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WordPress versus JAMstack websites

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clock-iconOctober 20, 2021
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Jamstack vs WordPress - are they friends or foes?

The web development landscape is all about change. New technologies crop up, the old gets reinvented, and better ways of doing things appear. Years ago, static site generator options were quite popular but then fell out of favor when dynamic site generators came along. These days, however, more developers would recommend the use of a static site generator for better website speed, functionality, and flexibility.

Not too long ago, having a WordPress site for your business was a matter of course. These days, more and more website owners and developers are moving away from the WordPress site templates and are instead utilizing static site generators.

So which one is really better? A WordPress site or a static site? Why move away from a WordPress site? What is a JAMstack site and what are its benefits?

To answer all of these questions, we have created this comprehensive guide for all website and business owners out there. Standing out online and gaining more eyes to your website, as well as converting your online traffic to paying customers, is becoming even tougher. Any edge that you can gain will be, of course, worth pursuing. Let's take a look which is better for this purpose - a WordPress site or a JAMstack site?

How does a WordPress website work

Try to imagine for a second that the only way for people to know what's happening in the world is to go to the nearby news kiosk and ask to read the latest news.

The attendant has no way to know the latest news, so he passes the request on to a back room full of telephone operators. When an operator becomes available, they will take the request and phone a long list of news agencies, ask for the latest news and then write the results as bullet points on a piece of paper.

The operator will then pass his rough notes on to a scribbler who will write the final copy to a beautiful sheet of paper, arrange them in a specific layout and add a few bits and pieces such as the kiosk branding and contact information. Finally, the attendant takes the finished paper and serves it to a happy customer.

The entire process repeats for every person that arrives at the kiosk. That is essentially how dynamic websites work. When a visitor gets to a website (the kiosk) expecting the latest content (the news), a server-side script (the operators) will query one or multiple databases (news agencies) to get the content. It then passes the results to a templating engine (the scribbler) who will format and arrange everything properly and generate an HTML file (the finished newspaper) for the user to consume.

Fundamentally dynamic websites like those created with WordPress are built for each visitor. You can cache the website and do a lot of DevOps work but the system is designed in a way that is complicated and cumbersome and it can't be changed. It is what it is.

A WordPress site is now considered a monolithic, less flexible, hard to maintain, and less beneficial to your online business and marketing activities. A JAMstack site, on the other hand, is a whole different story.

What is JAMstack?

JAMstack is all about fast and secure sites and apps delivered by pre-rendering files and serving them directly from a CDN, removing the requirement to manage or run web servers. This effectively eliminates issues from the server-side. The less you worry about a web server, the more you can focus on other important parts of your business.

The Jamstack is not about specific web technologies. It’s a new way of building websites and apps that delivers better performance, higher security, lower cost of scaling, and better developer experience. JAMstack or Pre-rendered sites can be enhanced with client-side JavaScript and the growing capabilities of web browsers and services available via APIs.

Should you consider a JAMstack site rather than a WordPress site? Here are some more things to carefully consider:

How JAMstack sites work

A JAMstack site or static site proposes to shift the heavy load from the moment visitors request the content to change into content that is already there waiting for the visitors. Going back to our kiosk metaphor, think of a scenario where the news agencies call the kiosk whenever something newsworthy happens. The kiosk operators and scribbles will compile, format, and style the stories and produce a finished newspaper immediately, even though nobody ordered one yet.

They will print out a considerable number of copies (infinite, actually) and pile them up by the storefront. When customers arrive, there's no need to wait for an operator to become available, place the phone call, pass the results to the scribble, and wait for the final product. The newspaper is already there, waiting in a pile for the customers to read. And that is how JAMstack websites work.

They take the content, typically stored in flat files rather than databases or a clunky web server, apply it against layouts or templates, and generate a structure of purely static HTML files. These static HTML files are ready to be delivered to the users. With an ever-growing ecosystem surrounding JAMstack web development, many of the main issues surrounding building static sites are finding answers through new tools.

Content management system and administrative tasks can be challenging for front end-users who don't have a technical background of the server-side of things, HTML files, or web development in general. You want your content to be dynamic in the sense that it will appeal to the various target audiences. But if the front end has to be slowed down by the web development side just to present your dynamic and powerful content, then that will cause a lot of problems, especially in the long run. The good news is there's an impressive number of CMS options out there ready to complete your Static site.

The difference between those CMSs and traditional CMS, like WordPress, is that you'll use the former only for "content management system" tasks, not templating and frontend content generation, making it easier for content managers and editors to contribute to the content of the website or the web application.

