The Cloud

The headless approach to content, commerce, and customer experience is exploding. In fact, in 2018, according to recent research from Pupuweb, 29% of businesses were using a headless approach and another 38% planned to adopt one before 2020. Companies are finding, however, that headless comes with its own set of challenges that requires a slew of technologies to solve. That’s why Gatsby Cloud seems to be a turning point for the headless space. 

We’ve asked industry experts how Gatsby Cloud is impacting the headless tech space and what other innovative technologies are enabling the headless approach.

Related Article: 24 Headless CMS That Should Be On Your Radar in 2019

How Gatsby Cloud Benefits Headless CMS Users

Gatsby Cloud is a commercial platform meant to make launching static sites easier. Some of the new features include real-time previews, CMS integrations, and a cloud quick-start wizard. Gatsby Cloud helps solve many of the challenges with the headless approach, bringing enormous benefits to content creators and developers alike.

Caleb Sylvest, Partner & Experience Designer at Plano, T.X.-based Spacetime says for content creators, in particular, there is a lack of previewing live content with headless or other data-agnostic solutions. “So,” he explained, “creating content for new pages or blog posts or profiles can feel disjointed without knowing how the end creation will look.” He says Gatsby Cloud solves this issue by providing live previews as new content is added similar to other traditional platforms like WordPress or Shopify.

Gatsby Cloud can also help tech teams gather buy-in for adopting headless technologies because it greatly simplifies the process for creating new sites. This is crucial because headless software is usually much more developer-friendly, but the lack of previewing capabilities often puts content creators off to using the approach. “The benefits can be huge,” Sylvest said, “but maintenance and growth still need to be manageable and easy to understand.”

Matt Weinberg, Co-Founder and President, Technology & Development at Happy Cog believes the new cloud platform makes it easier for people to get sites up and running with Gatsby while having access to the tools and features they're used to with their other systems. Gatsby Cloud, however, isn’t a threat to other static site generators or technologies, but rather it’s a turning point for the headless tech space. “I think it helps expand the market by making it visible to a whole new set of people,” Weinberg said. Gatsby Cloud shows what’s possible with the headless approach by leveraging the right technologies.

How Gatsby Enables Headless, Static Sites

While Gatsby Cloud is bringing plenty of ease to headless and static environments, there are a number of other technologies that can drastically improve headless content delivery to static sites.

Hosting

One of the greatest benefits to websites built with static files is that they’re deployment is highly flexible. “Take advantage of the static file structure Gatsby uses,” Sylvest recommended, “to host on servers optimized for flat file systems.” He says Netlify, Fastly, or Surge all provide exceptional hosting at low cost. Weinberg also suggests Cloudflare Workers Sites as a great option for hosting static sites.

CMS Integrations

Gatsby Cloud offers integrations with hundreds of different CMSs, so organizations should find one that closely aligns with their needs.“With the ability to use a Headless CMS,” suggested Slyvest, “try something new instead of WordPress or Drupal to manage content and data.”

He says Contentful and Sanity, in particular, are great options for headless static sites.

GraphQL

While a headless CMS will likely store most of the content you’d need, if you have other data sources GraphQL can simplify delivery. “In addition,” suggested Weinberg, “consider using Apollo Server as the GraphQL server your static site pulls data from. He says it’s easy to set up and configure, even for large enterprise-grade sites.

Version Control

Headless sites with lightweight tooling enable developers to streamline their processes. “Follow a strict development workflow using Git and Github for code development, testing, and deployment,” Sylvest suggested. This will give companies the speed and agility they need to quickly launch new websites or features.

Build Tools

One of the main drawbacks of headless static sites is slow build times. While Gatsby Cloud partly mitigates this issue with live previews, there are other tools that can help improve the build process. Weinberg suggests using CI/CD systems like CircleCI, Jenkins, or GitHub Actions. “These can all help automate your build and deploy process and make sure your tests all run before deploying code,” he added.

One Frontend Doesn’t Make an Experience

Gatsby Cloud will fan the flames of interest in headless content delivery to static sites and applications because it reduces the drawbacks and solves a number of issues many organizations would normally face with a pure headless CMS. It brings a frontend to a frontend-less environment. 

However, Gatsby won’t fuel a fully-fledged customer experience across channels. In their own words, Gatsby is a “framework based on React that helps developers build blazing-fast websites and apps.” In other words, If you’re thinking that Gatsby can be the frontend layer for your entire digital experience, think again. 

When it comes to smart speakers, digital signage, dynamic sites, and dynamic applications, you’ll need to extend your frontend technology stack.