Migrating to a new tech stack means change for the entire team, from development to content. While some team members may be excited about moving to a new system that offers more flexibility, others may be hesitant to make the move, wanting to maintain their current workflows and toolset.
This guide will break down every single aspect of Jamstack in a way that will make clear why Jamstack is an excellent choice for many use cases, even for the more hesitant team members.
#What is Jamstack?
Back in 2016, Netlify coined the term Jamstack as a way to give a tangible description of modern website architecture. With the continued rise of the mobile application and an omnichannel approach to digital content, teams began to move away from the traditional monolith approach to architecture.
Tech stacks that had been the darlings of their day, such as LAMP or MEAN stacks, quickly fell out of favor for developers looking to innovate. Jamstack refers to API-driven architecture that enables the creation of modern web applications and gives more context to those trying to create powerful applications. Modern architectures for Jamstack purposes take the modular approach by connecting APIs to deliver performant web applications quickly.
What does Jamstack stand for?
Jamstack refers to web applications built using the following stack:
APIs - Reusable APIs, either custom-built or linked third-party services, serve as all server-side processes or database actions.
Markup - The HTML markup is prebuilt at deployment. Stack- The technologies are combined together to build a web or mobile application.
Jamstack sites take advantage of how the browser has become essentially a mini operating system capable of running complex client-side applications. Sites built with the Jamstack are more flexible and can use services that are the best fit for their specific use case.
Modular architecture aims to deliver faster performance, easy scalability, better developer experience, and more secure applications. Teams trying to leverage both a mobile application and a web application benefit from the modular approach, as Jamstack enables teams to pull from the same backend as a service to populate both mobile applications and static sites. Jamstack initially referred to purely static sites that could be quickly built modularly.
In the early days of Jamstack, it was a true disrupter and reexamined what was considered common practice in modern architecture creation. Four years later, though, it has moved beyond a developer tool for small projects to being adopted by enterprises launching new products or campaigns.
The goal of Jamstack is to decouple the frontend services and backend services. This enables teams to use best-of-breed services that match their use case. The flexibility and reliability of Jamstack projects make it clear that Jamstack is here to stay as a heavyweight of website architecture.
While Jamstack can sometimes be known as a tech stack solely for static sites, this does not do the tech stack justice. Websites built with the Jamstack can contain dynamic content (in fact, one of the creators of the Jamstack, Mathias Biilman, sometimes refers to it as hyperdynamic content).
#Benefits of Jamstack
There are many benefits of adopting a Jamstack architecture. We take a deep dive into them here:
Modular, decoupled architecture
Decoupled architecture is essential to Jamstack and a benefit of using the tech stack. By separating the frontend and the backend, teams can optimize their tech stacks for their use case and use the best-of-breed approach. Modular architecture enables teams to develop performant websites quickly without being weighed down by monolith systems.
Customizable tech stack
Because the Jamstack is inherently decoupled, the frontend is disconnected from the backend. This empowers teams to choose whatever frontend framework fits their use case the best for their project. The flexibility makes it easier for teams to get up and running quickly because they can use their preferred framework rather than learning a new one.
Jamstack sites can be a mixture of SaaS offerings, modern tools, and custom applications, giving teams endless possibilities for choosing the tech stack that is best for their team and use case. While this high level of customization can be intimidating at the beginning of a project, there are many resources for pointing teams in the right direction for their use case.
More performant websites
Jamstack sites are performant in both SEO and speed. The technical side of SEO maintenance gets a boost via Jamstack, mostly via simplifying URL structures, serving pre-rendered HTML to bots, and fine-tuning page creation and taxonomy.
The faster performance promised by Jamstack implementations is due to several things. First, the data is globally distributed on CDNs, which serve the webpage to the client. Because the clients can receive the data from the CDN server that is closest to them, page load times are drastically reduced.
