Headless CMS

11 Best Open Source Headless CMS to Try in 2023

April 12, 2024
11 min
Best Open Source Headless CMS

Hey there, folks!

If you're into web development, content management, or just have a curious mind, you've probably heard the buzz about Headless CMS. But what's all the fuss about, and why should you care about open-source solutions in 2023?

Well, stick with me as we dive into the world of Open-Source Headless CMS and explore the top 11 contenders for the year.

What is a Headless CMS (Content Management System)?

A headless CMS offers freedom from traditional CMS constraints. Unlike all-in-one platforms, it splits content management (back-end) from content presentation (front-end). The back-end stores and manages content, while the front-end, called the "head," displays it. This separation enhances flexibility and agility in content management and presentation.

Importance of Open-Source Solutions

Open-source means the software's code is open to the public, allowing anyone to view, use, and even contribute to its development. This approach fosters innovation, collaboration, and cost-effectiveness. Open-source software is not only beneficial for individuals and businesses but also for society as a whole. By making the code accessible to everyone, open-source projects encourage transparency and accountability. This means that any flaws or vulnerabilities in the software can be easily identified and fixed by a community of developers.

Furthermore, open-source software promotes collaboration among programmers around the world. Developers from different backgrounds with varying expertise can come together to improve existing programs or create new ones.

Why Choose an Open-Source Headless CMS Platform?

Cost-Effective Solutions

Open-source headless CMS means that the software's source code is freely available for anyone to modify and customize according to their needs, making it a budget-friendly option, especially for startups and small businesses. This not only eliminates licensing fees but also allows for greater flexibility in terms of scalability and integration with other systems. With so many options to choose from, it's essential to carefully evaluate each CMS based on its features, community support, and ease of use. By opting for an open-source headless CMS, you can enjoy a cost-effective solution while still benefiting from robust content management capabilities.

Customization and Flexibility

Customization and flexibility are two essential factors to consider when choosing a headless CMS. With the ability to create tailored content models, define unique data structures, and build custom APIs, open-source headless CMS platforms offer unprecedented flexibility for developers and content creators alike. This means that you can shape your CMS to fit your specific needs, without being limited by predefined templates or restricted functionality.

One of the advantages of customization is the ability to adapt your CMS as your business evolves. As new requirements emerge or the market shifts, having a flexible system in place allows you to easily make changes without disrupting your existing infrastructure. Whether it's adding new content types, modifying existing ones, or integrating with other tools and services, a customizable headless CMS empowers you to stay agile and responsive in today's fast-paced digital landscape.

Furthermore, customization plays a crucial role in providing a unique user experience. By tailoring the backend interface according to user preferences and workflows, content creators can navigate effortlessly through their tasks and focus on creating exceptional content rather than dealing with clunky interfaces. Customization also extends to frontend experiences where designers can have complete control over how their website or application appears across different devices and platforms.

Active Community Support

One of the key factors to consider when choosing a headless CMS for your project is the level of active community support it offers. An active community can be an invaluable resource, providing assistance, sharing knowledge, and even collaborating on new features and improvements. It ensures that you have access to a wide range of expertise and can rely on a thriving ecosystem dedicated to continuous development.

Active community support fosters open communication channels where developers can ask questions, share ideas, and find solutions to their problems efficiently. This often leads to faster bug fixes and updates as community members work together towards common goals. Additionally, an engaged community can provide valuable insights into best practices and offer tips and tricks for maximizing the potential of your chosen CMS.

