Jamstack vs WordPress
By Max Ikaheimo
1st August, 2022
While it may seem intriguing to compare WordPress and Jamstack directly, we can't compare them head to head. This is because WordPress and Jamstack are not the same, architecturally or pragmatically. This can confuse you if you're used to building websites with WordPress, where everything is bundled into a monolithic blob.
Introduced in 2003 by Matt Mullenweg, WordPress, WordPress is a platform for building websites - Jamstack, on the other hand, is a web architecture. Jamstack combines multiple services and platforms to create faster, more secure, better websites and web apps.
Basically, you can choose what CMS, front-end tech, and service you'll need for your site. With WordPress, you're pretty much limited to... well, WordPress!
Can you build Jamstack websites with WordPress?
Yes! You can use WordPress as a Headless content management system, but most companies are migrating away from WordPress completely.
Many choose to use a modern headless CMS such as Agility CMS, Dato, or Sanity as an alternative to WordPress.
But what makes the Jamstack architecture a better way of building websites than WordPress? Let's find out
This post covers
Table of contents
In this post:
What is Jamstack?
Jamstack is a web development architecture that allows developers to choose what tech and frameworks to use. Unlike websites and web apps built on a monolithic CMSs like WordPress, in a Jamstack-built website, there's no single monolithic platform tied to a database, allowing you to choose your favorite tools to build websites and web apps.
APIs: APIs are the connective tissue that bridges the gap between your front and backend
Markup: Jamstack sites work as static files, making it possible to generate them from source files or structured data like XML, JSON, or Markdown.
We wrote an article about what is Jamstack; take a look at it if you want a deeper dive into the subject.
What is a headless CMS?
A CMS without a head… Sounds scary, right?
Well, not exactly. Let us explain. A Headless Content Management System (Headless CMS) is software designed to edit and manage content.
However, compared to a traditional CMS such as WordPress - Headless CMSs don't provide any front-end –or presentation layer– for your content. Instead, they provide an API that you can use to connect your database with your framework of choice, like Gatsby or Next. This is typically referred to as decoupled architecture.
Here's when things might get confusing if you're new to headless architecture so let's use a diagram of headless Shopify to dispel your doubts.
You might be wondering, isn't it good to have a CMS that provides a front-end, so it's packaged neatly into one bundle?
Usually no, since this creates a situation where your CMS and front-end are not decoupled and instead are monolithic. This means your CMS and front-end are one and the same, creating many issues down the line.
For example, if your monolithic CMS like WordPress depreciates, you'd have to rebuild your entire site (CMS AND front-end). With a Headless CMS, you could replace the deprecated parts without rebuilding your entire site...
Headless CMSs don't care how you'll build your front-end. They simply provide an API that can be used to fetch necessary content to your front-end of choice (website, mobile application), decoupling your content from your front-end.
All in all, a traditional CMS and front-end are like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they're stuck together and if one part gets old and stale, you have to throw the whole thing away. But with a Headless CMS, it's more like a peanut butter jar and a jelly jar, you can use them separately and replace one without having to throw away the other.
Read more: Headless CMS demystified
The anatomy of a headless CMS
A headless content management system (CMS) is a system that separates the backend content management functionality from the frontend presentation layer.
It consists of two parts:
The backend: This is where the content is created, stored, and managed. It typically includes a user interface (UI) for content authors to create, edit, and delete content and an API that allows the front-end to retrieve and display the content.
Is Jamstack better than WordPress?
Better is a subjective term. In our personal opinion: yes. WordPress CMS sucks – it's an outdated way to build websites, and it's hard to live up to modern standards when using it.
For example, you'll have a bad time optimizing WordPress sites for Google's Core Web Vitals. On a Jamstack website, this is much - much easier.
Jamstack helps developers make websites harder, better, faster, and stronger (no pun intended).
Why Jamstack, then? WordPress is good enough, right? Here are some reasons:
Jamstack sites are robust: A Jamstack website is resilient in terms of security and scalability due to static file delivery instead of server-side rendering. You can't hack static files, and as you're not rendering anything on the server side, you're DDoS-proof when using a content delivery network such as Vercel or Netlify CMS.
Jamstack websites pass Google's Core Web Vitals: Want to be the #1 cool kid on Google? Use Jamstack to optimize your site for Google's Core Web Vitals and instantly gain more swag on Google. It's afact that Google will rank your website based on Page Experience. A major factor affecting user experience is performance, especially for mobile.
Jamstack vs WordPress: Costs and security
WordPress is a blogging platform, so it's fairly quick to set it up for a basic website. However, as more features and functions get added, costs quickly ramp up due to WordPress's poor ability to scale
The initial costs for setting up Jamstack are higher than WordPress's since Jamstack is an architecture and requires more work to set up. However, costs even out in the long run as new features take less time to implement with Jamstack.
