What is Payload?

Payload is the Next.js fullstack framework. Write a Payload Config and instantly get:

  • A full Admin Panel using React server / client components, matching the shape of your data and completely extensible with your own React components
  • Automatic database schema, including direct DB access and ownership, with migrations, transactions, proper indexing, and more
  • Instant REST, GraphQL, and straight-to-DB Node.js APIs
  • Authentication which can be used in your own apps
  • A deeply customizable access control pattern
  • File storage and image management tools like cropping / focal point selection
  • Live preview - see your frontend render content changes in realtime as you update
  • Lots more

Instant backend superpowers

No matter what you're building, Payload will give you backend superpowers. It can be installed in one line into any existing Next.js app, and is designed to catapult your development process. Payload takes the most complex and time-consuming parts of any modern web app and makes them simple.

Open source - deploy anywhere, including Vercel

It's fully open source with an MIT license and you can self-host anywhere that you can run a Node app. You can also deploy serverless to hosts like Vercel, right inside your existing Next.js app folder.

Code-first and version controlled

In Payload, there are no "click ops" - as in clicking around in an Admin Panel to define your schema. In Payload, everything is done the right way—code-first and version controlled like a proper backend. But once developers define how Payload should work, non-technical users can independently make use of its Admin Panel to manage whatever they need to without having to know code whatsoever.

Fully extensible

Even in spite of how much you get out of the box, you still have full control over every aspect of your app - be it database, admin UI, or anything else. Every part of Payload has been designed to be extensible and customizable with modern TypeScript / React. And you'll fully understand the code that you write.

Use Cases

Payload started as a headless Content Management System (CMS), but since, we've seen our community leverage Payload in ways far outside of simply managing pages and blog posts. It's grown into a full-stack TypeScript app framework.

Large enterprises use Payload to power significant internal tools, retailers power their entire storefronts without the need for headless Shopify, and massive amounts of digital assets are stored + managed within Payload. Of course, websites large and small still use Payload for content management as well.

Headless CMS

The biggest barrier in large web projects cited by marketers is engineering. On the flip side, engineers say the opposite. This is a big problem that has yet to be solved even though we have countless CMS options.

Payload has restored a little love back into the dev / marketer equation with features like Live Preview, redirects, form builders, visual editing, static A/B testing, and more. But even with all this focus on marketing efficiency, we aren't compromising on the developer experience. That way engineers and marketers alike can be proud of the products they build.

If you're building a website and your frontend is on Next.js, then Payload is a no-brainer.

Get started with Payload as a CMS using our official Website template:

npx create-payload-app@latest -t website

Enterprise Tool

When a large organization starts up a new software initiative, there's a lot of plumbing to take care of.

  • Scaffold the data layer with an ORM or an app framework like Ruby on Rails or Laravel
  • Implement their SSO provider for authentication
  • Design an access control pattern for authorization
  • Open up any REST endpoints required or implement GraphQL queries / mutations
  • Implement a migrations workflow for the database as it changes over time
  • Integrate with other third party solutions by crafting a system of webhooks or similar

And then there's the Admin Panel. Most enterprise tools require an admin UI, and building one from scratch can be the most time-consuming aspect of any new enterprise tool. There are off-the-shelf packages for app frameworks like Rails, but often the customization is so involved that using Material UI or similar from scratch might be better.

Then there are no-code admin builders that could be used. However, wiring up access control and the connection to the data layer, with proper version control, makes this a challenging task as well.

That's where Payload comes in. Payload instantly provides all of this out of the box, making complex internal tools extremely simple to both spin up and maintain over time. The only custom code that will need to be written is any custom business logic. That means Payload can expedite timelines, keep budgets low, and allow engineers to focus on their specific requirements rather than complex backend / admin UI plumbing.

Generally, the best place to start for a new enterprise tool is with a blank canvas, where you can define your own functionality:

npx create-payload-app@latest -t blank

Headless Commerce

Companies who prioritize UX generally run into frontend constraints with traditional commerce vendors. These companies will then opt for frontend frameworks like Next.js which allow them to fine-tune their user experience as much as possible—promoting conversions, personalizing experiences, and optimizing for SEO.

But the challenge with using something like Next.js for headless commerce is that in order for non-technical users to manage the storefront, you instantly need to pair a headless commerce product with a headless CMS. Then, your editors need to bounce back and forth between different admin UIs for different functionality. The code required to seamlessly glue them together on the frontend becomes overly complex.

Payload can integrate with any payment processor like Stripe and its content authoring capabilities allow it to manage every aspect of a storefront—all in one place.

If you can build your storefront with a single backend, and only offload things like payment processing, the code will be simpler and the editing experience will be significantly streamlined. Manage products, catalogs, page content, media, and more—all in one spot.

Payload's official Ecommerce template gives you everything you need for a storefront out of the box, including a Next.js frontend, product variations, and a full Stripe implementation:

npx create-payload-app@latest -t ecommerce

Digital Asset Management

Payload's API-first tagging, sorting, and querying engine lends itself perfectly to all types of content that a CMS might ordinarily store, but these strong fundamentals also make it a formidable Digital Asset Management (DAM) tool as well.

Similarly to the Ecommerce use case above, if an organization uses a CMS for its content but a separate DAM for its digital assets, administrators of both tools will need to juggle completely different services for tasks that are closely related. Two subscriptions will need to be managed, two sets of infrastructure will need to be provisioned, and two admin UIs need to be used / learned.

Payload flattens CMS and DAM into a single tool that makes no compromises on either side. Powerful features like folder-based organization, file versioning, bulk upload, and media access control allow Payload to simultaneously function as a full Digital Asset Management platform as well as a Content Management System at the same time.

Click here for more information on how to get started with Payload as a DAM.

Choosing a Framework

Payload is a great choice for applications of all sizes and types, but it might not be the right choice for every project. Here are some guidelines to help you decide if Payload is the right choice for your project.

When Payload might be for you

  • If data ownership and privacy are important to you, and you don't want to allow another proprietary SaaS vendor to host and own your data
  • If you're building a Next.js site that needs a CMS
  • If you need to re-use your data outside of a SaaS API
  • If what you're building has custom business logic requirements outside of a typical headless CMS
  • You want to deploy serverless on platforms like Vercel

When Payload might not be for you

  • If you can manage your project fully with code, and don't need an admin UI
  • If you are building a website that fits within the limits a tool like Webflow or Framer
  • If you already have a full database and just need to visualize the data somehow
  • If you are confident that you won't need code / data ownership at any point in the future

Ready to get started? First, let's review some high-level concepts that are used in Payload.


Payload Concepts