Best JavaScript Frameworks for Headless WordPress 2024

Francis Agulto Avatar


WordPress is widely recognized as a leading Content Management System (CMS), providing an excellent content authoring and editing experience. Meanwhile, building web experiences using JavaScript frameworks has never been more popular and can provide more flexibility in the way pages are rendered, performance gains, enhanced security, and other capabilities. Thankfully, it’s possible to combine the two with a headless WordPress approach to get the best of both worlds.

In this article, we’ll explain the concept of headless WordPress and its advantages. We’ll also discuss key features to look for in a framework and present the top five frameworks to help you get started.

Headless WordPress Defined

Headless refers to a CMS that separates its backend content management (the “body”) from the frontend presentation layer (the “head”). In a typical WordPress setup, the backend includes the admin panel and content tools, while the front end is what visitors see.Many websites, like Taylor Swift’s Time Magazine Woman of the Year site, utilize WordPress as a headless CMS. This way, the WordPress dashboard can be used solely for content management while employing a different frontend stack for content display. The decoupled frontend and backend can “talk” to one another via the WPGraphQL plugin, which turns your WordPress install into a GraphQL server and allows it to interact with other applications. Alternatively, the WordPress REST API can be used for this purpose.

The Benefits of Using Headless WordPress

Using headless WordPress offers several advantages, including

Enhanced Performance: By decoupling the frontend from the backend, you allow WordPress to focus solely on the content database and API interactions. This setup can lead to faster load times and improved responsiveness, as the API-driven approach optimizes data delivery and reduces overhead.

Omnichannel Experiences: Without a single frontend, headless WordPress can seamlessly integrate with various platforms and technologies. This means you can publish and display content across multiple channels simultaneously, such as websites, mobile apps, and even digital kiosks, allowing for a unified and versatile content distribution strategy.

Improved Security: Headless setups, especially static sites, eliminate traditional backend vulnerabilities since there’s no exposed database. This significantly reduces the risk of common security threats associated with WordPress, such as SQL injection attacks, making your content safer from potential breaches.

It’s important to note that headless WordPress requires a solid understanding of web development. Additionally, managing and maintaining a headless setup can be more complex than a standard WordPress installation, as it involves handling both the content management system and the separate frontend technology stack.

Things To Consider with a JS Framework in 2024

Implementing headless WordPress can be complex, but frameworks provide the necessary tools to help developers efficiently build frontend platforms. While these frameworks are typically based on JavaScript, they also utilize CSS and HTML.

When selecting a framework, key features to consider include:

Static Site Generation (SSG): Ideal for creating static websites with pre-generated pages, SSG allows for faster loading times since HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other assets are ready for the browser to consume immediately.

Server-Side Rendering (SSR): For scenarios where SSG isn’t feasible, SSR enables web pages to be rendered on the server before being sent to the user’s browser, enhancing performance and SEO.

Simple Data Fetching: Opt for frameworks that offer straightforward data fetching mechanisms to keep queries from your WordPress backend simple and efficient.

Minimal Configuration: Frameworks that require minimal setup and configuration can accelerate the development process, allowing you to focus on building your site rather than managing settings.

Core Web Vitals: Ensure the framework includes features that help optimize your site for Google’s Core Web Vitals, which measure page loading times, interactivity, and visual stability.

Considering these points will help you select a framework that best suits your needs. Each toolkit offers unique functionalities, and most frameworks have active online communities where you can seek support and advice.

Best Frameworks for Headless WordPress

1. Faust.js

Faust.js is a comprehensive framework built on top of Next.js designed for building frontend applications for headless WordPress sites. It aims to alleviate the challenges associated with headless WordPress development, providing a seamless and enjoyable experience for both developers and content creators.

Out of the box, Faust.js offers several essential features:

  • Post Previews: Allows content editors to preview posts before publishing, ensuring accuracy and consistency.
  • WP Template Hierarchy Replicated in JavaScript: Mirrors the familiar WordPress template hierarchy within a JavaScript environment, simplifying the transition for developers.
  • Authentication: Provides built-in authentication mechanisms, streamlining the process of managing user access and security.
  • Decoupled Blocks: Faust abstracts concepts like block discovery, customization, and rendering, working with WPGraphQL for Content blocks to query Gutenberg blocks.

