A headless statue in an outdoor garden. headless CMS concept
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Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect updates in the technologies and overall industry.

The growth of the World Wide Web was a huge step forward in terms of information sharing, allowing content creators to share their work with people all over the world, instantly and inexpensively. The smartphone allowed us to consume content on the go, and the Internet of Things is making us even more connected, creating the need for new media management systems in the form of the headless CMS.

What is The Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term that refers to smart, internet-connected appliances and other devices. By 2022, our homes and offices will host over 40 million IoT devices. That includes everything from the smart speakers on our kitchen countertops and the AI-enabled devices on our wrists to the screen-touting kiosks at the local mall.

Neil Patel, the founder of KISSmetrics, recently noted that the internet is on a path to becoming “ever-present,” meaning that for those living in developed cities at least, the internet, and all of its content, will constantly play a role in society and home life via a multitude of devices, screens, speakers and touchpoints.

Brands that want to reach consumers through these new smart devices will need to find new ways of sharing their content. Enter: the headless content management system (CMS).

What Is Headless and Decoupled Content Management?

Traditional content management systems (CMSs) allow brands to create and share content on their websites or via their apps. The CMS manages everything, including the creation, reading, updating and deleting (CRUD) of content, as well as how it's displayed.

A headless CMS is slightly different. It lets brands manage content but doesn't care how the content is displayed. Brands can use any front-end tool they want to present the content, meaning they can deliver content beyond websites and apps, reaching any channel from kiosks to smartwatches and even inside virtual reality headsets.

While headless and decoupled architecture are nothing new, the demand for this kind of solution is, as businesses look to deliver content to locations outside of the standard web browser.

Top Systems for Headless Content Management in 2022

While many headless CMSs have been purpose-built for the IoT era, some vendors have rebranded and realigned their technology to offer headless content management, claiming that their technology always allowed for an API-driven approach to content management and delivery.

There are many brands claiming to offer headless CMS products. Few, however, offer the flexibility and head-on plus head-optional capabilities that brand managers need.

To help startups, small businesses and enterprises adopt headless systems, we’ve compiled a list of 34 headless CMS solutions that come recommended by G2Crowd, Gartner and Forrester and are worth considering for your next project.

The Big List of Headless CMS Solutions

The following is a list of useful Headless CMS products, provided in no particular order.

1. Butter CMS

Butter CMS is an API-first CMS that was launched in 2014. It offers custom page types, relational content modeling, webhooks, CDN support, multisite support, a testing environment and a customizable admin page. The system also integrates with popular blogging frameworks.

A WYSIWYG interface allows marketers to create SEO landing pages, customer case studies and other content quickly and easily.

Pricing: Free trial available with premium and enterprise plans.

2. Contentstack

Contentstack is a headless CMS that provides RESTful APIs. Features include content previews, collaboration, asset management, workflow management and versioning. The platform offers turnkey integrations for Salesforce, Eloqua and Marketeo.

Pricing: Free trial available. Premium and enterprise plans offered.

3. Contentful

Contentful offers an API-driven headless CMS. The RESTful API gives developers full control of content, digital assets and translations. Caching techniques and CDN integrations enable the delivery of API payloads in the sub-100ms range.

It has the ability to display JSON snippets, a rich-text editor and content modeling features that enable marketers to arrange individual fields and content modules, such as text, images and calendars.

Pricing: Free, premium and enterprise plans are available.

4. DotCMS

DotCMS is a Java-based platform that features multilingual and multi-tenant capabilities. It also features a WYSIWYG editor, alongside drag-and-drop features that enable marketers to engage in content modeling, workflow building and page layout modification.

DotCMS can be hosted either on-premise or in the cloud. The platform includes an analytics dashboard, personalization and custom endpoint building. It also supports integration with AWS, Docker, Salesforce and other third-party developer and martech tools.

Pricing: Free self-hosted editions and an enterprise offering are offered.

5. Mura

Mura is a decoupled open-source CMS aimed at both marketers and IT professionals. For marketers, there is a customizable WYSIWYG editor, custom navigation creator, multi-device content previews, as well as a built-in analytics dashboard.

