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Jamstack for marketers: What is a Jamstack CMS?

Kaya Ismail

Modern approaches to web development continue to push the envelope in an attempt to enhance the user experience. One such approach is Jamstack, and it has been embraced by enterprises and smaller organizations alike as developers increasingly turn to it for building web applications.

In fact, the 2020 State of the Jamstack survey showed that 44% of developers have been using Jamstack for at least a year, with 37% using it for up to 2 years. Developers have been getting excited about Jamstack, but with the impact it can have on the digital experience, it’s something marketers should take note of as well.

In this article, we’ll breakdown the Jamstack to explain why it’s so popular and illustrate how to get the most out of it by using a Jamstack CMS.

Section titled What is Jamstack?

Jamstack is a term initially coined by Netlify co-founder Mathias Biilmann and refers to a modern web development architecture based on three key components. In the same way that other tech stacks used by developers combine complementary pieces, the ‘Jam’ in Jamstack refers to its three components, JavaScript, APIs and Markup.

  • JavaScript handles all of the dynamic functionality for websites without placing any restrictions on which framework or library is used.
  • Server-side functions such as third-party services are turned into reusable APIs, which are then accessed over HTTPS using JavaScript.
  • And finally, websites are served as pre-rendered static Markup files at build time.

Section titled What is a Jamstack CMS?

To summarize, a Jamstack CMS is a content management system that is compatible with all of the Jamstack approach's features. It's a headless or decoupled solution that supports JavaScript, APIs, and Markup.

Section titled Traditional websites vs Jamstack websites

Traditional websites are complex in that they must continually be run on a web server. Data is sent from a CMS or other database to an application. The application is then sent to a web server which then delivers the website to the end-user upon request.

A graph showing the differences between a traditionl website versus a JAMstack website.

Traditional websites vs Jamstack websites

On the other hand, Jamstack separates frontend layer from the backend layer. The frontend layer is then deployed directly to a content delivery network (CDN). The separation of frontend layer from the backend databases means that the frontend layer can be pre-built, speeding up site performance. JavaScript and APIs are then used to connect microservices to the frontend.

Section titled How Jamstack changes the digital experience

Static sites vs Dynamic sites
Static SitesDynamic Sites
Programming LanguageStatic websites are written using client-side code such as HTML and CSSDynamic sites are written using server-side code such as PHP
Content TypesFixed HTML sites that display the same content for each userDifferent types of content that support user interaction and personalization
PropertiesFast and secureSlow down as more complex functionality gets added. Also more susceptible to security issues

Most websites today are dynamic websites. These sites are relatively easy to build, customize and update, but they also come with some complexities on the backend. Dynamic websites follow traditional web workflows, resulting in a clunky system requiring a continually running web server that makes it difficult to scale.

Traditional CMS platforms like WordPress and Drupal power many of these dynamic sites. The reliance on third-party plugins for these systems to function means that dynamic sites are also more susceptible to security issues.

On the other hand, the opposite of a dynamic site is a static site. The first web pages built for the web were static sites, but as more complex functionality became a requirement, dynamic sites took center stage.

With Jamstack, static sites and the benefits that come with them are returning to the fold. Static sites are faster, more secure and more easily scalable than dynamic websites since they don’t require a dedicated webserver to function.

Jamstack can also enable static sites to serve as more than just simple websites by using APIs to connect to third-party services and more. But those are only some of the benefits of Jamstack and what makes it popular with developers.

Section titled Benefits of Jamstack CMS for developers

Jamstack simplifies web development, but some key benefits keep developers excited. Take a look at some of them:

Section titled 1. Faster performance

Speed is one of the primary advantages of Jamstack. Since web pages don’t need to be loaded from an application or web server and can instead be served as pre-built markup and assets over a CDN, this increases speed and web performance. The outcome is faster loading times and an improved user experience.

Section titled 2. Improved developer experience

Legacy web architectures can restrict developers and distract them from their primary focus, the user experience. Maintaining backend architecture can add to the developer's workload, which decreases their productivity. With a Jamstack CMS, they are free to only focus on the frontend experience.

Section titled 3. Increased security

Server-side applications and databases are very susceptible to cyber attacks. Since Jamstack decouples the frontend from the backend, there is less risk of falling victim to these vulnerabilities.

Section titled 4. Greater scalability

With a CDN, there is no need to worry about managing server loads, which provides more scalability and flexibility than traditional web applications.

Section titled Jamstack benefits for marketers

Jamstack is clearly a dream come true for most developers. The improved experience, increased security, scalability and overall performance advantages make Jamstack quite appealing, but marketers aren’t left out of the loop either.

Creating a digital experience that today’s consumers will enjoy means that marketers don’t just need to focus on content; they need to build a fantastic user experience. Here are a few areas where Jamstack helps:

Section titled 1. Lower costs

The traditional approach that involves hosting web pages on a dedicated server can add up. Instead, hosting static files can turn out to be very cheap or even free in some cases.

Section titled 2. Enhanced search engine optimization

SEO needs more than just good content and keyword optimization to be successful; technical considerations also need to be made. The user experience plays a major role in SEO, including how fast a site loads and the level of security available. Plus, Jamstack sites load quickly, and they are very secure, which provides a massive boost for SEO.

The reduced complexity of Jamstack sites means that they are less likely to become overwhelmed due to too many third-party plugins. This improves the reliability of the sites and their uptime.

Section titled 3. Access to services and channels

One of the challenges with dynamic sites built using the traditional web workflows is that adding services to these websites can increase load times and complexity. Jamstack sites can remove this complexity, however, by connecting to third-party services, whether that be payment gateways or eCommerce platforms with APIs.

Section titled 4. Omnichannel content

Jamstack sites require two additional components to maximize their potential: a static site generator and a Jamstack CMS. A Jamstack site can be displayed on any device, and when combined with a Jamstack CMS that connects with other channels using APIs, content can be delivered to multiple channels, enabling a fully omnichannel experience.

Section titled Storyblok: The ultimate Jamstack CMS

Jamstack’s approach to web development has been highly successful for the developers that use it. Plus, marketers are set to gain from it as well through improved SEO and access to services. However, Jamstack needs a static site generator (SSG) and a Jamstack CMS to go along with the JavaScript frameworks, APIs and CDN.

A static site generator can help build static sites from HTML files before they are deployed to a CDN. This is where SSGs such as Gatsby and Next.js come into play. But to truly control the content experience, marketers need a capable CMS.

Storyblok's headless architecture decouples the frontend layer from the backend database, making it an ideal Jamstack-ready CMS. Storyblok can deliver content to end-users with a lightning-fast website while still providing the ability for developers to connect with additional services and channels using APIs.

Marketers also benefit from the ability to create once and publish anywhere and optimize the experience with the help of a powerful visual editor.

Learn more about the benefits that headless architecture provides by reading our article: Why should you move to a headless CMS?