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A step-by-step guide to headless architecture

Written by
Published on
September 27, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of e-commerce, staying ahead of the curve is crucial. One of the trends gaining significant traction is headless architecture. If you're looking to understand what headless architecture is, its relationship with headless commerce platforms, how it differs from microservices, and how to make the switch from a monolithic solution, you're in the right place. In this guide, we'll walk you through the ins and outs of headless architecture and highlight the benefits it offers compared to traditional monolith solutions.

What is headless architecture?

Headless architecture is a software development concept that refers to the separation of the front end (user interface) from the back end (business logic) layer of the website. This separation allows for more flexibility, scalability, and agility in your digital projects.

Traditionally, web applications are built with a tightly coupled architecture, where the front end and back end are interdependent. In contrast, headless architecture enables you to select and manage each component independently, resulting in a modular and adaptable system. Given the flexibility provided by headless architecture, the e-commerce industry has mostly embraced the concept, hence the term "headless commerce.” As such, a crucial aspect of headless architecture is the adoption of a headless commerce platform.

Deep-dive into headless commerce and its advantages ->

What is a headless commerce platform?

A headless commerce platform is software that runs as a decoupled system. Contrary to monolith platforms, headless platforms separate the front end from the commerce engine and are easy to implement and keep running, given their API-based nature.

This platform serves as the backbone for e-commerce operations while providing the necessary APIs for your front-end applications to interact with the commerce functionalities seamlessly.

A headless commerce platform empowers businesses to deliver a consistent and engaging shopping experience across various devices and channels. It enables you to customize the user interface while maintaining the core e-commerce functionality in the background.

Discover more about popular headless commerce platforms in our blog ->

It is important to note that headless commerce is part of a bigger approach popularly called Composable Commerce. Composable Commerce has been on the rise in the past few years, and it refers to the freedom businesses have to select their ideal set of technologies and combine them into a unique composition that suits their specific business requirements.

Learn more about the differences between headless commerce and Composable Commerce ->

Headless architecture vs. Microservices

Before we delve further into headless architecture, let's clarify how it differs from microservices, as the two concepts are often conflated.

Headless architecture concerns the decoupling of the front end and the back end layers of a system and, as such, is a small part of a composable architecture based on microservices.

Microservices concern small applications dedicated to fulfilling a specific task. They can be easily added or removed, independently developed, and integrated as components of a larger software system architecture. Above all, microservices allow businesses to cherry-pick solutions for each of their business functions without impacting the entire system.

Let’s break it down even more:

Headless architecture

  • Decoupled front and back ends: Front-end and back-end systems operate independently, enabling flexibility and innovation.
  • Customizable user experience: Easily tailor the user interface to match your brand's unique requirements.
  • Content flexibility: Allows content management through a content management system (CMS) of your choice.
  • Optimized for e-commerce: Ideal for businesses seeking to deliver exceptional online shopping experiences.


  • Decentralized service components: The application is broken down into small, self-contained services.
  • Scalability and agility: Microservices can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently.
  • Complexity and management: Requires a robust orchestration and monitoring system to manage multiple services.
  • Applicability across industries: Not limited to e-commerce; microservices can be applied in various domains.

While both headless architecture and microservices promote flexibility, they serve different purposes. Headless architecture is primarily focused on delivering a flexible front-end experience, whereas microservices address the overall structure of the application.

Making the transition to headless architecture

Switching from a monolithic solution to a headless approach may seem daunting, but it can be a game-changer for your business. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the transition smoothly:

Step 1: Assess your current architecture

Begin by analyzing your existing monolithic system. Identify pain points, limitations, and areas where flexibility is lacking. This assessment will provide clarity on what needs to change.

Step 2: Choose a headless commerce platform

Select a robust headless commerce platform that aligns with your business goals. Consider factors like scalability, extensibility, and integration capabilities. Popular options include Shopify Plus, Magento Commerce, and BigCommerce.

Step 3: Set up front end frameworks

Choose front end frameworks or technologies that suit your development team's skills and project requirements. Popular choices include React, Vue.js, or Angular.

Step 4: Develop APIs

Build APIs to connect your front end to the headless commerce platform. Ensure these APIs are well-documented and follow best practices for security and performance.

Step 5: Migrate content

Transfer your existing content to the new headless CMS. Ensure a seamless transition and maintain data integrity during the migration process.

Step 6: Test and optimize

Thoroughly test your new headless architecture to identify and resolve any issues. Optimize the performance and user experience iteratively.

Benefits of headless architecture

Now that you've successfully made the switch let's explore the numerous advantages of embracing headless architecture over a monolithic solution:

Flexibility and agility

  • Tailor your user interface to match your brand's identity and evolving customer needs testing every feature separately without interfering with the whole system.
  • Achieve a faster time-to-market by quickly adapting to changing market trends and user preferences without overhauling the entire system.
  • Increase your site speed and web performance, enhancing your SEO, UX, and conversion rates.

Improved scalability

  • Scale components independently to accommodate traffic spikes and growth.
  • Avoid bottlenecks that often accompany monolithic architectures.

Enhanced user experience

  • Deliver seamless and personalized shopping experiences across web, mobile, and other platforms.
  • Utilize the latest technologies and design trends to engage users effectively.

Content management efficiency

  • Empower content creators with user-friendly headless CMS tools.
  • Streamline content updates and publishing processes.

Easier integrations

  • Integrate third-party services and tools with ease, fostering innovation.
  • Stay ahead in a competitive digital landscape by connecting to cutting-edge solutions.

Overall, adopting a headless architecture, with the support of a headless commerce platform, offers a strategic advantage for businesses seeking to stay competitive in the digital world. By decoupling front-end and back-end components, you gain the flexibility, scalability, and agility required to meet the evolving demands of your customers and the market.

If you're considering the switch, remember that the journey may pose challenges, but the benefits of a headless approach far outweigh the initial effort. Start by assessing your current architecture, select the right tools and technologies, and embrace the future of e-commerce integration with confidence.

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