What Is Jamstack?
Static but, at the same time, dynamic. Extensive use of APIs. Hosting through content delivery networks. Content management systems that are headless. What do these characteristics have in common? They’re all key to getting the answer to the question: what is Jamstack?
Jamstack is a revolutionary architecture for building apps and websites. It's versatile, modern, and gives you a lot of flexibility and freedom to create a perfect end product. It also provides exquisite developer's experience. But if you're new to Jamstack, it may not be that obvious.
That's why we're giving you the ultimate guide. The good, the bad, the ugly — everything you need to know about Jamstack.
In this article you'll learn:
What is Jamstack - the definition and what it's used for
The difference between Jamstack sites and standard web stacks
How Jamstack works and what are its main components
The benefits of using Jamstack architecture
Jamstack or WordPress — which is better?
Best practices for Jamstack
And what are the drawbacks
There's a lot to talk about Jamstack so let's get right to it!
What Is Jamstack?
Jamstack history started in 2016 when the concept of it was brought to the mainstream at Smashing Conf by Matt Biilmann, the co-founder and CEO of Netlify.
Since that time, Jamstack has evolved into a robust, cloud-native web development architecture that lets users deploy websites and apps with the best practices.
You can use it to build any type of website and app — a large site for an e-commerce platform, a blog for your product, content-rich websites or your personal website.
But that was simplified. Now, let's get more technical.
Jamstack Sites vs Other Web Development Stacks
Jamstack is a bit of a modern web development stack. The software development stack is a set of tools used to develop web apps and sites. While it may seem that there's nothing special that distinguishes Jamstack from other frameworks, there actually is. And that is — Jamstack is static but at the same time, it's dynamic.
In simple terms, its architecture uses Git workflows and modern tools to serve the pre-rendered content to a CDN (Content Delivery Networks) and make it dynamic via APIs and serverless functions.
To sum it up, Jamstack gives you more elasticity in creating modern, user-friendly apps and websites. It also ensures that your customers and users will find it easy and inviting to move around your site or app.
How Does It All Work?
Understanding how Jamstack works may not be easy, especially for non-tech people. So let's analyze the core functionalities to get to know it better and understand how exactly it works.
In general, JS is a fundamental element for interactive websites and applications with dynamism.
What's the difference between static websites and dynamic pages and why does it matter?
That's the part where it's worth mentioning the concept of static vs dynamic pages. Static pages are those with a fixed content that isn't changed often, for example, blog posts. On the contrary, content on dynamic pages changes frequently, e.g., e-commerce websites, or weather pages.
How does it work on a technical level? When a server receives a request for a static web page, no additional processes take place. While when the server receives a request for dynamic content, it adjusts to the user's query.
On Jamstack, the operations that can make a website dynamic are possible with the APIs — third-party tools & services or your custom functionalities.
Headless CMS (Headless Content Management System) is also a large part of the Jamstack environment since it allows you to deliver content wherever you need and want to — not only to a templated site but even to many receivers at the same time, like e-stores or mobile apps.
Along with headless CMS, thanks to the connection to the data via API and receiving only the content part instead of the presentation part, you get the flexibility to choose your favorite Jamstack frontend framework to build a site.
As you already know, Jamstack is not a tool in itself but an environment and set of standards according to which you create apps and websites.
And that's what it's known for — the use of technology to provide a flexible environment for website and Jamstack app development.
In general, the content can be sent to a website in a different way and Jamstack uses markup. Markup is one of many ways you can choose to save the data, for example, a text on a website, so it can easily be delivered to the site. It's like sending a package — you can send it via post-office, courier, or your favorite shipping company.
Mow, markup is possible thanks to decoupling (creating separate components to better adjust your content) and pre-rendering (preloading elements on the page for better speed — anything that isn't generated in real-time).
Static Site Generators
With that, you can go to the final step — generating your site. Jamstack has integrated tools for that; they’re called Static Sites Generators (Next.js, Gatsby.js, Nuxt, etc.). They combine your content and template written in one of the frameworks into files that can be deployed to a hosting environment as a ready-to-serve website.
Additionally, Jamstack provides popular tools for an automated git version control process. That's important because you can easily save all versions of your code, all types of changes, easily backup all data, etc. As a result, all processes are smooth and effective.
