Static vs. Dynamic vs. Jamstack: The place’s The Line?

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You’ll typically hear builders speaking about “static” vs. “dynamic” websites, or you might have heard somebody use the time period Jamstack. What do these phrases imply, and when does a “static” web site change into both a Jamstack or dynamic web site? These questions sound easy, however they’re extra nuanced than they seem. Let’s discover these phrases to achieve a deeper understanding of Jamstack.

Discovering the road

What’s the distinction between a chair and a stool? Most individuals will reply {that a} chair has 4 legs and again help, whereas a stool has three legs with no again help.

Credit score: Rumman Amin
Credit score: Rumman Amin

OK, that’s an amazing place to begin, however what about these?

Credit score: Valerii Zorin
Credit score: Krisztian Tabori

The extra stool-like a chair turns into, the less folks will unequivocally agree that it’s a chair. Finally, we’ll attain a degree the place most individuals agree it’s a stool reasonably than a chair. It could sound like a foolish train, but when we wish to have a deep appreciation of what it means to be a chair, it’s a invaluable one. We discover out the place the bounds of a chair are for most individuals. We additionally construct an understanding of the grey space past. Finally, we get to the purpose the place even the largest die-hard chair followers concede and admit there’s a stool in entrance of them.

As fascinating as chairs are, that is an article about web site supply expertise. Let’s carry out this identical train for static, dynamic, and Jamstack web sites.

At a excessive stage

While you go to an internet site in your browser, there’s loads occurring behind the scenes:

Your browser performs a DNS lookup to show the area title into an IP tackle.It requests an HTML file from that IP tackle.The webserver sends again the requested file.Because the browser renders the online web page, it might come throughout a reference for an asset, corresponding to a CSS, JavaScript, or picture file. The browser then performs a request for this asset.This cycle continues till the browser has all of the recordsdata for the online web page. It’s common for a single webpage to make 50+ requests.

For each request, the response from the webserver is all the time a static file, even on a dynamic web site. You may save these recordsdata to a USB drive, electronic mail them to a pal similar to some other file in your pc.

When evaluating static and dynamic, we’re speaking about what the webserver is doing. On a static web site, the recordsdata the browser requests exist already on the webserver. The webserver sends them again precisely as they’re. On a dynamic web site, the response will get generated by software program. This software program would possibly connect with a database to retrieve knowledge, construct a structure from template recordsdata, and add in the present day’s date to the footer. It does all of this for each request.

That’s the foundational distinction between static and dynamic web sites.

The place does Jamstack slot in?

Static web sites are restrictive. They’re nice for informational web sites; nevertheless, you possibly can’t have any dynamic content material or habits by definition. Jamstack blurs the road between static and dynamic. The thought is to make the most of all of the issues that make static web sites superior whereas enabling dynamic performance the place crucial.

The ‘stack’ in Jamstack is a misnomer. The reality is, Jamstack will not be a stack in any respect. It’s a philosophy that displays a putting resemblance to The 5 Pillars of the AWS Effectively-Architected Framework. The paradox within the time period has led to intensive group dialogue about what it means to be Jamstack.

What’s Jamstack?

Jamstack is a superset of static. However to really perceive Jamstack, let’s begin with the seeds that led to the coining of the time period.

In 2002, the late Aaron Swartz revealed a weblog submit titled “Bake, Don’t Fry.” Whereas Aaron didn’t coin “Bake, Don’t Fry,” it’s the primary time I can discover somebody recognizing the advantages of static web sites whereas breaking out perceived constraints of the phrase.

I care about not having to take care of cranky AOLserver, Postgres and Oracle installs. I care about with the ability to again issues up with scp. I care about not having to do any set up or configuration to maneuver my web site to a brand new server. I care about being platform and server unbiased.

If we trawl via historical past, we are able to discover related frustrations that led to Jamstack seeds:

Ben and Mena Trott created MovableType due to a [d]issatisfaction with present weblog CMSes — efficiency, stability.

Tom Preston-Werner created Jekyll to maneuver away from complexity:I already knew loads about what I didn’t need. I used to be bored with difficult running a blog engines like WordPress and Mephisto. I wished to put in writing nice posts, not fashion a zillion template pages, reasonable feedback all day lengthy, and continuously lag behind the newest software program launch.Steve Francia created Hugo for efficiency:The previous few years this weblog has [been] powered by wordpress [sic] and drupal previous to that. Each are are tremendous items of software program, however over time I grew to become more and more disenchanted with how they’re each optimized for writing content material despite the fact that considerably most typical utilization is studying content material. As a result of have to load the PHP interpreter on every request it may by no means be thought of quick and consumed a variety of reminiscence on my VPS.