These core features are crucial for any headless WordPress site and can be challenging to implement independently. Faust.js simplifies these tasks, enabling you to focus on building your site rather than configuring basic functionalities.

Furthermore, Faust.js integrates the Apollo Client GraphQL library. Utilizing Apollo Client with WPGraphQL in a headless WordPress setup can cache data and improve performance while providing an exceptional developer experience. This combination makes Faust.js a powerful tool for creating modern headless WordPress web applications.

Note that because Faust is built on top of Next.js, it benefits from all the features listed in the Next.js section below, as well.

2. Next.js

Next.js is a React framework for building full-stack web applications. You use React Components to build user interfaces, and Next.js for additional features and optimizations.  Under the hood, Next.js also abstracts and automatically configures tooling needed for React, like bundling, compiling, and more. This allows you to focus on building your application instead of spending time with configuration.

Key features of Next.js / App Router include:

Static Site Generation (SSG): Enables the creation of static pages that are pre-rendered at build time, leading to faster load times.

SEO Optimization: Next.js has a Metadata API that can be used to define your application metadata (e.g. meta and link tags inside your HTML head element) for improved SEO and web shareability.

Server-Side Rendering (SSR):  Provides the ability to render pages on the server for each request, ensuring up-to-date content and better performance for dynamic sites.

ISR: Incremental Static Regeneration, enables you to update static content without needing to rebuild your site completely. This feature is particularly useful for large websites with frequently changing content, ensuring that users always see the most current information without compromising performance.

API Routes: Allows the creation of serverless API endpoints within your Next.js application, simplifying the process of handling backend logic and data fetching.

File-Based Routing: Uses a file-system-based router, where folders and the files within are used to define your app’s routes.

3. Nuxt 

Nuxt is an open-source framework that makes web development intuitive and powerful.

Create performant and production-grade full-stack web apps and websites with confidence.

Key features of Nuxt.js include:

Universal Mode (SSR): has server-side rendering (SSR), enabling your application to render pages on the server before delivering them to the client. This improves SEO and performance, especially for dynamic content.

Static Site Generation (SSG): With Nuxt’s `nuxt generate` command, you can pre-render your site into static HTML. This is ideal for performance and security, as static sites are faster to load and less vulnerable to attacks.

Vue Components and Ecosystem: Leveraging the power of Vue.js, Nuxt.js allows you to build complex user interfaces with reusable components. The extensive Vue ecosystem, including Vuex for state management, enhances the development experience.

Automatic Code Splitting: Nuxt.js automatically splits your code by page, which optimizes loading times by only loading the necessary JavaScript for the current page.

Module System:  Nuxt.js boasts a robust module system, allowing easy integration of functionalities like PWA support, Google Analytics, and more. Modules simplify the addition of features without extensive configuration.

SEO-Friendly: Nuxt.js offers built-in support for meta tags and structured data, ensuring your site is optimized for search engines without requiring additional plugins.

File-Based Routing:  Nuxt.js uses a file-based routing system that mirrors your project’s directory structure, making it intuitive to define and manage routes.

4. SvelteKit

SvelteKit is an innovative framework built on Svelte, designed to provide a seamless development experience for building web applications. 