Developers can benefit from APIs, Docker support, CSS framework support and support for popular JavaScript frameworks, such as Vue.js, React.js and Ember.js. Pricing: Free to download.

6. Cockpit

Cockpit is a free, open-source and self-hosted headless CMS that describes itself as a “content provider” and “not a website builder”. It's a back-end-only solution that stores and distributes content. There are no built-in editing features to adjust the presentation of your content — making it a pure headless CMS.

The platform uses APIs and JSON to deliver and present content, and it's both language and database agnostic.

Pricing: Free to download.

7. Core dna

Core dna is a proprietary headless CMS featuring over 80 individual applications supporting digital experience management, e-commerce, portals and intranets. This SaaS offering supports personalization, multisite management, localization, integrations, framework agnosticism and detailed inventory management.

Marketers may appreciate the tool's WYSIWYG editor, which supports rich text and media management. Core dna allows content creators to manage multiple aspects of their online presence in one interface.

Pricing: Premium and enterprise plans available.

8. Craft CMS

Craft CMS is a “content-first” headless CMS that lets users create experiences around their content. It can be used for portals, articles, blogs and e-commerce.

Craft CMS features custom fields, drag-and-drop layout management, multisite management, localization, asset management, live content previews and a built-in image editor. Each user can also have their own customizable dashboard, tailored to the tasks they perform most often.

Pricing: Free, premium and enterprise plans are available.

9. Zesty.io

Zesty.io is a decoupled CMS created with both developers and marketers in mind. It's powerful and highly customizable, but it's also easy to use.

For marketers, Zesty.io provides template and page building, workflow management, automated SEO, advanced SEO tools and the ability to launch microsites and landing pages without IT involvement. For developers, Zesty.io serves up content-aware templating, custom endpoint building, built-in staging environments and customizable content models that ship headless JSON APIs.

Pricing: Various enterprise plans available.

10. Directus

Directus is an open-source headless CMS and API. Built using Vue.js., Directus manages custom-schema SQL databases directly.

The system allows developers to create custom databases tailored to the needs of each project, without having to worry about learning proprietary frameworks. Directus calls itself an Open Data Platform. Developers can focus on the project, rather than the underlying technology. When the database is ready, Directus’ API or SDKs can be connected. The end result is a customizable interface that business users can use to manage database content for their websites and applications.

Pricing: Free, premium and enterprise plans are available.

11. DatoCMS

DatoCMS is a headless Content as a Service (CaaS) platform. This platform offers multilingual support. It also enables brands to organize digital assets in folders, locate media files quickly using AI-powered tagging or sophisticated search capabilities and publish them wherever they need them.

Pricing: Single/multi-project pricing options, free trial available

12. GraphCMS

GraphCMS is an API-first CMS that was launched in 2017. It's based on the GraphQL data query language, which some developers consider to be the successor to REST.

GraphCMS allows developers to create a hosted GraphQL back-end for their applications. This can be used to define the relations, structures and permissions of the application data. The system also comes with a number of tools to create and manage content, including text editors, asset management, workflows, user roles and multilingual support. Pricing: Free, premium, and enterprise plans available.

13. CosmicJS

CosmicJS is a cloud-hosted headless CMS platform offering both RESTful and GraphQL APIs. It features content modeling, localization, webhooks and media management, as well as a WYSIWYG editor where users can embed code from third-party services, including GitHub and Typeform.

The CMS has ready-to-go integrations with Slack, AWS, Stripe, HubSpot and Algolia.

Pricing: Free self-hosted community edition. Premium plans are also available.

14. Kontent.ai

Kontent.ai is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) headless CMS that enables developers to integrate existing technologies and build sites using the languages, tools and frameworks of their choice. It comes with several SDKs, secured access to its API and SLA-guaranteed uptime.

Content creation is made easy, thanks to the WYSIWYG editor and its built-in features that enable collaboration, workflow management, structured content, personalization and localization.

Pricing: Free trial available, along with premium and enterprise plans.

15. Prismic

Prismic is a SaaS-based headless CMS that comes with a visual editor, custom type builds, multi-language support and full revision history. It also offers a powerful API for fetching and managing content.

