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Choosing The Best CMS For Gatsby - Why Should You Consider Jamstack?

Thinking about using Gatsby? In Jamstack, it’s as typical as using a spoon for eating soups. Static site generators, with Gatsby being one of the examples, are one of the most basic ways of building sites within this fresh approach to web development. And it works beautifully!


If you’re building a Jamstack site, there are a few key choices you need to make - not least of all the site generator that you use.

There are a number of options to choose from but, since Jamstack development focuses on lean, fast loading & performance with a focus on static elements, the generator you choose becomes a key driver (or bottleneck) of this process.

That’s why we recommend Gatsby. We’ve used it before, we’re using it now and we’re very confident we’ll use it again! Let’s explore why Gatsby and Jamstack go so well together.

But first...

What is Gatsby?

Gatsby - or Gatsby JS - is a static website generator. You can essentially think of it as a website publisher. It takes the input files needed and converts and publishes them into a web-friendly format.

The “static” part comes from the fact that Gatsby does this by converting to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and a splash of raw data - which keeps websites fast, performant, and easy to load. (These same key principles behind static websites also power Jamstack, which we’ll get to later.)

However, while there are many static site generator comparisons, which make the choice easier, we appreciate Gatsby for a few key reasons.

Why Does a Static Site Generator Like Gatsby Need a CMS?

Gatsby is a static site generator that can create fast and secure websites from templates and data sources. But Gatsby still needs a way to manage and update the content that goes into those pages. That’s where a CMS comes in.

It usually provides a user-friendly interface that lets you manage your content without writing any code.

But not all CMSs work well with Gatsby. Some CMSs are tightly coupled with the front end and the back end of your website, meaning that they control both how your content is stored and how it is displayed. These are called traditional or monolithic CMSs, and examples include WordPress and Drupal.

By using a headless CMS for Gatsby, you can enjoy the benefits of both a static site generator and a content management system. You can create fast, secure, and SEO-friendly websites with Gatsby, and manage your content with ease and convenience with a headless CMS.

This is the essence of the JAMstack, a modern web development approach that stands for JavaScript, APIs, and Markup.

Is A Headless CMS Solution A Good Fit For Gatsby?

A traditional CMS, such as WordPress or Drupal, is a monolithic system that combines the content and the presentation layer. This means that the CMS not only stores and manages your content, but also provides the templates and the logic to display it on the web.

A headless CMS - like Jamstack, on the other hand, is a decoupled system that separates the content and the presentation layer. This means that the CMS only stores and manages your content, and exposes it via an API. The presentation layer is handled by a separate frontend, such as Gatsby.

A headless CMS solution is a good fit for Gatsby for several reasons:

  • It gives you more flexibility and control over your front end. You can use any web technology you want, such as React, GraphQL, or TypeScript, and customize your site to your needs. You can also leverage Gatsby’s features, such as image optimization, code splitting, and progressive web app support, to create a blazing-fast and user-friendly site.

  • It improves your site’s performance and security. By using a headless CMS, you eliminate the need for a backend server and a database, which can slow down your site and expose it to potential attacks. Your site is only composed of static files, which can be served by a CDN or a hosting service, such as Netlify or Vercel, for optimal speed and reliability.

  • It simplifies your content management and delivery. By using a headless CMS, you can access and update your content from anywhere, using any device. You can also publish your content to multiple channels, such as web, mobile, or social media, using the same API. You can also integrate your headless CMS with other services, such as analytics, email marketing, or e-commerce, to enhance your site’s functionality.

There are many headless CMS options available for Gatsby, such as Contentful, Sanity, Strapi, or Prismic. Each of them has its pros and cons, so you need to choose the one that suits your project best.

Advantages of Using Gatsby

If you’ve already used Gatsby JS, you likely already know of its many benefits. However, for those that don’t, here are some of the most important factors worth considering:

It’s Very Compatible

At the start, we said that static generators focus on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s true, they do. But they also often have some extra compatibility included and, with Gatsby, we can use a range of more modern technologies.

Specifically, Gatsby can utilize the likes of ReactJS, GraphQL, Webpack, and more - even some of the most recent JavaScript and CSS releases.

This means that we can rely on Gatsby to produce all of the static content but, if some dynamic elements are needed, we can turn to go-to favorites such as ReactJS without any problems!

It’s Great for PWAs

Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are becoming more and more popular online. They’re data-friendly, secure and, with the help of native wrappers, can even work as apps on smart devices. We’ve written about the benefits of PWA technology before, so we won’t go into it much here.

However, PWAs want fast loading and alongside static content, look to use the likes of React where possible, too. Needless to say, Gatsby isn’t just great for traditional websites, it’s also ideal for PWA projects as well.

It Prefetches

On that note, we need to mention that Gatsby is great at prefetching content. While one page is loaded, it’s already preloading other assets where possible (which isn’t a problem performance-wise when focusing on static elements) to ensure an incredibly smooth load.

Of course, this is great for websites, but it’s also great for PWAs, which seek to load as much as possible and provide a seamless experience. Here, everything aligns just right.