All these components make Jamstack projects more comprehensible, adjustable, and faster.
If you want to learn more about Static Site Generators, go to this article!
Let's sum it up in short. All the above-mentioned components co-relate with each other and create a coherent unit. Jamstack websites wouldn't exist without them all. Even though the framework is much powerful and extensive, the main features are its fundament around which you can freely navigate to get a stable, user-friendly Content Management System environment.
Why Use Jamstack — The Benefits
Jamstack has everything you need to provide a perfect user and developer experience. It's great for building simple apps as well as highly complex websites.
Here are the main benefits of your future Jamstack site — if you decide to go for it!
1. Better Website Performance
Jamstack doesn't create pages in real-time but uses the pre-built static content which makes the whole process faster.
Moreover, it serves your pre-built markup and all static assets over a CDN (Content Delivery Network distributed in different geographical locations) which boosts the speed. CDNs are a great advantage because they can be close to the client or user which skyrockets the performance even more — there are fewer lags.
That gives you fast-loading pages, shorter response time, and largely improves user experience. Statistics show that 1 in 4 visitors would abandon a website that takes more than 4 seconds to load and 46% of users don't revisit poorly performing websites. So if you care about page speed and UX, Jamstack will take care of it and reduce the bounce rate.
2. High Security
Jamstack websites are known for its security. Since you don't need to operate a lot with code and store it on your servers, you can make sure it's safe.
And the third-party apps used via the APIs lower the risk of attacks because all the work happens in their environment so everything is safe and sound.
3. Low Costs
When you build and deploy websites using the Jamstack architecture, you lower the costs of maintenance. That's because it's much cheaper to operate on static HTML files.
Also, the APIs allow you to save money on extra tools as you can use the third-party apps to deal with some of the aspects of DevOps and maintenance of the servers.
There's nothing better than Jamstack to make scalable, well-performing projects. Since it's based on CDNs, hosting your Jamstack website is a piece of cake. You don't have to worry about traffic because your site is served to clients via local servers, which makes it easier to quickly reach users.
Think about it as a one-lane vs three-lane highway. It's a breeze to unload the traffic on three-lanes rather than get stuck on the highly-jammed one.
There are no glitches, no errors, and end-users can enjoy a smooth and fast experience.
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5. Better Developer Experience
Using old, heavy frameworks to develop an app or website is no longer a problem. Jamstack developers don’t have to focus on standard technologies that are hard to use and make it painful to create the end product.
Instead, they can incorporate their favorite tools and approaches for faster results and concentrate on what really matters.
In Jamstack, you operate directly within the infrastructure. It's easier to keep it working smoothly without the need to constantly keep an eye on additional tools and other addons. The APIs are like the extensions to the Jamstack site and largely enhance work.
It's easier to maintain it at a lower cost.
Because of the static-dynamic combination, Jamstack approach gives you a lot of flexibility. It's more portable and allows you to choose the host you want to use to reach the public. You don’t need a single web server to send your content into the aether.
Jamstack or WordPress — Which Is Better?
You may be wondering how is Jamstack better than the famous WordPress? Why should you even consider choosing Jamstack over the global leader used by millions of people?
WordPress is definitely a behemoth in the world of Content Management Systems but don't get discouraged by it when thinking about Jamstack. That's because Jamstack has a huge advantage over WordPress in many aspects.
If you've ever used WordPress, you know exactly it's not perfect. It lacks coherence on many levels, beginning from themes structure, through missing functionalities, to random errors.
Often, you need to patch them with additional solutions or think about how to overcome them. And it's not always easy.
Jamstack allows you to omit those glitches and creates a perfect environment to build a fully functional website.
Jamstack Sites are More Secure
That's probably one of the most important factors and definitely cuts above WordPress (and other web-building platforms).
A lot of people experience security breaches, hacking, and malware attacks that damage content or erase it. It’s also easy to get blacklisted by Google. That can cut you off from getting crawled by Google and gaining traffic to your website. In consequence, your business incurs serious losses.
Fewer surfaces make platforms built in the Jamstack ecosystem less vulnerable to external attacks and threats.
Faster Website Delivery
The pre-rendering that Jamstack projects are based on makes websites load much faster than when they're based on a real-time content transfer.
So if you plan to include a lot of dynamic elements on your website, for example, videos or gifs, WordPress may slow it down and extend the loading time for your page.