The identical themes floor as you have a look at the origins of many early Jamstack instruments:

Cut back complexityImprove performanceReduce vendor lock-inBetter workflows for builders

Up to now 20 years, JavaScript has developed from a language for including small interactions to an internet site to turning into a platform for constructing wealthy net purposes within the browser. In parallel, we’ve seen a motion of splitting massive purposes into smaller microservices. These two developments gave rise to a brand new means of constructing web sites the place you possibly can have a static front-end decoupled from a dynamic back-end.

In 2015, Mathias Biilmann wished to speak about this contemporary means of constructing web sites however was scuffling with the constricting definition of static:

We had been on this area of recent static web sites. That’s a extremely unhealthy description of what we’re doing, proper? And we saved having that downside that, speaking to folks about static websites, they might take into consideration one thing very static. They might take into consideration a brochure or one thing with no shifting elements. A little bit one-pager or one thing like that.

To interrupt out of those constraints, he coined the time period “Jamstack” to speak about this new method, and it caught on like wildfire. What was previous static expertise from the 90s grew to become new once more and pushed to new limits. Many builders caught on to the advantages of the Jamstack method, which helped Jamstack develop into the thriving ecosystem it’s in the present day.

Aaron Swartz put it properly, 13 years earlier than Jamstack was coined: hold a strict separation between enter (which wants dynamic code to be processed) and output (which might often be baked). In different phrases, decouple the entrance finish from the again finish. Prerender content material at any time when potential. Layer on dynamic performance the place crucial. That’s the crux of Jamstack.

The explanation you would possibly wish to construct a Jamstack web site over a dynamic web site come all the way down to the six pillars of Jamstack:


Jamstack websites have fewer shifting elements and fewer floor space for malicious exploitation from outdoors sources.


Jamstack websites are static the place potential. Static websites can dwell fully in a CDN, making them a lot simpler and cheaper to scale.


Serving an online web page from a CDN reasonably than producing it from a centralized server on-demand improves the web page load pace.


Static web sites are easy. You want a webserver able to serving recordsdata. With a dynamic web site, you would possibly want a whole crew to maintain an internet site on-line and quick.


Once more, a static web site is made up of recordsdata. So long as you discover a webserver able to serving web site recordsdata, you possibly can transfer your web site wherever.

Developer expertise

Git workflows are a core a part of software program improvement in the present day. With many legacy CMSs, it’s tough to have Git improvement workflows. With a Jamstack web site, every part is a file making it seamless to make use of Git.

Chris touches on a few of these factors in a deep-dive comparability between Jamstack and WordPress. He additionally compares the explanations for selecting a Jamstack structure versus a server-side one in “Static or Not?”.

Let’s use these pillars to guage Jamstack use instances.

The place is the sting of static and Jamstack?

Now that we have now the fundamentals of static and Jamstack, let’s dive in and see what lies on the edge of every definition. We have now 4 classes every edge case can fall below.

Static – This strictly adheres to the definition of static.Principally static – Whereas not exactly static, most individuals would name it a static web site.Jamstack – A static frontend decoupled from a dynamic backend.Dynamic – Renders net pages on-demand.

Many of those use instances could be positioned in a number of classes. On this train, we’re placing them in essentially the most restrictive class they match.

JavaScript interplay Static

Let’s begin with a straightforward one. I’ve a static web site that makes use of JavaScript to create a slideshow of photos.

The HTML web page, JavaScript, and pictures are all static recordsdata. All the HTML manipulation required for the slideshow to perform occurs within the browser with no exterior affect.

Cookies Static

I’ve a static web site that provides a banner to the highest of the web page utilizing JavaScript if a cookie exists. A cookie is only a header. The remainder of the recordsdata are static.

Exterior property Principally Static

On an online web page, we are able to load photos or JavaScript from an exterior supply. This exterior supply could generate these property dynamically on request. Would that imply we have now a dynamic web site?

