Publishing API Docs & Guides with a Headless CMS

Headless CMS are synonymous with bespoke website design, cutting edge technology and website migrations from traditional monolithic CMS like WordPress. However, as this article outlines the versatility of a Headless CMS, means it can also be used effectively to power your API docs and guides.

Alan Gleeson - CMO Contento

Alan Gleeson

Co-Founder / CEO

February 26, 2024

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5 mins read

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API Docs & Guides - An Introduction

There are a range of bespoke API document management solutions available on the market.

So why would you consider using a Headless CMS to manage your API documentation and guides?

As we explore in this article there are several use cases in which it might just make sense. We discuss some of these below and also outline some of the resultant benefits from adopting that approach.

What is a Headless CMS?

A Headless CMS is a modern content management system synonymous with powering enterprise websites. The category has emerged in recent years as a compelling alternative (or upgrade) to a traditional CMS-backed website builder like WordPress.

Known issues with WordPress as you scale, including performance issues due to website bloat, and security issues as well as broader scaling challenges mean that a growing number of websites are moving to what is perceived to be a more cutting-edge approach.

A Headless CMS is a decoupled architecture where the front end and back end are separated and the headless CMS is largely concerned with the content repository or back-end which serves content via an API. A traditional CMS offers an all-in-one solution that has attractions in certain contexts, whereas a best-of-breed approach that Headless offers appeals to others.

The resultant benefits from migrating to headless include:

  • Performance enhancements [faster page load times all other things considered]

  • Bespoke design

  • No vendor lock-in (easy to swap elements in and out)

  • Built for scaling

  • Flexible approach

  • Perceived to be more secure

  • Not wedded to one platform i.e. the API can feed ‘multiple heads’

However, the use case for Headless is not just limited to Fortune 500 enterprises looking to eke out performance gains while also enjoying the omnichannel capability of the approach.

Why Would You Use a Headless CMS for API Documentation?

So why would you use a Headless CMS for API documentation?

Well for a start, you are managing content and this content needs to reflect well on the company.

It has to be well laid out, sitting on a well-designed page, quick to load, and easy for non-technical users to maintain. Well, these are all the capabilities of a modern CMS like Contento.

Sure, if you want some power features that are all-in on a fully loaded API document management system then you may be better served by a specialist solution.

However, if you just need a standard set of features where you can house your API Documents and Guides in a developer portal then a solution like Contento can meet your needs. By way of clarification not all Headless CMS are well suited to this use case - Contento is, as it specializes in Headless for websites. 

Importance of Great API Documentation

Great API documentation is designed to make the life of the developer easier. The clearer the documentation, the quicker they can make their 1st successful API call the better. You want to make it clear what the APIs do and show code examples alongside.

Additional benefits include:

  • Act as instructions to integrate different applications (training resource)

  • Reduce the burden on support (fewer queries)

  • Well-documented API docs make it easier for developers to start (facilitating adoption)

  • Helps showcase the capability of the core application

  • Helps to expedite the development process

Features of Help Docs

As referenced earlier there are feature rich enterprise applications available on the market. However, from our research, many of the non-core features are not always widely used. The following represents some of the key capabilities of Help Docs (Powered by Contento).

  • Host API references not attached to documents and guides

  • Separate documents/guide

  • Automation with GitHub for Swagger

  • Self-branding - including whitelisting

  • Customizable endpoint URLs

  • Host multiple Product APIs as well as multiple API versions

  • Ease of use/ Good UI and editable option

  • Existing customer API sites

Alongside these, you also get the benefits of Headless including blazingly quick page load times, SEO-optimized content, and a CMS that non-technical users can easily navigate.

Case Study - API Documentation provides web-based project and groupware management tools designed to help teams work together online. One of the market leaders in the space it is synonymous with beautiful design and offering a powerful project management solution. used to run their API documentation and guides on one of the market-leading offerings but were frustrated by the page speed load, the inflexibility of the design and the lack of an intuitive CMS non technical people could manage.

Migrating to Help Docs (Powered by Contento) led to quicker page load times, a more contemporary design and a full content management system designed for non-technical users.


While a Headless CMS is not a dedicated API document management solution, it offers an attractive route to managing your API documentation without being dependent on your developers. Help Docs powered by Contento offers the capability of a Headless CMS alongside reference API docs auto-generated from Swagger/ Open API. The case study represents a real-life example showcasing the value of a Headless CMS-backed Developer portal.

Alan Gleeson - CMO Contento
Alan Gleeson

Co-Founder / CEO

Alan Gleeson has 15+ years extensive B2B SaaS experience working with several VC backed Startups & Scaleups in the UK, US & Ireland.

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