It's good to remember that WordPress plugins are infamous for their various security issues with 3rd party plugins. Getting your site hacked may cost you, a lot. One of our clients experienced significant downtime due to a vulnerability in their WordPress website. While they had back-ups available, the incident cost them $60 000 in lost revenue (not accounting for the work put into fixing the hack).
With Jamstack sites, you can be sure to eliminate the risk for 3rd party security issues as you only deliver static pages, which are impossible to hack. As a result, the Jamstack approach is virtually invincible against DDoS, 3rd party plugin security holes, and many other common threats you usually have to worry about with WordPress.
If your business is based in the US, you must be familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Web accessibility lawsuits are steadily growing in numbers in 2022. While having an accessible website is a fundamental human right - ADA brings more concern for business owners due to various lawsuits filed against companies that don't meet satisfactory accessibility levels for their websites. In almost all cases, WCAG 2.1, Level AA conformance is required to avoid ADA lawsuits.
WordPress is not accessible by default. In fact, screen readers and assistive technologies have difficulty interpreting WordPress's HTML 90% of the time. In addition, ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) attributes are sometimes not set at all by 3rd party plugins, and it might be impossible or at least tedious to add them.
WordPress plugin structure is bloated. A Jamstack site makes this much easier as you do not depend on any 3rd party plugins that may or may not meet satisfactory accessibility for assistive technology.
Jamstack allows you to handcraft your HTML to meet any level of WCAG 2.1 guidelines (A to AAA), ensuring you don't get hit by an ADA lawsuit. A-level might be enough for some, but sometimes you might need to ensure you meet AA-level, especially if you're working in healthcare or the public sector.
Jamstack vs WordPress: Performance
A WordPress site uses slow server-side rendering. That, combined with outdated technologies and programming languages like PHP, makes WordPress very slow.
Performance is one of the core metrics Google uses to rank websites. It's not likely that trend will tone down any time soon. You know it isn't an easy task if you've ever tried optimizing WordPress for performance.
A Jamstack site delivers static files that are pre-built and optimized before users even load them. As a result, you have 100% control over everything served to the client – this makes optimizing Jamstack websites for Google Core web vitals significantly easier than with WordPress. You can even reach over 90 performance scores on mobile if you want to.
The Jamstack approach enables developers to leverage static site generators to build static pages that load faster and provide more performance benefits than a site built using a WordPress theme.
Jamstack sites allow developers to use their favorite tooling, which improves the developer experience. On the other hand, WordPress sites are great for non-technical users but leave developers out in the open.
A web developer has no control over what is rendered by slow, old, and unmaintained 3rd party plugins. This makes it nearly impossible to optimize WordPress for Google Core Web Vitals.
Content management: Jamstack vs WordPress
In WordPress, content management is built into the platform, combining the content and presentation layer.
This is problematic, to begin with. Managing and using the same content in multiple media channels becomes harder. WordPress started out as a blogging platform, and it's an inferior choice for any serious content managers for the reasons listed in this post.
Yes, it might have been a good CMS in the '90s, but it's 2022. We drive electric cars, so why build your website on an ancient CMS?
With Jamstack, you can use a headless CMS to manage and create content models to decouple the content from the front-end. This brings countless benefits to content management and marketing, making development costs more reasonable in the long run.
We wrote a cool guide about the top headless CMSs for Jamstack if you come from WordPress. Take a look if
Wait, but what about headless WordPress?
If you’ve heard about headless WordPress, you know it is an emerging trend in the web development world. It refers to decoupling the frontend –or presentation layer– from the backend –or database.
In the headless WordPress model, developers use WordPress as a backend and connect it with different static site generators or frontend frameworks using APIs.
While decoupling WordPress sounds like a good idea for people who want to remain WordPress users, this CMS wasn’t built to be a headless platform, making it less effective than other headless CMSs like Sanity Dato, Prismic, or Agility CMS.
Besides, using WordPress as a headless CMS is a cumbersome process that requires hours of effort that won’t provide any payoff in the long run.
Closing thoughts: WordPress is an outdated way to build websites
Jamstack websites empower developers to use modern web development technology like static site generators to build a blazing fast static site with dynamic functionality. Jamstack sites are also more performing and deliver a better user experience. Plus, developers really enjoy working with the Jamstack architecture.
Here’s a recap of why we believe the Jamstack approach is superior to building sites using WordPress:
WordPress started out as a simple blogging platform. Over the years, it has evolved into something it was never supposed to be, causing a plethora of problems with performance, scalability, security, and website development. In addition, it does not have a structured way of building websites that we could define as architecture.
The Jamstack architecture is specifically designed to fix the problems we experience with WordPress.