JAMstack vs WordPress
WordPress has been the main tool to build websites for decades, powering a whopping 43.1% of all websites according to our friends over at W3Techs. But a lot has changed in the last 5 years, and JAMstack websites are an outstanding alternative to traditional Wordpress projects.
In this article, we'll guide you through the twists and turns of these two web development powerhouses. We'll explore their differences, strengths, and weaknesses to help you decide which one is the best fit for your website needs: JAMstack vs. WordPress, the battle is on!
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) to build and manage websites, released in 2003. With it, you can create a wide range of websites from simple personal blogs to complex e-commerce sites and everything in between. The platform is based on PHP and MySQL and provides a user-friendly interface for creating and managing content, including text, images, videos, and other multimedia.
A WordPress website is rendered on demand a web server, so there is no separation between the front-end and back-end components of the website.
Why JAMStack vs WordPress
Understanding the differences between JAMStack and WordPress is important to make an informed decision about which platform is best suited for your website.
JAMstack and WordPress have different technical requirements and demand different skills to develop. JAMstack requires expertise in front-end technologies like React or Vue, as well as experience working with APIs. WordPress requires experience working with PHP and MySQL. You'll need different types of developers depending on which one you choose.
The option you'll pick will also have a great impact on your business―from performance to maintenance and security. Choosing the wrong platform can result in a website that is slow to load, difficult to scale, and hard to maintain without the proper funds and know-how. It's not a light decision to make, as it'll dictate what you can and cannot do with your website for months, if not years, to come.
Pros & Cons Of JAMStack
Without going into too much details, here are 3 main pros for businesses of all sizes to use JAMStack. If you have the budget, going with the JAMStack is an investment that will pay in the long-run despite slightly higher initial costs.
Security - JAMstack is also more secure because it doesn't rely on server-side rendering, which reduces the number of exploitable vulnerabilities. APIs are much more straightforward to lock down.
Maintenance costs - JAMstack is less expensive to host and maintain because it requires less server ressources. It also results in fewer bugs and thus less need for maintenance. Pre-built static files are so inexpensive it isn't rare for modern web hosting platforms like Netlify or Vercel to offer a generous free tiers for JAMStack websites.
- Development costs - JAMstack can be more expensive to develop because it requires a more modern, specialized set of skills and tools, including expertise in front-end technologies like React or Vue, as well as experience working with APIs and modern deployment processes. A decoupled architecture also may require more planning and development time to ensure a seamless integration between front-end and back-end.
Pros & Cons of WordPress
WordPress remains a popular choice for a few good reasons, but it also has drawbacks that you should be aware of before making a decision.
Development costs - WordPress is less expensive to develop because it has a large user community and a wealth of resources and tools, including pre-built themes and plugins to easily customize websites. You also won't run into troubles looking for a specialized, cost-effective developer, even though it's also a great choice for small businesses that don't have the budget to hire one.
Easy to use - WordPress can also feel easier to use because it centralizes everything in one place, and you are free to do anything yourself. Even if you don't know how to do something, you'll probably find an official resource or a plugin to help you out so it's ideal for beginners.
Big ecosystem - WordPress has a bigger ecosystem because it has been around for two decades. Since it's also open-source, there is no worry to see it disappear any time soon.
Hard to scale - WordPress is harder to scale because it is built on a dynamic architecture that requires server-side processing, which can slow down the website as traffic increases and put a strain on server resources. While you can fix this with optimization plugins and bigger server resources, you might as well spend your budget in a JAMStack website instead of quick fixes that only rack up technical debt.
Harder to maintain without help - WordPress is harder to maintain without help because it requires ongoing updates and security patches to keep your business secure. Plenty of websites have been hacked because the administrator forgot an update, or simply downloaded a vulnerable plugin. As the website grows and becomes more complex, it becomes challenging for non-technical users to keep the site running smoothly without help from a developer or support team. For example, advanced custom fields are hard to implement using WP plugins, when they would be trivial in a JAMStack application.
Easy to break - WordPress's ease of use is also its weakness. You can easily break your website with a bad plugin, mess up a design, or decrease your SEO with unoptimized content. Again, WordPress requires hard work to develop and maintain: it's not a platform you can simply hand off to a developer and forget about it.
Bad actors - While you won't find it difficult to hire a WordPress developer, there is a high change you'll also encounter low-quality professionals if you don't have the technical knowledge to assess their performance. In either case, you'll need a trusted technical advisor to help you navigate.
The Middle Solution: JAMStack With Headless WordPress
If you really like using WordPress but want to take advantage of the benefits of JAMStack to modernize your website, there is a third option: using WordPress as a headless CMS.
You can use WordPress as a content management system to create pages and posts, without the WordPress front-end engine. Instead, you can rely on a JAMStack framework like NextJS to retrieve content from the WordPress API and render it as static files. This way, you can use the advantages of both―a nice user interface with a powerful front-end website for your customers. The downsides are you'll still need to pay for WordPress hosting, and you'll need a developer to build the front-end.
Using WordPress as a headless CMS as part of a JAMStack architecture is pretty straightforward:
- Create a new WordPress site or log in your existing account
- Get a WordPress API key
- Use a front-end framework like NextJS, Gatsby, or Astro to build the front-end
- Use WordPress's API to retrieve and manage content. Even better: use a plugin like WPGraphQL to make it easier to work with APIs.
You can do a lot with the API, like manage and search posts and post revisions, but also manage pages, tags, and categories. You also store media files and roll out a user system with just a few HTTP requests.
Hire JAMStack Consulting
If you're interested in learning more about JAMStack or headless CMS, you can hire us as JAMStack consulting. We can help you migrate your existing WordPress site to a JAMStack architecture, or build you a JAMStack website from scratch.