white arrow on a brick road
Expect some significant forward momentum from open source CMS projects as they push to reach their quarterly goals. PHOTO: Agnieszka K.

In recent years, we have seen the content management space undergo the initial phases of a major shift. Many brands are pondering a move away from their traditional CMS platform to a headless CMS — a Kentico survey (free to download) has highlighted 89 percent of businesses are keen on the idea of going headless.

But in addition to this growing interest in going headless, we are also seeing a new trend emerging in web development with the rising popularity of JAMstack, a new kind of technology stack which is different than LAMP, MEAN, and .NET.

To keep in line with this trend, many headless CMS providers are labeling themselves as JAMstack-ready. But what exactly does that mean? As ever, we turn to leading industry experts and practitioners to help us familiarize what a JAMstack-ready CMS is, and what features you must look out for when shopping around for a JAMstack-ready CMS.

What is a JAMstack-Ready CMS?

JAMstack is a technology stack that was coined by Mathias Biilmann, CEO of Netlify. Biilmann described JAMstack as “a modern web development architecture based on client-side JavaScript, reusable APIs, and prebuilt Markup.”

JAMstack is comprised of:

  • JavaScript execution on the client-side (J)
  • APIs to interact with the backend (A)
  • Markup templates prebuilt at deploy time, using static site generators or build tools (M)

A JAMstack-ready CMS, as according to Carson Gibbons, co-founder of Dallas-based Cosmic JS, is “a CMS that makes content available via API, ready to plug into the JavaScript-powered frontend.”

A headless CMS, as Mayank Mishra, head of engineering at San Fransisco-based Contentstack explained, is an example of a JAMstack-ready CMS since “it is built on an API architecture from the beginning,” Mishra said.

When we asked Mishra whether a CMS is Java-based is enough to qualify as a JAMstack-ready CMS, he answered that it is “not enough” due to the fact that “a JAMstack architecture is based on client-side JavaScript, reusable APIs, and prebuilt markup for building websites and web apps,” Mishra said.

Related Article:  What is JAMstack?

What are the Benefits of JAMstack-ready CMS?

According to Mishra, JAMstack offers “superior” performance at a low cost. It also provides agile development, quicker scaling, and greater security. “[In JAMstack], there is no server-side execution involved as it serves static markup, so it eliminates several potential causes of failures and security risks,” Mishra said.

Mishra also added that JAMstack’s web development architecture supports the latest delivery technologies, and also provides the capability to implement a best of breeds solution. “The web development architecture [found within JAMstack] supports the latest delivery technologies, such as using a Git-centric workflow, getting lightning fast delivery by using front-end build tools and static site generators, a CDN, and takes advantage of the rich API economy to be able to implement the best of breed solutions,” Mishra said.

Furthermore, Gibbons added that in making the content available through APIs, this “gives other applications easy access to your content which could include landing pages, microsites, or native iOS, and Android applications,” Gibbons said.

Adopting a JAMstack-ready CMS: A 3-Point Checklist

Making the move to JAMstack can be a tricky affair if you aren’t prepared. Here’s a short but effective checklist to help you transition to JavaScript, APIs, and Markdown as the backbone of your digital presence.

Related Article: JAMstack vs. LAMP Stack vs. MEAN vs .NET: Tech Stacks Compared

1. Sharpen Your JavaScript Skills

For brands who are looking to move over to a JAMstack-ready CMS, Mathieu Dionne, writing for Snipcart’s blog, has advised brands to ensure their web development team is well-versed in JavaScript and they are also familiar with APIs. ‘[With JAMstack], remember that we’re talking about front-end-centric development here. If you’re new to web development in general, you’ll want to make sure to sharpen your JavaScript skills. Then learning as much as you can about APIs will allow you to push your projects to the next level,” writes Dionne.

Once these areas are covered, brands can begin to look at JAMstack-ready CMS solutions. But before making the switch, you need to ensure your JAMstack-ready CMS has the following features.

2. Look for a Headless CMS

In order for your CMS to be JAMstack-ready, it has to be compatible with JavaScript. A headless CMS decouples the back-end, which stores all the content, databases and files, from the front-end. Typically, a headless CMS uses APIs, through which content can be pushed and pulled between various platforms and devices. Additionally, a headless CMS is front-end framework agnostic, making it compatible for Javascript frameworks like Angular.js and React. “[APIs] gives other applications easy access to your content which could include landing pages, microsites, or native iOS and Android applications,” Gibbons explained.

It is for this reason, having a JAMstack-ready CMS that is framework agnostic will allow your developers to utilize their preferred JavaScript framework. In addition, a framework agnostic CMS also allows developers to utilize well-known static site generators (SSG) like Gatsby and Next.js to generate a structure of static HTML files.

3. Find a Suitable Static Site Generator

A static site generator (SSG) is the perfect partner for a headless CMS. As we have explained previously, an SSG generates HTML-only website using markdown files. That static site can then be uploaded to a server, remaining unchanged until the next time the SSG is run.

With these three ticked off your checklist, you should be all set to embrace JAMstack as your technology stack of choice.