It’s Well Supported

The most popular headless technologies don’t just exist because of their official development team - it’s through an active and supportive community that the technology is adapted to suit the wider needs of the industry. Gatsby is no exception to this.

It’s very well supported, with developers contributing the likes of new plugins, transformers, and more. Whatever you need, if it isn’t part of the official Gatsby package, there’s a good chance someone has already worked on a solution.

Alongside its official support, this means there are relatively few challenges Gatsby can’t overcome.

Want to add third-party support, pull source data from different sources (such as using a content management system in your Jamstack package), and even use markup (another Jamstack-friendly option) with the data?

The community has ensured Gatsby can do all of that.


Check how we used Gatsby in one of our Jamstack web development projects:

Read the case study

Popular Headless CMS Options For Gatsby Websites - An Overview

If you want to build a fast, secure, and scalable website with Gatsby, you’ll need a headless CMS to store and manage your content. 

Gatsby works well with many headless CMS options, but some of the most popular ones are:

  • Jamstack: Jamstack is not a CMS, but a modern web development architecture that stands for JavaScript, APIs, and Markup. Jamstack websites are built with static site generators like Gatsby and use APIs to fetch dynamic content from headless CMSs or other services.

  • Contentful: Contentful is a cloud-based headless CMS that lets you create and manage your content in a flexible and modular way. Contentful has a rich content modeling system, a powerful GraphQL API, and a user-friendly interface. 

  • DatoCMS: DatoCMS is another cloud-based headless CMS that offers a similar feature set to Contentful but with a lower price point and a more generous free tier. DatoCMS also works well with Gatsby, providing live previews, incremental builds, and image transformations.

  • Prismic: Prismic is a headless CMS that focuses on providing a great content editing experience for your team. Prismic has a unique way of organizing your content into custom types, slices, and components, giving you more flexibility and control over your content structure.

  • Contentstack: Contentstack is a headless CMS that combines the best of both worlds: a fast and reliable content delivery network (CDN) and a powerful content management system (CMS). Contentstack works with Gatsby through a source plugin and an official starter.

  • Sanity: Sanity is a headless CMS that lets you create and manage your content in a fully customizable way. Sanity has a developer-friendly interface, a real-time database, and a versatile query language called GROQ. Sanity also has a rich ecosystem of plugins, integrations, and community tools

  • Strapi: Strapi is a headless CMS that you can self-host on your own server or cloud provider. Strapi gives you full control over your content and data and lets you customize your backend with plugins and extensions. 

As you can see, there are many headless CMS options for Gatsby websites, each with its strengths and weaknesses. The best one for you depends on your project requirements, budget, and preferences. 

You can also use multiple CMSs together if you need different features or content types for different sections of your site.

Fullstack CMS Solutions For Gatsby Projects - What To Keep An Eye On?

If you’re not ready to go fully headless, you can still use Gatsby with some full-stack CMS solutions that offer a headless or decoupled mode. 

A full-stack CMS is a content management system that includes both the backend and the front end of your website, usually with a templating engine or a drag-and-drop builder.

However, some full-stack CMSs also allow you to use their backend as a headless CMS, and connect it to any frontend framework you want, such as Gatsby. 

Some of the full-stack CMSs that work with Gatsby are:

  • Drupal: Drupal is a powerful and flexible open-source CMS that can handle complex and large-scale websites. Drupal has a modular architecture, a huge community, and a lot of features and modules. Drupal also supports a headless or decoupled mode.

  • WordPress: WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, powering over 40% of the web. WordPress is easy to use, has a large ecosystem of plugins and themes, and is great for blogging and content creation. 

  • Others: Other full-stack CMSs can work with Gatsby, such as Joomla, Magento, Squarespace, and Wix. However, these CMSs are not designed for headless or decoupled mode and may require more work and customization to integrate with Gatsby. 

Using a full-stack CMS with Gatsby can be a good option if you already have an existing website built with that CMS, and you want to migrate or enhance it with Gatsby. 

However, if you’re starting from scratch, you may want to consider using a headless CMS instead, as it will give you more flexibility, speed, and scalability for your Gatsby project.

Best E-commerce Platform for Gatsby Integration - How To Manage Content On Online Stores?

If you want to build an online store with Gatsby, you’ll need an e-commerce platform to handle your products, prices, inventory, orders, payments, and other e-commerce functionalities.

It allows you to create and manage an online store, and sell your products or services online.

There are many e-commerce platforms available, but some of the best ones for Gatsby integration are:

  • Shopify: Shopify is the leading e-commerce platform in the world, powering over 1.7 million online stores. Shopify is easy to use, has a lot of features and apps, and supports multiple payment methods and currencies. 

  • Snipcart: Snipcart is a simple and lightweight e-commerce solution that lets you add a shopping cart to any website with a few lines of code. Snipcart is developer-friendly, has a customizable checkout, and supports multiple payment methods and currencies. Snipcart works with Gatsby by injecting a script tag and an HTML snippet into your site and fetching products and prices from your site’s metadata or a JSON file. 

