Why headless cms over monolithic cms?

Learn why a headless CMS is the smart switch from traditional monolithic systems, offering unmatched flexibility for your multi-platform content needs.

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Diego Salinas GardonFeb 2, 2024
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Hey there! So you're thinking about hopping on the headless CMS train? With so many great options like Contentful, Strapi, Storyblok, and Contentstack, it's like being a kid in a candy store. But how do you pick the right one? Let's break it down in a way that's easy to digest.

What is Monolithic CMS?

A monolithic CMS is a content management system with tightly coupled front and back-end. In this monolithic architecture, content creation, management, and delivery are all part of a single, unified platform.


  • Quick to set up; offers a straightforward user interface for content management.
  • Ideal for small projects and traditional commerce platforms that don't require complex integrations.


  • Lack of flexibility in integrating with multiple platforms.
  • Scalability issues, particularly for eCommerce platforms need to adapt quickly.
  • Not well-suited for an omnichannel approach to customer experience.

What is headless CMS?

Headless CMS is a content management system that decouples the front-end from the back-end. This headless architecture allows for greater flexibility in content delivery across multiple platforms, including headless eCommerce platforms.


  • Flexibility in content delivery, allowing for a more customized user experience.
  • Scalability, making it easier to adapt to growing ecommerce needs.
  • Facilitates a composable architecture, allowing businesses to pick and choose different services for a composable commerce solution.


  • May require more initial setup.
  • Could be overkill for simple, brochure-like websites.

Headless vs Monolithic CMS

CriteriaHeadless CMSMonolithic CMS
FlexibilityOffers unparalleled flexibility, especially in headless eCommerce. Allows for free frontend choice, whether it's a progressive web app or another user interface.Limited flexibility due to tightly coupled frontend and backend. Restricted choice of front-end and less freedom in design.
ScalabilityDesigned to scale to meet the demands of modern eCommerce. Enhances core web vitals and user experience.Struggles to scale, especially for growing eCommerce platforms. Can negatively affect core web vitals and user experience.
Future-proofingAdaptable to future technologies without requiring significant overhauls. Headless commerce architecture can easily integrate new technologies.May require significant overhauls to adapt to new technologies. Less adaptable to future changes.
Ease of IntegrationFacilitates easy integration with various backend services and APIs, enhancing the omnichannel approach.Integration with other services and APIs can be cumbersome due to the monolithic architecture.
Content DeliveryEnables seamless content delivery across multiple platforms, improving the digital experience.Limited to content delivery on the platform itself, which may only be optimized for some user interfaces.

When to choose a headless CMS?

Monolithic CMS is generally self-contained, which may not be the best choice for projects requiring integration with multiple external services or platforms.

However, a monolithic solution could be more straightforward if your project doesn't require such integrations. But if you’re looking for more, headless is the way to go. Let’s dig deeper.

  • When you’re building large, complex projects: Headless CMS is designed for scalability and flexibility, making it a better fit for larger, more complex projects. This is especially true for headless eCommerce platforms that must adapt and grow.
  • When you need multi-platform integration: The decoupled architecture of a headless CMS makes it easier to integrate with multiple platforms, whether they are eCommerce solutions, progressive web Apps, or other third-party services.
  • When you need high scalability and flexibility: A headless CMS is likely the better choice if your project requires high scalability and flexibility, especially regarding frontend development and third-party integrations

What to keep in mind when picking a headless CMS: A friendly guide

What do you really need?

First, let's talk about what you're trying to achieve. Gather your team—the marketers, content creators, and tech wizards—and ask them what they're missing in your current setup. Create a wishlist of must-haves and nice-to-haves. This will be your roadmap to finding the CMS that fits like a glove.

📝 Pro Tip: Divide your wishlist into "unique needs" and "must-haves." Unique needs are specific to your business, like if you need your content in multiple languages. Must-haves are the non-negotiables, like media editing tools, if you're big on multimedia.

User-friendly or developer-friendly? Why not both?

Headless CMSs are often a developer's playground, but what about the rest of the team? You'll want a platform that's intuitive for everyone. The great news is that most vendors offer demo accounts. So go ahead, take it for a spin! Let everyone on your team test-drive the demo to see if it meets their needs.

Can you add more bells and whistles later?

Some headless CMSs are like LEGO sets; you can keep adding on. If you have complex or unique needs—like managing Shopify products right where you're crafting content—an open-source option like Strapi might be your best bet.

Will it play nice with your tech stack?

Before swiping that corporate card, ensure the CMS fits seamlessly into your existing tech landscape. Check the vendor's documentation for supported software development kits (SDKs) to see if they vibe with your tech stack. Trust me, you want to avoid having to build everything from scratch or hire new talent just to keep things running smoothly.

Budget: the elephant in the room

Let's talk money. Know how much you're willing to invest in a CMS. While it's tempting to want a CMS that can do it all, sometimes you've got to stick to the essentials if you're on a budget. Most CMSs offer tiered pricing, so prioritize the features that are absolutely critical for your team.

A little help from your friends (or vendors)

Even the best of us need a little help sometimes. Make sure the CMS you're eyeing has solid customer support. Look for email and phone support, a robust knowledge base, and a vibrant user community. The more resources, the better!

Wrapping it up: Your roadmap to CMS happiness

So there you have it, folks! Choosing the right headless CMS doesn't have to be like finding a needle in a haystack. Just remember these key takeaways:

  • Know your needs: Involve your whole team to figure out your must-haves and unique needs. User-friendliness is key: Make sure the CMS is a joy for both tech gurus and non-techies alike. Future-proof your choice: Look for a CMS that can grow with you and adapt to your ever-changing needs.
  • Tech compatibility: Double-check that the CMS plays well with your existing tech stack. Budget wisely: Prioritize essential features if you're on a budget, but know what you're willing to invest.
  • Support matters: A good CMS should have a strong support system, both in terms of customer service and a community of users.

And hey, if you're looking for a headless CMS that ticks all these boxes, why not give Contentrain a spin? It's a Git-based headless CMS that's as flexible as a gymnast and as user-friendly as your favorite barista. So take Contentrain for a test drive and see how it can make your content management a walk in the park.

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Diego Salinas GardonTechnical Content Writer

Diego crafts detailed content that aligns about the Headless CMS ecosystem and complex technical articles.