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 What is Jamstack?

Jamstack is a modern tech stack for building resilient, lightning-fast, secure, and scalable websites.

Back in the early days of the web, everything was static. To create a website, you had to write HTML and put that on a server somewhere - simple as that. In the 90s, as websites became more complex and server rendered, HTML became the norm.

This was a huge deal back then as it enabled non-technical people to edit any website content instantly. A drawback of this approach, however, was that server side rendering was and is slow. As the web became increasingly complex over the decades, server-side rendering was just not cutting it anymore.

In 2016, Matt Biilmann (co-founder of Netlify) introduced the concept of Jamstack. The Jamstack architecture brought back the early days of the static web. Albeit enhanced with Javascript, reusable APIs, and the cloud.

But over the past six years, Jamstack has become more than just another way of making websites. In this article, we explore in-depth what Jamstack is and show you why Jamstack is better than WordPress.

In this article, we'll cover 

What is Jamstack?

Jamstack is a web development ecosystem where you can choose what tech and frameworks to use. Unlike websites and web apps built on a monolithic architecture, there's no single monolithic CMS tied to a backend or database –you can choose your preferred frontend framework or Jamstack CMS.

Did you know: the abbreviation "Jamstack" comes from Javascript, APIs, and Markup (the JAM in JAMstack).

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.

A typical Jamstack website combines multiple cloud based services with microservice APIs to render static HTML that can be easily and efficiently served globally on a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

In practice, this means you can build serverless websites kinda as you did in the early days of the web. Just simple, static files and HTML.

Why are market leaders migrating to Jamstack?

The reason is simple: building a Jamstack site has become easier and more cost-effective than ever, and market leaders have noticed the changing trend.

According to data from the 2021 Jamstack Community Survey, 32% of the surveyed developers are working for multimillion-dollar companies in the advertising and marketing, education, finance, and healthcare sectors. Most Jamstack sites were either portfolio sites or small eCommerce stores a couple of years back. Nowadays, Jamstack is reaching maturity with companies like Nike building sites powered by Jamstack.

In fact, the 2021 Web Almanac revealed that 1.1% of all sites on the internet are built as Jamstack sites, growing from 0.38% in 2019 and 0.69% in 2020.

Unlike traditional, monolithic solutions like WordPress and Drupal, which can only scale as much as their servers, hosting, and CMS allows them to, Jamstack sites are almost infinitely scalable.

You can build a Jamstack project and go from zero to hero without fear that your website will be obsolete and bloated in five years. Instead, you can grow your digital presence at the same rate as your company, enabling businesses of all shapes and sizes to build fast, competitive digital experiences.

Jamstack vs. WordPress

Jamstack and WordPress are fundamentally different. WordPress is built on the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP), while Jamstack is built on the JAM stack (Javascript, APIs, and Markup). WordPress is a website platform, and Jamstack is a framework that combines microservice APIs, JavaScript frameworks, and static site generators to build websites and web applications.

Since WordPress is a monolithic system, it's impossible  to just replace the frontend framework or your CMS as they are part of the same system and can't be swapped. However, in a Jamstack website, you could replace that part of your stack without affecting your entire website.

Jamstack websites allow developers to create customized websites not constrained by themes like WordPress. Most headless CMSs in the market enable developers and non-technical users to build static sites fast using pre-built website starters, allowing companies to build proofs-of-concept, progressive web applications, and eCommerce stores.

Finally, in a Jamstack static website, every single file, static asset, and resource is pre-built and stored on a global CDN as JSON or XML.

By serving a static file cached on a CDN, you not only achieve faster loading speeds but can also deliver content to other channels like smartwatches, IoT devices, and digital signage. You no longer need monolithic and heavy back-end frameworks like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla to build a website or a web application.

We wrote an article that hones in on the debate of Jamstack vs. WordPress. Take a look if you want to find out what makes Jamstack a better option for building websites.

Benefits of Jamstack

Jamstack sites are fast and incredibly customizable, but that’s not all of the benefits. When built using the best practices and the right tools, Jamstack sites can be performant, secure, and scalable.

So, let's go deeper into the benefits of the Jamstack framework to understand what makes it a solid architectural choice.