As well as native integrations with e-commerce platforms, such as Shopify and Magento, Prismic comes with a scheduling and project management tool to enable collaboration and workflow management.

Prismic offers SDKs that allow developers to work in their preferred framework or language, increasing productivity and giving developers more control. Pricing: Free, premium and enterprise plans available.

16. Quintype

Quintype is an API-driven headless CMS geared toward digital media organizations and news media outlets. The platform's built-in editing interface allows for collaborative content production and features configurable workflow management, automated publishing, card-based organization and support for both multilingual and multi-format content.

Quintype’s personalization engine provides engagement tracking, real-time analytics, automated daily reports and author performance. Furthermore, Quintype’s auto-scaling infrastructure supports Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, content syndication and push notifications.

Pricing: Enterprise plans (free trial available).

17. Sanity

Sanity is an open-source headless CMS and unified content platform based on JavaScript and React.js. It features a WYSIWYG rich text editor, which allows marketers to embed editable data in running text and defer markup to render time. Another interesting feature is the Sweet Query API that enables developers to cache multiple queries on a single request.

Sanity aims to "power better digital experiences". It offers many useful features for marketers, including tools for real-time collaboration, live previewing and content versioning.

Pricing: Free, premium and enterprise plans available.

18. Scrivito

Scrivito is a headless CMS that runs on AWS, JavaScript and ReactJS. It features a WYSIWYG drag-and-drop interface, user permissions, collaboration and extensibility through widgets that support additional features and functionalities.

Scrivito also comes with a built-in client-side rendering technology, CDN support and dynamic image resizing.

Pricing: Premium and enterprise plans (free trial available).

19. Sitecore

Gartner lists Sitecore as one of its industry leaders in the world of content management. It offers a vast suite of solutions, including the Sitecore Experience Platform, Content Hub, Experience Manager and Experience Commerce. These products work in tandem to help brands separate content from presentation in any environment.

Sitecore’s solutions also offer in-context editing and designing and cross-channel preview capabilities, as well as enterprise-class search, asset management and content targeting to boost personalization efforts.

Pricing: Tailored pricing: Demo available upon request.

20. Evoq Content

Evoq Content is the open-source decoupled headless offering from established CMS developers, DNN software. This headless content management system provides a comprehensive set of features suitable for both marketing and developers. Marketers have access to WYSIWYG editing, inline image editing, a content layout module and “Liquid Content”. This innovative feature enables content to flow to any channel, in typical headless fashion.

For developers, the tool offers a module creator, built-in JavaScript libraries and a .NET API.

Pricing: Premium and enterprise plans (free trial available).

21. Strapi

Strapi is a next-gen open-source headless CMS built on Node.js. It enables developers to build and manage multiple APIs for distributing content. Unlike many other platforms, Strapi takes a developer-first approach, offering a lightweight, highly customizable system for managing content that can be delivered anywhere.

The front-end agnostic platform features an extensible and customizable admin panel, plugins, asset management and several security layers, including CSFR, CORS, P3P and XSS.

Pricing: Free to download.

22. Solodev

Solodev is a content management and digital customer experience (DCX) platform designed to help marketers create new digital experiences.

Powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), Solodev provides enterprise-grade security, scalability and redundancy. The platform can be used for content management, digital marketing and processing customer data.

Pricing: Enterprise plans (tiered) available.

23. Agility CMS

Agility CMS claims to be the fastest and most flexible headless CMS on the market. This multi-tenant SaaS platform is easy for developers to customize, and it offers an accessible user interface for marketers as well. It has built-in components for content management, ticketing, landing page design and e-commerce.

Agility CMS makes it straightforward to quickly spin up new instances and achieve high-performance for customer experience delivery.

Pricing: Free trials and various subscription plans available.

24. Ingeniux CMS

Ingeniux CMS is an agile and mobile-first CMS solution that also provides headless and Content as a Service capabilities. It is easy for marketers to use and features in-context editing, a page builder, personalization tools and a digital asset management system.

Ingeniux offers a SaaS solution with cloud-based hosting, managed services, 24×7 support and other convenient services.

Pricing: Enterprise Plans (demo available upon request).

