Headless WordPress is a hot topic, and it’s increasingly used by brands and agencies to achieve significant performance improvements and deliver dynamic content across multiple touchpoints. 

At the same time, there are a number of lingering myths about headless, and headless WordPress specifically, which continue to skew the view for curious potential adopters.  

Though these myths are persistent, there is every reason to believe that headless development will continue to shape the future of the web. To help you as you explore this evolving web architecture, we put together the following guide, which addresses some of the most common concerns surrounding headless WordPress development.

Read on for a quick overview of eight of the biggest misconceptions surrounding headless WordPress and see why not a single one is worth holding up your headless aspirations!

Myth #1: If you switch to headless, you have to do so all at once

You may be concerned that switching from a traditional WordPress site to a headless environment is similar to a traditional migration—there’s plenty of pre-work, and then you have to make the switch all at once.

While it’s definitely possible to approach a project that way, it’s not necessary. You can take a phased approach to transitioning your front end to headless. This is what WP Engine is doing with our own site, reworking priority pages over time to ensure everything goes off without a hitch and our internal teams aren’t bogged down in an all-or-nothing process.

Moving to headless is more than a migration—it almost always requires rebuilding and reworking your site in a few significant ways. A phased approach makes a developer’s work much more manageable, giving you plenty of time to test, tweak, and alter your site changes instead of hinging the entire project on a single “time to switch” moment. And in the event that something does go awry, you won’t lose your progress on other areas of the site. 

Myth #2: WordPress isn’t the best CMS for headless development

While other CMSs like Contentful, ContentStack, and Strapi have positioned themselves as the heroes of headless, they can lack some of the inherent features WordPress has to offer, such as SEO, RSS feeds, page layouts, sitemaps, and customizability.

Traditional WordPress is often praised for its flexibility and extensibility, due in large part to its open-source codebase, plugins, and themes. Developers have numerous options for integrations and customizations that make building a traditional WordPress site easier and faster.

Because of this native flexibility, some developers and publishers also worry that a headless WordPress environment may over-complicate the process, introducing too many variables to manage properly. 

In fact, using WordPress for your headless projects can actually be much simpler for teams to adopt thanks to the integrations made available. Because most publishers and marketers are already well-versed in the CMS, they won’t require much additional training, if any, to get them up and running on a headless WordPress site.

And on the developer side, WordPress companies and individual developers are taking action, building tools that allow headless WordPress builders to use the systems and frameworks they love. 

For example, the tools we create and manage at WP Engine—like Faust.js, the WordPress-specific headless framework, and its React-Gutenberg Bridge—are already improving the process of building headless websites with WordPress! Plus, some of the most wildly popular WordPress tools, like Advanced Custom Fields and WP GraphQL, are already headless-compatible.

Myth #3: Headless isn’t ready for eCommerce

If you’re already excited about headless and you’ve started building some initial projects, but you’re worried there aren’t many use cases of headless eCommerce success, WP Engine has you covered.

We’ve already built an Atlas BigCommerce Blueprint and an Atlas Shopify Blueprint to simplify the process of building a headless environment using some of the world’s most-popular eCommerce platforms. 

Because we’ve already built the connective technology between Atlas and these popular eCommerce platforms, Blueprints nearly eliminate the need to replatform or rebuild your eCommerce solution for headless—just set up the connector and go!

Not all eCommerce platforms are created equal—and tools like WooCommerce are powerful options for small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs)—but a headless, API-driven approach can ensure speed, stability, and security for larger eCommerce sites where speed, performance, and SEO-readiness are imperative.

In fact, Combat Corner—an MMA sports equipment retailer—made the switch to headless earlier this year. In doing so, the site saw an overall performance boost (across Core Web Vitals and other page speed metrics) of 431% while improving conversions, bounce rate, return on ad spend (ROAS), and revenue.

Myth #4: Headless is only useful for large enterprise sites

Headless has been touted as a secure solution for large, complex sites but there are countless use cases and different types of projects where a headless approach offers widespread benefits.

