Why Should You Consider Gatsby for Your Next Project?
What is Gatsby?
Gatsby is a React-based modern frontend web framework used to develop blazing fast websites and apps. Its built-in performance optimizations make it stand out among the other frameworks.
Moreover, Gatsby uses powerful pre configurations to build websites that contain only static files.
As a result, it can offer many out-of-the-box features such as high-speed page loads, service workers, server-side rendering, code splitting, intelligent image loading, data prefetching, and asset optimization. You won't believe the speed until you try it yourself.
Once you program and develop your site, Gatsby transforms it into a directory consisting of a single HTML file and your static assets. Then upload this directory to your preferred hosting provider.
However, Gatsby is often overlooked as yet another static site generator because it creates a static build to boost the speed of the websites. Now let's see what this static site generator means.
What are Static Site Generators (SSG)?
Whether a site is static or dynamic depends on whether the web page is hard-coded as a static page or dynamically generated on-request through a content management system when users access it.
The second option requires server-side processing.
The role of a static site generator is to make a compromise between these two options by allowing developers to write dynamic code and publish statically.
Using SSGs, developers can create a static site containing files and folders without databases or server-side rendering. Then developers can static sites can be deployed to an HTTP server, where it will return the matching file whenever a user requests a page.
So why Gatsby? Why not another static site generator?
You may be thinking about choosing Gatsby while there are many other popular Static SSGs like Jekyll, Hugo, and expo. These three facts make Gatsby very special compared to other Static Site Generators.
Firstly, it is the way Gatsby builds its data layer using GraphQL. Gatsby allows you to collect your data from anywhere.
It may be Markdown, JSON, third-party API, or even your favorite CMS; Gatsby can load data into a uniform data layer from any data source.
Furthermore, it creates an internal GraphQL server containing all this data at the build time. So, all the data in your react components is queried from that exact location at build time, in the same way via GraphQL.
The second fact that makes Gatsby unique is its rich ecosystem. Even though Gatsby has not been around for too long, it already possesses excellent documentation and many plugins and starters to help you get your site up and running quickly.
On top of that, Gatsby's well-documented data source plugins make the GraphQL data collection as simple as adding a few lines of code in the config file.
The final reason is its commitment to performance. In Gatsby, every aspect of performance and accessibility is addressed with emphasis, and you can experience that in the final product. This makes Gatsby more significant than any other boilerplate or SSG I have come across.
Is it challenging to build sites with Gatsby?
Building a website with Gatsby is a little more complex than making it with WordPress.
However, this is far from discouraging. For example, check this article to build an exciting website with Gatsby in just a few steps.
Gatsby already has a wide range of built-in plugins and themes to suit any website, from blogs to e-commerce sites.
While it's true that you should have sound programming knowledge to customize a website heavily, it's the same for WordPress. You will, of course, need the help of a PHP developer to build a complex WordPress site with heavy customizations.
You'll need someone familiar with React or JS in general when it comes to Gatsby since it is built on React. At Webpoint, we are readily available to develop your Gatbsy project.
Another important consideration is that Gatsby uses Markdown for text formatting. Markdown is a popular format for creating documentation. Anyway, Gatsby has a plugin that converts Markdown into web-ready content eliminating the need for custom code to get started.
Every time you need to write a new article, all you have to do is create a new.md file and push the code, and you're done! It's simple as that.
Brilliant performance out of the box
Static site generators like Gatsby significantly improve the speed and performance since all the server has to return a file rather than running database queries and constructing each page as requested.
Moreover, Gatsby provides you with supercharged webpack configurations for code splitting, prefetching, inline styles, asset minification, and other great features. Furthermore, it allows you to upgrade easily using many easily configurable plugins.
For instance, you can set up your app as a Progressive Web App (PWA) or provide the ability for offline mode.
According to performance tests conducted by Kyle Matthews, the Gatsby founder, Gatsby sites are 2-3 times faster than similar types of sites on average. The framework itself is responsible for this high performance.
Gatsby has a rich and extensive ecosystem.
Gatsby's most significant wealth is its open-source community.
It comes with a solid collection of API hooks that enable developers to customize Gatsby at each step of the build process, such as loading data into Gatsby, converting data from one format to another, or integrating with third-party tools.
There are over 2000 plugins created by the Gatsby community, which you can use as ready-made tools to accomplish various tasks.
These plugins enable you to import data that is exposed through a GraphQL layer by connecting Gatsby with third-party platforms.
The top reason why developers love Gatsby is it is built on React. This allows them to use any package they currently use with NPM (Node Package Manager).
There are Gatsby sites called starters which minimizes the need for boilerplate code.
These starters help you kick start the development straight away as they have already taken care of the configuration and essential features you need.
This means that you can focus more on development by spending less time on tooling and configurations.
Gatsby plugins often come with corresponding starters to demonstrate their functionality or serve as a quick way to get started with them. These starters also refer to the plugins by covering all the plugin features and showing the configurations of a working plugin.
Gatsby's incredible load speed already gives the sites built on this framework a distinct advantage over its competitors to be more visible on search engines.
However, speed is not the only factor taken into account by search engines; other factors include accessibility, page metadata, and structured data.
Gatsby's ecosystem has several plugins capable of making websites more search engine friendly, thus increasing the chances of being found organically.
Developers can quickly generate page metadata and structured data via React Helmet plugin. In contrast, developers can address accessibility and make the site more bot-friendly by defining the sitemap and path via the sitemap and robots.txt plugins.
The world of robust static site generator frameworks like Gatsby evolves day by day.
So we can expect to see more and more migrations to these kinds of tools for many aspects of website building. In many languages, not limited to React, Static site generators have been discovered as the way to build the web of the future.
Gatsby is built on top of today's fastest-growing web technologies like React, GraphQL, and Webpack. With the numerous resources available around both React and Gatsby, the future of Gatsby seems to be very bright.