Insights, Web Development

The Top 10 Headless CMS Platforms of 2023 [Updated]

Most of which with Free Plans that include all the essentials

The headless approach makes it possible to have a single CMS that can distribute your content to multiple platforms in one click. As any headless CMS disconnects the back end “body” from the front end “head”, it gives you the ability to create, manage and store your content in the “body” while you format, design, and distribute it from the “head”. These two parts are connected only by an API which enables communication between them. So, what are the best headless CMS platforms you should check out when you decide to adopt the new approach? In this blog article, we’ll take a look at the 10 top headless CMS solutions for 2023, most of which have a free plan for you to test the platform’s capabilities. 

Updated: 27 September 2023


When we talk about great traditional CMS options, it’s easy to point out popular, powerful, and proven platforms such as  WordPress, Shopify, BigCommerce, Webflow, CraftCMS, Hubspot CMS, and Squarespace. However, which are the headless CMS options you might like to have a look at to find your best fit? Let’s review these options here.

1. Contentful: API-First Composable Content Platform

Contentful is a cloud-based headless CMS that makes it easy to connect the dots with different APIs and make your website the way you like. Its headless CMS approach focuses on being a CMS with eCommerce capabilities rather than an eCommerce solution with CMS capabilities.

✔️ Highlights:
  • API-first CaaS headless CMS
  • Central hub
  • true omnichannel experience
  • RESTful API
  • CDN integrations
  • Robust caching methods integrate with external CDNs for better loading speed
  • Displays JSON snippets
  • Rich-text editor
  • Content modeling features
  • Ability to customize UX for simplified authoring
  • Integrates with static website generators

The platform gives you the freedom of building custom content models so you can decide what content your website needs, manage it, and quickly distribute it across various channels.

❌ Drawbacks:
  • Integrating apps with app frameworks can be complex.
  • You can’t clone content that’s been created on a different platform.
  • It might be hard to keep tabs on what is active and backtrack if something goes wrong
  • Might be complex for users who are new to CMS in general
  • You can’t copy entire pages so it might be time-consuming to create new pages.


Pricing: Free, premium, and enterprise plans

The free plan is ideal for developers with personal projects to test the platform and play around with its capabilities: from test sites to hackathon projects. It includes 1 intro space license, 5 users, 4 standard roles, 2 locales, a Tasks app, Compose app, and other perks.

For more advanced features, more users, and a Launch app, there’s the Basic Plan that amounts to $300 per month, as well as a Custom Premium Plan for large organizations or multiple teams with scaled digital experiences.

You can also check out the full Contentful review with all the pros and cons of the platform, how it works, and what makes it more than a headless CMS.

Visit Contentful


Considering going headless? Schedule a meeting with our tech-savvy managers to discuss if the headless approach is right for your business.


2. Prismic: Calm and Non-Intrusive Headless CMS That Just Works

Prismic is an API-based headless CMS that allows you to manage your content with cloud service and integrate with other platforms. The platform allows you to design custom content types and create Slices (reusable fields) to personalize your workflow. It also provides REST, GraphQL, SDKs for developers to work in their preferred framework or language, and a global CDN.

✔️ Highlights:
  • SaaS headless CMS
  • Visual editor
  • Custom type builds
  • Multi-language support
  • Full revision history
  • APIs, REST, GraphQL, and SDKs
  • CDN
  • Native integrations with Shopify and Magento
  • Scheduling tool
  • Project and workflow management tool
  • Very well-written documentation
  • True real-time collaboration
  • Language and framework agnostic
  • Reusable fields (Slices)
  • Improved loading speed (Prismic collaborates with Imgix)

In addition, Prismic is user-friendly for all levels of expertise and gives content teams the independence to create new pages without the need to ask for help from developers.

The SliceMachine feature, on the other hand, gives you the ability to add Slices (new sections) and reuse them on any other content type.

❌ Drawbacks:
  • Difficult to filter content
  • Occasional crashes
  • There might be some delay in some tools being updated to work with the latest version of frameworks
  • Not much support for online tutorials
  • Possible migration issues
  • Inability to host multiple regions under one CMS


Pricing: Free, premium, and enterprise plans

The Free Plan supports 1 user, unlimited API calls, documents, custom types, locales, assets, and image optimizations as well as 100GB of built-in CDN.