  • Others: Other ecommerce platforms can work with Gatsby, such as BigCommerce, CommerceLayer, Elastic Path, Nacelle, and Webiny. These platforms are more specialized and advanced and may require more configuration and development to integrate with Gatsby. They may also offer more features and flexibility for your online store, such as headless checkout, multi-tenant architecture, and serverless functions.

Using an e-commerce platform with Gatsby can help you create a fast, secure, and scalable online store that can accept payments and sell your products or services online. 

However, you’ll also need to manage your content, such as product descriptions, images, reviews, and FAQs. For that, you may want to use a headless CMS, as we discussed in the previous section.

Gatsby & Jamstack - Why Do They Work Great Together?

So far we know that Gatsby, HTML, and JS can be named metaphorically as one family. Now let’s look at Gatsby more in the context of Jamstack. All of the above benefits, of course, mirror the needs of Jamstack development itself, but here’s why we turn to Gatsby over other generators time and time again.

guide to jamstack

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Performance Is a Priority

Both Jamstack and static site generators focus on performance. While there are many options to choose from, the reason we keep choosing Gatsby JS is that it’s often just the best. It’s very well optimized and, thanks to community support, it continues to be a leading choice.

For example, if you want to utilize responsive images - which is essentially a must for responsive design - there’s a plugin for that. Of course, it’s designed to keep your web projects as easy to load as possible.

Whatever you need in your Jamstack development, the chances are Gatsby has it covered.

Gatsby? Static Site, Then

Static site generators play a key role in Jamstack - by focusing on static HTML elements as much as possible, loading and overall performance are greatly improved. The key phrase here, however, is “as much as possible”.

Most modern websites require dynamic content. Problems typically arise when this is used too heavily. With Gatsby, we circumvent this issue entirely. We’re still prefetching and loading static elements as much as possible, with cuts down on loading issues, saving any computational power for those dynamic elements that we need.

All of this is possible with Gatsby, unlike some other generators that rely too heavily on the static side of things, because it’s compatible with (and regularly updated) these modern technologies, like React Native.

Works Well With CMS

Generators like Gatsby often utilize content delivery networks but, in reality, websites evolve all the time. When content is added, removed or updated frequently, a CMS is more suitable for those individuals who need to access the content.

More specifically, the CMS should act like the database for the generator to draw from. Thankfully, Gatsby is well supported in virtually every CMS we can think of, from Netlify to Contentful.

Factors To Consider When Choosing a CMS for Gatsby

Gatsby is a powerful framework that allows you to build fast and secure websites using the Jamstack approach. To get the most out of it, you need to choose the right CMS for your project.

 Here are some factors to consider when choosing a CMS for Gatsby:

  • Pricing: Depending on your budget and needs, you may want to opt for a free, open-source, or paid CMS. Some CMSs offer generous free plans, while others charge based on features, users, or traffic. You should also consider the cost of hosting, maintenance, and support for your CMS.

  • Development experience: If you are a developer or have a technical team, you may prefer a CMS that gives you more control and flexibility over your code and data. A headless CMS for Gatsby, such as Contentful, Sanity, or Strapi, lets you use any programming language, database, or framework you want. 

  • Ease of customization: If you want to create a unique and engaging website, you may need a CMS that allows you to customize your design, layout, and functionality. Some CMSs offer drag-and-drop editors, templates, and plugins that make it easy to create and modify your website without coding. Others require more coding skills, but give you more creative freedom and options.

  • Content management: Depending on the type and amount of content you have, you may need a CMS that offers different features and capabilities for content creation, editing, and publishing. Some CMSs have rich text editors, media libraries, workflows, and collaboration tools that make it easy to manage your content. Others have simpler interfaces, but support markdown, GraphQL, or other formats that make your content more portable and scalable.

  • Interaction with the cloud and third-party tools: If you want to leverage the benefits of the cloud and integrate your website with other services and tools, you may need a CMS that supports these features. Some CMSs are cloud-native, meaning they run entirely on the cloud and offer high performance, security, and scalability. Others are self-hosted, meaning you have to install and run them on your servers. Some CMSs also have APIs, webhooks, or plugins that allow you to connect your website with third-party tools, such as analytics, e-commerce, or social media.

JavaScript, Gatsby CMS & Jamstack - Why It's Worth To Check Out?

There you have it. We’re not saying that other generators aren’t up to the task (indeed, there are numerous options on the market), but simply that we feel Gatsby makes a much stronger argument than the others. From our own experiences, it’s a tried and tested method that we’ve yet to supersede.

The next time you’re developing a Jamstack project, why not give Gatsby a try?

If you are looking for a web & e-commerce development company that can help you create a stunning website using Gatsby and Jamstack, look no further than Naturaily.

We are a Jamstack development agency that specializes in building fast, secure, and user-friendly websites for various industries and niches. We have the expertise, experience, and passion to make your website stand out from the crowd.

Whether you need a simple landing page, a complex e-commerce store, or anything in between, we can help you achieve your goals and exceed your expectations. Contact us today and let’s discuss your project.

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