Jamstack is the modern web development architecture.
It lets developers create web applications that are secure, scalable, and easy to manage.
In this article, we’ll explore Jamstack for newbies. It’ll help them to create lightweight and secure websites.
Let’s get started.
What is Jamstack?
When combined, these existing technologies give web developers the tools to create, manage and scale web apps. In 2016, Matt Biilmann introduced Jamstack, a new web development architecture, during his company’s presentation, Netlify.
To truly understand, you must first understand “Tech Stack.”
A tech stack combines tools, philosophies, and methods to develop web/software applications. It can include programming languages, associated frameworks, libraries, etc.
Technically, Jamstack is a web stack that focuses on decoupling the web experience layer by removing the data from business logic. Doing so brings multiple benefits, including performance, flexibility, scalability, and maintainability.
Unlike other tech stacks, Jamstack is configurable, where you can choose your tools. In other words, it acts as a “way of working,” offering a customizable path to developers. For example, a Jamstack developer can use APIs to deliver custom logic and third-party services.
How Jamstack Differs From Traditional Web Development?
Let’s compare Jamstack to traditional web apps. Any conventional web app, such as CMS (Content Management Systems), requires web servers that are slow and also prone to malicious attacks and technical issues.
Jamstack, on the other hand, solves the issue by using a composable web architecture and separating the site’s front-end from its back-end. It does it by pre-rendering them at run-time and letting CDN deliver them to the user, resulting in a faster and more secure way to provide web pages.
How Jamstack Works?
Jamstack relies heavily on static-site development. It begins with CDN-hosting, which hosts your HTML pages, providing excellent speed.
Not only that, but developers also feel how fast they can change the project. They write code, do a Git clone, build the project, and deploy it to the destination folder with an easy Git push.
For example, your Jamstack site may consist of multiple HTML files. Put those files into a code repository and use a static site generator to build and publish them. In other instances, you can create scripts that build up the site based on user requirements into a static website which is then pushed to CDNs to serve the user.
To truly understand Jamstack and how it works, we must look at its three main components and their respective roles.
Include dynamic functionality on your site based on user inputs.
Offer real-time front-end interactivity such as dropdown menus, form validation, animations, etc.
Markup and Jamstack
Jamstack utilizes markup language to deliver static front-end content. This means you can use markup languages such as HTML or Markdown to build the front end of your web app.
As markup is faster, it gives Jamstack apps actual performance. If you render the static content at compiler time and then deliver it to your HTTP server, it falls under the Jamstack category. On the other hand, if you render it at runtime, then it is not.
So, you can use React to compile the static content and then deliver it through CDN.
This also means you can use popular static site generators for your project. These include Next.js, Jekyll, Nuxt, Hugo, and Gatsby.
Apart from that, you can also use markup to do on-page SEO. It will help Google to index and rank your site.
APIs and JamStack
Next comes the APIs. It stands for Application Programming Interface.
APIs play a crucial role in Jamstack. As Jamstack applications don’t rely on web servers, they must use APIs to add functionalities or connect with third-party services. For example, you can use APIs to add a payment gateway to your site. It also helps you to manipulate client-side data, providing a unique user experience.
Another example would be using a GraphQL endpoint to generate content and render it on the Jamstack website.
And, if you’re feeling creative, you can create your APIs to add custom functionality, such as delivering photos from a continuously updated source.
However, you can use Headless CMS to do all these. It enables developers to deliver content via API while removing the need for both the front-end and back-end to serve the content.
To give you a real-world perspective, traditional WordPress is not a headless CMS if you use it with both its front-end and back-end. But, you can use it as a headless CMS as it is open-source, which removes the need to interact with the content from a back-end, using a git-based workflow and markup languages (such as Markdown).
JamStack Use-Cases And When To Use It
JamStack lets you create high-performance web apps as it can work well with CDNs. This way, you can quickly deploy your apps and serve them faster.
JamStack is best suited for static or pseudo-static website development. Its best use cases include creating business/SaaS websites, custom landing pages, personal blogs, and web portals.
Many Jamstack sites across industries include education, government, eCommerce, marketing, health, entertainment, and SaaS.
Some of the notable sites that use Jamstack web architecture include:
Audible + Next.js
Bang & Olufsen + Next.js
Godot Tutorials + Hugo
Hulu + Next.js
Bitcoin.com + Gatsby
Verge + Next.js
National Geographic + Gatsby
And many more!