Building websites using Static Site generators is often referred to as JAMstack. It stands for JavaScript, APIs, and Markup, and it describes a way of building static, database-free websites. This concept of static sites is deceptively simple– the word 'static' implies simplicity or a lack of interactivity, but this could not be further from the truth.

When we talk about JAMstack or static websites, we refer to the technology used to build, power, and serve them.

Beyond the simplicity of static sites, what are the main advantages of JAMstack websites?

SEO

First, simplifying your URLs and site architecture is often simpler with JAMstack than with a dynamic website and full CMS. Rather than relying on complex server-side URL rewrites to make your content available at pretty URLs (example.com/?p=12345 → example.com/nice-and-tidy/), your URLs can be whatever you want them to be: they reflect the locations of your website's files.

The potential for unwanted duplication is also massively reduced. Many CMSs will automatically generate pages for categories, tags, and date-based archives that you may not need. Typically, such pages have no index directives or canonicalization using extra plugins.

Static site generators instead allow you to fine-tune page creation and create whatever taxonomy suits your content management needs. Should you require it, many generators include powerful CMS logic and functions for creating filtered, paginated archives.

Speed

Closely related to SEO, but critical for UX, too, is speed. The speed advantages of static websites can be phenomenal. With HTML generated in advance and database queries eliminated, your content and other CMS requirements can be served instantly from a global CDN.

An experiment by Mathias Biilmann for Smashing Magazine found that with a highly optimized dynamic website (including a robust caching implementation), the time to first byte was, on average, six times faster using a static version distributed via CDN.

In 2010, Google said page speed was a ranking factor, but it "was focused on desktop searches" only. In July 2020, it will look at how fast your mobile pages are and use that as a ranking factor in mobile search. Google has been promising to look at mobile page speed for years now, and it is finally there.

Security

Your website built with a Static Site Generator is an absolute fortress, plain and simple.

Deployment and workflow

A core principle of JAMstack development is that everything lives in a Git repository; everything from the components of our static site, generator config files, CSS & JS, to our written content (saved as plain-text markdown documents).

With your hosting/deployment service configured to mirror the appropriate branch of your repository continuously, making a change can be as simple as pushing a commit to GitHub. Your entire static site – code and content – lives in one centralized location protected by robust version control, and can be set up for continuous deployment.

An exploding user and development community

Take eCommerce, for example. For smaller retailers – the kind who might typically rely on WordPress and WooCommerce – a JAMstack website and headless eCommerce https://www.webriq.com/headless-ecommerce/ is now a viable option. A headless CMS will do wonder for your online commerce success.

A headless commerce platform or headless CMS enables brands to focus on building frontend experiences on different devices and touchpoints. The content and products are housed centrally and delivered via API to anywhere. The result is a faster time to market when adopting new channels or new regions.

For bloggers who would typically use a pre-built theme for their dynamic site, there are hundreds of options. It's worth mentioning that some technical know-how is still required to get up-and-running with one of these static website generators.

They're certainly a long way off becoming thriving theme marketplaces in their own right, but in a way that's a good thing: bloated themes stuffed with unnecessary plugins and page builder tools are not a problem here!

The future of JAMstack websites

A common question that arises when a frontend tool, workflow, or library becomes popular is, how long will it last? It's tough to say how reliable these predictions are, but based on the track record of the web— JAMstack websites, i.e., static website models were around in the early days of the Internet and are still heavily used—static sites are likely a mainstay for the foreseeable future.

A feature that we'll probably see moving forward is an interface and client-side improvement for non-technical users. Currently, static website generators are heavily geared towards developers "for developers by developers." Many of them utilize the command line and rely on markdown as input for content; without a user-friendly GUI interface to manage content.

Thankfully, we've already seen the JAMstack or Headless CMS movement emerge to address this with content creating and editing experiences that prioritize non-developers. Non-technical users won't have to worry so much about learning HTML files anymore. This is one of the reasons why headless CMS is now coming up as a winner when it comes to JAMstack vs Dynamic site comparisons. Programs like Sanity, GraphCMS, Contentful, Prismic, and Forestry provide proprietary solutions while Netlify CMS, Directus, and Strapi are fully open source.

With these JAMstack-oriented solutions, a content creator doesn't need to be privy to the build's intricacies. No need to wrangle with unwieldy and confusing HTML files. Instead, you can focus on creating that dynamic content that can take your business to the next level.

Another feature that will likely grow over the next few years is the integration of serverless functions in static site generators. You can easily enrich your JAMstack site with dynamic functionality by including third-party services and reusable APIs. By default, a static website—being static—doesn't allow for this functionality.

