The term was coined by Netlify and describes a web development approach that offers higher performance, better security, and an improved developer experience. Instead of incurring a server round-trip on every page load, Jamstack sites are self-sufficient within the browser.
Do Static Sites Use the Jamstack?
The difference compared to traditional web applications lies in how data reaches the store. In a legacy system, you might have an HTML form that creates records in a SQL database when you submit the page. You need a custom backend stack with supporting infrastructure.
The Key Components
Here’s a recap of the Jamstack’s three constituent components:
A Smoother Developer Experience
Utilizing the Jamstack lets you focus on delivering functionality and improving the user experience. You don’t need to spend time configuring or maintaining costly backend infrastructure. Instead, you can use platform-as-a-service APIs to fetch and save your app’s data.
Jamstack pairs well with Git-based development and deployment workflows. As your stack is really just a web server, you can represent everything as a plain text file in your repository. Continuous delivery pipelines help you ship updates quickly, without re-provisioning servers.
Most of the time you won’t self-host any infrastructure components. Jamstack systems are commonly deployed straight to a static file host like Netlify, Firebase, GitHub Pages, or even a plain S3 bucket. Alternatively, you could containerize your application with Docker and launch it into a Kubernetes cluster.
Either way, you’re not manually copying files or tweaking server settings – you’re writing code and merging into your main branch to deploy. A final piece is usually a CDN like Cloudflare that sits in front of your web server solution, caching content to further improve performance for end users.
Jamstack lets you decouple the individual components of your application. In a traditional CMS-driven website, your code, content, and styles live together in a single system. You need the entire CMS available to serve any single function.
Using the Jamstack separates these components completely. Your web server serves the code while external platform providers handle your data. This gives you greater flexibility to switch out pieces of your stack as your requirements change.
A key difference compared to server-rendered approaches is that Jamstack sites are always pre-built. You’re serving fully static assets, instead of combining code and data on every request the server receives. Your build process will run the compilation step once per deployment, creating the markup that your web server sends to browsers. This increases efficiency and performance.
The most significant Jamstack drawback can be the same code-based update model that often makes it so attractive. It’s often harder for content authors and editors to get involved, as they usually need to learn to write markup in HTML or Markdown. This can be daunting to non-technical writers familiar with a graphical WYSIWYG experience.
Another limitation is your inherent dependency on third-party platforms. The Jamstack encourages use of external APIs and hosting providers that could disappear or change their offering overnight. While running your own infrastructure comes with maintenance concerns, it also gives you certainty that your stack will stay functional long into the future.
Get the Tools
You can create Jamstack apps with nothing more than a text editor and a terminal. Select a hosting provider, install its CLI, write some HTML files, and run the deploy command to push your site live.
Using a Jamstack approach often simplifies your app, facilitating quicker development and greater scalability. With less server-side endpoints to protect, your security posture improves and your maintenance burden is reduced. Jamstack can’t cater for every application but it’s worth considering when you’re working on frontend-first systems with relatively relaxed backend functionality.
Focus on decoupling the components in your stack, accelerating client load times, and fetching data asynchronously via APIs at the time the browser needs it. These techniques help create more resilient applications with a better user experience, fully exploiting the capabilities of the modern web.