The ultimate Headless CMS Glossary

Whether you’re a beginner in the industry or trying to stay up to date with the latest terms, Contentrain’s headless CMS glossary will help you make sense of all the jargon and buzzwords thrown your way.


Eleventy (otherwise known as 11ty) is a static site generator used for building websites. Developers using 11ty can work with a number of different templating languages, including HTML, Markdown, JavaScript, Liquid, and others. Eleventy uses independent template languages and offers a lot of flexibility for developers who use it.


Angular is a TypeScript-based frontend development framework. Developed by Google, Angular’s component-based framework is used for building scalable web applications. It also includes a collection of libraries and a suite of developer tools that enable developers to build, test, and update code.


An application programming interface (API) is a set of protocols that enable software applications to communicate with each other. By using an API, systems can share data and functionality. For example, a headless CMS uses an API to deliver content from the CMS backend to websites, digital kiosks, AR/VR devices, and other interfaces. APIs also enable a headless CMS to pull data from an eCommerce platform or CRM that is also part of the technology stack. The most common API types in the headless CMS industry include REST or RESTful APIs and GraphQL.

API-first CMS

An API-first or API-driven CMS is a content management system that separates the frontend presentation layer from the backend content management layer. This allows the CMS to deliver content to any digital channel whether a website, mobile app, or something else. API-first CMS is often used interchangeably with headless CMS, but not all headless CMSs are API-first. The difference is that an API-first CMS takes an API-first approach. In this regard, APIs are designed and implemented first to ensure interoperability and integration between different systems that the CMS will connect to before worrying about the user interface that marketers and developers need to use when working with the CMS.

Content Delivery

Content delivery is how content is published to a particular medium. It is how content is distributed to a digital channel such as a web application. Content delivery works by distributing content (e.g., the pages on a website) to a server, and when a visitor requests a page, identifying the closest server to the user and sending them the content they requested. Companies rely on content delivery networks (CDNs) to cache or store content at a particular location so that when requests come from a visitor close to that geographical area, content can be delivered faster and more efficiently.

Content Editor

A content editor in the context of a CMS is where users create, edit, and manage content before sending it to publication. Here, content teams can edit text, embed images, videos, and more. Modern content editors feature WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) and drag-and-drop functionality to make the process easier for content teams.

Content Modeling

Content modeling is a process for creating a structure, taxonomy, and relationships for any content created within the CMS. Content modeling requires teams to define content types, attributes, and how they relate to each other. For example, when using a headless CMS, some content types could include blog articles, product pages, and event pages. Part of the content modeling process would involve defining the attributes such as title, body, and date for articles or title and description for product pages.

Content Repository

A content repository is the backend location where content is stored within the CMS. It contains the text, images, and other assets, which are then accessed to create content that gets presented to the user on the frontend.

Content Versioning

Content versioning is a capability for tracking and managing different versions of content. A feature common among Git-based CMSs, content versioning allows organizations to revert to a previous version of content. For example, suppose an updated blog post is published and contains an error or accidentally deletes a key piece of information. In that case, the content team can use content versioning to return to the last accepted version.

Decoupled CMS

Another term to describe a headless CMS, a decoupled CMS separates the backend content management capabilities from the frontend presentation layer. This separation or decoupling allows content to be delivered to any channel and offers increased flexibility, security and scalability benefits. A decoupled CMS differs from a coupled or traditional CMS, which tightly couples the frontend and backend layers together.

Digital Asset Management (DAM)

Digital asset management refers to the system for managing, organizing, and distributing digital assets like images, videos, and documents. DAM systems are important due to the large volume of content assets that enterprise companies usually need to store and organize. Some CMSs have embedded DAM systems, but companies can also use a dedicated DAM system and connect it to a headless CMS using APIs.

Digital Experience Platform (DXP)

A digital experience platform (DXP) is an integrated set of technologies that enables companies to create, manage, deliver, and optimize digital experiences. The capabilities that make up a DXP often include content management, commerce, personalization, analytics, and others. The DXP evolved from the content management system, and most DXPs have a headless CMS as the centerpiece of the system, orchestrating content to be delivered to various digital touchpoints.


Gatsby is a React-based open-source framework and static site generator. Gatsby is a key component of the Jamstack movement and is used by developers to spin up highly performant, fast, and secure websites.


Git is a version control system that tracks changes in source code during software development. It allows multiple contributors to work on the same project simultaneously and is often used by developers to collaborate.

Git-based CMS

A Git-based or Git CMS is a content management system that uses Git for version control. In a Git-based CMS, content is stored as files in Git. By working with content in this way, content teams can track changes, collaborate more easily, and roll back to previous versions of content as required. For example, Contentrain is a Git-based CMS that uses Git branches that can help increase productivity and roll back to earlier versions of content as necessary.


GraphQL is a querying language for APIs that allows clients to request only the data they need. Created by Facebook (Meta), GraphQL is thought to be a more flexible and efficient alternative to RESTful APIs, as developers can request specific fields and avoid over-fetching.


