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Should You Use Craft CMS as Your Headless CMS in 2023? Does it Fuel or Defuse Your Brand's Digital Goals?
Craft is an open-source CMS (Content Management System) enabling both, traditional and headless information management experience. Developed by Pixel & Tonic in 2013, Craft is on version 4.5.9, offering a flexible, developer-friendly CMS option, to build an effortless digital experience.
With integrated GraphQL and tailored modeling features, Craft provides organized data that can be accessed via modern APIs for headless delivery. It has a modular field approach, enabling the development of any content type, with full control over the editing experience. Thus, enabling integration with any front-end stack.
Many brands prefer Craft owing to its developer-focused architecture, robust ecosystem, and strong, detailed documentation/resources. Craft does require more upfront effort on the development side than some competitors. But it's worth it owing to the high customizability it offers!
For brands who want flexibility and modern digital delivery at an affordable price, Craft CMS is a compelling headless choice. Its maturation over the years into a capable API-first CMS makes it a rival, even to dedicated headless-only platforms.
Let’s explore what makes Craft CMS a great headless CMS:
One of the biggest strengths of Craft is a flexible content modeling system. It uses a field approach that allows users to create any information type required. Fields can be reused and organized into field groups.
For example, you can have modular fields like text, images, tags, matrices, and more that can be configured into customized forms. This makes it easy to model complex, organized information for headless delivery.
Craft comes loaded with GraphQL API to provide a modern way for frontends to query and interact with content. It enables powerful and flexible access without the need for custom API development.
The API in Craft returns data based on the structure configured in the CMS. This provides a future-proof and omnichannel content delivery system.
Extensive Plugin Ecosystem
There is a large repository of plugins for Craft that expand its capabilities. They provide additional integrations, optimizations, and custom fields tailored for various use cases.
For example, integrating other APIs like JSON API or for adding custom React-based field UIs. The vibrant ecosystem of Craft CMS extends possibilities and functionality, giving you all the flexibility you're probably familiar with and more!
Craft uses Twig for templating on the backend. This enables information delivery to any frontend framework like React, Vue, Angular, etc.
The front end is decoupled, providing flexibility. For those using Vue, there are Craft plugins for Vue integration as well. The templating approach doesn't dictate your frontend stack, it enables you to achieve more!
The customization system handles different information types required for headless scenarios that go beyond text while offering a user-friendly interface.
This includes images, videos, files, categories, tags, custom fields, and more. Any content form required for your project(s) can be modeled in a flexible system. Let’s further explore how this system works, allowing users, brands, etc. to expand their digital operations.
Craft provides a flexible and personalized approach to content modeling using "fields" and "sections".
- These are the building blocks for content modeling. There are many field types like plain text, markdown, images, tags, categories, matrices, and more.
- Fields are reusable across different content types.
- Additional field types are provided by plugins like QR codes, charts, maps, etc.
- Fields are organized into Field Groups which can then be attached to sections.
- Sections define the actual content types and forms.
- Each section has its content type with its fields. For example, a "Blog Post" section.
- Sections have entry types, which are the templates for entering individual entries.
- Related entries can be grouped into structures and ordered.
- Entries in sections provide structured content that gets delivered via the headless approach.
This field and section approach enables developers to customize and model any content type per the brand's needs. For example, complex products with multiple variants, real estate listings, events, and more.
The field layout and editing for authors can also be completely customized. Craft gives complete control over designing the content modeling system while offering a friendly editing interface.
Craft CMS provides a flexible, user-friendly editing environment for managing content. The control panel interface allows authors to create, edit, and organize entries intuitively. Sections define the content types, while modular fields control the editable areas on an entry. Authors can preview changes in real time before publishing. The editing experience can be customized by limiting user permissions and setting up different entry types with tailored fields.
For collaboration, Craft provides user accounts with configurable roles and permissions. User groups make it easy to assign the same access levels to multiple content creators. Sections and entries can be limited to certain user groups for streamlined workflows. Useful collaboration features include version histories, record statuses, email notifications, and a recent activity dashboard. The Pro edition has integrated multi-author Live Preview capabilities as well.
With its customizable editing settings and collaboration tools, Craft provides a solid authoring environment for teams. Content creators can efficiently manage structured content for headless delivery to apps and websites. Developers can optimize workflows by leveraging user groups, permissions, and sections to match project requirements. Craft is tailored for flexibility and productivity!
