In the introduction, they describe the JAMstack movement as a rare shift in the tech landscape that “delivers a productivity boost for developers and a large performance boost for users.” They also see it as a more efficient way of building a secure and stable websites that will advance the open web.
We’ve seen firsthand how the JAMstack improves the experience for both users and developers. Most importantly, we’ve seen how increases in site speed, site reliability, and developer productivity can contribute to the continued health and viability of the open web.
The book is an important read, not only for those exploring JAMstack architecture but also for getting an outside perspective on the kinds of problems that the WordPress ecosystem needs to solve. The authors describe WordPress and other CMS’s as monolithic apps, referencing security and performance concerns. The introduction summarizes many of the problems that professionals are routinely paid to solve when managing and scaling WordPress websites:
For nearly three decades, the developer community has explored ways to make the web easier and faster to develop, more capable, more performant, and more secure. At times, though, the effort has seemed to trade one goal for another. WordPress, for example, became a revolution in making content easier to author—but anyone who’s scaled a high-traffic WordPress site knows it also brings a whole set of new challenges in performance and security. Trading the simplicity of HTML files for database-powered content means facing the very real threats that sites might crash as they become popular or are hacked when nobody is watching closely.
And dynamically transforming content into HTML—each and every time it’s requested—takes quite a few compute cycles. To mitigate all the overhead, many web stacks have introduced intricate and clever caching schemes at almost every level, from the database on up. But these complex setups have often made the development process feel cumbersome and fragile. It can be difficult to get any work done on a site when you can’t get it running and testable on your own laptop. (Trust us, we know.)
Biilmann and his co-authors have kept to the more general concepts and technical details of how JAMstack architecture differs from other, more traditional stacks. JAMstack does not prescribe any specific frameworks or tools but is rather a diverse and growing ecosystem. The authors see it as “a movement, a community collection of best practices and workflows that result in high-speed websites that are a pleasure to work on.”
The book covers topics like the benefits of atomic deployments, end-to-end version control, choosing a site generator, and the variety of automation and tooling available. It suggests a few ways of handling some of the more challenging additions to static sites, such as forms, search, notifications, and identity.
Modern Web Development on the JAMstack concludes with a case study on how Smashing Magazine moved its publication from a WordPress site with thousands of articles, 200,000+ comments, and an attached Shopify store, to a new JAMstack setup. The detailed breakdown of the migration provides an interesting look at one solution to the challenges of publishing at scale. These are the kinds of architectural concerns that the WordPress ecosystem needs to continue to address and simplify for the next generation of developers.