There are the Starter Plan for $7 per month and the Small Plan for $15 which both include everything in the free plan for 3 and 7 users, respectively.

Moving to more advanced features, the Medium Plan goes for $100 per month and includes 25 users, user roles, basic support, and 500GB of built-in CDN. This plan is recommended for scaling small and midsize businesses.

For companies continuously adding features to their websites and mobile applications, the Platinum Plan $500 per month includes everything from the Medium Plan plus unlimited users, 1TB of built-in CDN, SLA (API uptime), back-ups, and the option for a development environment. If a large company needs even more advanced security and support, a dedicated point of contract, and more advanced features, there’s also the option for a Custom Plan.

Visit Prismic


3. Agility: The Fastest Headless CMS Solution Out There

This multi-tenant SaaS headless CMS has built-in components for managing content, ticketing, landing page design, and eCommerce. The platform empowers editors to work with authoring features and reuse the content.

✔️ Highlights:
  • The fastest headless CMS solutions out there
  • headless CMS features + Content authoring tools
  • High customization
  • Marketers-friendly
  • Built-in content management components
  • Built-in components for eCommerce, landing page design, and ticketing
  • Developing and publishing tools: content sharing, scheduling, workflow management
  • Reusable content
  • Integrates with third-party apps such as CRMs, external databases,eCommerce platforms, etc.

And last, Agility integrates with numerous third-party applications, including CRMs, external databases, video tools, and eCommerce platforms.

❌ Drawbacks:
  • No free plan
  • Expensive business plan
  • Limted search function
  • You can see the modules contained in previous versions of a page but you can’t preview the version itself.
  • Some of the configurations required for complex modules can become hard to follow
  • The composite module might still need more features


Pricing: Free trials and various subscription plans

Agility doesn’t offer a Free Plan, however, you can use the Free Trial option to test the platform’s plans.

The Starter Plan goes for $1,249 per month for a single website and small teams. It includes up to 10 users, 50K entries (content, pages, and assets), a 1-page management sitemap, 1TB asset storage, 1TB asset traffic, unlimited models and types, unlimited API calls, and unlimited locales.

For larger teams that handle multiple websites and content hubs, the Pro Plan $2,499 per month includes 25 users, 250K entries, 5 pages management sitemaps, 5TB asset storage, 2TB asset traffic, SLA, unlimited models and types, unlimited API calls, and unlimited locales.

The Enterprise plan is an annual custom plan where you can talk to an expert to help you build the ideal plan for scaling and controlling everything you need.

Visit Agility


4. Fast and Efficient Cloud-Based CMS is a SaaS headless CMS for enterprise-level teams to manage content. It offers real-time collaboration, a single page React app, and project management features.

✔️ Highlights:
  • SaaS headless CMS
  • SDKs, APIs
  • Single-page React app
  • SLA0guaranteed uptime
  • WYSIWYG editor
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Built-in workflow, content, localization, and personalization features

The platform has a very intuitive user experience that makes it easier for marketers and content creators with little to no technical knowledge to produce content.

❌ Drawbacks:
  • Monthly payment is a bit expensive
  • URL slugs might not generate appropriately
  • Limited integrations library (for now)
  • No auto-translate mode or side-by-side edit mode for the different languages


Pricing: Free Developer Plan and Premium Plans for Scale and Enterprise

Let’s start with the Free Plan for developers. It gives you all the essentials you need to develop a non-commercial project and basically test the platform and see how it works. The plan includes 2 environments and 1 project; 2 active users, 500 content items, unlimited content types, 2GB asset storage, and 2 languages.

When you’re ready to scale with a more advanced set of capabilities, you can opt for the Scale or Enterprise plans that both require custom quotes.

Visit Kontent Ai


5. Directus: Open-Source Headless CMS Framework

Directus is a cloud-based CMS that connects custom SQL databases with dynamic APIs, enabling businesses to manage content easily. It offers features like branding, bookmarks, revisions, SSO, status tracking, multi-language support, and data filtering.

The platform includes content authoring workflows for project status management and role-based permissions. Its API mirrors SQL database structures and executes custom code via events and webhooks. Users can create or delete projects, including databases, storage adapters, and configurations, with the option to keep project names private.

