JAMstack’s Growing Popularity Brings Increase in WordPress Plugins for Deploying to Netlify

One of the more interesting trends this year is that WordPress developers are beginning to explore JAMstack setups for their sites. JAMstack is a term coined by Netlify CEO Mathias Biilmann to describe development architecture that includes client-side JavaScript, reusable APIs, and prebuilt Markup, the three pillars of a modern static website.

Static websites are making a major comeback right now, perhaps as a reaction to the slow, bloated PHP frameworks that run large portions of the web today. The speed, security, and scalability of these sites, often available at a lower cost, are some of the most compelling reasons developers find themselves joining the rapidly growing JAMstack community. It also provides a git and CLI-friendly development workflow and allows developers to easily experiment with the latest frontend technologies, without prescribing any specific frameworks or tools.

Most JAMstack sites are built using Jekyll, Hugo, Nuxt, Next, Gatsby, or another static site generator. The generated markup and assets are often served via a CDN for near instant page loads.

Netlify pioneered JAMstack hosting and has inspired the creation of a myriad of tools that enable fast and convenient deployments. Plugins that allow developers to source content from WordPress and host it with Netlify are starting to pop up more frequently. Netlify’s free tier is one of the main reasons it has grown so quickly in popularity, as it provides a fast way to host a personal site or small project with custom domain support, HTTPS, Git integration, and continuous deployment included.

Tiny Pixel Collective created a plugin called Netlify Deploy that automates Netlify builds on WordPress publish and update events. The company built it to make it easier for developers to rebuild Netlify-hosted Gatsby frontends using WordPress as the publishing tool. It works in the background to keep a static frontend in sync with the post database, rebuilding the site when users make updates to posts and pages. The plugin triggers the Netlify webhook whenever the standard WordPress post types post and page undergo a change in publish status, but it can also be modified to work with custom post types and custom publish hooks.

JAMstack Deployments, created by Christopher Geary, a developer and JAMstack aficionado, is a similar WordPress plugin that facilitates deployments to Netlify, as well as other platforms. The plugin’s settings page lets users configure the webhook URL in the admin, and includes options to limit it to trigger on specific post types and taxonomies. JAMstack Deployments is also conveniently available for free on WordPress.org.

Deploy Netlify Webhook is a similar plugin from Luke Secomb that appears to work manually through a “Build” button in the WordPress admin. It has the added benefit of allowing developers to check the status of the latest build to see if it was successful, without having to leave WordPress.

Justin Hall, a plugin author and senior web developer at SendGrid, published his Gatsby + Headless WordPress + Netlify starter skeleton to GitHub. This particular setup requires his LittleBot Netlify plugin to trigger Netlify build hooks on post save or update, with an additional option that allows WordPress users to publish to Staging or Production sites.

WP2Static is a popular plugin that generates static HTML files from a WordPress site. Users have the option of auto-deploying to a folder on the server, a ZIP file, FTP server, S3, GitHub, Netlify, BunnyCDN, BitBucket, or GitLab. Theh plugin currently has more than 10,000 active installations.

These are just a small sampling of tools that developers are creating to allow WordPress users to retain the capabilities a dynamic publishing platform while building it statically to take advantage of the speed, security, and performance gains.

The trend towards using a headless CMS combined with static site generators is a setup that is heavily geared towards developers at the moment. Translating all the jargon for non-technical site and business owners is a new challenge for those looking to sell services for setting up JAMstack architecture.

That’s where more user-friendly hosting platforms like Strattic, Shifter, and HardyPress are making inroads on marketing JAMstack technology to a less-technical crowd. They provide all-in-one “serverless” architecture solutions that generate static files from WordPress sites and serve them via CDN.

One of the chief drawbacks to pursuing a static WordPress setup is that many dynamic capabilities do not work in this environment. Adding contact forms can be a challenge. Sites that require native WordPress comments or anything that is more complex and interactive will not work. This includes functionality offered by WooCommerce, bbPress, BuddyPress, and membership plugins, to name a few examples. For now, the JAMstack fervor is mostly limited to the DIY developer crowd looking to host more simple sites.


25 responses to “JAMstack’s Growing Popularity Brings Increase in WordPress Plugins for Deploying to Netlify”

  1. Creating a static site on Netlify is a great experience. I’ve switched the documentation site for Meta Box plugin to a static site on Netlify without any problem. Netlify integrates with Github/Bitbucket which make auto deployments easy.

    Regarding the contact forms for the static sites, there are many options available such as Formspree, Simple Form or Form Keep. Most of them are free and easy to use.

    • This is the one thing keeping me from using this for client sites.

      All of the form options seem expensive! I haven’t found one free option yet that will allow custom forms built by the client, and a way to see entries. Even $5/month would be ok, but everything is like $30/month if you need more than one form.

      • WordPress must be running somewhere?

        Yes, but plugging into that negates some of the benefits of a JAMstack site. The goal is to totally separate the frontend from the backend, so that there is no risk of frontend traffic interfering (maliciously or otherwise) with your backend. By plugging comments directly into WordPress itself, you lose that benefit.

        Your cheap host solution would work, but it wouldn’t scale very well and scalability is another huge benefit of JAMstack’ing things.

  2. WP2Static deploying to a free Netlify account, or even just deploying to a cheap VPS (DigitalOcean, Linode, Hetzner Cloud etc) is a terrific solution for 95% of WordPress sites. If your site is not doing something that absolutely needs to be generated dynamically, such as an ecommerce cart, the advantages of going static, while retaining the familiar WordPress interface, are undeniable.

