The Great Gatsby.js

Earlier this fall, I attended BADCamp 2018, an annual celebration of open-source software. The conference was held in Berkeley, CA and featured four days filled with talks and training sessions about the latest tools to hit the open-source world.


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There were a lot of innovations discussed throughout BADCamp, but without a doubt, the most talked about was a new tool called Gatsby.js (Gatsby). On the first day, I went to three different talks that focused on Gatsby. With all the buzz about it, I wanted to take a few minutes to explain what it is, and more importantly, what it can do for you and your business.

Gatsby is a tool that allows you to pull content from Drupal — or any other CMS — and build out a site with flat files. It's a tool that is straightforward to use and does not require an understanding of the technical complexities going on behind the scenes.

Here's how the Gatsby website describes the tool:

With Gatsby, build sites with a single stack, no matter where your content lives. This lets you take advantage of the rich content workflows of your CMS while not being locked into a CMS-specific development ecosystem. Forget code freezes—Gatsby decouples content and data changes from your development workflow.

My colleague Michael Girgis wrote on this blog about decoupling Drupal, but in case you haven't heard that term before, decoupling Drupal means separating the back-end from the front-end of the website. Drupal's strength has always been the powerful back-end experience, so decoupling allows site admins to take advantage of the back-end benefits of Drupal to manage data while leveraging a separate front-end system to display the content to users.

Gatsby is one of those front-end systems that could be taken advantage of in a decoupled setup, particularly for smaller websites.

What is really appealing about Gatsby is that it is so fast — lightning fast as the Gatsby site proclaims. According to the website, 50% of users who visit a website on their phone will leave if it takes more than three seconds to load. You need your site to be fast, and Gatsby makes that possible with near instantaneous navigation.

With Gatsby, your site is not reliant on servers and databases for hosting. The site is built as files, which means they can be immediately deployed to a content delivery network. What that means is that your hosting costs can go way down, from potentially thousands of dollars a month to less than $100.

The BADCamp community was really excited about Gatsby because it removes a lot of the complexities that come with hosting a site. I think a number of our clients are going to be excited about this also.

It’s important to keep in mind that Gatsby isn’t necessarily a good fit for all use cases. At this point, it seems like it would work best on sites for which external user authentication is unnecessary, and it looks like it would work best with less technically complex sites.

That said, there are a number of advantages when it is a good fit for a project:

  • The platform for serving the site is much less technically complex and is straightforward, meaning, leaving less potential points of failure.

  • Performance is very fast without a lot of performance tuning, since flat files are loaded as visitors visit the site. No database queries need to run and no PHP code needs to execute.

  • Security is much less of an issue, since there are no database calls.

If you want to learn more about Gatsby and how it might work for your company, send me an email or give me a call, and I'll be happy to help you out.


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