✔️ Highlights:
  • No Vendor Lock-In: No database migrations and vendor restrictions with Directus’ dynamic API and schema analysis.
  • SQL Compatibility: Keep control by writing SQL queries and adapting Directus incrementally as your business evolves.
  • Database Mirroring: An intuitive database GUI, keeping schema changes in sync effortlessly.
  • Flexible Publishing Workflows: Choose between soft and hard delete options in content workflows.
  • Content Scheduling: Schedule content publication with precision.
  • Content Versioning: Easily revert to prior item versions.
  • Customizable UI: Tailor workflows, roles, and permissions through the user interface.
  • REST and GraphQL APIs: Efficiently manage databases with these API options.
  • Versatile Field Types: Support for various data types, including char, varchar, and text.
  • Webhooks Integration: Seamlessly extend your app’s functionality with Directus’ webhooks.
  • Command Line Interface (CLI): Simplify project setup and access commands with the CLI.
  • SDKs: Enhance accessibility and usability with Directus’ Javascript SDK.
  • GDPR Compliance: Data encryption and HTTPS/TLS ensure GDPR compliance.

Directus offers an intuitive, customizable UI for easy editing. It supports various content fields like title, teaser text, and author info, along with layout options such as tables, calendars, maps, kanban, and cards. Managing media assets is a breeze through the File Library.

The content editor in Directus is WYSIWYG, with the option to choose between WYSIWYG and Markdown-based on your subscription tier.

Directus also provides publishing workflows with different statuses: Draft, Review, Approved, and Published, all controlled by role and permission settings. For instance, authors can create content but only save it as drafts or for review, while managers with higher access can approve and publish.

❌ Drawbacks:
  • Database Restriction: Directus works only with relational databases, limiting database choices.
  • API Complexity: Adapting to Directus’ API can be complex.
  • Data Risk: There’s a risk of corrupting schemas and data.
  • Fast Feature Releases: New features are sometimes introduced rapidly, potentially causing disruptions.
  • Limited Licensing: One license doesn’t support multiple environments or instances.


Pricing: Self-Hosted and Cloud Plans

Directus provides four pricing options:

Community Self-Hosted, which is free for individuals and organizations with finances under $5,000,000; Enterprise Self-Hosted, with flexible pricing for larger enterprises and government entities.

Professional Cloud at $99 per month (annually billed) for development and medium-scale projects; and Enterprise Cloud, starting at $599 per month (annually billed) for mission-critical projects, offering configuration flexibility.

Visit Directus


6. Sanity io: ReactJS-Based Unified Content Platform

The open-source JavaScript and ReactJS-based unified content platform Sanity is a very popular headless solution for everyone who’s just getting started learning to use the headless approach. It offers essential features for marketers, such as tools for real-time collaboration, live previewing, and versioning.

✔️ Highlights:
  • Open-source headless CMS
  • JavaScript and ReactJS-based unified content platform
  • WYSIWYG editor
  • Sweet Query API for caching multiple queries on a single request
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Treats content as data
  • In-build marketing features
  • Live preview
  • Content versioning

In addition, the platform has personalization features and content performance analytics out of the box.

❌ Drawbacks:
  • Customization is complex and requires a steep learning curve for new users
  • Limited flexibility on different modules
  • A limited number of unique attributes per dataset.
  • Great for developers but the editors might need a better and more intuitive user experience.
  • You can’t self-host the content


Pricing: Free, premium, and enterprise plans

One of the best things about Sanity is the Free Forever Plan which is awesome for getting started and you can add a credit card later for pay-as-you-go for more resources or add-ons. The free plan gives developers an open-source editing environment; a hosted real-time content database; free admin users, and 3 non-admin users.

Moving on to the premium plans, Sanity has a Team Plan for $99 per month that includes 10 non-admin users, a revision history (30 days), and an additional usage quota. For mid-size companies with more complex content requirements comes the Business Plan for $949 per month with 20 non-admin users; SAML SSO (security); advanced dataset management; revision history (90 days) and a high volume quota.

In addition, there’s also the option for a Custom Enterprise Plan.

Visit Sanity


7. Ghost CMS:  Lightweight and Fantastic for SEO

Ghost is a very lightweight CMS with a minimal admin dashboard, which is ideal for beginners. The platform makes it easy for users to handle installations, configurations and the CMs features in addition to the ability to customize their experience.