Mergers and acquisitions, for example, can be difficult from a technical perspective as brand stakeholders seek to integrate their strategies in a way that is meaningful and makes sense. Headless architecture offers the front-end freedom needed to meet specific brand requirements while connecting to existing data sources such as a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, an eCommerce store, or WordPress.  

Publishing, news, and media sites in need of content management independence alongside peak performance are also turning to headless as a way to balance speed and publishing capabilities with a high volume of content. 

As an example, Android Authority, a digital publication which influences more than 50 million visitors, was able to achieve up to 6x increase across all Lighthouse metrics without disrupting its publishing cadence after adopting WP Engine Atlas for headless WordPress. 

When a headless build empowers content creators by relying on WordPress as its CMS, it opens up a world of possibilities, marrying the creation of rich, dynamic content with the power to deliver it quickly, and at scale.

WP Engine Atlas takes this idea a step further, offering a growing toolkit of solutions developed specifically for headless WordPress. You can try it out for free here, using a free sandbox account.  

Myth #5: Headless development is too expensive

Few things in life come without a price tag, and some developers argue that headless projects simply come at too high a cost. While a headless build will often cost more upfront than a traditional WordPress website, it also comes with endless benefits in terms of performance, security, and even faster development cycles in the future. This means you and your team can take on more projects and earn more money in the long run.

The cost of a headless site will also depend on the type of site you’re building. If you represent an SMB, you may think headless is out of reach or out of budget, but the benefits will almost certainly outweigh the cost increase when you take into account the site’s time-to-market, increased speed and conversions, improved content autonomy, and more streamlined development practices.

Choosing the right solution can help you harness the power of headless while remaining budget conscious. For example, premium CMSs, like Contentful, can represent a heavy cost each month for large teams—and that’s just for your CMS. 

The same can be said of some frontend solutions, like Vercel—while the starting cost seems very affordable, the usage-based pricing can add up quickly for large sites, and even mid-size sites can incur $3,000+ in monthly bills, just for the front end. 

We recommend finding a solution that fits your needs AND your budget. While many people think investing in something like headless can be a big cost in itself, you’re also investing in your people, their skills and ongoing education, your website, its performance, your future efficiency, and your speed-to-market. That’s the real ROI of headless WordPress. 

Investing in learning headless now means future-proofing your website, your business, and your agency while prepping yourself and your team to unlock even greater potential as the technology surrounding headless continues to improve.

Myth #6: Learning how to develop headless sites is too complicated

To be good at something, you usually have to be bad at it for a little bit—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to learn a new skill! 

As we mentioned above, learning to develop headless sites is an investment in your team and the future projects your agency is capable of carrying out. That said, the learning curve doesn’t have to be quite so steep.

WP Engine is making tools like Faust.js to educate builders and make it easier to get started on your headless journey. It’s specifically built with WordPress developers in mind, so it functions in a way that will feel familiar to WordPress developers.

Plus, Javascript developers are in high demand! It’s a very useful skill to learn and expand upon now because it will likely increase your career opportunities in the future.

Myth #7: Headless WordPress is too new to jump on board just yet

This is one of the concerns we hear from developers most often: that headless WordPress is just too new to jump on board with right now.

To them we say: Where have you been? Headless WordPress has been around for quite a while now—you can find articles on the topic dating back at least five years if not further—which is an eternity in tech time.

And as the technology continues to gain momentum, more teams and developers are starting to show interest—in fact, we field questions from our agency partners and the brands we work with regularly about the ins and outs of headless WordPress.

Now is the time to get ahead of the curve while you can, because headless is here to stay. Your clients will certainly be asking about headless opportunities—if they’re not already! Gain a deeper understanding of headless now in order to educate and pitch options to your current and future clients.

Myth #8: It’s too difficult to get started with headless

The truth is, you can try headless WordPress for free with Atlas!

If you’re still on the fence about headless WordPress development, we’ve got you covered. Sign up for a free Atlas sandbox account to give headless a test run and see why many developers are already embracing it as the future of headless WordPress!