Key features of SvelteKit include:

  • Truly Reactive: SvelteKit leverages Svelte’s truly reactive nature, allowing for highly efficient and straightforward state management. This results in a more intuitive and performant development process compared to traditional frameworks.
  • Static Site Generation (SSG): SvelteKit supports static site generation, enabling you to pre-render your site at build time. This results in faster load times and improved SEO, as the static pages are optimized for performance and search engine indexing.
  • Server-Side Rendering (SSR): SvelteKit provides first-class support for server-side rendering, allowing pages to be rendered on the server and delivered to the client. This enhances performance and ensures that dynamic content is always up-to-date.
  • ISR: SvelteKit provides the performance and cost advantages of prerendered content with the flexibility of dynamically rendered content with support for ISR.
  • Simplified Data Fetching: SvelteKit streamlines data fetching through its built-in “load” functions. These functions allow you to fetch data at the page level, making it easy to manage and render data from your WordPress back end.
  • Routing and Navigation: SvelteKit features a file-based routing system, similar to Nuxt.js and Next.js, that simplifies route management. Additionally, SvelteKit provides client-side navigation for a smooth, SPA-like experience.
  • Hot Module Replacement (HMR): SvelteKit includes hot module replacement, which speeds up the development process by allowing you to see changes in real-time without a full page reload.
  • Progressive Enhancement: SvelteKit ensures that your application works even with JavaScript disabled, providing a basic but functional version of your site. This approach enhances accessibility and user experience across different devices and network conditions.
  • Built-In Adapters: SvelteKit supports various deployment targets through built-in adapters, such as Vercel, Netlify, and Cloudflare Workers. This simplifies the deployment process and allows you to choose the best hosting solution for your needs.

5. Astro

Astro is a modern, innovative framework designed for content-driven websites.

Key features of Astro include:

  • Islands Architecture: Astro introduces an “islands architecture,” where static content is pre-rendered by default, and JavaScript is only loaded for interactive components. This approach significantly enhances performance by reducing the amount of JavaScript that needs to be processed on the client side.
  • Static Site Generation (SSG): Astro excels at static site generation, enabling you to pre-render your entire site at build time. This results in extremely fast load times and improved SEO, as static pages are optimized for performance and search engine indexing.
  • Partial Hydration: With Astro’s partial hydration feature, only the necessary JavaScript for interactive components is loaded, further optimizing performance and user experience. This ensures that your site remains fast and responsive.
  • Framework Agnostic: Astro is framework-agnostic, allowing you to use components from Astro itself, React, Vue, Svelte, Solid, and more within the same project. This flexibility enables you to leverage the best tools for different parts of your application.
  • Simplified Data Fetching: Astro provides a straightforward data fetching mechanism, allowing you to easily pull data from your WordPress back end using WPGraphQL. This simplifies the process of integrating dynamic content into your static site.
  • Automatic Image Optimization: Astro includes built-in support for automatic image optimization, ensuring that images are served in the most efficient format and size. This further enhances performance and load times.
  • Markdown and MDX Support: Astro supports content authoring with Markdown and MDX, making it easy to create and manage content-rich pages. This feature is particularly useful for blogs and documentation sites.
  • File-Based Routing: Astro uses a file-based routing system that mirrors your project’s directory structure, simplifying route management and navigation.
  • SSR and Hybrid Rendering: While primarily focused on static site generation, Astro also supports server-side rendering (SSR) and hybrid rendering approaches. This allows you to combine the benefits of static and dynamic content as needed.
  • Built-In Integrations: Astro offers a wide range of built-in integrations, including support for popular CMSs, deployment platforms, and other tools. This extensibility makes it easy to add functionality and streamline your development workflow.

Where To Host

There are various platforms available for hosting your frontends and WordPress installations. However, the best-managed platform that provides optimized hosting for both your frontend and backend is WP Engine’s headless platform. It offers an all-in-one solution for building radically fast sites. WP Engine handles all the optimizations, configurations, CDNs, DevOps, git connections and more, ensuring your WordPress backend is always up to date and performing well.

 If you want to give it a try for yourself, please check it out here.

Summing It All Up

In conclusion, many of these frameworks share similar capabilities and features. Ultimately, the choice depends on your team and developers’ preferences for specific features and the development environment they enjoy working in. Additionally, consider the particular use cases for which you are building a headless WordPress application.

Whatever framework you decide to choose, remember that new JavaScript frameworks will continue to emerge, offering even more options. 🤣

But seriously, whatever you decide to go with, we would love to hear about your experiences and feedback with that particular framework using headless WordPress. So hit us up in our Discord and come join the headless stoke!