✔️ Highlights:
  • Open-source publishing headless CMS platform
  • Ideal for eCommerce and blogging
  • Open-source theme starter framework
  • Highly customizable
  • Beginner-friendly with a setup guide
  • Minimal admin dashboard
  • Supports the Ubuntu server for running self-hosted instances
  • Simple to use, configure and install
  • Internal SEO tools
  • Structured data
  • Custom branding
  • Multi-language support
  • Webhooks
  • Front-end agnostic

As mentioned, the platform offers powerful built-in SEO options so users don’t need to add third-party tools.

❌ Drawbacks:
  • No free plan
  • Doesn’t store previously used media
  • Deletes content once a user is removed.
  • No native Comment Functionality
  • Limited themes available


Pricing: Starting and Premium plans

Ghost CMS provides 14 days free trial plan for beginners, however, it doesn’t offer a free plan. Once you test the platform, you can opt for any of the following premium plans.

The Starter Plan goes for $9 per month 1 staff user; free and official Ghost themes; standard built-in integrations. Moving on to the Creator Plan $25 per month, it includes 2 staff users, unlimited custom themes, 1K  + Zapier integrations, and the ability to build custom integrations.

The Team Plan $50 per month includes everything from Creator plus 5 staff users, priority support, and higher usage limits; while the Business Plan $199 per month, adds unlimited staff users, advanced domain configs, and 99.9% uptime SLA.
Visit Ghost CMS


8. Netlify: Open-Source CMS for Your Git Workflow

Netlify is known as the only static hosting service with integrated continuous deployment; while Netlify CMS is an open-source React-based application that wraps up your Git workflow by using the GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket API. With this in mind, the platform is community-driven, becoming the headless version of community ecosystems such as WordPress and Drupal. More importantly, you can use Netlify CMS without Netlify and deploy your web application on any server you like. Respectively, you can also use Netlify without Netlify CMS and edit your static site in an editor of your choice.

✔️ Highlights:
  • Open-source headless CMS
  • ReactJS-based
  • Works with several static site generators
  • All the content and source code are stored in a Git repository
  • Marketers and editors-friendly interface

Another interesting feature is that, when you add Nettlify CMS to your web application, you add a tool for your content editors to commit to your repository without having to learn Git.

❌ Drawbacks:
  • Clients cannot implement changes by themselves.
  • Trouble managing large sites
  • All changes in content are available for users after the build process is completed
  • Need understanding for Markdown


Pricing: Free and Premium Plans

Developers can get started for free and later pay for additional features with the Free Plan. It includes live site previews with a collaboration UI for team members; rollbacks to any version, and deployment of static assets and dynamic serverless functions.

The Pro Plan $19 per month features advanced tools and support for professional web projects; such as support for private organization-owned Git repos; background features, 1TB bandwidth, and 25k build minutes; etc.  You can find additional collaboration, security, and compliance features for larger teams in the Business Plan for $99 per month. In addition, Custom Enterprise Plan is also available for tailored features according to specific performance requirements.

Visit Netlify


9. Cockpit CMS: Simple API-driven Content Platform

Cockpit CMS is an open-source self-hosted API-driven headless CMS that comes with a user-friendly interface and built-in multi-user support, easy data filtering for targeted results, and the ability to list down all the data in one go with the help of codes next to each element.

✔️ Highlights:
  • Free, open-source
  • Self-hosted headless CMS
  • Content provider rather than a website builder
  • Back-end-only solution for storing and distributing content
  • Pure headless: No built-in editing features for content presentation
  • APIs and JSON
  • Language and database agnostic

Another great perk of using Cockpit is that it uses SQLite as a storage engine, making the process of maintaining and porting across different servers, easy as cake.

❌ Drawbacks:
  • Documentation and community might not be sufficient
  • Users might find the interface too complicated.


Pricing: Free Open-Source, Pro, and Enterprise Plans

Cockpit CMS is a free open-source CMS for developers to immediately download and start working with. The Free Plan offers the Cockpit core features and all essentials.

If you wish to expand the platform ca[abilities with pro-add-ons, you can opt for the Pro Plan for $268 per project (with 50% discounts for verified non-profits, open-source projects, or educational institutions). You can also test and trial Cockpit Pro while your site is in a non-public development environment.

In addition, you can also consult for a Custom Enterprise Plan depending on specific licensing requirements, individual consulting, and the need for general high-level support.

