JAM STACK the Web Development Revolution

ByPhilippe Bodart | Created on Jul 12, 2018

A revolution is happening in web technologies. It all starts with Javascript, the GLUE in any web build.

Progressions in web development comes in various forms, from the physical developments in hardware to fresh ideas, which have opened up many new opportunities and the web technologies which enable these powerful digital experiences. Moore’s Law suggests exponential growth will continue in the technology sector, increasing speed and performance, whilst driving down cost. JavaScript is the fastest moving sector online right now. Developers have created at least six major JS frameworks over the last four years and users have started experiencing upgraded browsing experiences for many of the applications they use due to the fast adoption rate of these frameworks. Also, thanks to the innovation speed in browser technology, the user’s software gets automatically upgraded all the time to provide better experiences. Much like in the physical world, history has helped us become smarter, more efficient and more user-friendly with design and development. This should also be mirrored online, to ensure the experience of using the web continues to improve over time and evolves as our needs do. Our expectations of technology are now higher than ever, pushing the developers behind the devices and the platforms we use today to create experiences which are seamless, interconnected, secure and without boundaries. We must avoid legacy technologies and adopt and embrace the future technologies, which will power our world.

That leads us to today, where there is a revolution happening with web technologies. It all starts with JavaScript, the language that has been around since 1995 and is considered the glue in any web build. In the early days, everything had to be rendered server-side, simply because the browsers and devices were not powerful enough, especially on mobile phones. An important factor is SEO: Search engine traffic continues to dominate the game of Digital Marketing; if played right it’s the most affordable way to acquire inbound traffic. With traditional server-rendered pages, the process for setup and optimization was standardized for many years. When Javascript and other technologies arrived, search engines couldn’t see the content as the content was rendered locally. The search bots relied on fully loaded HTML to see the page content to generate data, which informed the ranking. From 2015, things changed when the devices and browsers used by the majority of Internet users were powerful enough to render a page completely client-side, without the need for a server. This was done with some HTML and JS files, plus data delivered through APIs to the web application. At the same time, Google announced they could now crawl and render JavaScript and CSS files, which was not achievable before. Javascript (and JS Frameworks such as React) is all about creating rich websites and applications, which are anything, the client sees in their browser. Traditionally, any changes to a web page would mean a reload was required. Now, Javascript removes this barrier and enables real-time loading of UI changes. With any change, however large or small, the user makes in the browser, the UI is updated instantly, even if the same information is reflected multiple times on the same page. It’s super fast since logic is rendered locally in the user’s browser, minimizing the amount of data being transferred from the web server. This is also often combined with CDN (content delivery network) technology, to bring the JavaScript files and associated media content as fast as possible to the client using the latest advanced technologies such as compression, minification, and chunking.

Last but not least, moving from server-side to client-side, especially combined with serverless computing, is way more secure than traditional server-based approaches because simply there is no server and therefore no attack vector. You don‘t need to patch anything because the code runs in the browser and not on your machines. This way of building websites and web apps is increasingly referred to as JAMstack applications: we’re not talking about specific operating systems and web servers anymore, but rather about creating a new development architecture, a new way of building websites and apps that delivers better performance, higher security, lower cost of scaling, and a better user experience.

The barrier between native mobile apps, native desktop apps and web pages is blurring. Clients are becoming faster and more robust, leading to dynamic front-ends, interactive content, and sleek desktop-like user experiences. JavaScript is also the perfect language for the cloud (otherwise known as serverless computing), as it’s built for compartmentalizing software, which has no connection to other software on the same machine. You can easily run multiple JavaScript applications on the same machine, without interfering with each other. As this sandboxing is also very important in browsers, in order that one loaded page does not interfere with another, JavaScript engines are highly secure and built for the Cloud - on the browser as well as in serverless computing. But, in the end, nobody wants a server. That‘s just the necessary tool to run the important thing: your application. In the end, everybody wants an application, not a server.

With these advancements in technology, how has the web experience for the end user been impacted?

Websites and web applications now have teams behind them, often large teams comprised of: designers, developers, UI/UX specialists, ecommerce specialists, SEO/SEM specialists, project managers, content producers and more. A whole industry has been created, called ‘User Experience’ or UX. It’s an industry dedicated to creating user-friendly design and experiences. With the advancement of mobile technology and the infrastructure to keep us connected, we now have access to data faster than ever before. This has changed and continues to change the way we do just about everything. It’s changed not only our behavior but also our expectations. These expectations are now very high - we expect our web experience to be super fast, dynamic and highly interactive.

How can your company benefit from this web development revolution?

In this rapid 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 important to have access to a pool of competencies and people that can design and develop your website or web application and give it the right look and feel that potential customers will be attracted by it. You need access to people that can help you create the needed visibility for your website and can produce the necessary content to enable viewers and customers to easily find you on the Internet. You need a team of forward thinking developers and designers that can make an impact on how your viewers and customers experience your website or web application.

At WebriQ, we have been developing and deploying JAM Stack websites for over two years now. With a dedicated APP, we have been able to build, develop, update and manage hunderds of sites. In this model we are using a Static Site Generator to develop the site, a GIT based CMS system to update the content and a Github repository to store all HTML, CSS and Javascript files. GIT files are pushed to a CDN network. Whereas this model does fit well for most smaller projects, it has it’s 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. Since the JAM Stack is more a concept then a real technology stack, we have been contemplating for a while how we could combine the best of the traditional LAMP Stack ideas and the serious advantages and benefits of the JAM Stack. It’s what I would call the GLUE of the JAM Stack.

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