The technical and security aspects highly influence your position in the search engines, especially when you experience security issues and have problems with the back-end development. Jamstack can help boost your online presence and skyrocket your web performance.
Faster load time and static-dynamic structure with the pre-rendering make your Jamstack website an easy setting for Google bots to crawl and put it high in rankings.
We've already mentioned that the costs of maintenance are much lower when you build sites and apps in the Jamstack environment. You don't have to invest in additional resources but can focus on the front-end processes.
Hence, if you want to cut costs on platform development and deployment, choose Jamstack sites over WordPress sites.
Jamstack: Best Practices
To make your work on Jamstack sites easier and more comfortable, its creators defined the best practices. If you apply them in building your web or app, you'll find it easier to work in this specific ecosystem.
Let's check them in short.
1. Base Your Jamstack Project on CDN
Projects in Jamstack don't have to be stored on a server but are served directly from CDNs. No single server is required and your websites load quickly and are scalable.
And that is the first best practice for using Jamstack to boost speed and improve user experience.
2. Use Build Tools
In Jamstack, the approach assumes that websites should be built with little effort. So instead of focusing on the tiresome back-end, developers can get straight to the point by automating work with modern build tools.
Such tools can help automate processes like compiling computer source code into binary code, packaging it, and running automated tests.
That helps to reduce repetitive tasks, improve the quality of the end product, and saves time and money. Moreover, dedicated tools make it possible to establish best practices for software delivery and continuous integration.
3. Automate Builds
Automating build processes that are clearly defined and scripted makes it easy to implement them. Whenever you need your content to go live, automated builds can do the job for you, so you don't have to repeat the work.
4. Atomic Deploys
To keep consistency on your site and avoid glitches, Jamstack recommends atomic deploys. It's a system that lets you deploy your content in a safe way — your website goes live only after all content is uploaded. It's a good practice for large projects.
5. Cache Invalidations
Instant cache invalidation is a practice that ensures your content is live when you publish it. After your build is uploaded, the CDN invalidates its cache. This means that all your new builds are immediately live.
6. Git Version Control Systems
To simplify staging and testing workflows, and reduce contributor friction, you can freely work in version control systems such as Git.
You and your team can easily track and manage changes, improve teamwork, and work flexibly the way you or your team likes without the need to adjust to rigid frameworks. This ensures high-performing development, and your software team can work faster and more effectively with reduced development time and better deployments.
Check how we used the Jamstack approach in one of our web development projects: dajemyslowo.comCheck case study
A Few Words on Jamstack Drawbacks
However great Jamstack sounds and seems, it has its disadvantages. For some, they may be smallish imperfections, but for others, they might be the bigger obstacle. That's why it's important to look at both the good and the bad sides to choose the right platform for your needs.
If you're wondering what Jamstack lacks in its greatness, here's a short list:
Beginner unfriendly: if you're familiar with WordPress, you may already know that you don't need to be tech-savvy to use it. Jamstack, on the contrary, requires you to have some coding knowledge. For some people, it may be a big challenge and might require hiring professionals who can work in the Jamstack environment. Is that your case? You'll need to depend on developers when building static websites, then.
Complex API: unlike traditional CMS, Jamstack infrastructure may require you to use many different APIs just for one project. The environment is largely API-dependent and you need to be aware of that.
Not suitable for real-time data: if you want to create a platform with content that updates in real-time like social media platforms, you'll need to find a different solution.
You need coding skills for updates: Jamstack is not as easy as WordPress and requires coding skills to change or update content.
Unless you have a team of web developers or the right skills, you will get stuck at some point in using Jamstack to build an app or website. But don’t get discouraged, there are people that can help you build a perfect platform in the Jamstack environment.
Although some state that the JAM in Jamstac is already the thing of the past, these are still the core concepts behind the platform. It constantly evolves and gives you many possibilities. Undoubtedly, it's an out-of-the-box architecture that lets you create modern static sites with full dynamic experience.
Now that you know what Jamstack is, how it works, and what you can do with it, you can choose whether it's the right solution for you. We encourage you to build your website using Jamstack, and if you're not sure whether you’re on the right track, Naturaily is here to help!
Let's talk about Jamstack!
Contact us and we'll warmly introduce you to the vast world of Jamstack web development!
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