The Cons of Headless CMS

For all the drivers to move to a Headless CMS, there are several drawbacks that you need to be aware of. They rarely get much coverage on the sites of the main Headless CMS providers for obvious reasons. The following list thus represents some of the main perceived drawbacks.

Alan Gleeson - CMO Contento

Alan Gleeson

Co-Founder / CEO

February 3, 2023

Grey Ellipse Icon

5min read

Headless statue of a woman


In recent years we have witnessed an explosion in B2B SaaS startups offering a Headless CMS (What is a Headless CMS?) solution to power websites. Thousands of developers have been early adopters and the names of companies who have moved to Headless include everyone from adidas to Netflix to Nike.

The main drivers for the Headless CMS movement are the performant benefits - primarily the speed of Headless CMS-based websites. Speed impacts everything from SEO to conversion rates and thus represents a key driver for adoption for those looking for marginal gains. Additional benefits include enhanced security (over legacy solutions), increased design flexibility, and the capacity for more productive marketing teams.

Recommended Resource: What are the Key Benefits of a Headless CMS?

Similarly, a growing number of companies are frustrated with their current site performance (some of whom may be on WordPress) leading to another motivation to migrate. Issues with WordPress include everything from issues with website bloat, to security vulnerabilities (often due to plug-ins) to lethargic performance issues.

What is a Headless CMS?

Before we dive into the details any further it is worth being clear on what a Headless CMS is. There are plenty of technical explanations out there that reference decoupling the front end and the back end, focusing on creating structured content and providing API access to a static site generator. These are not very clear for those encountering it for the first time.

It all boils down to the following.

Many of the more popular tools we use to build websites previously are designed to be all-in-one solutions. Everything gets jumbled together (content, design, and code). While that made perfect sense and helped deliver 1,132,268,801 websites around the world (source Web Server Survey - 2023), it became increasingly apparent in recent years that for a certain category of user, there were significant limitations to utilizing these website builders and traditional site builders.

What Are The Limitations?

Firstly, it is important to note that there are many types of websites - from simple blogs to B2C sites, to eCommerce sites to sites dedicated to local offerings. The category of users bumping up against the limitations tended to be larger business websites where performance is everything. These include major brands (with lots of traffic), technology companies such as Intercom, Stripe, and Teamwork (all early adopters of Headless) who wanted a beautiful website designed without compromising on speed.

For those running B2B SaaS sites, design and speed are key elements of success. Your visual identity needs to engender confidence. Conversion rates are linked to SEO rankings and site speeds. Running a WordPress site based on a template, supplemented by lots of plug-ins is no longer considered fit-for-purpose for a site with growth aspirations.

The Headless CMS category has emerged as an approach that is well-suited to the needs of big brands with lots of traffic, as well as technology companies who need to put their best foot forward online.

The Drawbacks

For all the drivers to move to a Headless CMS, there are several drawbacks that you need to be aware of. They rarely get much coverage on the sites of the main Headless CMS providers for obvious reasons. The following list thus represents some of the main perceived drawbacks.

Finally, it is worth noting a couple of things concerning the drawbacks listed below. They tend to be drawbacks for those who are not a good fit for Headless but rarely are when the alignment is strong. I’ll look to explain further when I outline the issues below.

1- Web Developer Dependency [The Build]

Unlike all-in-one template-based solutions, setting up a Headless CMS does entail greater front-end developer dependencies compared to more standard offerings. Again this issue is not a problem for those companies where Headless works well (often where there is a developer on-hand). It is also worth noting that a general Front End developer will be able to work with all the leading Headless CMS solutions - it is not like WordPress or Webflow where specialist developers are needed. Ongoing support is likely to be limited - after all the designated developer is likely to have more pressing priorities, but if new pages need to be built then they will need to be drafted in.

2- Reliance on Other Applications [The Infrastructure]

The API-based nature of a Headless CMS means that the CMS is very focused on the back-end or the content repository and the data is pushed via API to a static site generator. Instead of an all-in-one solution, various 3rd party elements need to be aligned to deliver a fully functioning website.

Again most of these applications are well-known components of the Jamstack CMS approach to website building, are relatively low cost and all offer best-of-breed solutions so again this drawback is not a material one for most companies in the market for a Headless CMS.

3- Developer Centric Nature of Leading Headless CMSs [The Application]

The majority of Headless CMSs concentrate on the developer experience. The main pages of Headless CMS websites can be scary for marketers with references to “composable and structured content”, and “RESTful or GraphQL API’s” to name but a few phrases you’ll encounter.

While this messaging gap for marketers may be the usual case, it aligns with point 1 above, in that the early adopters for Headless CMSs have been primarily amongst the developer community. This is also one key area of differentiation for Contento - the platform has been built from the ground up with the needs of marketers baked in from the get-go.

4- Lack of Templates [The Short Cut]

Templates can save time getting set up and selecting a template is a job most marketers will be familiar with from other CMSs like WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix. However, this is not a common occurrence with most Headless CMSs as they focus on the back end. Of course, this drawback is not a problem for most of the best-fit companies choosing Headless, after-all they want a beautiful design and do not want to be boxed into a template with limited flexibility. While it comes at a cost, it is a worthwhile investment given the impact a beautifully designed site has.

5- Lack of Live Previews [The Front End]

Many Headless CMSs do not offer a live preview capability. This is not ideal from a content management perspective. However, the newer entrants into the Headless CMS category like Contento tend to ship with an in-built preview capability after some modest setup has taken place.

Where does Headless work well?

In short, Headless works well in the following situations

Where there is access to an in-house Front End developer on an ad-hoc basis (this is typically the case for SaaS / tech companies who will likely have a developer in the team familiar with the Jamstack). Most SaaS/ B2B / tech / major brands are ok with this.

Where content creation is an important part of the strategy. This means things like structured content, and editorial calendars are in place and there may also be a desire to push content to different locations (heads)

Where a beautifully designed and high performant website is non-negotiable

Given the above, we are seeing an explosion in the usage of Headless from big brands in all sectors, and technology (SaaS and B2B) companies looking to deliver highly performant websites.


While the benefits of Headless CMS have been espoused by an ever-growing number of providers the drawbacks are less widely understood. In many instances, the drawbacks are material for the wrong type of customer. When there is a good fit (largely commercial sites) with growth aspirations the drawbacks are not that material, which is one of the reasons as to why the category continues to explode.

Please note ChatGPT was not used in the production of this blog.

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.

Newsletter Icon

Join our Newsletter

Learn how to build and manage a great website by subscribing to our newsletter to keep up to date with our products and services.

By subscribing to our newsletter you accept our GDPR terms and Privacy Policy