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What is JAMStack?

JAMstack is a new way of creating highly reactive and performant web applications. In the web development platform, JAMstack architecture brings groundbreaking advancements. It offers the ultimate solution for content-heavy sites where ensuring on-demand scalability, high-end security, top-notch performance is crucial. JAMstack solves the shortcomings that appear in the traditional dynamic sites(e.g. WordPress, Drupal) and presents a fantastic digital experience to the users.

On top of that, JAMstack web development methodology allows better developer experiences; empowers the web engineering community to create great websites and applications easily and robustly.

Seems exciting! Let’s dive right into the article to know deeper about JAMstack:

What Does JAM stand for in JAMstack?

The concept of JAMstack was first brought up by Mathias Biilmann, CEO of Netlify in 2015. “JAMstack” was previously written as “JAMStack” where “JAM” stands for Javascript, API, and Markup.

Javascript: Javascript in the browser for implementing extra functionality and dynamic features such as to request or response processing. You can use Javascript framework or library or even plain javascript.

APIs: APIs handle all database operations and server-side operations. These can be your custom-made functions or third-party services which are accessed over HTTPS via Javascript.

Markup: Website content is served as Static HTML files and generated by the Static Site Generator such as Gatsby, Hugo, Jekyll, Next.js, etc, or from source files.

What is JAMstack exactly?

Simply put, JAMstack is an advanced web development architecture for building static websites and web applications based on client-side JavaScript, reusable APIs, prebuilt Markup, and headless content management systems (CMS).

Static web/apps do not mean that these are without dynamic functionality. It means that the JAMstack site consists of a set of “pre-built” files (namely HTML, JS, and CSS files) that are directly served on request.

In practice, JAMstack sites are dynamically generated static sites, where pre-rendered static pages are served via a content delivery network (CDN). Interoperability is made dynamic via the synthesis of APIs and JavaScript frameworks.

What is the point of JAMstack Development?

JAMstack is not like other traditional web development approaches that heavily rely on servers, plugins, and databases. Unlike traditional CMSs such as Drupal, WordPress, Joomla; JAMstack works without being tightly coupled to the backend server.

JAMstack site splits up the code (JavaScript), the site infrastructure (APIs), and the content (Markup). It literally follows decoupled architecture to make a clear split between server-side and client-side code.

The main idea behind JAMstack architecture is to reduce dependency on the server by pushing as many as loads to the client-side browser and serving pre-generated static files over CDNs. This method reduces server requests and immediately renders content without any backend delays.

How do JAMstack Applications Handle Backend Functions?

In web development, the frontend is the part that the end-user interacts with directly and is also called the client-side.

Backend is the part that the end-user won’t see and is composed of servers, applications, and databases. It is also known as server-side.

And, JAMstack projects clearly separate the frontend pages and UI from the backend apps and databases. JavaScript and Markup work out to handle the frontend functionality without relying on the backend server; despite that, JAMstack apps need backend functions in order to work. For example, payment service processing needs to be backed up by server-side code.

Jamstack applications use a partially or fully serverless backend. Serverless doesn’t literally mean entirely operating without a server. It refers to JAMstack developers do not have to construct their own server and backend applications for backend handling. Serverless functions are small, reusable snippets of code that are marked as APIs. APIs are used for any backend functionality.

JAMstack projects are served directly from a content delivery network (CDN) and handle backend by calling third-party APIs via Javascript.

It calls various APIs when necessary, otherwise, it does not need backend support. Pre-built APIs run on demand to make the websites and apps work.

Whenever developers want to develop new functionality for an app, they create a new API. This API can be reused for different purposes. Hence they only need to construct the API once in order to use it in future applications.

Why use the JAMstack architecture?

