I’ve been doing this web thing for money for 10 years this year and although I haven’t been around as long as some folks, I feel like I’ve seen a few cycles come and go now, so let’s say that hot new things are often cynically viewed, initially. This milestone of mine has also got me in a retrospective mood, too, and the question “What about building websites has you interested this year?“ has only encouraged that.
JAMstack: an awful name, but awfully empowering.
I love JAMstack because it empowers people like me, who aren’t very strong with back-end stuff, and the aspect of JAMstack that I like the most—and which I think is the best part—is static site generators (SSGs). I’m talking specifically about SSGs like Eleventy and less-so Gatsby here, for reference.
Mix Eleventy with Netlify and in some cases, Heroku, and suddenly you have a powerful development setup which results in a fast, performant website that auto-deploys. It’s perfect setup for me.
This stuff excites me so much that I made an Eleventy starter kit this year called Hylia. I did this for two reasons:
- I wanted to test the viability of a content-managed static-site that uses source controlled content. I chose Netlify CMS to do this
- I wanted to empower people without tech skills to publish a performant, accessible blog of their own, so they didn’t have to rely on centralised systems
This is the magic of SSGs, because they give us developer experience, but much more importantly, because the output is static and lightweight (unless you prevent that with lots of code), it creates a really solid basis for a good user experience, too! This isn’t just the case for small projects like Hylia, too, because SSGs can even power huge projects like the Duet Design System, for example.
Looking back at the empowerment that SSGs enable, I’ll just list some things that they have enabled me, a web designer, to do this year:
- Self-publish a book
- Create rapid, interactive prototypes for clients which has completely transformed the decision making process
- Build actual, full websites for clients
- Completely transform my design process to use HTML and CSS as a deliverables, rather than static comps
- Build and document an incredibly comprehensive, multi-platform design system (WIP)
- Re-platform my CSS newsletter (WIP)
These are huge things that have had a massive, positive impact on me and next year, SSGs are only going to feature more in my work as I transition into providing educational material, too.
The future is bright with the JAMstack and SSGs—especially when what is delivered to the end-user is fast, progressively enhanced websites. I honestly think that they are creating a momentum wave towards a bigger focus in performance, too.
If we chuck in some serverless technology: suddenly, designers and front-end developers really are all powerful and this really excites me because suddenly, we give lots of people power to have great ideas that might not have been able to before.
I’ll admit that I didn’t really love the name at first either when it was originally introduced except for the fact that I could not come up with a better name that didn’t imply the limitations that static did. Years later, it seems to have caught on (largely through the efforts of Netlify) and I a) no longer dislike it and b) still don’t have any better ideas anyway.
Very helpful article. Will see the documents drawing soon..
Thanks for the insightful article!
I’ve been hearing a lot about SSGs and the JAMstack lately, especially in reference to services like Netlify or Gatsby. I’ve personally been using Vue with Firebase for all my recent projects and have been wondering whether that qualifies as JAMstack as well? I use Vue CLI to compile all my component code into static HTML/CSS/JS, which I then deploy to the Firebase static hosting service. Let me know if I’m one of the cool kids as well, haha!