Jamstack Website Essentials: Why Bother?
This article is aimed at people who want to better understand the essential elements of every Jamstack website. If you’re looking for an in-depth guide on what Jamstack is, please check this article.
Whether you’re a marketer or a business owner, you might want to understand the technology better before investing your time and resources into it.
We’re going to go right back to basics and discuss what Jamstack sites are made of, how the entire Jamstack ecosystem works, and why it might be worth your time.
What Does a Modern Jamstack Website Consist Of?
Jamstack is not a specific technology per se, but more of an approach to web development.
There’s no single clear definition as to what makes a web page a Jamstack page, however, there are certain characteristics that can indicate whether we’re dealing with one.
That said, Jamstack can still be rendered server-side and have its perks. You’ll find more on that in this article.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Jamstack website essentials are:
- The Front-end (the way your website is presented to the user)
- The Back-end (all the magic that happens in the back before your website is presented to the user in the front end)
What’s more, every Jamstack website will usually be characterized by being decoupled, progressively enhanced, and static-first.
- Decoupled Jamstack means you’re going to use separate tooling for the front-end and back-end, usually joining the two using APIs (The function of API is to allow two apps to communicate with each other).
- Progressive enhancement prioritizes web content. It allows all users to access the basic functionality and content of the website regardless of their browser performance and connection quality. It also allows users with a faster connection and extra browser features to access a richer version of the website.
What Is Front-end?
In a nutshell, the front-end of your website is simply what you’re presenting to the world. Everything that appears on your websites, like animations, links, or tables has been developed by front-end developers.
In essence, the process may look something like this:
- The client shares his vision for how they would like their website to look.
- The design team prepares the visual design part.
- The development team takes over from the design team and codes the visual design into fully functional elements.
What Is Back-end?
The back-end of your website is everything that brings your website to life. The users have no access to it, as it is simply the depository where all the elements that make the website run are held.
In essence, the back-end of your website is a database that is run from a separate server. The back-end developers manage and maintain that database in order to ensure that your sites are fully operational.
In summary, your back-end is where the data of your website is stored and maintained in order to allow for the front-end to function correctly.
What Is CMS?
CMS, or Content Management Systems, facilitate the processes of managing your content. In short, it’s a system that allows you to manage all of your content without having to code.
Without CMS, you would have to write up static HTML files which you would then have to upload to the server. CMS like the aforementioned WordPress or Sanity make content management far easier by presenting you with an intuitive, ready-coded, block-based database.
Jamstack Website Essentials: The Ecosystem
Jamstack is a fairly complex architecture that consists of numerous elements. To understand how Jamstack sites achieve high-level performance, it’s important to grasp how each element works.
Jamstack Website Essentials 1: Static Site Generators
When thinking of a static site generator (SSG), think of a tool that saves you coding HTML files. Instead, everything is automatically generated and ready for use.
Static sites are faster, but not as customizable as dynamic sites.
They are safer and easier to develop than dynamic sites. They also offer quicker load times and improved SEO. On the other hand, they suffer some functionality limitations and poorer scaling.
When choosing between static site generators you have to keep a couple of things in mind.
- The programming language – different static site generators operate on different programming languages. Make sure you discuss the choice with your development team and choose the one that accommodates them best.
- Open-source – there are plenty of open-source platforms like Next.js, Gatsby.js, and Hugo.js that offer a rich experience to users worldwide. A full list of open-source SSGs can be found here.
- Community – one of the main perks of a platform being open-source is that it’s completely open for devs to meddle with. In this case, the community will be bigger, more dynamic, and stronger, and a more active community means more resources for you and your development team.
- Stable release – there are hundreds if not thousands of SSGs available. However, the up-and-coming ones have not always been thoroughly tested. This generally makes them a riskier choice than the better-established ones. Try to stick to those that are past their beta release and offer a full and stable version.
- Speed & Reliability – different frameworks offer slightly different perks, so make sure you chose wisely. For example, if you’re looking to rank higher on Google, you might want to give Next.js a chance.
Jamstack Website Essentials 2: Hosting
Hosting can make or break you.
Before making any other choice, it’s important to pause for a second and make sure you choose the right hosting service.
