Jamstack buyer's guide TL;DR

By Max Ikaheimo

25th April, 2022

Jamstack is a web development architecture created to make web applications faster, more secure, and easier to scale. The framework comprises JavaScript, APIs, and Markup (JAM).

  • JavaScript: JavaScript handles all the dynamic elements and functionalities of the site. With this, developers can use their favorite frameworks to build the dynamic layer of the website or app.

  • APIs: All the server-side operations occur between reusable APIs that connect your back and front end. These reusable APIs are accessed over HTTPS using JavaScript.

  • Markup: Since Jamstack sites are served to the visitor as static HTML files, it’s possible to generate them from source files or structured data like XML, JSON, or Markdown using a static site generator like Gatsby.

Altogether, the Jamstack architecture is based on the best-of-breed philosophy. This increases productivity because developers can build web applications using the tools they know and love. Developers are not forced to use only the tools their CMSs allow.

Let’s go static: Jamstack combines multiple cloud based services with APIs and renders static HTML that can be easily and efficiently served globally on a CDN (Content Delivery Network). In practice, this means you can build serverless websites, kind of like you did in the simpler early days of the web. Just simple, static files and HTML.

Why is the world moving to Jamstack?

Back in the early days of the web, everything was static. That meant that creating websites was simple and fast. Not only that, but sites easily scored > 90 in Google's Lighthouse Tests. They were, simply put, good quality.

However, as the internet began growing exponentially, website creation became more complicated. Quickly, with server-side rendered HTML and content management systems with graphical user interfaces, sites began to feature more dynamic elements. This drastically slowed them down. Plus, since the internet is constantly evolving, server-side rendered HTML could not keep up with the increased dynamic elements.

Why not server side? Now, server-side rendering has its advantages. It is a great way of sharing code between pages and helps with search engine optimization. Yet, the drawbacks of server-side rendering stand out over these advantages.

Why are market leaders migrating to Jamstack?

Several enterprise companies and brands (also companies that we work with) are already building their sites using Jamstack. For instance, Spring, the social commerce platform, migrated from its monolithic old CMS to a microservices-based web architecture based on Netlify and Hugo as their static site generator. Similarly, Twilio migrated its Console, its main product that reaches customers in more than 200 countries, to Jamstack this past year.

In addition, according to data from the 2021 Jamstack Community Survey, 25% of the developers work in enterprise companies, and 32% of the developers work on sites that serve audiences of millions of users. Also, according to Stack Overflow developer survey 65% of developers state that Javascript is the most commonly used programming language, contributing to the success of Jamstack.

  • 25% of Jamstack developers work in enterprise companies

  • 32% of Jamstack developers work on sites that serve audiences of millions

  • 65% of developers state that Javascript is the most commonly used programming language

Legacy solutions vs. Jamstack

  • Why legacy solutions are a bad idea: Legacy solutions such as WordPress and Drupal are written on PHP, which is a very old programming language that is considered legacy nowadays. In fact, PHP is slowly being deprecated by many big tech companies and authorities such as Microsoft. While this doesn’t mean PHP will disappear any time soon, it’s still a risk to build large enterprise software on it.

  • Why Jamstack is a great idea: Contrary to legacy approaches, Jamstack technologies such as Next.js and Gatsby are written in JavaScript –the most popular and adopted programming language at the time of writing. More specifically, they’re written on the modern front-end framework developed and maintained by Meta (ex. Facebook) called React. It’s already immediately obvious that using Jamstack is more future-proof than using PHP-based legacy technologies such as WordPress or Drupal.

What makes Jamstack a digital transformation enabler?

  • Best-of-Breed Approach: With the Jamstack-based best-of-breed approach, you select the best modern software products for your company and integrate them with your API-based CMS —and your perfect modern DXP is born.Most Headless CMSs in the market are fully integrable with other third-party marketing automations and CRM tools, so you get the centralized hub to build every part of your stack granularly rather than searching for an all-in-one solution.

  • Future-Proof: Developers and marketers are under pressure to meet the needs of customers, especially those who expect consistent omni and cross-channel marketing across every touchpoint.The good news is that the modern Jamstack approach is advanced enough to accommodate and integrate the changes in both the technology and organizational landscapes. Also, if you choose carefully, you will get a platform that will accompany and support your company through its life cycle.

