Headless Drupal is one of the more exciting trends in web development today, and for good reason. The open source Drupal platform is used by millions of individuals and organizations to develop increasingly complex and compelling digital experiences. Headless Drupal promises to provide even more flexibility and freedom to create web, mobile and digital content to engage customers and build brands.

But what is headless Drupal exactly, and what benefits does it offer to organizations, digital teams and marketers? Here’s a brief introduction to “What is headless Drupal?” that provides answers to these questions and others.

What is headless Drupal?

Drupal is a highly popular content management system written in PHP that powers some of the most recognizable websites and digital experiences. As an open source platform, Drupal is supported by a large community of developers and contributors who are continually improving and extending the platform. Highly reliable, scalable and secure, Drupal is used by millions of individuals and businesses to create ambitious digital experiences across multiple channels.

Drupal consists of back-end systems that store, organize and manage content and front-end tools that render content for viewing by or interaction with users. Headless Drupal separates or decouples the front-end (the head) from the back-end, enabling developers to use other front-end tools to present data that is stored within a Drupal CMS.

What is headless Drupal designed to achieve?

Like any headless content management system, headless Drupal is designed to give developers more freedom to use the front-end tools of their choice to design experiences for a growing number of new channels and devices. Developers may use headless Drupal to provide content for channels as varied as websites, mobile devices, native mobile applications, Internet of Things devices, digital signage, virtual reality programs, chat platforms, CRM systems, fitness trackers, smartwatches and smart speakers. With headless Drupal, developers can choose the right front-end tools for each job, rather than being limited to the front-end possibilities of the Drupal platform.

What does headless Drupal do?

Using Drupal as a headless CMS provides developers with features that include:

  • An API-first approach that lets developers use a set of APIs for data consumption rather than building out an entire stack
  • A single source of truth for content, eliminating confusion over multiple documents and versions by storing data in a single, central CMS repository
  • A streamlined development process where front-end and back-end teams can work independently rather than being blocked by the progress of the other team
  • Easy resourcing, where any technology developer can communicate with a headless Drupal CMS to build applications
  • Freedom to design the front-end with any tools the developer deems necessary or preferential

What is headless Drupal’s greatest advantage?

Headless Drupal 8 enables digital teams to:

  • Serve the needs of users by choosing the exact front-end experience that best meets their needs and expectations.
  • Future-proof digital assets by making it easier to redesign the front-end at a later time, rather than needing to redesign and rebuild the entire site.
  • Accelerate development timelines by enabling front-end and back-end teams to work concurrently, and by enabling developers to use one user interface for both the front-end and back-end stack.
  • Make content syndication easier with a “create once, publish everywhere” approach, using Drupal’s back-end as a central repository for data that can be served to any number of other channels and devices.

What is headless Drupal with Acquia?

Acquia is an open digital experience platform that is made for building, managing and optimizing Drupal-based digital experiences. Acquia offers a fully managed Drupal web hosting solution, Acquia Cloud, that includes support for Node.js to enable developers to build Drupal and headless Drupal sites on a single platform. With Acquia Cloud, developers can use their preferred JavaScript framework to develop headless Drupal or standalone applications, creating back-end applications with Drupal and server-side rendered front-end applications with the tools of their choice.

What is headless Drupal vs. decoupled Drupal?

Headless Drupal and decoupled Drupal mean the same thing. The terms are generally used interchangeably, as are headless CMS and decoupled CMS.