Most individuals, together with myself, would think about this a static web site as a result of it mainly is. But when we’re strict to the definition, it doesn’t match the invoice. Having any a part of the web page generated dynamically defiles the sacred concord of static.

iFrames Principally Static

An inline body means that you can embed an HTML web page inside one other HTML web page. iFrames are generally used for embedding Google Maps, Fb Like buttons, and YouTube movies on a webpage.

Once more, most individuals would nonetheless think about this a static web site. Nevertheless, these embeds are virtually all the time from a dynamically-generated supply.

Types Principally Static

A static web site can undoubtedly have a type on it. The dilemma comes while you submit it. If you wish to do one thing with the info, you virtually actually want a dynamic back-end. There are many type submission companies you need to use because the motion on your type.

I can see two methods to argue this:

You’re submitting a type to an exterior web site, and it occurs to redirect again afterward. This separation means the definition of static stays intact.This exterior service is a core workflow in your web site, the definition of static now not works.

In actuality, most individuals would nonetheless think about this a static web site.

Ajax requests Jamstack

An Ajax request permits a developer to request knowledge from an exterior supply with out reloading the web page. We’re in the identical boat because the above conditions of counting on a 3rd social gathering. It’s potential the endpoint for the Ajax name is a static JSON file, nevertheless it’s extra doubtless that it’s dynamically-generated.

The character of how Ajax knowledge is often used on an internet site pushes it previous a static web site into Jamstack territory. It matches properly with Jamstack as you possibly can have a web site the place you prerender every part you possibly can, then use Ajax to layer on any dynamic performance or content material on the positioning.

Embedded eCommerce Jamstack

There are companies that permit you to add eCommerce, even to static web sites. Behind the scenes, they’re basically making Ajax requests to handle gadgets in a procuring cart and gather cost particulars.

Single web page software (SPA) Jamstack

The title alone places it out of static web site competition. A SPA makes use of Ajax calls to request knowledge. The presentation layer lives fully within the entrance finish, making it Jamtastic.

Ajax name to a serverless perform Jamstack

Whether or not the endpoint of an Ajax name is serverless with one thing like AWS Lambda, goes to your Kubernetes clustered Node.js back-end, or a easy PHP back-end, it doesn’t matter. The important thing for Jamstack is the entrance finish is unbiased of the again finish.

Reverse proxy in entrance of a webserver Static

Including a reverse proxy in entrance of the webserver for a static web site should make it dynamic, proper? Effectively, not so quick. Whereas a proxy is software program that provides a dynamic ingredient to the community, so long as the file on the server is exactly the file the browser receives, it’s nonetheless static.

A webserver, modem, and each piece of community infrastructure in between are operating software program. If including a proxy makes a static web site dynamic, then nothing is static.

CDN Static

A CDN is a globally-distributed reverse proxy, so it falls into the identical class as a reverse proxy. CDNs typically add their very own headers. This nonetheless doesn’t impression the celebrated static standing because the headers aren’t a part of the file sitting on the server’s exhausting drive.

CDN in entrance of a dynamic web site with a 200-year cache expiration time Dynamic

OK, 200 years is a protracted expiry time, I’ll provide you with that. There are two causes that is neither a static nor Jamstack web site:

The primary request isn’t cached, so it generates on demand.CDNs aren’t designed for persistent storage. If, after one week, you’ve solely had 5 hits in your web site, the CDN would possibly purge your net web page from the cache. It could possibly all the time retrieve the online web page from the origin server, which might dynamically render the response.

WordPress with a static output Static

Utilizing a WordPress plugin like WP2Static helps you to create and handle your web site in WordPress and output a static web site at any time when one thing modifications.

While you do that, the recordsdata the browser requests exist already on the webserver, making it a static web site—a refined however vital distinction from having a CDN in entrance of a dynamic web site.

Edge computing Dynamic

Many firms at the moment are providing the flexibility to run dynamic code on the fringe of a CDN. It’s a robust idea as a result of you possibly can have dynamic performance with out including latency to the consumer. You possibly can even use edge computation to govern HTML earlier than sending it to the consumer.

It comes all the way down to the way you’re utilizing edge features. You may use an edge perform so as to add a header to explicit requests. I’d argue that is nonetheless a static web site. Push a lot past this, the place you’re manipulating the HTML, and also you’ve crossed the dynamic boundary.

