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Headless WordPress Setup: A Comprehensive Guide

Alex Young | WordPress Nerd

Engineer sitting a computer

Sup, WordPress nerds! I’m thrilled to share my insights with you today about my ideal setup for a headless WordPress site. This is the sort of stuff I get excited about, and I hope you will too!

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Why A Headless WordPress Setup?

What sparked this discussion is the companion site I’m creating for my YouTube channel. I want to convert my video content into a text-based format because, let’s face it, we aren’t always able to watch videos. Perhaps you’re in a meeting or presentation, and you still want to sneak in some WordPress learning – written content is perfect for that! If you aren’t looking to do a headless setup and want to go the more traditional route, you can take a look at my article on the best starter themes for WordPress.

Local Setup

Local WP Logo

For local setup, I considered something simple, user-friendly, and that serves my basic needs efficiently. Local WP was the answer. It provides a super convenient way to manage your local WordPress sites. With a click of a button, I can set up my server and start developing – it’s that straightforward.

Choosing the CMS: WordPress vs. Prismic

The first crucial decision I had to make was choosing the CMS. As a dedicated WordPress developer, the choice was easy – WordPress topped the list. In this headless WordPress setup, I’ve used a nifty plugin called WPGraphQL. This plugin enables me to extract data easily, transforming the WordPress site into a data provider.

But what if you wanted to explore beyond WordPress? There’s another CMS option that’s popped up on my radar recently – Prismic. Prismic offers a component-based structure, which is a more visual builder, reminiscent of Elementor or Gutenberg. Its unique feature is the “slices,” essentially components you create with their tool and then insert into the page. React components generate the view, making it a great option for the frontend framework.

Frontend Frameworks: Next.js vs. Gatsby

Speaking of frontend frameworks, I am leaning towards Next.js. It offers dynamic and static pages, which is a huge plus. I’ve used Gatsby before, but it did have its challenges. Although it’s still in consideration, Next.js is a strong contender due to its easy integration of dynamic pages and out-of-the-box image optimizations.

So, what’s the main dish in our headless WordPress setup meal? We’re looking at a combination of either WordPress or Prismic for the CMS, along with Next.js or Gatsby for the frontend framework. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these options.

The Design Framework: Tailwind

Now, let’s talk about design. Here’s a confession – I’m not a designer. So, to make things easier, I’m planning to use Tailwind. Tailwind is a utility-first CSS framework that significantly simplifies the design process. I’m also considering purchasing Tailwind UI for its fantastic component library. With Tailwind, I can keep the design consistent and reduce the mental load of managing custom designs.

Hosting Platform Choices: Netlify, Vercel, or DigitalOcean

When it came to selecting the hosting platform, I had a few robust options: Netlify, Vercel, and DigitalOcean. Each of these platforms has its strengths, and picking the one that best suited my needs was a crucial part of my headless WordPress setup process.

Screenshot of the internal Netlify Dashboard

Initially, Netlify wasn’t on my radar due to its limitations with dynamic pages. But to my surprise, they’ve recently updated their platform to support dynamic pages, which slots in perfectly with my plan to use Next.js. What really caught my eye was their new plugin that allows dynamic pages to transform into serverless functions. This is not just cool; it’s a game-changer. Netlify’s continuous deployment from Git repositories also made it an attractive choice.

Vercel, on the other hand, was a strong contender, especially if you’re already using Next.js. I found it to be a superb platform, specifically designed for frontend frameworks like Next.js. They offer a seamless integration, making it a hassle-free experience. Furthermore, Vercel provides a Serverless Functions feature, allowing your application to scale effortlessly, no matter the demand.

Then there’s DigitalOcean, a reliable and cost-effective option for hosting. It’s known for its simplicity and its cloud servers, called “droplets.” Although it might require a bit more setup and management compared to Netlify and Vercel, it gives you more control over your hosting environment. And with its scalable services, it’s a viable option for any project size.

Concluding My Headless WordPress Journey

In conclusion, setting up a headless WordPress site has been a journey of exploration and learning for me. From choosing WordPress as my CMS, deciding on Next.js for the frontend framework, to selecting Tailwind for design and finally picking the right hosting platform, each step was an opportunity to tailor my website according to my unique requirements.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution in this process. It’s about finding what suits your project and workflow best. I hope sharing my journey has provided some insights for your own headless WordPress setup adventure. Happy coding!

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