August 15, 2022

The Future of Web Development: JAMstack & Headless CMS Explained

Thumbnail for blog saying the future of web development: Jamstack and headless CMS
Thumbnail for blog saying the future of web development: Jamstack and headless CMS

We like to use a metaphor to describe most websites today: Frankenstein websites. At every website’s core, there are code and servers. At the tip, there are visuals, content, and pop-ups.

But if you’re not a web developer, you might be less clear on what’s happening between.

The Problem with Modern Marketing Websites

Honestly speaking, we’re reaching a point where not even web developers know what’s going on.

Our websites are growing (and bloating) so fast, straining under the weight of tacked-on functionality with 3rd party APIs, plugins, and custom code. Nothing is seamless. Everything is held together by glue, string, and hope.

It’s impossible to scale the traditional WordPress website.

Looking to the future, we see one scalable solution: JAMstack, aided by headless CMS.

Why is JAMstack the way forward, and what does it mean for your revenue? It’s time to find out.

1. What Is JAMstack and How Does It Work?

Building a website is exactly like building a house: you need an architect to construct the building. Our existing website architecture is precarious; things keep breaking, the foundations are shaking, and the roof might land on our heads if we’re not careful.

JAMstack is a modern web architecture that decouples, i.e. separates, the web experience layer of your website from the data, performance, and the more technical nitty-gritty layer.

Instead of treating your house as a house, it decouples your facade from the contents of your house so it works faster and smarter.

  • Why doesn’t the existing approach work?
  • Right now, websites are glued together. Website front and back-ends are connected (“coupled”). Everything that happens on the website (from loading a visitor experience to hosting images) is pulled from the same place: the server. And it’s a very busy server with ten hands. It can’t serve everyone, so the plates start slipping with every new demand. Websites are slower to load. Plugins break.

JAMstack architecture, on the other hand, takes as many requests as possible away from the server.

For example, instead of delivering the content directly (consuming resources), it delivers them from a Content Delivery Network.

This way, the server can focus only on the highest-priority tasks, increasing your website speed.

The Ingredients of the JAMstack Jam

JAMstack relies on its three core parts to deliver experiences without recreating them whenever they’re triggered:

  • J - JavaScript delivers rich experiences, beautiful designs, and additional functionality.
  • A - APIs - Instead of having a central database for your website, third-party integrations, and other tooling, JAMstack websites use APIs directly to pull and serve the right information when needed.
  • M - Markup serves the cached website content, so your website doesn’t have to recreate assets whenever a visitor accesses it.

Source: FreeCodeCamp

How Do APIs Work with JAMstack?

APIs are the key to the JAMstack revolution.

Instead of coding new features from scratch or limiting your options to plugins, JAMstack allows you to integrate micro-services.

For example, an API that serves images when they’re needed, an API that integrates with your sales software and monitors revenue, an API that automates marketing, an API that optimises assets for search engines, etc.

The additional functionality won’t affect your website performance, so add as much as you need!

Not even your developers get a headache when you ask them for more features; JAMstack websites can be created in any language, and the stack uses popular frameworks.

  • One server vs a production line
  • The best way to explain monolithic vs decoupled with JAMstack is to think of one server vs a production line. Instead of making one resource (your website) juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, different resources handle distinct work tasks. When Task A needs to be performed, worker A completes it. Task B? Worker B.

2. What Is Headless CMS and How Does It Work with JAMstack?

A JAMstack website has a content management system, but it’s not a content management system.

(In contrast, WordPress is fundamentally a content management system - not a website framework.)

Source: Contentful

With JAMstack’s API connections, content management is another function to add to your stack, to be integrated directly or via a combination of APIs that take care of the critical aspects:

  • Speed
  • Interactivity
  • User experience

Headless CMS like Sanity then serves as your content repository. And with the right API, you can display it however you’d like.

So when we talk about headless CMS as the sustainable alternative to the monolithic WordPress, we’re really talking about the JAMstack architecture.


