Why the JAMStack for Small Businesses?

Hayden YoungDecember 22, 2020

The JAMstack is a web development architecture that is revolutionizing the way we develop for the web. By abandoning the traditional LAMP stack, we can save money on hosting and development while still delivering more uptime and performance.

JAM? LAMP?

Before we talk about the why, we need to know what these are. These two aren't the end-all-be-all of web technology stacks, but they are certainly popular. The internet was built to serve documents. Originally, this was HTML. As time went by, CSS was brought in to give custom visual styles to the markup.

This was nice for conveying information, but as the internet became a more popular way to communicate, we wanted more interactivity. In the '90s, the LAMP movement began.

Most everyone is familiar with Content Management Systems like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla. These are all examples of the LAMP stack. LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP.

Content is stored in an SQL database, then when a user visits, pages are built by a PHP framework and then served by Apache. This is often all done on the same Linux server.

(Not to mention, some clients find these CMS' hard to work with. We often go custom.)

JAMstack was coined in 2016. JAM stands for Javascript, API, and Markup. With JAM, we no longer talk about specific operating systems, languages, or technologies we use.

Javascript conducts the show, requesting information from the API to populate the markup, often locally in the users' browser.

The JAMStack Advantage

There are a lot of advantages to the JAM stack over more 'traditional' web technology architectures.

JAM is faster, both in the user and developer experience. It is faster in development due to the frontend and backend being decoupled. The user-facing part of the site- the frontend, and the databases and server functions- the backend, are entirely independent.

This allows multiple teams to work independently, and; for more flexibility when selecting systems. More options can decrease development time as it's often easier to find an out-of-the-box solution for whatever problem needs solving.

Collecting content from the client or copywriter is easier since it will be written in a markdown, much easier to work with for non-coders.

The user experience can also be much faster since the front end of a site can be deployed to a content delivery network, ensuring that a version of the site is close to any user at any time, cutting back on the round trip time to the server.

Server and database functions can similarly live on the cloud rather than a single box. A sudden spike in traffic, a natural disaster, or a power outage won't disable the only server your site is served by.

Another great advantage to this is the pay-as-you-go model many services have adopted. We never pay for resources we aren't using. Small businesses will see savings in hosting costs or even free hosting.

Decoupling also leads to increased security and allows your website to scale very quickly to meet heightened traffic demands.

Disadvantages

It's not all upsides, however. The conventional technologies are often holders of large market share for a reason.

While simple information-only sites are often easier to bootstrap with a JAMStack, highly dynamic features often involve heavy lifting in development. Some budget for this might be found in app development, as some applications can now be engineered as Progressive Web Apps and run with only one codebase.

Additionally, if you're relying on third-party systems, then you live-and-die by them. This can be combated with aggressive caching policies and by engineering redundancy for data sources and servers.

Finally, as you see with any new software, the landscape is changing quickly. Web or otherwise, selecting any technology should be done with care. Avoid jumping on the cool new thing, only to find it unsupported in a few years.

Conclusion

Work faster, save money, and deliver a better user experience. A higher development cost may be recouped in lower operating expenses. That, coupled with higher uptime and better user experience, will lead to more conversions. What's not to love about the JAMStack?

If you're interested in learning more about the JAMStack, reach out. We can help decide if it's the right approach for your business.