JAMstack has proven increasingly popular among developers over the past few years, with static sites becoming more commonplace since around 2015. As web design began to place higher importance on the developer experience, the term JAMstack was formed and has been gaining traction among the industry ever since. What’s behind that trend, and is it set to continue?
Petr SvihlikMar 12, 2020
What Is JAMstack, and How Does It Work?
In a traditional CMS workflow, the front and back ends are coupled, which means generating data to present to the user may require going through a number of processes along the way—such as web request processing, interacting with databases and other services, rendering the output, and communicating between server and browser.
Why Has JAMstack Experienced Such a Rise?
Static site generators are frameworks built on top of those templating engines, derivatives that offer something really valuable—performance. And performance is what makes the difference in how well a website ranks on Google.
Considering Google’s to push to speed up web sites—Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)—and growing demand for API-driven content management, it looks like JAMstack is here to stay for the foreseeable future. But is it the right solution for everyone?
What Are the Pros and Cons of Working with JAMstack?
Statically generated sites can be sourced with data from literally anywhere—locally-stored markdown files, Google Sheets, or, in theory, a traditional CMS. It just makes much more sense to do so with a headless CMS whose main responsibility is managing and delivering content.
Although headless CMSs were initially created to overcome the omnichannel gap, it seems that they create a perfect match with static site generators.
Keeping the concerns separated lets you use a best-of-breed solution for each problem while allowing the (micro)services to scale almost indefinitely. Speaking of scalability, serving static files requires almost zero infrastructure and removes the need for boosting your databases’ and web servers’ performance. There is practically no way of achieving better performance and scalability because serving static files is just a matter of transferring them over the wire. The page-load time is limited by the speed of your connection and the hard drive/memory serving the files.
Shrinking the infrastructure also helps cut down the maintenance costs and reduce the attack surface. You see, with static files, there is very little left to hack. In fact, only few things can go wrong in general, which makes the apps very stable.
So, improved performance, greater security, scalability, cost-effectiveness, and offering the same or better developer experience as modern JS frameworks are the advantages. What are the drawbacks?
For those of a less technical persuasion, for example, those working on content, it can be a complex system to master. At the same time, any dynamic features are likely to require the help of a third-party solution. On top of that, any significant alterations of the presentation layer would need the assistance of a developer. Lastly, JAMstack isn’t always appropriate for sites or apps that demand the need for frequent, let alone real-time updates or apps that are mostly dynamic.
Which Frameworks Are Suitable for Building Sites with JAMstack?
The beauty of JAMstack is that it doesn’t prescribe the technologies and frameworks to construct websites and apps with. A glance at the case studies on JAMstack’s site is proof enough of this. While Gatsby, Vue, React, Hugo, and Jekyll are all featuring prominently, the final cocktail of ingredients is up to you. Mixing the services together might get even easier with initiatives such as StackBit and their Sourcebit framework that aspire to create a unified interface between any headless CMS and any static site generator.
So it seems that JAMstack’s rise is set to continue in 2020, but what’s next?
WebAssembly alone could be a notable challenger of the elevated performance standards set by JAMstack.
Still in its relative infancy, it remains to be seen how WASM will reshape the landscape. With the birth of first WebAssembly front-end frameworks, it’s undeniable that the technology is getting some serious traction. But rather than replacing JavaScipt, it’s more likely that it’ll supplement it. WebAssembly in combination with JAMstack could give life to a deadly combo offering the best performance of both worlds—statically generated markup and dynamic parts powered by superfast bytecode. Will we start seeing WAMstack sites soon?