3. Why Is Everyone Telling Me JAMstack Is Better than Sliced Bread?

JAMstack Is Fast

If your website is slow, you’re losing customers.

JAMstack doesn’t need to ping the servers and databases whenever it wants to do something for your website visitor. It just pulls the relevant information from the API, which isn’t as resource-constrained and can tackle the task faster than your busy server.

Your content is cached and delivered via a CDN, so your website doesn’t have to “recreate” the content every time someone visits it.

This results in faster delivery. In turn, your visitors don’t bounce off your site if it doesn’t load within a few seconds, and you significantly improve your user experience.

JAMstack Is Secure

Every minute, there are 90,000 attacks on WordPress websites. 52% of these vulnerabilities stem from plugins, 37% from core files, and 11% from WordPress themes.

Plugins are the exposed nerves of your website, and they’re notoriously easy for hackers to intercept and attack.

In contrast, JAMstack’s back end is detached from the front. Your core website files aren’t constantly served with your content, so you mitigate risks.

And, unlike plugins that require maintenance and regular updates, JAMstack connects to different functionality via tight API integrations, which can be hidden under layers of protective code.

JAMstack Is Reliable and Scalable

What happens if your good old website suddenly sees a massive uptick in visitors or users? It slows down or outright crashes, giving up on trying to serve all that content.

And that’s without calculating the hosting costs based on the number of visits.

JAMstack is the way forward because you can seamlessly go from 10k to 1M monthly active users. Nothing will break. Your CDN will kick in to deliver content seamlessly, and your performance will stay optimal.

Because JAMstack is decoupled, you won’t face server-side limitations. Your website will do more with less, reducing your server costs.

Source: ContentStack

JAMstack Is the Future Because It’s Built for the Future

In addition to speed, performance, and security benefits, JAMstack is built to be open-ended. Take it anywhere you want as consumer and market preferences change. If you need additional functionality, get it via API.

However, there are a few things to consider before settling for a shiny new JAMstack website.

4. JAMstack Is Young, Ambitious, and Needs to Keep Learning

Even though it already offers robust functionality, JAMstack was only created in 2016. Its journey has just started, but unlike WordPress and monolithic architectures, JAMstack has stable foundations.

A few of the things you can look forward to developing in the JAMstack world include:

Deferred Static Generation

The foundations of JAMstack websites work as static websites. Your content is stored in the repository and served via the CDN server closest to a given visitor.

Unfortunately, on a static website, this sometimes means you’ll have to spend more time editing your website when you decide to implement a change.

The good news is that the cavalry is on its way!

The GatsbyJS framework now offers deferred static generation and server-side rendering for the more popular website pages.

Increased API Security

Every third-party integration is a potential security risk.

But, when compared to the plugin integrations or the costs and sheer effort of trying to build a feature you could acquire from a third-party provider, JAMstack’s API approach is still the most feasible option.

Still, we’re keeping a close eye on what third-party API integrations mean for our websites as we build and reinforce them.

Powerful Marketing Experiences

JAMstack content editors do have a learning curve, but marketers are becoming tech-savvy. Once they get a taste of powerful website architecture, they won’t want to look back.

JAMstack developers, including Mawla, are increasingly focusing on editor-friendly experiences. Marketing teams can already edit the websites themselves almost as easily as they do in WordPress.

The next frontier? Giving them the tooling to build powerful functionality themselves.

Is JAMstack the Future of Web Development?

JAMstack is undoubtedly the future of web development for ambitious marketing websites. If your website isn’t just a pretty window display but the central headquarters of your online business, you’ll need a smoother framework than WordPress (or Webflow).

JAMstack is a framework that gives you options. Iterate quickly. Stay competitive as consumer preferences change.

Instead of trying to fit into a WordPress website that’s two sizes too small, get a tailored conversion engine.

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Are you ready to launch a website that lasts? Mawla builds next-generation JAMstack websites with optimised performance, workflow automation, and beautiful delivery to increase your revenue. Get in touch with us.

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