Key Considerations When Evaluating Headless CMS

There are many key considerations when evaluating a headless CMS. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Your content architecture: How do you want to organize your content? What are the different types of content you need to manage? The headless CMS you choose should be able to accommodate your specific content needs.
  • Your API design: The APIs are the interface between the headless CMS and the front-end. They should be well-designed and easy to use for both developers and content creators.
  • Content delivery performance: The headless CMS should be able to deliver content quickly and efficiently to users. This is especially important for websites with a lot of traffic.
  • API performance: The APIs should be able to handle a high volume of requests without slowing down.
  • Editorial features: The headless CMS should have the features you need to create and manage content, such as a content editor, a workflow manager, and a revision history.
  • Business flexibility: The headless CMS should be flexible enough to adapt to your changing business needs. This includes features like scalability, security, and integration with other systems.
  • Security and privacy: The headless CMS should be secure and protect your data. It should have features like role-based access control, data encryption, and auditing.

In addition to these key considerations, you should also consider the following factors when evaluating a headless CMS:

  • Your budget: Headless CMS can range in price from free to thousands of dollars per month.
  • Your team's skills and experience: Headless CMS can be more complex to implement than traditional CMS. You'll need to make sure your team has the skills and experience necessary to manage a headless CMS.
  • Your timeline: Implementing a headless CMS can take time. You'll need to factor in the time it takes to choose a CMS, configure it, and develop the front-end.

Top 11 Open Source Headless CMS for 2023 (Strapi and more...)

1. Strapi - Features and Benefits

Strapi, an open-source headless CMS, is among the best open source headless CMS platforms. It enables you to create and tailor content types in JavaScript, giving you the flexibility to design your content structure. With robust user access control, Strapi ensures the security of your content, and its flexible API architecture allows you to design your frontend as you desire. It provides diverse content management options, including localization support. Strapi's active community and comprehensive documentation make it a versatile choice for various projects. Built on Node.js and equipped with an intuitive admin panel, it offers an exceptional headless CMS experience.

2. Ghost - Features and Benefits

Ghost, an open-source CMS, is perfect for bloggers and content-driven websites. It's not only a good CMS but also an open-source content management system. With clean and responsive themes, Ghost simplifies content publication. Maintaining a strong community, it offers premium support for its users, ensuring a smooth headless CMS journey.

3. Contentful - Features and Benefits

Contentful, a cloud-based headless CMS, is renowned for its developer-friendly features. It simplifies content creation and delivery, making it one of the top open source headless CMS choices. Leveraging a GraphQL API, Contentful empowers developers with programmatic control over content. It caters to both paid and open-source users, ensuring content management that meets diverse needs.

4. Directus - Features and Benefits

Directus is a headless CMS that provides complete control over your data schema, making it an ideal choice for developers looking to build custom solutions. With extensive documentation and an active community forum, Directus offers a robust GraphQL API, providing programmatic control over the CMS.

5. Cockpit - Features and Benefits

Cockpit, a self-hosted, lightweight CMS, offers a straightforward content management solution. Despite its simplicity, it is a good CMS for smaller projects. While it may have a smaller user base, it comes with a dedicated community and responsive support. Cockpit supports REST API for publishing content and running self-hosted instances.

6. GraphCMS - Features and Benefits

GraphCMS is an open-source content management system focused on managing content for websites and applications. With a GraphQL API, it simplifies content retrieval for developers, enhancing the CMS experience. GraphCMS provides excellent documentation and responsive support for your content management needs.

7. DatoCMS - Features and Benefits

DatoCMS is designed for collaborative content creation, offering a user-friendly interface and powerful content modeling capabilities. It has an active user community and offers support through various channels. It is an open-source content management system that caters to teams in need of efficient content management.

8. Agility CMS - Features and Benefits

Agility CMS, a cloud-based headless CMS, prioritizes speed and flexibility. It caters to both developers and marketers and offers responsive customer support along with thorough documentation. This open-source content management system streamlines content delivery, making it an excellent choice for a headless CMS experience.

9. ButterCMS - Features and Benefits

ButterCMS is an open-source content management system that focuses on simplicity, making it a good CMS for marketing teams and small businesses. It comes with a user-friendly interface and a supportive community, offering responsive support to ensure a smooth content management journey.