When not to use JamStack?
However, Jamstack cannot replace other web development processes. You should avoid Jamstack if you’re building:
Websites that generate non-static content most of the time.
Monolithic server-driven web applications using programming languages such as Python or Ruby.
Websites that use traditional CMSs such as Drupal or WordPress
Additionally, you may also avoid Jamstack, if:
You don’t have the technical knowledge to work with Jamstack.
Your business doesn’t have the budget to hire highly skilled Jamstack developers.
You are a developer who started exploring web development and stumbled upon Jamstack. Even though Jamstack may sound simple, it requires experience to use effectively. So, if you’re a beginner, avoiding Jamstack is best.
You rely on plug-ins to add features to your site. Jamstack doesn’t follow this approach, and you may be stuck with it.
Jamstack web architecture brings multiple benefits. These include:
Create highly-scalable web apps with the power of CDNs and Jamstack hosting providers who take care of most scaling-related requests.
Developers may find Jamstack apps easy to maintain, considering that its front-end and back-end aspects are decoupled.
Jamstack’s immutable deployment makes it faster to deploy and maintain.
Jamstack offers better security as it mainly comprises static files and hence has low chances of vulnerabilities within them. In addition, its fewer decoupled elements make it easy to manage and reduce the opportunity for traditional web server attacks.
As the site loads faster, businesses can benefit from improved user retention, conversion, and user experience.
Jamstack apps cost less than traditional apps due to cheaper static files host. CDNs can also scale without the need to invest a lot of money.
It also provides a better developer experience due to more streamlined application development, deployment, and maintenance.
Jamstack lets businesses create SEO-friendly websites. You can optimize on-page SEO without relying on bulky plug-ins or processes to make your site indexable.
How to Get Started With Jamstack?
To get started with Jamstack, you need to choose your tools. As Jamstack is configurable, you can select a UI framework, static site generator, and web framework for front-end development. Next comes choosing the tech stack for managing content, including APIs, CDNs, and cloud services.
Lastly, you need tools to deploy your Jamstack app. Currently, there’re plenty of hosting and deployment options in the market.
Let’s go through the process of starting with Jamstack below.
These UI frameworks enable developers to build apps with modular components. Once you create them, you must render them to HTML and JavaScipt, then serve them to the browser.
And that’s what leads to our second step, choosing a static site generator(SSG).
#2. Choosing a Static Site Generator
Next, you need to pick up an SSG. There are many popular SSGs and web frameworks that you can use to create a Jamstack app. These include Next.js, Hugo, Jekyll, Nuxt.js, Astro, and others.
With it, you can render static pages by building them beforehand and storing them in CDNs or the cloud. This means clients don’t have to wait to generate, allowing faster load times.
#3. Add a headless CMS
You can also add a headless CMS to your setup. A headless CMS has decoupled front-end user interface layer with its back-end content management system. Here, the term head refers to the content presented to the user on the browser.
If you have used traditional CMS such as WordPress, you’ll notice that it serves content to the web browser. However, with the option to use a headless CMS, you can serve the content to different “heads,” such as apps, chatbots, internal systems, etc.
Jamstack supports many Headless CMS, including Ghost, WordPress, Tina, Keystone, etc.
With Jamstack, you can manage the site’s data and back-end functionality using different approaches. For example, you can integrate payment gateway using APIs or custom infrastructure from Azure, AWS, or Google Cloud. Another example would be to use Auth0 to add authentication to the site. The possibilities are endless!
#5. Deploy the Site
The best way to deploy your site is using tools like Netlify or Vercel. They offer an automated DevOps pipeline to deploy your project. All you have to do is connect your Git repositories; these tools handle the rest.
Once you deploy, you get a unique URL attached to the hostname. Of course, you can also deploy using your domain, giving you better exposure.
However, you must not confuse it with serverless, which may have some similarities. For instance, you may use a serverless approach, hosting your data in a cloud, but you may also use APIs to utilize other apps and services such as WordPress (which is not as serverless). Hence, both are different.
In conclusion, Jamstack is a new yet exciting modern architecture. It offers more benefits than downsides and allows developers to build their path to develop web apps that are fast, secure, and scalable.
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