The second consideration regarding performance is that the webpages are pre-rendered and cached on the CDN servers in the regions closest to where they were called by the user. If there are no changes to the webpage, the CDN will serve the cached, pre-rendered site. With the Jamstack, teams can store the data close to the users, and pre-rendering the web pages creates faster page load times, leading to a better user experience.
The modular, decoupled nature of Jamstack websites enables teams to work quickly to build the product with their framework of choice. Teams with more frontend strength can back-end-as-a-service (BaaS) products. Teams do not have to worry about building database structures but instead just focus on the UI. The tooling in the Jamstack ecosystem is diverse, allowing teams to select what works best for them and their use case without losing valuable development time.
The lower price tag has a lot of different considerations. From faster development times from development teams to removing the monolith systems also removes the hefty monolith price tag. Many Jamstack architectures are also serverless, which is another big cost-saving. Finally, Jamstack architectures make it easy to start with an MVP to validate your idea before building a more robust site.
The popularity of the Jamstack architecture has contributed to the rich API-first tooling accompanying the architecture style. Specialized services enable teams to quickly build more complexity into their Jamstack projects without building everything from scratch. In many cases, services can be tested without disturbing the existing stack, making experimentation much more fluid.
With the Jamstack, teams can build a static site with a headless CMS, modern frontend frameworks, CDNs, analytics tools, or static site generators. We dive into what an architecture for a modern website could look like in a recent post. Using the Jamstack, teams can reach a globally distributed audience with the content to match that audience’s needs, enabling them to deploy localized content quickly.
Due to the modular architecture, Jamstack sites are very easy to scale. Teams can quickly create an MVP and continue to add functionality as the site develops. Files are often stored in CDNs, which can be connected to new services as the site scales. The engaged community of Jamstack developers is constantly creating exciting tooling that makes it easier to quickly and securely scale.
Jamstack sites are more secure than others because their modular architecture and simpler structure create fewer vulnerabilities for security breaches. By connecting a plethora of APIs, services can use data but not modify it without proper permissions. CMSs or wherever the data is stored can be placed behind an extra firewall to reduce the likelihood of vulnerability further. Jamstack is highly secure also because all requests are made to the frontend rather than the back end.
Better user experience
Content teams benefit from the Jamstack as well. While it may not be the page builder they are used to, content teams benefit from the greater flexibility enabled by a headless CMS, a key element of the Jamstack architecture. Content teams can integrate additional tooling into the backend to give them the insights they need to create successful content and reach their audience.
Users benefit from the faster page speeds and the reliable user experience. Because Jamstack sites are more secure than their decoupled counterparts, users have a highly reliable user experience.
The Jamstack community is a passionate group of creators and innovators and is growing all of the time. Developers from various backgrounds build projects ranging from hobby projects to enterprise sites. This thriving community makes it clear that Jamstack will continue to develop and not just be a passing trend.
#What are the drawbacks of using the Jamstack?
Jamstack architectures do have some drawbacks, especially for people who are used to working with monolith sites. While they all have workarounds, it is important for teams to understand what may be unexpected when working with the Jamstack.
Require a shift in mindset for content creators
Content creators can be very used to creating content using page builders using WYSIWYG. The Jamstack, however, employs Markup, where HTML is served statically and may have a limited ability for teams to create content using the WYSIWYG approach. Static site generators with a headless CMS can help bridge the gap for teams that are used to building in a page builder where they can preview content before publishing it.
Content can get out of hand without a headless CMS
Because content essentially becomes a collection of static files, it can become quickly difficult to ensure that all of those files reflect the current content wishes. If teams want to remain flexible and have the ability to experiment with content over time, it may be wise to implement a headless CMS to improve the editor experience without the dev team building a custom solution.
Overwhelming amount of options for tooling and services
The offerings for Jamstack tooling are expansive and require time to dive into the diverse product offerings. There are players that range from industry heavyweights or customized tooling that can enhance the creation of a static site ranging from headless CMSs to analytics tools.
#Who uses Jamstack architectures in production?
