The Rise of JAMstack

Posted on Jul 26, 2018 - By Leesa Love

Move over, WordPress. Web development is evolving again, and the latest tool to create websites is not quite as new as you might think. After ongoing issues with security, speed and scaling, it seems like dynamic web pages are no longer the most efficient way to interact with users. JAMstack is an emerging modern approach that allows web developers to build websites that are just as secure and reliable as they are dynamic.

In order to achieve this, the JAMstack approach encourages developers to return to the roots of the internet: static websites. Through recent advances in technology, JAMstack is allowed to combine static website generators with dynamic applications. In general, this approach balances new development techniques with older concepts, which is having positive impacts on SEO, marketing and content creation. Thus, many JAMstack fans are calling it the future of the internet. It appears that, sometimes, you have to refer to the past to find progress – even in the case of technology.

Revamping the Past

Back when the internet first launched, websites were nothing more than a series of text-based files, with hyperlinks connecting different web pages together. These were known as the first “static” websites. While fairly straightforward, the simplicity of static websites at the time prevented them from supporting any kind of interactivity from users. The development of dynamic websites solved this, making websites responsive to users as well as content creators.

Through this advancement, the internet we know today was created, where users can create social media profiles, receive a constant stream of news updates and buy their favorite products online. However, problems with the dynamic design format eventually arose as well. As a result, web developers began seeking a way to harness the simplicity of static sites without sacrificing the responsiveness of dynamic sites. Since then, enhancements in browser capabilities and programming languages have allowed static websites to become much more interactive themselves. As a consequence, the JAMstack approach was created.

A “stack” is a combination of technologies used together to build a website. As such, JAMstack is a stack that harnesses the power of tools like JavaScript, APIs and Markups (JAM). Each of these elements helps combine the positive aspects of static and dynamic websites, in order to create a new and improved approach to website building.

  • JavaScript: Advances in the programming language JavaScript allow developers to shift back towards the front-end processing of static sites. With front-end processing, websites are loaded directly by the user’s browser.
  • API: An application programming interface (API) allows developers to add the dynamic element to an otherwise static JAMstack site. APIs perform any necessary back-end processing, and interact with JavaScript.
  • Markup: JAMstack utilizes pre-built markups, or templates, in order to generate static websites. This helps developers keep the website’s design separate from its content.

By returning to elements of static websites, JAMstack helps eliminate some of the security and speed issues the come with dynamic website frameworks. Browsers have also become capable of running applications on the front-end, rather than relying solely on the back-end. The focus on front-end processing reduces the need for remote databases and servers, which are utilized in back-end processing for dynamic sites. Back-end processing requires the use of a server to load websites from a remote database. The problem with back-end processing is that servers are slowed down, or even overloaded, if too many users try to access the same website at once. Back-end processing also presents security issues, as hackers often target any weak spots in servers and databases.

Moreover, the benefits of JAMstack are not limited to website design. It also has some positive impacts on how a website attracts users. For instance, aspects such as SEO and content creation are beginning to see the effects of the growth of JAMstack-based websites.

SEO

When determining a site’s SEO ranking, user experience and crawl efficiency are more important than ever. The JAMstack approach supports both of these elements in a few ways in order to raise a website’s search ranking.

  • Site Speed: This is a huge factor in user experience. In order to keep users coming back to a website, fast page loading is key. The longer a webpage takes to load, the more likely a user will leave and choose a different website. As stated above, JAMstack helps to increase website speed by reducing a website’s reliance on databases and servers.
  • Site Structure: JAMstack seeks to harness the simple structure of static websites. Dynamic websites often create complex navigation chains and duplicate pages that complicate their structures. As a consequence, these structures inhibit both user navigation and crawl efficiency. By using APIs, JAMstack simplifies website structure to improve navigation as well as a bot’s ability to crawl the site for indexing.
  • Mobile friendliness: The ability to access a website on a mobile device is now an important user experience signal used to rank websites. More users than ever are choosing mobile over desktop browsing. In response to this, JAMstack utilizes templates that incorporate mobile viewing automatically.

Content

One potential downside to JAMstack is that it has not completely solved the issue of easing content editing. Dynamic websites rely on content management systems (CMS) like WordPress that are designed to be user-friendly, even for non-tech employees. JAMstack still has a higher learning curve, meaning that editors need some training in order to update site content. However, as technology continues to evolve, this issue is not expected to be permanent.