Business benefits of Jamstack

  • Blazing fast: 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, making it easier to pass Google's Core Web Vitals. Since almost all of the content in a Jamstack website or application is made of markup files that are served from a CDN, Jamstack digital experiences are faster than traditional websites.
  • Compliant: Netlify, the creator of Jamstack, and all the major headless CMS in the market comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). As a result, you can be confident that every time you build a Jamstack website you're protected against compliance issues.
  • Accessible: Your web apps and digital experiences must be accessible to those with disabilities. Building an accessible website can help you with SEO and reduce the chances of being sued or penalized. Jamstack websites are accessible out-of-the-box and can be easily optimized to comply with the WCAG and ADA guidelines.
  • Secure: Jamstack websites and apps are inherently safer than traditional sites. CDNs reduce security risks and downtime because if 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 the WordPress plugin system.
  • Cost-effective: Jamstack sites are cheaper to host compared to traditional sites. You can host your website on Netlify or Vercel for free and scale your commitment as your website grows. With a Jamstack website, you don't need a web farm of dedicated servers or expensive, on-premise hosting.

Technical benefits of Jamstack

  • Build it the way you want it: To build a Jamstack site, you select the best modern software products for your company and integrate them with your headless CMS Modern. A Jamstack developer can work with a modern static site generator and leverage JavaScript frameworks such as Next.js or Gatsby and build better digital experiences.****
  • Simplified CI/CD: Using Netlify or Vercel for CI/CD, you can set up a development environment in half an hour, connect a repository, and point the domain to the web application to enable one-click deployment.
  • Allow for third-party integrations: APIs simplify developers' work and allow you to connect different third-party plugins to add complex functionalities to your headless CMS, resulting in faster performance when compared to WordPress plugins.
  • Truly cross-functional work: Jamstack tooling exposes marketers and non-technical users to the website development process, leading to better understanding and communication between developers, designers, and marketers.

Limitations of Jamstack

Like with everything, the Jamstack ecosystem is not completely perfect. There are a few drawbacks that are worth mentioning. This includes:

  • Unfriendly for beginners: Jamstack isn't very friendly for beginners, and you need to know more than the basics of web development to make the most of it. But you can always circumvent this issue by hiring a Jamstack development agency.
  • Long build times: One of the drawbacks of Jamstack sites is that when you change a page, you need to rebuild the whole site. As you can imagine, this can be slow for sites with thousands of pages. It is possible to alleviate this issue using incremental builds or by building the website using Gatsby or Next.js, but, once again, this requires development experience.

Migrating from WordPress to Jamstack

If you decide to migrate, don't be afraid. While migration sounds like a long, tedious process, migration doesn't have to be hard. In fact, a Jamstack agency can help you find a migration path that suits you, be it a piecemeal migration or a complete one. Your path will depend on factors like the number of plugins and shortcodes you're using and the size and amount of content of your site.

However, you can migrate to Jamstack gradually by building a Jamstack layer in front of the site and migrating requests slowly until the whole site has been transferred to a Jamstack CMS. The Jamstack approach minimizes downtime and reduces negative impacts on the user experience.

Choosing a headless CMS for Jamstack

Development with legacy solutions such as WordPress is slow and frustrating for developers. WordPress gets bloated quickly, and after a while, it becomes unwieldy. A Jamstack CMS unlocks your developers' true potential and allows them to build digital experiences using modern technology stacks.

Jamstack CMSs come ready for the future. By combining the JAM of the Jamstack with version-control tools like GitHub, the right headless CMS can build and serve content fast, allowing snappy performance.

The problem is that not all CMSs are created equal and that it all depends on what you want to do with them. We've tested most of the headless platforms in the market and can recommend five of them: Agility CMS, Dato, Sanity, Contentful, and Prismic.

We wrote a deep article about why we think they are the top headless CMS for Jamstack. Feel free to check it out if you want to know more.

Closing thoughts: Jamstack is a must-have architecture for any modern web project

Jamstack is becoming the de-facto tech architecture for forward-thinking companies. Enterprise companies are migrating to Jamstack daily because it grants them the speed and flexibility that monolithic solutions like WordPress wouldn't afford them.

When compared to WordPress, Jamstack sites are nimbler and much more modular. They also allow using best-of-breed tools to create custom websites and digital experiences.

When coupled with the right headless CMS, Jamstack websites will give a competitive advantage that you'll never want to look back to something like WordPress again after you've tried them.

If you need help navigating the Jamstack ecosystem, let's talk. We can answer all questions you have about Jamstack development.

Download our new eBook: Jamstack buyers' guide

This eBook from Ikius and Agility contains useful information for companies and organizations that are considering Jamstack solutions. Jamstack has become the de-facto-standard for enterprise web development. In this eBook, we will share our insight into buying Jamstack solutions.

Jamstack buyers' guide 2022

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