JAMstack - what is it?
JAMstack is a modern web architecture, which significantly improves and (for the lack of a better word) revolutionizes how businesses build web applications and websites.
Traditionally, sites based on a CMS like WordPress contain multiple moving parts. For example, every user action (a click, calendar entry change, form submission) kicks off a complex process. It may include authentication with the webserver, database requests, front-end re-rendering and other bits and pieces.
This approach is costly, though. It’s also time-consuming, difficult to scale, and open to security breaches.
JAMstack makes things much easier.
What does JAMstack stand for?
What does static mean?
In a traditional (non-JAMstack) implementation, once a user visits your web app, the server gets a request, and the front-end starts rendering the content for you.
In JAMstack, our app is already built and pre-rendered, hence static. So once you visit the website, you don’t have to wait for the rendering - you simply download all the components. CDN (content-delivery-network) distributes these components to a global network of servers way before the user requests them.
Cloud servers are spread around the world, so the data doesn’t have to travel long distances. The content is loaded from the nearest available location, significantly improving performance.
Dynamic content (like specific pictures or descriptions) is called through an API.
Finally, Markup is the pre-rendered HTML code, so it doesn’t need to be generated every time a user requests it. It is already there on the cloud server.
The better performance resulting from such architecture boosts SEO, conversion rates, security, reliability and scalability. It also reduces operational and development costs.
How difficult is it to migrate to JAMstack?
If you are used to WordPress or a similar platform, you may realize that JAMstack is not as easy to deploy and administer. It doesn’t come with wizards, configurators and widgets.
You need an experienced team, or a software agency, to help you migrate to JAMstack. Especially in the case of larger and more complex applications and websites, migrating to JAMstack can get tricky.
But with sensible Continuous Integration in place, you can significantly reduce the time to market.
Dynamic vs. Static frontend
“Dynamic” sounds better than “Static”, right?
At least that’s what we are taught to think (dynamic personality, dynamic company, etc.)
But in the case of web apps, it’s not always true. When the application’s front end is dynamic, it has to be generated every time a user visits a website. It is cheaper and faster to load and display something that is pre-generated, or static.
Historically webservers have been used for serving three things: HTML, assets (such as images and videos, JS, CSS) and APIs. Today we store static assets and APIs in the cloud (especially in the microservices architecture), so the only thing we would need web servers to do is keeping HTML.
When using JAMstack architecture, a webserver is also obsolete, as the entire site is pre-rendered and loaded to the cloud.
So when our user enters the website, it loads almost instantly.
The post-COVID benefits of migrating to JAMstack in 2021
Due to the COVID pandemic, the online world is becoming even more competitive. With that many businesses moving to the online space, the web is more packed than ever, which means more companies competing for the same users.
The new sites that we build today often benefit from JAMstack architecture. It means that websites that are just a couple of years old and created using WordPress are now becoming outdated.
Let’s see what you can gain from moving to JAMstack.
Static sites are always faster than dynamic ones. They load faster and are far more pleasant to use. Especially in the highly competitive world of marketing websites, fast loading projects professionalism and prestige, regardless of the industry.
2. Better conversion, fewer drop-offs, more business
Hundreds of tests reveal that not seconds but milliseconds of delay cause people to leave a website or abandon the cart. If you happen to own an e-commerce store or any other monetized site such as a referral service, each click means more money and delays cause revenue loss.
3. Better SEO, more traffic
Google checks how fast your site loads, and this impacts your position in search results. So the faster the site is loaded, the more likely that organic web traffic gets directed to your business.
With JAMstack, you don’t have to monitor your webservers anymore. As long as your cloud provider exists, your web app will be there. And Amazon, Azure and Google Cloud are far more reliable than any typical webserver provider.
Nobody likes downtime, so reliability directly translates into customer experience, loyalty and increased traffic. For some web applications, downtime can be a business killer. According to this study, one hour of downtime can cost $300,000 and more.
Since a webserver does not exist in JAMstack, it’s impossible to hack it. No need to worry about server or database vulnerabilities.
6. Less expensive.
Hosting static files is cheap or even free. For example, netlify offers a starter pack without fees, while the PRO plan is just $19 per month. Similarly, Vercel offers a Hobby plan at zero cost, while Pro will set you back only $20.
7. Better developer experience
Now, this is a big one.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find reliable engineers for projects written in older technologies.
Great programmers love working with the cutting-edge tech stacks, so it’s essential to allow your team to use them rather than being tied to old, monolithic architecture.
JAMstack allows your developers to use all the benefits of modern programming, resulting in quicker and more focused development.
If your product suddenly goes viral and starts attracting thousands of users, the CDN (or content delivery network) seamlessly compensates. It doesn’t matter if your app currently hosts 100 or 100,000 users; you won’t experience delays or downtime.
Awesome headless CMS for JAMstack
Content Management Systems are an important component of JAMstack. While not part of the JAM architecture itself, they are crucial for content managers, marketers and CMOs. They have to be intuitive, fast and easily configurable at the same time.
Traditional Content Management Systems come as a larger package, including features that allow you to build your website from scratch using pre-designed components. They are widely popular because they enable non-technical people to quickly create simple sites without programmers’ help.
But they come with downsides. They are inflexible in terms of design, have restricted functionality and are notorious for security issues.
Headless CMSes are decoupled from the presentation layer - it means that the content creation and front-end are independent.
You can add and edit posts, images and videos through the admin panel. Then CMS sends that information to the build system, triggering a rebuild of the website’s relevant parts. Now your content is updated.
There are no hard dependencies in this chain, so even if your CMS is down or experiencing issues, the website is unaffected and remains fully operational. Headless CMSes are much more secure, offer better performance, flexibility and are cheaper to maintain and modify.
We work with multiple CMSes. However, our preferred solution is GraphCMS, which claims to have the most flexible content API in the CMS industry while providing editorial independence. It allows multiple creators to work in parallel and offers them an excellent user experience. The data structure in GraphCMS is fully tailored to your needs thanks to GraphQL API, which allows faster and more in-depth customization.
We can confirm because we know GraphCMS ins and outs quite well. Hugo, our CEO, helped develop it as a member of the core engineering team behind GraphCMS.
JAMstack, paired with a powerful headless CMS solution, is becoming one of the hottest trends in creating and delivering content to large audiences. It’s an excellent technology for both CMOs and e-commerce managers and one that will be gaining popularity in the next few years.