  • Cloud-based: The major benefit of the cloud is that Jamstack enables different team members to make changes and edit content in real-time without damaging what the rest of the team members are creating.This approach is better suited for larger enterprise teams with granular control over user roles and authorization.

2. Jamstack for enterprise

Jamstack has become the de-facto standard for developing enterprise websites. Beyond improving the experience for developers, marketers, and visitors, Jamstack offers enterprises several benefits.

  • Performance: Jamstack offers powerful performance that can be improved easily. Due to almost all of the content in a Jamstack website or application being made up of static HTML files that are served from a CDN, Jamstack-built digital experiences tend to be faster than traditional websites. In fact, according to CSS-Tricks, 50% of the sites built on Jamstack give visitors a First Contentful Paint (when the browser renders the first bit of content) in less than a second. Plus, since the file hosting is handled by infrastructures like Amazon Web Services or similar, all sites' performance can be improved in one fix.

  • Compliance: Netlify, the creator of Jamstack, is committed to helping users understand and comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). They have partnered with legal experts in Europe and the US to ensure that their products and contractual commitments align with GDPR. Similar to Netlify, other products in the Jamstack ecosystem are also compliant. As a result, you can be confident that every time you build a Jamstack website that you’re protected against compliance issues.

  • Accessibility: ADA compliance is short for the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design. Your electronic information and technology must be accessible to those with disabilities to have ADA compliance. ADA works alongside the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG, however, is more of a set of formal guidelines used to improve accessibility. The focus of WCAG is primarily HTML accessibility throughout all platforms. Jamstack sites can be built accessible quickly, and proper accessibility guidelines help you with SEO and reduce the chances of being sued or penalized.

  • Security: Jamstack websites and apps are inherently safer than traditional sites. The use of CDNs, for instance, reduces risks for security and downtime because in case that a malicious actor tries to attack you with a DDoS, your CDN can balance the load and keep your site up and working. Similarly, the Jamstack architecture reduces the attack vectors by eliminating third-party plugins like WordPress, which instead integrates via APIs for greater security. Also, since Jamstack sites don’t rely on themes, they are more difficult to be hacked, contrary to WordPress, whose themes are a known attack vector. In fact, it’s thought that as many as 60% of hacked WordPress sites are compromised through a theme or plugin.

Implementing Jamstack

Choosing the Right Jamstack Agency
While enterprise companies can surely do without an agency, it’s never recommended to do it. Enterprises have so many worries that having their IT team handle a Jamstack website is never the best use of their time. Instead, a Jamstack agency like Ikius can take your requirements and turn them into a performant, Jamstack-based website or application.

A good Jamstack agency should:

  1. First, come up with a clear and appealing plan of action.

  2. Then, help you implement and deploy your website.

  3. Third, help you set up success metrics to get your company the required outcome.

  4. Finally, understand how your business works, your key objectives, and how Jamstack can accelerate them.

As it happens, we're an excellent Jamstack agency, so feel free to drop us a line in case you're looking for one 😉  We've also written a post on how to choose a Jamstack agency - check it out here!

Moving off WordPress

While comparing WordPress and Jamstack directly might be interesting, they can't really be compared head to head. This is because WordPress and Jamstack are not the same architecturally or pragmatically. 

This can cause confusion if you're used to building websites with WordPress, where everything is bundled into a monolithic blob. 

Taking a step back: It is worth considering that many factors can impact the complexity of the move from WordPress. Things like plugins and shortcodes can all make a transition very complex, especially for a large site with extensive legacy content. Some strategies can minimize those complexities, but your mileage may vary given the myriad of options WordPress offers. 

3. Putting it all together

Choosing cloud hosting

When choosing hosting providers, there are two main options commonly used: Netlify and Vercel. (Pro Tip: You may also host your static Jamstack sites on platforms such as; Cloudflare, Azure, Github and many other platforms that are emerging on a monthly basis. Jamstack is not limited to any specific hosting platform, but it is recommended to use battle-tested platforms such as Vercel/Netlify to save yourself time and money...)

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