Relying on third-party services to handle this functionality may add an unnecessary load that will slow down the performance of your site and web server, and exposes you to potential security exploits. A good alternative that has been slowly gaining momentum is serverless functions, which makes the client-side less of a headache. Serverless architectures, and the JAMstack technology overall, encourage business-logic driven development without making premature optimizations.

As an architecture that scales well and is still easy to maintain, serverless functions fit in with the paradigm of a lightweight aesthetic of static sites or headless CMS. Though serverless functions are still in their infancy, you can start using serverless functions operated through AWS Lambda. WebriQ has developed serverless functions for web forms, form payments, gated content, and paywalls.

Headless Vs. Traditional CMS - Which one should you choose for a JAMstack website?

After knowing how a traditional CMS (e.g. WordPress) works as well as what it can't do, at this time, how can we compare it to a headless CMS? Which one should you choose for your JAMstack website?

Traditional CMS platforms operate in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get or WYSIWYG process. Developers build dynamic websites and applications using editors and themes. While this may look like an easier path at first glance, there are plenty of disadvantages. One of the main ones is the themes. There are a wide variety of themes available, but the really good ones can be costly. Here's the thing: if you opt for free themes, then you'll be stuck with a generic theme that doesn't allow much customization. Support for that generic theme might peter out in the long run as well, which means you will be stuck with a buggy website. Going the headless CMS route makes more sense because it is a backend content management system. This means that you can create, edit, store, and manage all your content separately from the front end of your website. That makes it easier to use any or all of your content across multiple websites and web apps. Hosting won't be a problem as well because it is delivered as SaaS or Software as a Service, which makes it more secure. Overall, a headless CMS can give you peace of mind and ease of use.

How can your company benefit from JAMstack or a static website and this web development revolution?

In this dynamic and rapidly changing web development environment, it is hard to keep up with all the changes, especially when you do not have an internal team that can support your web and digital marketing efforts. It is vital to have access to a pool of competencies and people who can design and develop your website or web application and give it a right look and feel that will attract potential customers.

Because of this, you will need to have access to people who can help you create the required visibility for your web portals and produce the necessary dynamic content to enable viewers and customers to easily find you on the Internet. It would help if you had a team of forward-thinking web development experts and designers that can impact how your viewers and customers experience your website or web application.

How WebriQ Can Provide Assistance

At WebriQ, we have been developing and deploying JAMstack websites for over three years now. When it comes to the Wordpress vs Jamstack dilemma, we are definitely in the Jamstack corner.

We work closely with headless CMS and ensure that our partners enjoy a smooth client-side experience. Again, if you ask us to choose a side in the web development field (JAMstack vs WordPress), we are definitely pro-JAMstack as we have distanced ourselves from traditional dynamic sites over the years.

With a dedicated APP and using the latest technology in terms of static site generators, we have been able to build, create, update, and manage hundreds of web projects. In this model, we are using a Static Site Generator, in our case Gatsby to develop the website, a GIT based CMS system to update the content and a Github repository to store all HTML, CSS, client-side Javascript files.

We deploy GIT files to a CDN network. Whereas this model does fit well for smaller projects, it has its shortfalls when it comes to larger projects or projects with a need for frequent content updates and updates made by a variety of users, content writers, and third party contributions.

For those use cases, we deploy a headless CMS, Sanity, in our case, to manage the entire content workflow.

If you want to know more, feel free to talk to us about JAMstack and how we, at WebriQ, can help you build an amazing website for your business—a website that is easy to manage, properly secured, and reflective of your branding and market goals.

You can also check out our new service, the DXP Studio Landing Page Builder and Microsite Builder. To know what it can do for you, you can read this introduction.

A Quick Overview of the DXP Studio

DXP Studio is the new rage in microsite creators. It's intelligent, intuitive and idiot-proof for marketers to set up landing pages that convert like mad.

In today's world, there are many different ways to promote your business. One way is through a microsite or landing page which can be set up quickly and easily by using the new DXP Studio software from Webriq.

It is the future of web design!

The coolest sites can be designed using templates that have been prebuilt with your needs in mind, meaning no coding knowledge is required to design them! You'll find everything from intuitive navigation menus to extensive site components on the screen, right down to the ability to personalize font styles, images, content, and more.

We've got every type of website component covered here so whether it's business-related pages such as an about page or portfolio photograph landing pages - there will always be something perfect waiting within easy.

The studio is here to help you design professional-looking websites. All the features are available for novice web designers who just want their site to look sleek and modern with an appealing aesthetic appeal!

What are you waiting for? Send us an email through info@webriq.com.