Complete Control and Flexibility
Craft gives developers a lot of control and flexibility to build content models, schemas, and APIs they need for projects. The modular modeling approach lets you customize entries and fields to match your requirements. You can also extend the APIs and integrate additional data sources.
Extensive Plugin Options
There are hundreds of plugins for Craft that add useful headless capabilities ranging from integrations to optimizations. Plugins provide ways to expand features like custom fields, workflows, API flexibility, performance, and more. The robust plugin ecosystem extends what Craft can do.
Strong Documentation and Community Support
Craft has extensive official documentation with guides, references, and tutorials. There is an active Stack Exchange site and Discord channel where the Craft community provides help. Pixel & Tonic also offer professional support plans. The resources enable developers to be successful with Craft.
Craft is free to use for small personal projects, which is great for testing and prototyping. The Pro license for solo developers has a one-time payment of $299. The Business tier offers enterprise tools and starts at $799/year. This makes Craft very affordable compared to other CMS options in the market.
Structured Content Delivery
Craft features a content modeling system to enable you to create any structured content according to the specific needs of apps, platform(s), teams, etc. may require. The field approach allows custom content types with related entries and assets. This content can then be accessed in apps via the API of your choice.
Craft is built to scale to support complex apps with lots of traffic and growth. It has a robust architecture and active performance optimization community. Apps can scale without content bottlenecks.
Craft is optimized for how developers like to work. It has an extensible plugin ecosystem and supports custom integrations as needed. The docs and community provide resources tailored for developers.
Here are some examples of major organizations using Craft CMS and why they likely chose Craft:
Netflix - Uses Craft to manage information across multiple sites and languages. Craft provides flexibility for complex information with different structures/models and handles multi-site needs.
Blue Coast - Leverages its headless capabilities to deliver information to its apps and websites. Craft enables the creation of structured information and access it via APIs.
Adidas - Uses a headless Craft architecture to scale its information worldwide. Craft offers localization support and headless delivery for global expansion.
IKEA - Taps into Craft for its SEO and performance capabilities, especially for its e-commerce. Craft optimizes surfaced information.
Volkswagen - The Automobile legend uses Craft to power its headless commerce storefront. It helps to manage complex product data across channels through flexible information modeling and omnichannel publishing.
These examples demonstrate the versatility of Craft CMS across languages, global sites, complex product information, and multi-platform information delivery required by leading enterprises. Craft provides a robust content backbone accessible from anywhere.
Open Source Model - Craft CMS is open source, with all code available on GitHub under an MIT license. This sets it apart from many proprietary headless competitors. The open-source approach fosters transparency, community contribution, and customizability. Developers can better understand and control the technology.
Maximize headless capabilities with APIs that come loaded and ready to use, right out of the box! There is no need for additional custom development or add-ons to leverage its decoupled architecture. Craft provides these modern APIs as a core part of the system, rivaling dedicated headless CMS options.
Focus on Traditional CMS Features - While Craft excels as a headless CMS, it also focuses on providing traditional CMS capabilities. This includes areas like user roles, workflows, localization, SEO support, routing, and more.
Hosting Options - Craft permits self-hosted deployments on the infrastructure of your choice, giving brands more control and customization options. With Craft allowing self-hosted setups, teams can better manage infrastructure to meet their needs across security, performance, integrations, and global distribution.
Modeling Flexibility - It uses a modular field and section approach that enables developers to define any information organization needed for projects. This field-based system paired with customizable entry types allows Craft to adapt to any information requirements.
Unified System - Craft combines the authoring environment and APIs/delivery in one integrated system. The unified approach keeps information management consistent while still decoupling the front end.
Many headless CMS options completely separate the authoring experience from the content APIs. Craft's unified model provides more cohesion.
Craft CMS provides a flexible, friendly, and affordable content management system that excels at both traditional and headless architectures.
With its customizable modeling, integrations, open source model, and focus on modern PHP development practices, Craft offers immense flexibility for developers to build customized structures and cross-platform experiences.
For developers seeking control over their schemas, APIs, and overall infrastructure, Craft provides a compelling self-hosted CMS option.
It blends developer power with author ease-of-use, Craft continues to prove itself as a nimble, scalable platform suitable for projects ranging from personal sites to global multi-language enterprise platforms.
For lean modern web projects, Craft remains a CMS of choice with an enthusiastic community behind it.