Jamstack architectures are popular in production for enterprises, startups, and side projects. The highly varied projects in production demonstrate that Jamstack has appeal to a wide range of development teams. There have been high-profile walkthroughs on how and why teams switched to the Jamstack like Colin Kapernick’s Just Do It campaign for Nike. Our team at Hygraph has also profiled many clients that switched from monolith to Jamstack, including Autoweb and SMB Financing company QuickBridge.
#Use cases for Jamstack
At its inception, Jamstack was assumed to be a stack best suited for purely static content due to the pre-rendered HTML and close association with static site generators. While static content does account for some of the content created with the Jamstack, Jamstack sites do not have to be strictly static sites.
In fact, many tools help ensure your website stays performant and true to the spirit of Jamstack. Jamstack is suitable for both the humble developer and the formidable enterprise if teams consider the specific needs of the projects.
Jamstack lends itself well to a wide range of projects. One of the most famous examples of a successful migration from a monolith to a Jamstack publishing site is how Smashing Magazine rebuilt its website. Smashing Magazine was able to transform a high-traffic blog with thousands of pages into a sophisticated project that introduced gated content and eCommerce capabilities as well.
ECommerce presents a good use case for the Jamstack with headless commerce companies, such as Commerce Layer and Commercetools, making integration easy. Any statically generated site is a good match for the Jamstack. Teams can get these up and running quickly by using Static Site Generators, which enable teams to be agile without compromising quality.
While purely static sites can be a great option for many projects, Jamstack can also be leveraged to create blended/hybrid sites. Hybrid sites are often a combination of SSGs, API connections, and serverless functions, which enable teams to add dynamic functionality to Jamstack sites, including search, user-generated content, and handle user authentication. Adding dynamic content to a Jamstack site opens possibilities to use cases such as a Job Board, a Changelog with commenting, or a developer hub.
#Is Jamstack the right approach for your use case?
With any tech stack, it is important to have a good understanding of the end product and the team's needs along the way. In development, there is a near-constant stream of new products coming to the market with various levels of hype surrounding them.
While some of these tools and approaches may be validated in the long run, it is important to define which context is the ideal use case. Ideal use cases help ensure that teams are choosing the best toolset for what they actually need rather than just riding the wave of what is popular.
Jamstack is an excellent approach for teams looking to build static sites quickly, but it can become clunky when teams try to build a site with a high level of dynamic content. There is a certain level of dynamic content that may be expected with almost any site; however, sites that need a high level of dynamic content to provide a high-quality user experience may want to consider another approach.
There are many workarounds or integrations for creating dynamic content within the Jamstack, but you may find that other stacks provide more native support for dynamic content.
#What are the essential tools for starting a Jamstack project?
As mentioned throughout this guide, tech stacks for the Jamstack are highly customized and dependent on the use case. That being said, there are some tools and services that are essential for building a performant stack quickly.
Static Site Generator (SSG)
Static Site Generators make it quick and easy to create HTML from templates, components, and content sources. Popular SSGs include Gatsby and NextJS. We took a deep dive into our top picks for SSGs in 2023 in a blog post.
Cloud computing services offer hosting for web applications and static sites. Vercel and Netlify are popular options for hosting services.
A content delivery network (CDN) is a distributed network of servers and data centers that work to reduce the physical distance between servers and users. This helps decrease load times and bolster security and performance. Popular CDNs include Cloudflare, Fastly, and CloudFront.
A headless CMS is a backend-only content management system that uses an API to make content available to the chosen frontend or presentation layer. Headless CMS allows teams to create and organize content easily in a frontend agnostic way. Evaluate how to choose a Headless CMS with our Headless CMS Selection Checklist.
#Jamstack best practices
Serve content from a CDN
Serving content from a CDN increases speeds and performance no matter where the user is. Keeping the content globally distributed improves the user experience and makes it easier for the project to scale.
Use a version control system
A version control system, such as Git, ensures that a change history exists for files. They also enable collaboration and productivity while providing safeguards against data loss.
