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In contrast to traditional CMS’s, Headless CMS’s don’t require things like running database servers or control panel software. We built ActionSpec to run on Hugo, which is a headless CMS.

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Understanding Content Management Systems

To understand what a Headless CMS is, we first need to understand what a regular CMS is. A CMS is a “Content Management System.” A CMS is a software platform that runs on a web server that allows users to build and manage a website without creating an entire system from scratch. A website usually consists of layouts, images, video, and other assets that comprise a complete website like the one you are viewing now.

Traditional CMS’s include:

  • WordPress
  • Joomla
  • Drupal
  • ExpressionEngine

The platforms mentioned above are traditional in that they must run on the server all the time and often have dependencies like databases and file storage. However, the CMS platforms mentioned previously also run best on legacy architecture (think commodity web hosting and cPanel) and don’t scale well under load.

Traditional CMS-powered websites take up a lot of idle processing power, which equates to wasted electricity. At scale, WordPress sites with low traffic (about 2/3rds of all WordPress sites deployed globally) have a large footprint of wasted energy.

Headless CMS’s Are Faster And More Environmentally Friendly

In contrast to traditional CMS’s, Headless CMS’s don’t require things like running database servers or control panel software. We built ActionSpec to run on Hugo, which is a headless CMS. Instead of storing all our content in a database, the content itself resides in our source repository. When we change a file or add a post, it’s committed to the source repository, and then the site is re-deployed with the updated content. Once redeployed, the site becomes static HTML. Three are still dynamic functions like mailing list signup forms and our quote request buttons, but the entirety of the site runs on static files. Static files are, and will always be, orders of magnitude more performant, secure, and reliable than a traditional CMS.

Headless CMS Use Cases

Today, most websites deployed on the internet serve as a place to collect email addresses for a mailing list, help customers get in touch with you, display a dinner menu, or display other kinds of information. Many people who need to get a website up quickly often turn to something like WordPress, but using WordPress is usually overkill for 2/3rds of the use cases like the ones I mentioned before. Instead, you can get the same results with a fraction of the hosting costs, better security, and better performance by using something like Hugo paired with Cloudflare pages (a free static file hosting deployed globally).

Here is a list of Headless CMS’s found on jamstack.org:

Some headless CMS’s build from static files; others are API driven, but the result is the same - it’s a much simpler, performant, and secure solution than traditional CMS’s. We build all our client projects on Hugo since that is what we run here at ActionSpec for all the reasons mentioned in this article.