What is headless? Introduction to the topic
Headless defines not so much a specific technology as a method of creating web services and applications. It consists in separating the frontend, i.e. what the user sees, from the backend, i.e. the technical facilities responsible for the functioning of the system. This makes editing and adding additional options quicker and easier. Makes even complex information portals easily adaptable to changing needs, while maintaining fluidity and speed.
What is the headless method? Definition of technology
The standard model of any website consists of three basic parts:
Database, in which information is stored, e.g. about products, their prices, names, descriptions or presentation photographs.
Back-end, that is, the interior of the system, which interface is usually an administration panel. Supports the operation of all functionalities (ways of working) of the service and allows to manage it.
Front-end is the presentation layer of the system – what you see when you visit a given website. It presents processed information coming from the database. They are presented to the end user, e.g. The customer of a given online store.
Traditional approach assumes connection of front-end and back-end, while headless introduces independence of these layers. The main point of headless model is API technology, which is the link between front-end and back-end. It is responsible for the automation of processes, facilitates efficient modification, but sometimes also the daily management of the website or online store.
API – what it means?
The headless model is based on API technology. This abbreviation stands for “Application Programming Interface”.
API is a kind of “bridge” that allows you to connect different systems or databases and transfer information between them. More specifically, it is the connection between the frontend and the backend. Separates these two parts from each other, while allowing communication between them. Thanks to this, the whole thing is coherent and functional.
What such communication looks like? The process of processing and then transmitting the data consists of two stages.
1. All information from the “back-end” layer (database + back-end) is collected and then sent outside as raw data. They are most often in JSON (data exchange format) or XML (document exchange format).
2. In this way, uploaded data is then retrieved and displayed in accordance with the requirements of a particular platform. It can be a web application displayed in a web browser as well as a mobile application for smartphones and tablets. Often it is also software for any other device, e.g. TVs or smart devices.
API, at the exact moment it is required, sends information or data from the back office to any system that needs it. Thanks to this the whole process is automated. Individual devices can present content in a different way, adapted to their capabilities and limitations, because the content is not bound to any predefined structure.
Diagram illustrating the Headless approach
Headless vs. traditional website structure – the main differences
The main difference between the traditional model of CMS systems (e.g. The main difference between the traditional model (e.g. WordPress) and the headless version is that the classic approach assumes a tight connection between the frontend and the backend. Therefore, they have a predefined group of technologies that may be used to prepare the presentation layer.
Headless introduces full independence of these layers, so there is freedom in the choice of frontend technologies, which facilitates construction and later modification of the visual layer. At the same time it makes it possible to adjust the websites for optimal display on different devices, e.g. smartphones or tablets. The main difference between the traditional model of CMS systems (e.g. phones, tablets, laptops or even smart TV devices) and the headless version.
As a result, you can define a completely different look of e.g. online store on any device, and all this with the help of a single backend system. This has a significant impact on reducing the costs and time associated with building your omnichannel presence.
The most important advantages of the Headless CMS model
The main benefit of using the headless model is a greater potential for expansion and modification of the website. You can freely modify and expand its individual parts, without affecting the other layers of the portal, but also the other channels in which the service operates. Importantly, such editing is carried out with optimal efficiency, which was not possible with the traditional, monolithic way of operating. What other benefits stem from the introduction of the Headless model?
Headless makes it possible to customize e.g. Online stores for different sales channels and combining them harmoniously with each other.
Omnichannel requires flexibility, which is provided by m.in. separation of frontend and backend. Thanks to this all modifications as well as implementation of new sales channels become much easier. Moreover, it becomes possible to create customized front-end layers for each sales channel.
Fast content delivery
Headless technology also influences faster loading of the page, which evokes positive feelings of the customers. The speed of the system is guaranteed by two significant functions in the headless model.
– Using the API to download content means that resources are not shared.
– Using the browser memory to execute some scripts allows to reduce the number of queries directed to the database.
The speed of the platform also has an impact on its positioning, i.e. displaying it as high as possible in search engines. Within SEO, the main characteristic of headless is also important, which supports the design of solutions better suited to the devices on which the website is displayed. This has been especially important since Google announced its “mobile first” policy.
It is also worth mentioning that headless architecture provides greater security of stored information. Separation of frontend and backend layers makes the website user have no direct contact with the internal system. Moreover, in most cases, these parts are placed on different servers, which contributes to even better data protection.
UX – user experience
This is the impression the sales platform makes on customers. It is mainly about its functionality and aesthetics. In this case, all e-commerce activities (activities related to online marketing) will also be important. Thanks to the use of tools dedicated to the specifics of a given sales channel, high UX personalization is possible.
PWA and TWA – the answer to the needs of mobile sales
1. Headless PWA
PWA stands for Progressive Web Application. Thanks to this standard, applications are launched like regular websites, and at the same time their functioning resembles native (classic) applications.
Therefore, although the store looks like a regular website, it has the functions of an application, ie:
– allows to add the application icon on the home page of the device (e.g. phone screen),
– works in offline mode,
– uses built-in device functions (e.g. camera, location),
Besides, the PWA app retains all the features of a website and, importantly, it can be found as well as viewed from the browser (no need to download / install).
2. Headless TWA
And TWA technology stands for Trusted Web Activity. It is used to “pack” websites, based on PWA, into a special “container”. This provides many opportunities, including simplifying the process of adapting the sales platform to individual channels (online stores, social media) and media (devices – phone, laptop, etc.).
By using this functionality:
– we do not have to create a separate mobile application (we can use TWA and convert the website into an independent application),
– we optimize the costs of maintaining the website and mobile application (e.g. changing color on the website, it will automatically change in the application),
– we increase the comfort of customers and users (especially important if we have returning customers).
The application created in this way, using the TWA solution, can be successfully published in Google Play Store and from the user’s point of view, it becomes a mobile application with a friendly appearance of a traditional website.
Get to know new technologies and sell online more effectively
The future always holds a certain amount of uncertainty. The biggest challenge facing business owners is trying to anticipate it and prepare optimally for it. We can say that Headless is a tool that allows you to prepare to a large extent for the dynamic changes associated with the evolution of digital reality, as well as customer expectations.