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GatsbyConf Q&A: Joel Varty on the State of the Jamstack

Michelle Gienow
February 8th, 2021
Joel Varty

Joel Varty, president of Agility CMS, will be speaking at GatsbyConf on March 2nd! His presentation “Architecting Fullstack Solutions in a Jamstack World” will show why Jamstack architecture is more than just a frontend and discuss the kinds of solutions that Jamstack is great at solving. Joel will also demonstrate how you can add existing APIs onto your Jamstack solution — and how you can build new APIs to solve unique customer problems. We caught up with Joel for a quick pre-conf chat about Gatsby and the future of the Jamstack.

How did you come to start using Gatsby? Is there anything you especially love about it?

When I first started researching Jamstack tech back in 2018/2019, Gatsby kept coming up in tweets from folks I’d started following. I jumped down the rabbit-hole, forked some repos, read some docs, and was hooked pretty quickly.

What are your thoughts on the future of Jamstack? (Alternatively, where do you think front end web development is heading, or trends you see coming our way in the next couple years?)

The future of the Jamstack is rounding out all of the things folks need when they’re building web apps – all the things that we normally consider “Full Stack” problems, or the use cases that aren’t obvious about how to solve.

Coming from a traditional ASP.Net and Java background, I’ve done a ton of work building sites that behave like Single Page Applications with great UX and snappy responsiveness. That kind of work is normally NOT easy, and you need beefy servers to handle load. With Gatsby, that’s taken care of for us, along with things like better accessibility.

Preview mode is one of these problems, as is incremental builds – both of which Gatsby Cloud does a great job of addressing. There a ton of other use cases to consider, too. Those of us in the industry, both as vendors and agencies, are busy coming up with tools and best practices to solve those.

The main thing to consider in 2021 is that Jamstack is being adopted incredibly quickly at all levels of business.

The way you are describing Jamstack sounds a lot like Cloud Native architecture: modular services working together via APIs. Do you see similarities between Cloud Native and Jamstack? Could Jamstack even be described as Cloud Native for the front end? 

When I think of the emergence of Cloud, I think of the disruption to the server hardware market. We don’t buy servers anymore, and our entire ecosystem of computing has changed to serverless.

It’s an API-driven world now, and the Jamstack to me represents the “last-mile” of bringing the value of those APIs to the users who can benefit from them. Tools like Gatsby have helped democratize the internet in an incredibly exciting way. It’s disruptive to the front end computing world in the same way that Cloud was for the back end.

Headless CMSs: there are a lot right now. What is most important when choosing a headless CMS?

I think Headless CMS has been evolving hand-in-hand with Jamstack.

I believe Headless CMS should do three things – and all of them focus on providing a better experience:

  • User Experience: the CMS should help, not hinder, the creation of great UX in a website or app.
  • Developer Experience: let developers focus on the code, not the content.
  • Editor Experience: make it easy for editors to find and update content in a way that matches their technical capabilities.

We need to be giving people great tools. And a CMS is one of the most important tools, because it serves such a broad cross-section of people and purposes.

When choosing a CMS, you need to think through your own use cases and learn what the various platforms offer in terms of capability. I advocate for a “try before you buy” approach: You should be able to get a free account set up so that you can decide whether a particular CMS is right for you and your team.

Real talk: JAMstack, or Jamstack?

Great question!

I think the world is switching from JAMstack to Jamstack, actually.

Ready to go headless? Register for GatsbyConf two days of speakers, workshops, and some really cool launches and announcements. And don’t miss special event Gamer vs. Gatsby. Watch live as David Livingston, a.k.a. Kosmic, tries to beat his world record Super Mario Bros speed run time of 4:55 while Gatsby engineer Kyle Gill races to spin up and deploy a live headless ecommerce site! Thrills! Chills! Free and virtual, March 2-3, see you there!

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Writes things @ GatsbyJS. Chaotic good frontend dev, caffeine addict, backyard chicken wrangler 🐓.

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