Hello, JAMstack!

May 12, 2019

Last month I attended JAMstack Conf at the enthusiastic persistence of a friend. She’d mentioned the JAMstack a few times before, raving about how easy it is to set up and the unbelievably fast sites that can come out of it. I was initially skeptical, assuming this was just the overly-excited bragging of a shiny, new tech stack that we’re all guilty of at some point. Today, I’m happy to admit that I was dead wrong.

The JAMstack is a front-end architecture strategy that leverages JavaScript, APIs, and Markdown to create static web sites. If you’re reaching for your pitchforks and torches at the idea of going back to static sites like it’s 1999, you’re not alone. My biggest complaint about the JAMstack – before knowing anything about it – was the static part of it. We’ve come so far in the world of web development with the advancements of JavaScript, CSS, and web browsers. It feels like a betrayal to go from the vibrant, dynamic, living sites we have now back to boring static pages.

Hold off on on the angry mob and hear me out.

What I didn’t know at the time was that static doesn’t mean stale anymore. With the JAMstack it’s entirely possible to create dynamic sites with all the bells and whistles, while benefitting from lightning fast page loads, a delightful developer experience and the familiarity of tech I’m already accustomed to. It wasn’t too long into the conference day that I’d resigned myself to give the JAMstack a try, and what better starter project than the blog I’ve been threatening to build for years now 😉?

For my new blog I decided on using Gatsby.js and Netlify. Gatsby.js is a JAMstack framework built with React and GraphQL. My eager friend from earlier was the first one to put it on my radar, but I was sold on it after sitting in on Amberley Romo’s talk on Gatsby’s dedication to creating an accessible framework with a top notch developer experience and a focus on building a vibrant community. Netlify is a developer platform that helps build, deploy, and manage web sites. Netlify takes care of all of the things that usually make building a new website non-trivial: hosting, SSL certifications, continuous integration/development, and the like. Any one of these tasks could easily eat up hours of your time, but with Netlify it takes a few clicks and a couple of minutes. From start to finish, it took me less than 2 hours to get this blog live. Here’s how I managed my time:

  • 1 hour reading Gatsby documentation and working through their helpful tutorial.
  • 1 hour picking out a blog theme 🙃, downloading and configuring.
  • 30 minutes setting up my Netlify account, setting up the Netlify CMS and deploying my blog.
  • 1.5 hours writing this blog post.

Strip out all the time I spent writing this post and picking out my favorite theme and this is easily the fastest I’ve ever been able to ship something to production. And I have to admit that everything I was promised about the JAMstack, Gatsby.js and Netlify have panned out. It’s no surprise it’s taken me years to get around to putting up my own blog until now. It can be painful and time consuming to deal with setting up a server, installing a CMS, ensuring that everything is secure, and on and on it goes. I was blown away by how easy and enjoyable the process has been thanks to the awesome folks building these incredible tools.

I don’t expect everyone to take my word for it, so go check out the videos from JAMstack Conf to experience what I did on that fateful Tuesday. And if that’s not enough to make a believer out of you, check out Gatsby.js and Netlify. It’ll be well worth the hour of your time. And even if you decide that the JAMstack just isn’t your jam, at least you’ll know exactly what you’re missing out on!