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What Is Jamstack?

Bradley Taylor

Bradley Taylor

October 06
  •  
4 minute read
Jamstack diagram

Definition

Jamstack is a modern web development practice; the acronym JAM refers to client-side JavaScript, reusable APIs, and prebuilt Markup.

 

Overview

Coined by Mathias Biilman, the CEO and co-founder of Netlify, Jamstack is a web development practice designed to enable better performance, higher security, lower cost of scaling, and faster development.

  • Javascript: The browser programming language that helps support dynamic components. All dynamic programming during the request/response cycle is handled by client-side Javascript.
  • APIs: Reusable APIs handle all the server-side functions or database actions and are accessed over HTTPS with Javascript.
  • Markup: The presentation layer of your website, usually a static site generator for content sites or a build tool for web apps.

Jamstack projects separate the backend applications and databases from the frontend pages and user interface. Without being tethered to the backend servers, the frontend can be globally deployed directly to a content delivery network (CDN). Because the files are already compiled and are served to the browser straight from the CDN, there is no need to query the database each time someone loads the site.

With Jamstack, building is disconnected from hosting, meaning you can build websites and apps in your preferred environment. Any changes that are made to the build are deployed to the static site generator or CDN, where a new instance of the site is then created.

Improved performance

Because Jamstack removes databases from the website architecture, sites no longer need to run multiple queries. This results in exceptionally fast websites as the HTML is generated during deployment and just needs to be served via the CDN.

Enhanced security

With Jamstack you don’t have to deal with databases, servers, and plugins. This lowers the risk of code breaches as having server-side processes abstracted into microservice APIs reduces the surface area for attacks. Because APIs handle all the dynamic functions, frontend developers don't have to worry about security issues and can rely on third-party vendors to handle the details.

Better developer experience

Decoupling the storefront from the backend allows developers to convert any design into pixel-perfect HTML pages. With Jamstack, they can choose their preferred tools, making use of the increased power of their ideal stack. Teams are able to work faster without having to learn logic or architecture specific to a certain product.

 

Jamstack and Headless Commerce

Headless commerce is a modern approach to building e-commerce solutions and involves decoupling the customer-facing frontend from the backend of a digital store. Because developers aren't bound to monolithic PHP code, they have the opportunity to modernize their tech stack and implement a framework like Jamstack to build their storefront.

Using Jamstack can lead to better shopping experiences as the pages are pre-rendered and there is a significant reduction in the time it takes to move between pages.

The need for headless solutions continues to increase as businesses are looking for a flexible way to adapt to changing consumer behavior and constantly evolving technology. This has led to the rise of a framework that offers even more flexibility: MACH architecture.

MACH, which stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless, provides businesses a future proof approach to commerce as it allows for unlimited customization and the ability to quickly adopt the best available technology. Jamstack is a perfect complement to a MACH setup as both use APIs to offer a faster more flexible user and developer experience.

 

How JAMstack Works

Launching an e-commerce store with Jamstack can be broken down into a simple five-step process:

  1. Design your store
  2. Create a static site using a static site generator
  3. Add a headless content management system (CMS)
  4. Add a headless commerce solution
  5. Deploy to a CDN

Similar to how headless commerce separates the frontend from the backend, JAMstack separates the frontend presentation again from the dynamic functionality of the "head" application, enabling faster performance and an improved customer experience.

This is done using markup: your static HTML files. In a headless setup, these files may come from a static website generator like React or Vue, or a digital experience platform DXP. Because they are static, the files can be pre-rendered from a CDN cache, allowing users to see content with minimal loading time.

With e-commerce, many components are dynamic, not static. This includes product prices, stock levels, temporary promotions, and customer reviews. To be able to handle this dynamic functionality, Jamstack uses Javascript to dynamically insert content after essential markup and APIs pull data from the backend services.

 

Example of Jamstack

The ButcherBox e-commerce site is a great example of an e-commerce site built using Jamstack. Founded in 2015, ButcherBox first launched their website with WordPress. The platform worked well early on, but like many other businesses, as the complexity of their website grew, the performance dropped. This prompted the need for an approach that separates the backend and frontend code from single files.

ButcherBox chose to adopt a Jamstack approach where frontend development was done using GatsbyJS, a framework based on React that allows for the reuse of components. They separated backend components by dividing the code into two parts: the core business logic and the ephemeral contents such as product catalog, inventory, and merchandising. They then used Laravel’s Nova, an admin panel written in PHP, to replace the WordPress admin.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Jamstack is a flexible web development practice that enables better performance, higher security, lower cost of scaling, and faster development.
  • With Jamstack, there is no need for multiple database queries and the frontend can be globally deployed directly to a CDN, leading to lightning-fast page load times.
  • Jamtack provides a better experience for developers as websites can be built in your preferred environment and you don’t have to learn product-specific architecture.
  • Using Jamstack, businesses can follow all principles of a MACH architecture, helping to build flexible e-commerce solutions that are able to adapt to evolving technologies.

Bradley Taylor

Bradley Taylor

Bradley Taylor covers e-commerce for Fabric.