Gridsome is a Vue.js-based static site generator that developers can use to build fast and scalable websites.

Headless CMS

A headless CMS is a backend-only content management system that enables content to be delivered anywhere it is needed. By separating the backend content repository layer from the frontend presentation layer, or the head, a headless CMS offers flexibility in where content is published. The frontend and backend are connected using APIs, which are also used to connect to different digital touchpoints, including VR headsets, in-store digital kiosks, smartwatches, and more. With a headless CMS, developers are not restricted by certain templates and frameworks and can instead use the technologies they want to create the frontend. For example, Contentrain is a headless CMS that is framework agnostic and works with any JavaScript frontend framework.

Headless Commerce

Headless commerce refers to the separation of the backend eCommerce platform from the frontend presentation layer. Like a headless CMS, it enables flexibility in delivering eCommerce experiences on various devices and channels. For example, through headless commerce, a company could connect a headless CMS to create content for a version of their eCommerce website for a mobile app.


Hugo is an open-source static site generator that can be used to build websites that offer speed and flexibility.

Hybrid CMS

A hybrid CMS is a content management system that combines the capabilities of a headless CMS with those of a traditional CMS. It offers the flexibility of a headless CMS, enabling content to be delivered to different channels. However, it also provides the user-friendly interface and content editing capabilities of a traditional CMS like WordPress so that marketers can easily create and manage content.


Internationalization, often abbreviated as i18n, is the process of adapting a website or application to support multiple languages and cultural preferences. A headless CMS with i18n capabilities, like Contentrain, allows content to be translated and delivered in multiple languages to serve a global audience.


Jamstack (sometimes stylized as JAMstack) is a modern web development architecture that is used to build fast and scalable web applications. Jamstack was coined as a term by Netlify co-founder Matt Biilmann in 2015 and the “Jam” portion of the acronym refers to JavaScript, APIs, and Markup languages.
The core principles of Jamstack are pre-rendering and decoupling, whereby the entire front end is prebuilt into highly optimized static pages and assets during a build process. Such sites can be served directly from a CDN. Jamstack decouples the frontend from the backend and relies on APIs to deliver dynamic functionality and services. A headless CMS is a common component of a Jamstack architecture, providing content via APIs as well.


JavaScript is a popular programming language and is used in web development to create dynamic and interactive web applications. It is one of the core technologies of the web and is often used to build the frontend of a headless CMS-powered website, allowing for interactive user experiences. Popular JavaScript frameworks include React.js, Vue.js, Next.js, Node.js, and others.


Jekyll is an open-source static site generator that converts Markdown, Liquid, HTML & CSS into static sites.


MACH is an acronym that stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless. It is a modern architectural approach that emphasizes creating flexible and scalable digital experiences.
  1. Microservices: Individual software applications that are independently developed, deployed, and managed and serve a single function.
  2. API-first: APIs connect the different applications in the system so that they can share data and communicate. 
  3. Cloud-native: The cloud stores and hosts SaaS applications, providing elastic scalability and removing the need for manual upgrades.
  4. Headless: The frontend and backend of the software tools within a MACH architecture are separated to allow for the development of custom user interfaces and connections to different channels and devices.


Markdown is a lightweight markup language used to format plain text documents. It is often used for creating content that can be easily converted to HTML. Content creators can use Markdown in Contentrain to write and format content, which can be rendered as HTML and displayed on a website.


Next.js is a React-based framework for building server-side rendered applications that was developed by Vercel.


Nuxt.js is a Vue-based framework for building server-side rendered applications.


React is a JavaScript library for building user interfaces.


REST (Representational State Transfer) is an architectural style for designing networked applications. A REST API defines a set of rules for making requests and exchanging data over HTTP. Headless CMSs like Contentrain provide content through a RESTful API, allowing developers to retrieve content as data from the CMS backend and display it on different channels.


Serverless computing is a cloud computing model where the cloud provider manages the infrastructure, so that IT teams can focus solely on writing code. It is often used for deploying serverless functions.

Static Site Generator (SSG)

A static site generator is a tool that generates static HTML files from templates and content. SSGs such as Hugo, Jekyll, and Gatsby are often used with a headless CMS like Contentrain to create fast-loading static websites and take advantage of Jamstack.

Traditional CMS

A traditional CMS is a content management system with tightly coupled front and backend. It combines content creation, storage, and presentation within a single platform and can be used to publish content to one channel like a website. WordPress is a popular traditional CMS.


TypeScript is a statically typed superset of JavaScript developed by Microsoft that provides enhanced tooling and type checking. TypeScript adds additional syntax to JavaScript to support a tighter integration with code editors.


Vue.js is a progressive JavaScript framework for building user interfaces.


Webhooks are HTTP callbacks or endpoints that allow applications to send real-time information or trigger actions in other systems. They are used for event-driven communication. For example, in a headless CMS, webhooks can be used to notify external services or trigger specific actions (e.g., updating a database) when content is created or updated.