25. FirstSpirit

FirstSpirit is a SaaS-based digital experience platform developed by e-Spirit. The platform features hybrid tooling, AI-driven personalization and omnichannel marketing capabilities. It aims to facilitate content delivery at scale and is aimed at enterprise users.

Recognized by Gartner as a Visionary in the WCM market, FirstSpirit is also highly interoperable with adjacent systems with its API-driven, microservices-based architecture.

Pricing: Enterprise plans (demo available upon request).

26. Netlify CMS

Netlify CMS is an open-source, extensible content management system built on React. The platform features an editor-friendly interface and intuitive workflows for content authors.

It offers the speed and reliability of static sites combined with the easy workflow of a CMS. Content is stored in Git alongside code for getting content-driven apps to market faster.

Pricing: Free and open source.

27. Liferay

Liferay Digital Experience Platform can be used in a headless, hybrid or decoupled environment. Enterprise organizations can use Liferay to create and connect personalized digital experiences across web, mobile, social, in-store and other touchpoints. The platform is already in use by a variety of large organizations, including Honda, Airbus and Allainz.

Pricing: Enterprise Pricing (demo available upon request).

28. CoreMedia Content Cloud

CoreMedia Content Cloud is an established content management system. CoreMedia has been offering marketing solutions since 1996. This digital experience platform enables marketers, merchandisers and developers to collaboratively create, preview and optimize digital brand experiences. It offers integrations with a number of enterprise commerce platforms, from Commerce Tools to Spryker.

Pricing: Enterprise pricing (demo available upon request).

29. Bloomreach

Bloomreach offers three solutions, including Bloomreach Experience Cloud (brX), Bloomreach Search & Merchandising (brSM) and Bloomreach Experience Manager (brXM). Bloomreach’s commerce-focused platforms run on top of a headless commerce solution. They allow marketers to optimize and personalize commerce and content experiences with headless APIs to enable developer agility.

Pricing: Enterprise platform (demo available upon request).

30. Crownpeak

Crownpeak’s digital experience platform is cloud-native and is built for brands seeking scalability and security. It is a hybrid headless CMS that supports content and e-commerce platforms. The system is designed with national privacy and data protection laws in mind.

Along with omnichannel content delivery and multisite management, Crownpeak offers Personalization, A/B Testing, SEO features and live site tag and performance monitoring. Availability: Enterprise pricing (demo available upon request).

31. Magnolia CMS

Magnolia CMS is recognized by Gartner and Forrester. It's an open-source headless CMS with content hyper-personalization features, digital asset management, campaign management and marketer-friendly interfaces.

This low-code platform empowers citizen developers and IT teams alike, thanks to its built-in CI/CD, hot deployment and slim YAML configuration files.

Pricing: Enterprise pricing (demo available upon request).

32. Progress Sitefinity

Progress Sitefinity is a web content management system built to engage customers across the entire customer lifecycle. The system offers a simple and intuitive interface for marketers that brings data together from several sources. It also provides developers with a powerful and extensible platform for processing that data.

Sitefinity Web Content Management and Sitefinity Digital Experience Cloud empower brands to deliver personalized experiences, including commerce experiences, across channels.

Availability: Tailored pricing (demo available upon request).

33. Ibexa

Ibexa (formerly eZ Platform) is an open-source CMS and digital experience platform built on the Symfony full-stack framework.

Ibexa provides a content repository, multichannel and multi-device content delivery, multilingual and multisite content management and granular user permissions.

Availability: Open-source version available, enterprise pricing.

34. Optimizely

Formerly known as Episerver, Optimizely offers a CMS, as well as a marketing suite. It enables editors to drag-and-drop content to quickly create new digital experiences that are automatically responsive.

There are several products in the Optimizely suite, offering search, AI personalization and data analytics to help brands make the most of their content strategies.

Availability: Enterprise pricing (demo available upon request).

Choosing a Headless CMS? Look Beyond the Software

As the list above shows, there's no shortage of headless content management systems to choose from. Making the switch to a headless or decoupled platform is not a simple undertaking. It's important to make sure the system has good support and the people who will be using it are on board with the transition. Test a few systems and make sure the one you choose has all the features your team needs.