What is Headless?
The first place to start is to actually understand what Headless is. For simplicity purposes, I would consider Headless and PWA (Progressive Web Application) the same thing in that its an architecture in which your frontend is decoupled from the backend. Thus the name: Headless. Your backend or eCommerce functionality has no built-in head (frontend), the head (frontend) is separate.
This paradigm started in the early 2010s when headless frameworks like Angular, React, and Vue.JS became popular.
It has taken longer to move into eCommerce versus traditional web applications which are often headless in the tech space because they have large engineering budgets to build cutting edge web applications.
Most eCommerce websites use platforms like Shopify and Magento and the templating is part of those platforms which is not headless.
Headless commerce gives companies the power to deliver bespoke experiences by channel tailored to use case.
Progressive Web Applications can load much faster because they are only bringing in the data they need when loading. Rather than completely reloading the page, you might just reload the catalog, the footer, sidebar, and the header might stay the same.
There are more technical explanations but for simplicity purposes, you are only loading what you need, not the whole page on every page refresh / reload, and in the end, you should end up with a faster website.
By having an independent frontend you can really focus on mobile and mobile-first experiences. You are no longer tied to some platform-specific frontend templating structure and can build exactly what you need to display. This is great for mobile and overall frontend flexibility.
One of the major issues of having everything tied into one platform is that if you want to add new things to your backend etc or maybe change the frontend you have to go through a platform like Shopify or Magento etc.
However, with headless, you could more easily change your backend systems like an ERP or the eCommerce platform itself and simply tie that into your existing frontend instead of having to completely rewrite everything. There is more room to iterate than to completely blow things up…
One of my favorite things about Headless is that it can tie directly into an ERP, eCommerce system, and a CMS like WordPress. We find no platform does everything really well, and sometimes using 3 or 4 great systems works better than trying to cram everything into one big bloated software.
Direct Connection to the Backend
One of the major issues with eCommerce systems is that they have multiple systems tying into the main eCommerce platform and then all displaying that all on the frontend. This can be quite a disaster at times and hard to manage.
Headless applications can work offline to some degree and can be very effective for slow internet or when mobile internet is going in and out of service. It’s far more effective for this kind of environment than traditional websites.
Headless applications can offer similar functionality like push notifications to mobile apps. Its a great way to achieve a mobile app like experience without having to invest in a completely separate infrastructure from your website.
The world is moving in the direction of headless commerce. Move now or become obsolete. Building a non-headless site is more and more at risk of becoming obsolete in the near future.
Developers Won’t Hate It:
Good developers want to build headless. They know it’s better. You will attract and retain better talent by going headless.