WP Engine announced Atlas, its new headless WordPress product line. WP Engine’s Atlas is a complete headless WordPress platform, enabling exponentially faster dynamic sites with the flexibility and security that comes with headless solutions.

According to Umbraco, two thirds of agencies tasked with developing websites and other digital content platforms use headless content management systems (CMS) regularly. Headless WordPress sites have become increasing popular among the WordPress development community. Decoupling WordPress from the presentation layer allows much greater flexibility in building unique applications across a variety of devices.

What is a headless CMS WordPress site?

I first heard about Headless WordPress sites from Torque many months ago. WordPress has always had the potential to be a “do-it-all” content management system. Yet, there were some limitations. Now, the limitations have are gone so you can let your imagination fly. With the introduction of the WordPress REST API, you can create almost anything.

Torque mention one of the best benefits of a headless WordPress site: improved security.

The decoupling of WordPress can also improve security, especially if you have your website and WordPress admin on different servers and domains.–Torque.io

Website security has become one of the major issues over the past 5 years. Many times, WordPress vulnerabilities are not with the platform itself, but the plugins and installed themes. Traditional WordPress installs don’t allow you to have a separate server for the front end and back end.

Headless CMS’ allow you to move the back end to any server and generate a front end on another server. Beautifully designed security right? For businesses where security is a major issue, until recently WordPress as a CMS was not viable. Think HIPPA compliant websites that collect a ton of user sensitive data.

How do you get a headless WordPress site?

WordPress has been hard at work on it’s REST API, which allows you to connect to content with a variety of programming languages. The API can be extended with custom plugins to tap into the custom data.

WordPress’s front and back end are built with PHP. Decoupling the front-end from the back end takes a skilled developer. WP Engine’s Atlas is built with Node.js, so some of the development work has been done for you. If you want a DIY, there are also suggestions by some on learning React.JS for WordPress.

I have even read where you use Gatsby as a front end for headless content management systems. The options are endless to how you can build your front end.

Developers are no longer are forced to learn PHP, but can use their favorite programming languages to build modern responsive platforms for anything.

Is a Headless CMS Right For Everyone?

A headless Content Management System is an excellent choice for websites that want to present content on multiple platforms or devices. The main reasons to use a headless CMS are:

  1. Provide automated updates
  2. Easier content updates
  3. Faster retrieval of content
  4. Use a variety of languages
  5. Automate publishing content across marketing channels
  6. Create for standard web, mobile, displays, and Alternative Reality/Virtual Reality

I suggest you read the articles by Torque and Smashing Magazine. Both will give you a list of reasons why you should not use a headless CMS. At one point, I have considered a headless WordPress site. But, the process of cutting ties with the front end was a pain. It’s not as cut and dry as some people make it seem. Maintenance is one of the major reasons not to use a headless CMS. You need to be technically savvy and know how use a variety of programming languages. I update websites at least 1-2 times per week, so the maintenance issue is a big problem. You are on your own with any updates, changes in programming languages, and even the core code. Really, it boils down to time.

If you want a headless CMS site, check out WP Engine’s Atlas. At the time of writing this, WP Engine did not have any pricing available online.

Other Headless CMS

Smashing Magazine has a great article on creating a headless site using React.JS and GraphCMS. If you love React.JS and want a flexible content management system, then the article may be right for you. For me, I don’t want to learn another programming language. I look at React and stare into the crazy stars. But, WordPress itself is moving towards a JavaScript back end, with the block editor.

List of Open Source Headless CMS (Potential To Be Headless)

  • Umbraco -built on .NET
  • WordPress -built on PHP/JavaScript
  • Help me out. This list is incomplete. Let’s keep the conversation going! Please use the form below so I can connect with you on Twitter.


I am all about having a content management system as a one shop stop. It’s my belief that every piece of content you generate should have a strong basis in your business’s website. Social media platforms can change their algorithms or drop a service at anytime. But, your website remains the most important centerpiece of your marketing strategy.

Having one central location to create content, push it to social media or mobile app, makes digital marketing easier. A headless CMS can also reduce the number of dependencies on external marketing and publishing tools. You can coordinate and have content producers coordinate from one platform -yours. Collaboration allows you to control your marketing messages efficiently. In my opinion, content management systems will help make content marketing easier within the next 3-5 years.

Jodie provides auditing, restructuring and building PPC campaigns for nonprofits. She focuses on driving awareness to content, events, and important areas of your nonprofit organization's website. In her spare time, she loves baking awesome cookies, reading, and learning new tech topics! What question is she pondering at the moment: Are Hexa- chocolate (5 types of chocolate) chip chunk cookies, too decadent?