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Writing a Headless CMS from scratch

Part 1 - Planning

Jun 04, 2023


Welcome to the exciting journey of building a headless CMS from scratch! In this blog post series, we will embark on a step-by-step adventure, exploring the process of creating a powerful content management system tailored to our unique needs. Today, we'll kick off by diving into the crucial planning phase, where we lay the foundation for an iterative approach that allows us to deliver quickly. So, grab your metaphorical hard hats, and let's get started!

The Power of Iteration: A Fast and Agile Approach

When it comes to building software, the iterative approach is a game-changer. Instead of waiting for a grand plan to materialize, we'll break down our CMS development into manageable chunks. By focusing on delivering Minimum Viable Changes (MVCs) promptly, we'll keep the momentum going and continuously enhance our CMS as we progress.

Before we dive into coding, it's essential to invest time in thoughtful planning. By envisioning the big picture and breaking it down into smaller, achievable goals, we'll have a clear roadmap to guide us through the development process. Our planning phase will involve defining the core functionalities, outlining the desired features, and mapping out the overall structure of our headless CMS.


A headless CMS typically focuses on providing content management capabilities without dictating the presentation layer. The core features of our CMS will be:

  1. Content Creation and Editing
  • A user-friendly interface for creating and editing content.
  • Support for various content types (e.g., articles, pages, products).
  • WYSIWYG or markdown editors for formatting and styling content.
  • Versioning and revision control to track content changes.
  1. Content Organization and Structure
  • Ability to define custom content models and schemas.
  • Hierarchical or flat taxonomies for categorizing content.
  • Support for tags or labels to enable flexible content classification.
  • Relationships between content entities for creating dynamic connections.
  1. Content Storage and Retrieval
  • Storage mechanisms for content assets (images, videos, documents).
  • Efficient retrieval and querying of content based on specific criteria.
  • Metadata management for enriching content with additional information.
  • File management capabilities for organizing and accessing media assets.
  1. Content Publishing and Workflow
  • Workflow management for content creation, review, and approval processes.
  • Publishing controls to schedule content release and expiration dates.
  • Draft and preview functionality for reviewing content before publication.
  • Collaboration features to enable multiple users to work on content simultaneously.
  1. Content Delivery via APIs
  • Robust API layer for delivering content to frontend applications.
  • Support for different data formats (e.g., JSON, XML) and protocols (e.g., REST, GraphQL).
  • Ability to retrieve content based on specific criteria or filters.
  • Pagination and sorting options for efficient data retrieval.
  1. User Management and Authentication
  • User roles and permissions to control access and actions within the CMS.
  • Secure authentication mechanisms (e.g. username/password, OAuth) for user login.
  • User profile management and password reset functionality.
  • Audit logs and activity tracking for monitoring user actions.
  1. Localization and Internationalization
  • Support for managing content in multiple languages.
  • Localization features for translating content into different locales.
  • Language fallback options for displaying default content when translations are missing.
  • Internationalization of date formats, currency, and other regional settings.
  1. Scalability and Performance
  • Ability to handle high volumes of content and user requests.
  • Efficient caching mechanisms for optimizing content delivery.
  • Content delivery network (CDN) integration for faster global access.
  • Performance monitoring and optimization to ensure optimal system responsiveness.

Embracing Speed without Sacrificing Quality

While speed is a significant focus of our iterative approach, we must not compromise on quality. By continuously testing and validating our changes, we can identify and address issues early on, ensuring a robust and stable CMS. It's important to strike a balance between speed and quality, embracing an agile mindset that allows for quick iterations without sacrificing the integrity of our product.


In this blog post, we explored the importance of iteration, effective planning, and the tools needed to embark on our development journey. Stay tuned for the upcoming posts in this series, where we'll dive into the exciting world of coding, creating a dynamic user interface, and leveraging powerful APIs. Get ready to bring your headless CMS vision to life, one iterative step at a time!

Follow me on Twitter to stay tuned about the next posts on this series!

Savas Vedova
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