Visit Cockpit


10. Strapi: Open-Source NodeJS- Based Headless CMS Solution

Strapi is a developer-friendly open-source and free-to-use service that provides a headless approach with powerful features from traditional CMS platforms, such as content search, authentication methods, and content relationships. You can create products from scratch and manage them with zero to no tech experience.

✔️ Highlights:
  • Open-source headless CMS
  • Self-hosted system
  • Built on NodeJS
  • Modern codebase
  • APIs
  • Developer-first platform
  • High customization for content management
  • Customizable admin
  • Front-end agnostic
  • Asset management
  • Security features CSFR, CORS, P3P, and XSS.

It’s important to mention that Strapi has top-notch security features and a built-in authentification system that protects your data from cybersecurity threats and malware.

Keep in mind that Strapi is a great option when you start from scratch. If you need to migrate your backend system, you’ll have to manually implement all the essential components, which makes the process very challenging.

❌ Drawbacks:
  • Documentation might not be understandable for some people
  • Might be difficult to migrate existing APIs (from a previous back-end system to Strapi)
  • Limited TypeScript
  • Constant program updates


Pricing: Free, Premium, and Enterprise Plans

To start with, you have the option to host on your own server or have Strapi host your applications on theirs. Same as Sanity, Strapi also has a Free Forever Community Plan for developers. It’s an open-source self-hosted plan with everything you need to get started. This includes REST & GraphQL API; a highly flexible content structure; infinite customization; unlimited usage (entries, API calls, assets, etc.); unlimited locales; up to 3 default roles, and community support.

To unlock some enterprise features, Strapi also has several premium plans. The Bronze Plan is $9 per admin user per month for a self-hosted application with granular access controls and billing and license support.

Next is the Silver Plan for $29 per admin user per month with guidance and assistance; and a Custom Gold Plan for Enterprises with single sign-on; audit logs; technical support with SLAs; customer success manager; and technical onboarding.


Visit Strapi



Honourable Mention ❤️

11. Craft CMS

Craft CMS has a clean-slate approach to content modeling and front-end development and a headless mode. This feature is welcomed by developers who need to provide content for a single web application or static site generators. For example, it comes in handy when you have a React-based app with a backend to fetch data from. You can use the Headless Mode along with GraphQL to easily query data from the database. Custom API approaches are also possible if you’re using Craft CMS modules.

✔️ Highlights:
  • Content-first headless CMS
  • Custom fields
  • Drag-and-drop content and layout
  • Multisite management; asset management
  • Live preview for different screens
  • Matrix block architecture for developers to create reusable blocks of fields and construct complex page layouts
  • Built-in image editor
  • Customizable dashboard

Craft has become an established CMS platform and a popular alternative. For example, in 2017, Craft was selected s the Best WordPress Alternative in CMS Critic’s People’s Choice Awards.

❌ Drawbacks:
  • Restrictions to installing templates
  • Small and expensive developer community
  • While there is a free version, it has limited functionalities
  • A limited number of plugins, and no themes


Pricing: Free, Pro, and Enterprise plans

When you’re building a website for yourself or a friend or you just wish to get crafty and test your skills, Craft CMS has a Free Forever Plan for you. This plan includes ultra-flexible content modeling; powerful front-end tools; multi-site; localization and an admin account.

However, when you want to go headless, opt for the Pro Plan for professional projects costs $299 per project. It includes unlimited user accounts; enhanced content previewing; GraphQL API; system branding and developer support.

As usual, there’s also a Custom Enterprise Plan for specific requirements, licensing, and needs.

While we were testing many new CMS platforms, we came across Craft CMS. Amongst the variety of available options and tools for creating do-it-yourself websites, this platform can also handle custom complex designs and provide maximum performance at the same time. We’ve been using it to build websites for more than three years, so you can check out the top 10 things we love about Craft CMS with you.

Visit Craft CMS


To Sum Up

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, however,  depending on your budget, the size of your team, and the level of customization you need, all of the mentioned solutions have the potential to be the one headless CMS, perfect for your business. Fortunately, most of the platforms offer a free plan, so you can check them out, make a test project and see which one is the right fit.

In the meantime, you may also be interested in some of these related articles:

Subscribe for our newsletter

We hate boring. Our newsletters are relevant and on point. Excited? Let’s do this!