Use your headless CMS with commercetools Frontend

Exploring the differences: Traditional CMS vs. headless CMS and the role of commercetools Frontend

Nina Jonker-Völker
Nina Jonker-Völker
Business Owner GTM Frontend, commercetools
Published 15 May 2023
Estimated reading time minutes

Businesses are constantly seeking innovative ways to deliver captivating experiences to their customers by looking for the ideal solution to manage content and seamlessly integrate it with their eCommerce platforms. But what is the role of a CMS in all of this? In the first part of our blog series on CMS solutions and commercetools Frontend, we'll delve into the differences and pros and cons of a traditional and headless CMS — and explain how commercetools Frontend fits into the equation.

Use your headless CMS with commercetools Frontend

What is a CMS?

A CMS, or content management system, is a software application or platform that facilitates the creation, management and publication of digital content. It provides a user-friendly interface and a set of tools that enable individuals or teams to efficiently organize, author, edit and publish various types of content, such as text, images, videos and documents, without the need for extensive coding knowledge.

This system simplifies the content management process by separating the content from its presentation. It typically consists of two primary components: A content management application and a content delivery application. The content management application allows users to create, modify and organize content within a structured framework, while the content delivery application is responsible for presenting the content to the end-users in a visually appealing and accessible manner. 

What is a traditional CMS?

A traditional CMS (Adobe, Drupal, Sitecore) is a monolith in which the backend and frontend are tightly bound together into a single unit. 

At its very core, a traditional CMS contains:

  • A built-in backend where content is created, stored and managed.

  •  A frontend for delivering and displaying content. 

  • The content management and content delivery application tied together.

What is a headless CMS?

A headless CMS is a type of content management system that separates the content creation and management process from its presentation layer. Unlike traditional CMS platforms, which combine content management with predefined templates and design elements, a headless CMS focuses solely on content creation and storage. It provides a backend interface where users can create, organize and manage content in a structured manner.

The term "headless" refers to the decoupling of the backend (where content is managed) from the frontend (where content is displayed). In a headless CMS architecture, the content is delivered via APIs, which allow developers to retrieve and display the content on various devices and platforms such as websites, mobile apps and IoT devices. This flexibility enables businesses to deliver content to different channels without being tied to a specific frontend design or layout.

With a headless CMS, content creators can focus on crafting and updating content, while developers can leverage the provided APIs to fetch and display that content in a customized manner on different frontend interfaces. This separation of concerns allows for greater flexibility, scalability, and the ability to adapt content to emerging technologies and changing customer needs.

The headless CMS architecture includes the following:

  • A content management backend where content is created and stored.

  • API/web services support that connects the backend to any device or channel.

  • A microservices architecture that allows the business to choose their frontend technology.

What type of CMS do you need?

Choosing between a traditional CMS and a headless CMS largely depends on the specific needs and goals of a business. In addition to their publishing, editing and technical requirements, companies also tend to consider scalability and technology flexibility when choosing the most appropriate CMS system.

A traditional CMS is ideal for businesses that require a website with a traditional layout, where the website content is managed within the CMS and displayed to visitors through pre-designed templates. Traditional CMSs are also suitable for businesses that have limited technical resources or require a quick and easy setup. However, often with traditional CMSs, there are limitations in terms of scalability and performance when managing large amounts of content.

Traditional CMS pros:
  • Simple setup and deployment.  

  • No dependency on developers. 

  • Minimal infrastructure investment.

Traditional CMS cons:
  • Limited customization as there is dependency on layout templates.

  • CMS scaling is limited as you have to modify the whole system.

  • Can’t use the same contents across devices/touchpoints.

On the other hand, a headless CMS is a better option for businesses that require more flexibility and control over the presentation of their content across multiple platforms and channels, such as websites, mobile apps and smart devices. With a headless CMS, the content is separated from the presentation layer, which means that developers have more freedom to create custom frontend experiences without being tied to a specific CMS or technology. This approach allows businesses to deliver a consistent user experience across all channels while maintaining control over their content.

Headless CMS pros:
  • Omnichannel experience: Content can quickly be delivered anywhere/number of touchpoints.

  • Speed and flexibility.

  • Scalability performance: No downtime as the system is decoupled.

  • Easy to redesign and agile. 

 Headless CMS cons:
  • No content previews: Many headless CMSs lack this feature as content and delivery is separate.

  • A developer is often needed, so it's unsuitable for small businesses with no IT or those that need a simple small website.

  • High costs: Can be expensive as integration is not plug-and-play.

The role of commercetools Frontend

commercetools Frontend is built to work in tandem with a headless CMS. Designed specifically for modern, headless solutions, commercetools Frontend is an FaaS (frontend as a service) that is cloud-native and API-driven to empower businesses to deliver exceptional commerce experiences. It offers a range of features and capabilities that enable developers and digital teams to build highly customizable, scalable and engaging frontend experiences for their eCommerce websites and applications.

We went live on headless just four months after project kick-off. With commercetools Frontend, we're now able to launch new country sites within as little as two weeks. [Plus], almost every piece of content in our store is editable by the business teams with a few clicks.
Emanuel Schleussinger


By leveraging commercetools Frontend, businesses can unlock the potential of headless commerce and create immersive, personalized and scalable commerce experiences that can improve conversion rates by up to 10%, increase page loading times by up to 300% and boost SEO rankings by up to 40%. Whether it's designing captivating UIs, optimizing for mobile or delivering seamless cross-channel experiences, commercetools Frontend provides the tools and flexibility to bring commerce visions to life.

Read our blog post How to launch the frontend of a modern commerce architecture with commercetools to learn more. 

Nina Jonker-Völker
Nina Jonker-Völker
Business Owner GTM Frontend, commercetools

Nina is a leader in go-to-market strategy and sales with an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for forward momentum. As the Business Owner for the go-to-market strategy of Frontend by commercetools, she leverages her 15+ years of experience in business development, sales, and marketing to translate technology into business value.

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