What is JAMstack and Why are Developers (& Marketers) Becoming Raving Fans?

As a company, if you’re not constantly seeking ways to improve your online customers’ experiences and gain an advantage over competitors, you might as well just take yourself out of the ring.

Online customer expectations are higher than ever before. And if you’re not able to deliver for them, they’ll move on to someone who can. But the real kicker about that for marketers is the fact that even something as small as an extra half a second of load time on your website could make the difference.

You may be able to predict where we’re going with this (knowing the title of this blog). And that’s that more and more development teams are turning to the JAMstack approach to ensure that their client sites are running better and faster than their competitors.

So what exactly is JAMstack? Here’s everything you need to know about the not-so-new architecture and why developers are now big fans of it.

What is JAMstack?

JAMstack isn’t a specific technology — but instead, a different way of building apps and websites. It’s a modern web development architecture that splits up the code (JavaScript), infrastructure (APIs), and content (Markup) of a website. Unlike traditional web architectures — like LAMP or WAMP — designed with a heavy backend layer to handle dynamic pages built post-launch, Jamstack hostings static, pre-rendered files and relies on micro-services that are accessible through an API (Application Programming Interface), which allows developers to focus on creating outstanding front-end code.

We’ll break it down a little further.

With the JAMstack approach, pages are not rendered on the user's browser during runtime like an SPA (Single Page Application), or a server like Wordpress. All content is rendered once by a web service that is connected to your repository, and based on changes or publish requests, these static files are generated and hosted on a web server. The source code can be as much modular as desired, and can be connected to a headless CMS, and get assets dynamically through an API, but this integrations and requests happen a single time during the build process, and once this is done, what is hosted on the web server is a bunch of static files that contain all the information and assets a page needs to have.

For developers, this separation means having more control and ability to scale, and for users, it means faster and easier navigation.

How Does JAMstack Work?

While in a traditional site development, you need to take care of both the FrontEnd and BackEnd layers together; in JAMstack, you rely on ‘microservices,’ that you access through an API. So instead of developing and maintaining your own BackEnd web services, you rely on microservices for each specific need. And everything is stored as static files, which can be accessed easily to make changes simpler and less tedious than when using code.

The idea here is to minimize the effort needed to maintain heavy backend services and go as serverless as possible through the use of web dev platforms like Netlify, AWS Amplify, Vercel, etc..

Top Benefits of the JAMStack Approach

  • Faster Speed & Performance The load speeds with JAMstack are pretty amazing. Safe to say, going this route will help you rule out load times being the cause of any lost customers. Since JAMstack website’s pre-generate site pages at the time of the build versus the time of the request, the response is much quicker. All of the pages are stored on a content delivery network close to the user visiting the site instead, so it delivers much quicker.

  • Higher SEO Ranking While we’re on the topic of speed, expect that SEO rank to soar. In addition to load times playing a major role in SEO efficiency, these sites are also light and easy to scan by Google crawlers. And by putting the control into the developer’s hands, you can easily add custom meta descriptions, alt text, page titles, etc. to help search engines better index your content — all of which will be nicely rewarded by Google.

  • Better Future-Proofing Marketers who treat their website as a tool to generate traffic and leads are constantly looking to improve their features and functionality. Since JAMstack stores everything in a content delivery network closest to the user, there’s no complex logic or workflow to determine what assets can be cached and when. As a developer, this structure also gives you full control of the website in terms of publishing new content versus dealing with any issues involved in working in pre-existing code of a traditional site or plug-in. Editing and maintenance is far easier and less costly in the long run.

  • Elevated Security Static sites are extremely reliable. Since JAMstack consists of static, read-only files, it is far less vulnerable to attacks. Conversely, server-side and CMS applications use several different APIs that are directly connected to the data, and any features (i.e. sliders or carousels) on the FrontEnd have to be custom made through plugins. And hackers can fairly easily identify those plugins without even accessing the BackEnd, so they’ll know if there are any vulnerabilities they can take advantage of. To put it simply, with JAMstack, people aren’t accessing the source; they’re accessing the result.

    With the FrontEnd being its own layer, you’re also better protected against human error as well. Any mistakes in coding won’t show up directly and immediately on the FrontEnd like with a traditional site.

  • Simpler Developer Experience JAMstack makes life a lot easier on developers. For starters, they don’t have to take care of everything in regard to implementing layout and connecting it to the BackEnd layer. They actually don’t have access to the full environment even if they wanted to. Instead, the ability to use APIs (e.g. Shopify, Magento, Amazon) allows them to focus on creating the FrontEnd and an awesome user experience. Even better, developers also aren’t tied down to any one language of a specific CMS, giving them the freedom to be ‘tech agnostic.’

The value of the JAMstack approach for both developers and marketers is pretty clear. If you’re interested in learning more, the Assemble team is happy to help. We’re constantly staying on top of the latest and smartest web development tools and practices to make sure your website stands out among the rest. Contact us today.