Triggers notify a project when a new build must be performed due to changes in the data, schema, and source files. This ensures that when changes are published to the project, they are pushed to production and not forgotten.
Atomic deploys mean that the live website will only be updated once the deployment has finished successfully. Atomic deploys help ensure that the most current version of the live site is consistent across the entire project. They can be especially helpful when eliminating downtime is critical.
Embrace modern techstacks
Every Jamstack project is different and, thus, will likely require a slightly different set of tools. Finding your preferred headless CMS, CDN, and checkout/payment provider will make it easier as teams begin to build more Jamstack sites and want to combine these tools in different ways.
#Is Jamstack dead?
Recently, there’s been a discussion about whether Jamstack has fallen out of its popularity, with Netlify shutting down the Jamstack Community Discord server and the Jamstack Conf, and several influencers in the space declaring that Jamstack is no longer the cool kid. What’s more, many have claimed that “Jamstack is dead".
Objectively speaking, just like the long-gone terms “LAMP” and “MERN”, the invention of the buzzword “Jamstack” is merely a way of branding a back-then cutting-edge stack. Much like what Miriam Schwab once said in a Jamstack roundtable, “The name Jamstack is devoid of meaning, but it did serve a purpose”.
At its core, Jamstack offers developers a more efficient way to build things with a decoupled frontend and backend. Now, years after the buzzword was created, emerging technologies use the word "composable architecture" to present a more modern, symbolic way for the future of the digital experience.
So, to answer the question, the term “Jamstack” does seem to be fading out while its principles and technologies are vividly alive, incarnating into a fresh, rising term. After all, the digital landscape will always evolve, and so will technology. It's only branding methods that need a new compass every now and then.
#Hygraph and the Jamstack
Hygraph and the Jamstack are natural companions. Content can be stored in Hygraph and connected to the rest of the chosen frontend via the API. Hygraph enables SEO to be easily managed and optimized.
Hygraph is a great option for Jamstack projects that want to build performant static sites quickly. Content editors gain independence from development teams to create engaging content, while developers can focus on performance and user experience without compromising site performance.
Below are some more resources to check out when considering how to use Hygraph when building a Jamstack project.
- Case Study: Hygraph and Autoweb
- Case Study: Hygraph and Quickbridge
- Case Study: Hygraph and Startups.com
- Programmatically create forms and capture submissions with Next.js and GraphQL
- Delivering a DIY Store powered by a Headless CMS for eCommerce
- Beyond Static, a Gatsby Tale
- Managing Speakers and Talk Submissions with the Serverless Stack
- Commerce in Content With Hygraph
#Frequently asked questions
What does Jamstack mean?
What is Jamstack?
What is the Jamstack used for?
The Jamstack architecture has many benefits:
- Better performance: Files are generated at build time, minimizing the time to the first byte.
- Higher security: With server-side processes abstracted into microservice APIs. Your entire architecture is not vulnerable to attacks.
- Cheaper and more scalable: Jamstack projects are more scale-friendly as all deployments result in flat files served from nearly anywhere and cached across CDN nodes globally.
- Better Developer Experience: Jamstack architectures allow more focused and targeted development cycles, allowing developers to work efficiently and with their preferred stacks.
What is a Jamstack CMS?
A Jamstack CMS is one that provides the content via API in a native and consumable format like JSON. Hygraph is an ideal Jamstack CMS, given it provides all content in JSON from edge CDNs across 190 locations, ensuring that content is delivered nearly instantly. The same applies to Assets via our Assets API. This makes Hygraph a reliable content infrastructure for Jamstack applications.
Are Next.js and Gatsby Jamstack?
What are Jamstack best practices?
- Serve entire projects on a CDN.
- Use modern tools and frameworks.
- Automate builds with webhooks or publishing platforms that trigger new builds automatically.
- Take advantage of Atomic Deploys (no changes go live until all changed files have been uploaded).