Using Headless WordPress to Increase Website Speed and Security
By David Ephraim, ATAK Interactive President, Development + Operations
Creating a seamless digital user experience is becoming important for many companies looking to attract users. Any point of friction encountered by a user browsing a company site, like slow page loading times, presents an opportunity for them to leave. Thus, companies must integrate a digital solution that will create a frictionless user experience for their consumers. One such solution comes in the form of headless WordPress and Gatsby, the latest technology to enter WordPress development.
Gatsby is a static site generator, which is a tool that creates fully styled HTML pages without the need for actual HTML coding. Due to its fast speed, Gatsby plays an important role in the development of headless WordPress. WordPress powers the back-end, and essentially, the content creation while the Gatsby handles the front-end.
Created as a way to deliver content rapidly to different channels, headless WordPress delivers a wide range of benefits, including increased site speed and security. It is slowly becoming the only path to building a WordPress site in 2020 and beyond, which is why we adopted headless WordPress for our client, We Rock the Spectrum.
Headless WordPress Explained in 2 Minutes
In one of our previous articles about Headless WordPress, we dove deeper into the ins and outs of headless technology. But for a quick refresher, here’s a simple explanation of how this cutting-edge technology works.
Headless technology “cuts” off your website’s front-end from its backend. This “decoupling” allows for greater flexibility as developers can use any front-end technology of their choice to deliver content (mobile apps, smartwatches, smart glasses, kiosks, etc.). Gone are the days where developers were restricted by a specific CMS platform; with headless, they can develop the site using their own codebase for any front-end platform, boosting efficiency.
Once it’s set up, a headless solution is easily replicable across the board, making it better suited for larger businesses, like franchises, that need to handle multiple channels and platforms. One of the major features of headless is the ability to publish content on multiple channels at the same time. An update made on a parent company’s site can and will be automatically replicated on all the other sites.
Throughout this article, we will be referencing “headless WordPress”, but headless technology is not exclusively reserved for WordPress. Many other CMS and eCommerce platforms, like Shopify, have adopted or have been built on this technology successfully. The reason we place a huge emphasis on headless WordPress is the tremendous impact this technology can have over the 19.5 million websites currently powered by WordPress.
Using Headless WordPress to Increase Website Speed and Security for We Rock the Spectrum
As a franchise with 80+ locations worldwide, We Rock the Spectrum (WRTS) needed an efficient and easily scalable digital solution. With new gym locations continuously increasing month over month, traditional WordPress development for all the different locations websites became a bottleneck that needed to be addressed immediately.
In response to this inefficiency, we decided to leverage headless WordPress for We Rock the Spectrum. At the beginning of 2020, we redesigned and built a headless framework for all their location websites. After switching We Rock the Spectrum’s sites to headless WordPress, here are the three main benefits we saw.
Decoupling your front-end from your backend gives you a website that performs better and faster. Site speed is a crucial ranking signal for Google – websites with faster site speeds are favored by Google’s Search Engine Algorithm. Typically, sites ranking at the top of organic search results for a specific keyword all have site speed scores in the high 80s and 90s.
There is no question as to why Google places high importance on site speed, considering that 40% of users will abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Also, 47% of users expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. Seamless user experience and accessibility have always been significant to Google time and time again, making the switch to headless WordPress that much more advantageous for We Rock the Spectrum.
Following our redesign of their franchise and flagship sites, site speed scores for WRTS have rocketed from the mid-60s and 70s to high 90s, even reaching 100, on both desktop and mobile. Now, the website is ranking at the number one spot for the keyword “sensory gym franchise” on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). As we continue the switch to headless for all their locations, we expect to see a consistent rise in rankings across all their sites for all relevant keywords.
Security is a big issue when dealing with all-in-one CMS platforms, like WordPress. Oftentimes, WordPress sites are targeted by hackers trying to gain access to personal user information. Whenever a new vulnerability is uncovered, hackers start with the front-end and “hack” their way into the backend, and ultimately the network.
With headless WordPress, however, hackers no longer can access the backend. Headless technology’s decoupling effectively hides the backend from the public, making the WordPress site significantly more secure.
Since adopting headless WordPress for We Rock the Spectrum, their sites have been updated with an extra layer of security critical to their target market, which consists mainly of parents. In the event of a website hack, WRTS can now be 100% sure that any personal information in their database will be protected and secure from any malware or malicious attacks.
SEO gains through Progressive Web Application
Progressive web application (PWA) is a mobile-friendly website that delivers an app-like experience, without the need for a download. Headless WordPress is a PWA, providing features typically reserved for a web-native app. Instead of having to create and maintain a separate mobile app, users will be able to use a headless WordPress site as an app, experiencing fast web performance and the ability to add the site as an app on a phone for use offline.
By improving the mobile experience for users, PWAs bring about further SEO benefits. An optimized mobile experience will organically attract more users, increasing the number of clicks to the site, and thereby signaling to Google that the site is relevant to searchers. Since click-through rate influences search position, the PWA aspect of a headless WordPress can organically increase your rankings for a specific keyword.
As a headless WordPress site, We Rock the Spectrum’s site is downloadable as an app and can easily be added to the mobile home screen for easy access. Any changes made on the desktop site will be reflected through this “app” and the site will also be accessible offline, both of which are critical elements for parents who want easy access to any updates on gym opening hours, new programs, or other relevant topics.
Since decoupling We Rock the Spectrum’s front-end from their backend, we have seen significant wins for this franchise. Their keyword rankings have gone up, their site has been performing faster, and their resource hub for parents has become readily accessible to their customers across different platforms. Changing to headless WordPress has been a significant step forward for We Rock the Spectrum and will continue to be critical to their growth in the future.