    This is a way to escape the hosting industry, which has always been a marketing-driven scam, so, it makes zero sense to tie your WordPress-to-static generation to the new generation of “static hosts”. Even if you are part of what this article calls “the less technical crowd”, it is worth investing an hour into getting to grips with a tool such as WP2Static.

    Again, if your site is a suitable candidate for being static, generating a static version with WP2Static is probably a lot easier than you imagine. I tend to design sites on my own laptop, using Local by Flywheel to host them during the design process. I install the WP2Static plugin and enter my Netlify credentials. When I am happy with the design, I deploy to Netlify and shut down my locally-running site until I want to make changes again.

    If I didn’t want to run WordPress on my laptop, I would fire up a 1-Click instance of WordPress on DigitalOcean (or Linode, or Vultr etc) for less than one cent per hour. Again, once I am happy with the design, I use WP2Static to deploy to Netlify, download a backup of the site, and destroy the VPS – no need to keep paying for it. If I want to edit the site again in the future, I simply fire up another VPS and re-install from the backup.

    All the JAMstack stuff is wonderful but don’t let it distract you from the beautiful simplicity and logic of using WordPress to create static sites. You do not need some expensive host, spewing marketing BS, to gain all the speed, security and zero-maintenance benefits of static. Install WP2Static and cheerfully wave goodbye to the middlemen.

  3. It’s fun to run a static site which give us benefits to performance and security, but the engine is actually is still WordPress, develop page with page builder like Elementor or Beaver Builder, etc, then we deploy the site to Netlify or GitHub Pages, going static or JAMstack is now easy than ever.

  4. It’s fun to run a static site which give us benefits to performance and security, but the engine is actually is still WordPress, develop page with page builder like Elementor or Beaver Builder, etc, then we deploy the site to Netlify or GitHub Pages, going static or JAMstack is now easy than ever!

  5. One can simply just use static cache plugin without hassle of so called “jamstack” and over-complicated things.

    Static sites are great and simple, upload some files to any host or service like Netlify and job is done. Static site is fast, safe and reliable way to display content to visitors.

    It’s fun to open vim editor in terminal, add some content, then just git push and within few seconds content is online with Netlify without leaving terminal and open any other software or window. The site is not only fast and secure, but admin have own backup and backup in github/gitlab …

    To be honest, majority of website online could be done as static sites. However admins like some bloat so today’s web is practically broken.

    If someone try to add some “features” like contact form from third party service, it’s more hassle than it’s worth. These service does not work well at all. Static site does not need contact form, it’s less secure and less reliable than just mailto link.

    So called “jamstack” sounds cool, however it’s complicated and no less bloated than traditional CMS.
    In many cases, admin deal with some CMS, some API, some third party service for it and still he has zero content online.

      • Like Kevin pointed out, SnipCart is an option to use in place of WooCommerce.

        I’m actually in the middle of building a headless WordPress, Gatsby site that uses WooCommerce and SnipCart.

        The WooCommerce data is made available through the REST API and is accessed through a Gatsby plugin. On the Gatsby side, the data (price, product name, etc) can be fed in as attributes to a SnipCart button! This affords someone without a technical background the ability to add new products in the WordPress dashboard through WooCommerce, just like they would if it were a normal WooCommerce site.

        If you need to track inventory, this setup will take additional steps to do so.

        SnipCart charges either $10.00 a month or 2% if sales are greater than $500/month.

    • Good luck with it. Use it for a while and you will see that’s it less reliable than send a pigeon.

      Other thing is, what is the benefit of using all these services (paid) to handle just one contact form? I can imagine than even 3,5$/month server will handle emails more reliable and under your control.

      Also Netlify can filter messages which are legit, bc. of spam filter what you can’t turn off.

    • A static website is seperate from your WordPress website. WordPress only functions as a data store where you manage your content in this setting, the JAMstack fetches the data through REST (or GraphQL) and builds a completely new website.

      This means:
      No theme, no CSS nor no JS served from WordPress. No headers, footers, sidebars nor widgets, you only get the data you want/need to build your website.

      The JAMstack introduces a bit of complexity WordPress has worked hard to eliminate, but at the same time it’s offering incredible speed and control. For many that’s more hassle than they want to deal with for others it fixes optimization problems they have with the monolithic solution.

  6. My company recently just did a Nuxt SPA frontend with a WordPress backend. I wanted to go all native WordPress, but my Sr Frontend Engineer talked me out of it.

    Interestingly though, we couldn’t use Netlify. I wanted to make sure everything would come up for SEO, so we went with Nuxt with SSR. This essentially renders the initial page on the server, then loads the site into SPA mode. If you want to see what it looks like – https://yabhq.com

    We ended up going with Heroku for the hosting because they support an easy build process for SSR. I would love Netlify to add SSR to their offering, as Prerendering is the closest thing they currently offer.

  7. I’m just glad to see that the term JAMstack is now a thing. I used to shudder whenever I heard the word “serverless” to describe the same thing, since there’s obviously a server serving the darn thing from somewhere.

    JAMstack is definitely going to be a bigger thing going forward.

    • Most of the metrics people usually use to measure these things would give the same values (simple load testing of known pages etc.) between a JAMstack and a regular WordPress install with a CDN cache shoved in front. The benefits in JAMstack are related to simplification of the infrastructure, which leads to benefits which aren’t so easy to quantify IMHO.


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