No matter how well-optimized and performant your Jamstack sites are, as long as your hosting sucks – you’re in for a rough ride.
Below you’re going to find a comparison table of our top 6 picks.
Getting ready to launch your Jamstack website?
Jamstack Website Essentials 3: Contact Forms
Contact forms are exactly what they sound like. They are forms that allow users to get in touch with you.
That said, all contact forms are not built the same. On the one hand, you have a simple contact form, and on the other, a complex system.
There are multiple benefits to owning the latter, as they are capable of:
- filtering spam
- handling files
- accepting payments
- providing reports
- multiple integrations (including Captcha)
You might want to do some research and see what your developers know and think of each platform.
Jamstack Website Essentials 4: Analytics
You can use them to track a plethora of different statistics, such as page views, clicks, purchases, and many more advanced behaviors.
Without analytics, you’re going to be running in the dark. Analytics software allows you to take solid, data-backed decisions.
Jamstack Website Essentials 5: Repositories
Jamstack repositories work just like a repository in any other project.
In essence, a repository is where your developers keep all of their stuff in an organized manner. It’s a hub for all software packages they might need. That includes all the code snippets and pieces of content.
A repository is a fundamental part of all projects, including Jamstack static websites. It allows your development team to keep track of all the website’s versions and keep it running smoothly and prevent the code from being damaged.
What Else to Look For in Your Jamstack Static Websites?
Even though Jamstack is a fairly new web development approach, it has a fair amount of both free and paid tools and resources you can use to get your static websites running.
Apart from the absolute Jamstack website essentials, like the static site generator or content management systems, there are many other resources that you can greatly benefit from.
Please keep in mind that certain components work only with particular content management systems. Make sure you know which CMS you’re going to use before researching them.
Let’s take a look at some of those.
Jamstack eCommerce Services
Before launching the project you want to have everything thought through. For example, if you’re planning to launch an eCommerce Jamstack page, you need to consider what apps and plugins you’re going to need.
A Jamstack-powered eCommerce business requires the use of a CDN (Content Delivery Network) and headless CMS.
CDN in a nutshell
CDN works as a group of servers that are strategically distributed in various geographical locations to accommodate as many users as possible. For example, users from the United States will receive their web content from the US-based proxy servers to ensure the most efficient and speediest data transfer.
Some of the standards to look for when choosing an eCommerce platform:
- Multi-currency support
- Shipping management
- Returns management
- Payment options
- Selling digital downloads & physical products
Some examples of eCommerce services are:
Jamstack Site Search Systems
Search systems help users find their way around your web page, including different pieces of content, like blog articles, as well as products in your eCommerce store.
Search systems like Elastic offer advanced analytics that allow you to track your users’ activity and behavior.
Things to consider when choosing a Jamstack search system:
- Is it open source?
- Does it offer analytics?
- What programming languages does it use?
- Does it have AI support?
Jamstack Newsletter Apps
Just like with all the other components, there’s truly a myriad of different newsletter apps to choose from. There are more code-heavy email APIs, like SendGrid, as well as simple drag & drop-based services, such as Mailchimp.
When choosing the right service it’s important to understand the programming skills of your marketing team and choose accordingly.
Key features to look for in newsletter apps:
- A/B testing
- Subscriber limit
- User lists
- Smart content
- Templates and customizability
Newsletter apps worth checking out:
Jamstack Commenting Tools
When it comes to commenting features, most of the time you can count on your developers to simply develop one for you using something like Next.js API routes.
To make things easier, you may also include simple commenting plugins right in your CMS. A good example of this is WordPress with its dedicated plugins.
Important features to include:
- Automatic spam moderation
- GDPR compliant
- Free version & overall cost
There’s quite a bit of heavy-lifting to be done before the deployment of your Jamstack static sites. Now that you know what elements a Jamstack website is made out of, you can start making educated choices and choose the ones that can accommodate you best.
Oh, and in case you’re still hungry for knowledge and want to ask specific questions about what’s best for your unique case, feel free to book a free consultation with one of our experts.
Don’t worry, we don’t bite.
Getting ready to launch your JamStack Website?