10. Netlify CMS - Features and Benefits

Netlify CMS is a Git-based CMS that seamlessly integrates with the Jamstack architecture, providing version control for developers. With an active community and extensive documentation, it is an excellent choice for those looking to manage content effectively.

11. WordPress (Headless Mode) - Features and Benefits

In headless mode, WordPress retains its renowned content management capabilities, while developers can take charge of the presentation. With one of the world's largest and most active user communities, WordPress bridges the gap between traditional and headless CMS, offering extensive support resources and a platform that is both open source and capable of managing content efficiently.

Best Open Source Headless CMS? CodeWalnut: Unleashing the Power of Custom Development

CodeWalnut, a leading open-source headless CMS, utilizes Angular and a static site generator. This headless CMS efficiently stores and manages content, promoting robust services. It embraces open-source themes, allowing developers to tailor the CMS with content models in JavaScript and GraphQL for powerful content management. CodeWalnut prioritizes user-friendliness, enabling frontend design alignment through GraphQL. As a bridge between open-source and paid services, it caters to diverse client needs, serving as an ideal fusion of open-source innovation and service. It stands out in the expanding global headless CMS market, offering versatile, free, and open-source solutions, including e-commerce support. CodeWalnut combines open-source flexibility with rich features for dynamic content management.


1. What is the best open-source headless CMS solution for 2023?
Strapi stands out as one of the best open-source headless CMS options for 2023. It offers a comprehensive set of features, an open-source theme starter framework, and a content modeling system powered by GraphQL. Strapi's versatility makes it an excellent choice for developers and content creators seeking a flexible and powerful CMS solution.

2. What are the key benefits of using a headless CMS system?
Headless CMS systems offer numerous benefits, including content flexibility and storage, API-driven content management, and the ability to choose the best frontend tools. They are ideal for managing content for modern websites and applications, providing developers and content creators with the freedom to design and structure content as needed.

3. How do open-source headless CMS solutions like Cockpit CMS compare to other traditional CMS systems?
Open-source headless CMS solutions like Cockpit CMS are a departure from traditional CMS systems. They provide the ability to manage content and deliver it via APIs, promoting a decoupled architecture. This approach is more flexible, allowing developers to integrate content seamlessly into various applications and platforms.

4. Can you directly manage your content in the headless CMS for 2023, or is a separate interface required?
You can directly manage your content within modern headless CMS solutions. These systems typically offer user-friendly interfaces for creating, editing, and organizing content. Content creators and administrators can work within the CMS to maintain and update content without needing a separate interface.

5. Which open-source headless CMS is based on GraphQL and provides powerful modeling features?
Strapi is an open-source headless CMS based on GraphQL and known for its robust content modeling capabilities. It empowers developers with a flexible schema to structure and manage content effectively. This makes Strapi a valuable choice for projects that require precise data modeling and dynamic content delivery.

6. What makes Cockpit CMS a straightforward option among other headless CMS solutions?
Cockpit CMS is renowned for its straightforward approach to content management. It offers a clean and intuitive user interface that simplifies content creation and organization. Cockpit CMS is suitable for projects that require an uncomplicated content management process without compromising on functionality.

7. How do headless CMS systems like Ghost and Tina CMS enhance the developer experience?
Headless CMS systems like Ghost and Tina CMS are designed to provide the best developer experience. They offer customizable APIs, flexible content modeling, and integration with popular frontend technologies. This enhances the development process and empowers developers to build web applications with ease and efficiency.

8. Are there open-source headless CMS solutions available for free in 2023?
Yes, several open-source headless CMS solutions, such as Strapi, Cockpit CMS, Ghost, and Tina CMS, are available for free. These platforms offer a range of features and are cost-effective options for developers and businesses seeking powerful content management solutions without licensing fees.

Disclaimer: This article outline is created by Humans, content is written by AI and the final article is reviewed & edited by a CodeWalnut engineer.
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