whenever dedicated frontend developers add a new frontend experience to your website, you are increasing the structural complexity of your website. What’s more, because the website build itself is more complex, the upkeep and maintenance becomes more difficult. 

While it’s true that all websites need regular maintenance, it’s possible to take care of the majority yourself. With a headless WordPress website, that’s not the case and you will need to invest in ongoing support.

This is compounded by the fact that any changes you want to make will require a developer. With a monolithic setup, you can simply add plugins to gain access to new features or enhance existing ones. It just takes a few clicks and you’re ready to go. When it comes to a headless CMS, however, any new additions need to be custom built by a professional to work as intended.

Who Should Consider a Headless WordPress? 

The purpose of this post isn’t to turn you off investing in a headless WordPress website. As we said, we are fans of this approach and believe that it holds immense value for businesses. Instead, we want to set expectations and ensure that it is the right option for your specific situation. 

So, that leads to the question… Who is Headless WordPress good for? Well, it’s perfect for you if: 

Speed and Performance is Important to You

Headless WordPress websites perform a lot better than their monolithic counterparts. By controlling the entire frontend code, you are not forced to load dozens of scripts from plugins that might not be used on every page. You can optimize your code to be delivered using today’s best practices. By requesting fewer scripts and styles on the website, there will be fewer connections to the end user’s browser resulting in faster loading times.

This isn’t the only way that headless WordPress websites improve speed. If someone is accessing your website from a significant physical distance from your server (say it’s based in California and you have a visitor from the UK), there can be a noticeable decrease in the time it takes for your website to load. For anyone with a business that has target markets around the world, this can be an issue. 

However, it’s one that can be overcome easily with a headless WordPress website. Since the frontend and backend are decoupled, you need an API such as WPGraphQL so they can talk to each other. By using a well-configured content delivery network (CDN), you can drastically improve the API response times, while reducing latency. 

While CDNs are valuable assets for monolithic websites, they only serve their static assets more quickly, such as images, CSS, and JavaScript files. The site’s rendering still needs to be handled by the origin server, which can take valuable time. 

When building a headless website, the entire frontend can be pushed to the network edges around the world. This means that every part of your frontend can be static and load instantly no matter where you’re located. The content to fill the markup of the site is then requested via an API call. Since this is a smaller set of data, it can be returned faster than a fully rendered page from a monolithic CMS. 

You Plan on Scaling Your Business in the Future

Headless WordPress is much more flexible than a traditional one, which means it’s more future proof and easier to scale. Although you may initially invest in a headless CMS for performance reasons, as your business grows, other benefits become clear. 

Say, for example, your business goes through a growth phase. You need to deliver more widespread, omnichannel marketing messages at scale. With a traditional CMS, this will represent a number of challenges and roadblocks. This will likely result in a need to update legacy systems or invest in new hardware. 

With a headless WordPress site, however, you can achieve personalization at scale. Also you’re leveragingthe same platform you normally use. In other words, by using a headless CMS on your main channels, your developers are better able to expand to additional channels as your company grows. 

You Are Concerned About Security

For small businesses in particular, website security is a big deal. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cybercrime increased to 600% with 43% of the attacks aimed at small businesses. To make matters worse, an estimated 70% of small businesses are unprepared to deal with an attack. The fallout from a large attack can be hugely detrimental for small businesses. Forcing many to close their doors for good. 

When built and maintained properly, traditional WordPress websites are strong and very resilient to attacks. But it’s also true that decoupled setups further minimize the risk to your content and your visitors’ data. 

This is because your content is housed in a location that is entirely separate from your frontend delivery that people interact with. Making it less exposed or at risk of being exploited by third-party application issues. 

Still Not Sure if Headless WordPress is Right For You?  

At the end of the day, your website is the sales platform you rely on most. By offering visitors a faster and more streamlined experience, you maximize your chances of standing out from the competition and achieving long-term growth. 

But choosing Headless WordPress is a big decision and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The scalability, flexibility, security, and, above all, performance that it offers needs to be weighed against the resources you have available and your specific business needs. 

If you aren’t sure, or need help to build your headless site reach out to us for more information. We always offer direct, impartial advice that helps you make the right decision for your context.

Written by the Team at Pixel Jar

We hope you got something useful out of that post. If you'd like to read more we have an active blog with topics across the spectrum of website development. If you're researching information for a project we'd love to talk to you about it.

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