It’s exhausting to argue it’s a Jamstack web site because it doesn’t adhere to a few of the basic advantages: scale, maintainability, and portability. Now, you may have a chunk of your core infrastructure that’s altering HTML on each request, and it’ll solely work on that individual internet hosting infrastructure. That’s getting fairly far-off from the blissful simplicity of a static web site.

One of many elegant issues about Jamstack is the entrance finish and again finish are decoupled. The backend is made up of APIs that output knowledge. They don’t know or care how the info is used. The entrance finish is the presentation layer. It is aware of the place to get dynamic knowledge from and the right way to render it. While you break this separation of issues, you’ve crossed right into a dynamic world.

Dynamic Persistent Rendering (DPR) Dynamic

DPR is a method to cut back lengthy construct occasions on massive static web site generator (SSG) websites. The thought is the SSG builds a subset of the preferred pages. For the remainder of the pages, the SSG builds them on-demand the primary time they’re requested and saves them to persistent storage. After the preliminary request, the web page behaves exactly like the remainder of the constructed static pages.

Lengthy construct occasions restrict large-scale use instances from selecting Jamstack. If all of the SSG tooling had been GoLang-based, we most likely wouldn’t want DPR. Nevertheless, that’s not the path most Jamstack tooling has taken, and construct efficiency could be excruciatingly lengthy on large web sites.

DPR is a way to an finish and a necessity for Jamstack to develop. Whereas it means that you can use Jamstack workflows on large web sites, satirically, I don’t suppose you possibly can name a web site utilizing DPR a Jamstack web site. Working software program on-demand to generate an online web page actually sounds dynamicy. After the primary request, a web page served utilizing DPR is a static web page which makes DPR “extra static” than placing a CDN in entrance of a dynamic web site. Nevertheless, it’s nonetheless a dynamic web site as there isn’t a separation between frontend and backend, and it’s not moveable, one of many pillars of a Jamstack web site.

Incremental Static Regeneration (ISR) Dynamic

ISR is an identical however subtly completely different technique to DPR to cut back lengthy construct occasions on massive SSG websites. The distinction is you possibly can revalidate particular person pages periodically to imitate a dynamic web site with out doing a whole web site construct.

Requests to a web page with no cached model fall again to a stale model of that web page or a generic loading web page.

Once more, it’s an thrilling expertise that expands what you are able to do with Jamstack workflows, however dynamically producing a web page on-demand seems like one thing a dynamic web site would do.

Flat file CMS Dynamic

A flat file CMS makes use of textual content recordsdata for content material reasonably than a database. Whereas flat file CMSs take away a dynamic ingredient from the stack, it’s nonetheless dynamically rendering the response.

The traces have been drawn

Exploring and debating these edge instances offers us a greater understanding of the bounds of all of those phrases. The purpose of this train isn’t to be dogmatic about creating static or Jamstack web sites. It’s to present us a typical language to speak concerning the tradeoffs you make as you cross the boundary from one idea to a different.

There’s completely nothing unsuitable with tradeoffs both. Not every part generally is a purely static web site. In lots of instances, the trade-offs make sense. For instance, let’s say the entrance finish must know the nation of the customer. There are two methods to do that:

On web page load, carry out an Ajax name to question the nation from an API. (Jamstack)Use an edge perform to dynamically insert a rustic code into the HTML on response. (Dynamic)

If having the nation code is a nice-to-have and the online web page doesn’t want it instantly, then the primary method is an effective choice. The web page could be static and the API name can fail gracefully if it doesn’t work. Nevertheless, if the nation code is required for the web page, dynamically including it utilizing an edge perform would possibly make extra sense. It’ll be quicker as you don’t have to carry out a second request/response cycle.

The secret is understanding the issue you’re fixing and considering via the trade-offs you’re making with completely different approaches. You would possibly find yourself with the vast majority of your web site Jamstack and a portion dynamic. That’s completely tremendous and could be crucial on your use case. Sometimes, the nearer you may get to static, the quicker, safer, and extra scalable your web site shall be.

That is solely the start of the dialogue, and I’d love to listen to your take. The place would you draw the traces? What do static and Jamstack imply to you? Are you sitting on a chair or stool proper now?

The submit Static vs. Dynamic vs. Jamstack: The place’s The Line? appeared first on CSS-Tips. You possibly can help CSS-Tips by being an MVP Supporter.

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