The JAMstack architecture has many advantages over other development approaches. JAMstack provides satisfactory solutions in terms of the limitations of other existing methodologies. It simplifies web development and provides optimized services for almost all kinds of web apps and sites. Here are listed the Key benefits of using Jamstack:

  • Improved Overall Performance: JAMstack websites get generated at deploy time and serve over CDNs. Since there is no need to generate database queries every time to render information to the end-user, it ensures blazing fast speed. Moreover, JAMstack architecture is designed to integrate with third-party reusable APIs and JAMstack-ready headless CMS. All these present Jamstack with enhanced performance.
  • Highly Scalable: JAMstack introduces highly scalable stack architecture. Instead of heavy server or database processing, it serves over powerful CDN. CDN services have no limitations like normal servers and you will need much fewer resources to scale your website.
  • Higher Security: The decoupling method reduces the risk of security breaches. Any security flaws in front-end code will not affect backend applications. All server-side processes turned into microservice APIs and these are mostly read-only. Hence, there is no or very little risk of hacker attacks.
  • Lower Costs: JAMstack sites are cost-effective. It provides a way to work with servers that’s cheaper than building your own. Traditional web development methods involve hosting on a dedicated server whereas JAMstack sites rely on serverless computing. Powerful CDN offers hosting services for static files at a cheap rate or even free.
  • Better Developer Experience: JAMstack is not about specific technology that follows a set of rules or certain platforms with limitations. Developers get full flexibility to develop their own tech stack. The decoupling pattern allows front-end developers to focus on the front-end without worrying about backend functionality. Jamstack microservices and reusable APIs make the web development workflow much simpler than before. All these means quicker, easier, and more targeted web development procedure.
  • Enhanced SEO: SEO does not only rely on content and keyword optimization it also requires technical soundness like fast loading speed and tight security. JAMstack sites load rapidly and respond to user requests without delay. JAMstack sites guarantee a great user experience and high-grade security that helps with SEO.

Why not to use JAMstack architecture?

Definitely, JAMstack methodology provides lots of advantages and boosts modern web development. In spite of everything, like any other technology, it also has some limitations that you should consider before migrating to JAMstack. The main drawbacks are mentioned below:

  • Content Customization not Editor-Friendly: JAMstack isn’t suitable for non-developer professionals like content editors and marketers; since JAMstack lacks of user-friendly GUI. Editing content is difficult. JAMstack sites serve content as Markup so editors need technical skills to create and update content because the content is served as Markup. editors need to be trained to work with the platform. These may slow down the content production rate.
  • Not Suitable for Any Type of Project: JAMstack will not be the best solution for a web/app that relies heavily on user-generated content and also for the sites that need to update content constantly(such as news sites). JAMstack presents with complex and difficult implementation process to maintain the overall performance; every time Jamstack needs to fulfill the requirements using client-side API calls. You may find less difficult solutions in other web development platforms.
  • Largely Depends on Third-Party System: JAMstack sites rely on third-party services heavily. besides, to implement any new features like payment processing, online store, comments, authentication, galleries, polls, you depend on a client-side third-party solution. Your site’s functionality may go live or die depending on the third-party provider; since Jamstack requires third-party systems and APIs to a great extent. If a third-party service or API goes down, you will get limited chances to fix the issues.
  • API Complexity: When your site requires dynamic features you have to do it with your own code or API calls. As JAMstack architecture needs APIs for the dynamic feature; API complexity seems like a drawback of it. Without having a server-side database, it requires more API resources for backend functionality. Additionally, sometimes it’s hard to choose the best one from so many third-party APIs for a specific feature.
  • Any Update Needed by Developer: JAMstack is more dev-friendly than non-tech users. Developers are fully responsible to handle any incremental changes. All features and design updates require developers’ support. It means whenever any changes are demanded after deploying a JAMstack web/app, developers need to be involved and contribute time.

Wrapping Up

JAMstack architecture provides a way to build a perfectly functional website with better performance, higher security, lower cost of scaling, and a better developer experience.

The decoupled architecture brings solutions to many websites in terms of database vulnerabilities. The biggest advantage to the JAMstack approach is that the front-end user experience. Along with a more targeted development strategy and “serverless" engineering JAMstack enables brands to save cost and have a more smooth deployment process.

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