Gatsby facilitates a new approach to web development

Comment: Jamstack’s modern approach to web development previously had a caveat. With Gatsby 4, that caveat has disappeared.

Image: NDAB Creativity / Shutterstock

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Much of what we think of as enterprise software today was once ridiculed as a hobbyist’s toy. While this is not exclusively an open source phenomenon, it is perhaps more evident in open source projects like Linux or MySQL, which seem so inappropriate for serious business use at first, then become defaults for business. business use. Something similar is happening in web development.

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Not so long ago, Static Site Generator (SSG) frameworks like open source Gatsby were considered limited to simple applications like blogs or documentation sites. The problem was performance. SSGs were lightning fast as they rendered websites as files, but that speed crumbled once a website went over 10 to 1,000 pages and grew to 10,000 or 100,000 pages. Suddenly the compilation process got very slow.

Now, it was then, and it is now.

Projects like Gatsby are increasingly challenging the idea that businesses would need, let alone want, a robust, all-in-one but master of nothing CMS like WordPress or Sitecore. Not when they can get the best in their class: a headless CMS like Contentful as an API-driven back-end content store; Stripe for payments, Gatsby for front view, etc. Indeed, this relatively new approach from Jamstack could set a new standard for web development. Perhaps most importantly for developers, with Gatsby 4 there is no longer a need to rely on SSG rather than Server Side Rendering (SSR). With Gatsby 4, you can have both.

Start small, go big

But that’s not where the developers start. The world has been living in traditional CMS for so long that developers typically turn to something like WordPress for their work projects. WordPress, for example, is the CMS behind 39.6% of websites. However, when developers create for fun, they turn to something like Gatsby, an open source framework for building websites with React. Gatsby is also the name of the company that is doing most of the development of the project, as well as offering a cloud service to make it easier to get started with Gatsby, and also to keep going.

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As Kyle Mathews and Sam Bhagwat, co-founders of The Gatsby Project and Company, explained in an interview, the company continues to push to make Gatsby easier and more powerful to use.

On the “easier” side, for years, the company has offered Entrances, which are open source pre-built Gatsby sites with dummy content to allow a developer to start using Gatsby with minimal learning curve. How useful are Starters for a potential Gatsby user? “This is where everyone starts,” noted Mathews. “They say to me, ‘What is this Gatsby thing? I’m going to rebuild my portfolio.’ And they say, “Oh, that was fun. I’m going to suggest it at work. “It’s a story we hear over and over again, and it’s not going to end.”

To ensure that developers don’t choose Gatsby for its ease of use and then abandon it due to performance issues, the company has continually (and drastically) improved Gatsby’s performance, introducing things like Gatsby builds (resulting in an improvement in build speed up to 1000X) and, more recently, make improvements in Gatsby 4 thanks to things like deferred static generation and parallel request processing in Gatsby Cloud, which further increases performance by 10 times by drastically reducing the time required to compile the files needed to render the site. For developers, this means that they are no longer left out of modern app development when it comes to website development.

No need to choose

Of course, this remains a leap of faith for developers who are rooted in the SSR approach of a traditional CMS to delivering dynamic web pages. With the introduction of Gatsby 4, however, no faith is required. Gatsby added the ability to use SSR, in addition to static site generation. With a deft gesture, one of the main reasons not to use Gatsby was removed, creating an “escape route” for developers who wanted to use Gatsby but didn’t want to be blamed if SSR became necessary (or was perceived to be Such as).

Developers will always choose SSG, the founders believe, but “server-side rendering is the universal way out of web development, because you can do anything in this mode.” Its addition makes it easy to choose Gatsby … and stick with it.

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This inclusion remains a central theme in Gatsby’s progress: increasing levels of developer empowerment. In fact, the whole principle behind Gatsy / Jamstack is to give back to developers control of their development experience. According to Mathews, “developers want a more flexible way to build websites”; a way out of traditional monoliths with their stack of vertically integrated tools that “get you stuck in this world”. The Jamstack, on the other hand, allows a developer to take a cutting edge approach, using a preferred presentation framework (Gatsby or Vue.js or many others), their headless CMS of choice, etc. “It’s like the CMS has been dismantled but people still want the CMS,” Mathews continued. That is, they want the benefits of the CMS but not its inflexible approach.

And now, with the introduction of SSR, developers don’t even have to choose between their comfortable CMS approach to site rendering or the more modern Jamstack approach. Bhagwat concluded, with Gatsby 4 “You can go anywhere on the [static vs. dynamic/SSR] spectrum you want. … you can make it server side so that a server can respond to every request if you want, or you can render some of your pages whenever the content changes and defer the rest. “

It’s about making it easier to choose a more modern way to make the web, and Gatsby is at the forefront.

Disclosure: I work for MongoDB but the opinions expressed here are my own.

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