Posted on: 19.11.2020

The Need for Speed

Web development is constantly changing. And as developers, we always have to stay ahead of the game. We want to make websites that are future proof, while keeping the cost as low as possible for clients. That means keeping up to date with the latest trends in the world of web.

Website speed is something that’s become increasingly important in the past few years. Hanif wrote an excellent article last year about its importance when it comes to SEO, user experience, and conversion rates. While everything he said still rings true today, new technologies and approaches have emerged. Stuff we’ve loved exploring here at ilk.

Imagine if there was a way to increase your site speed while reducing hosting costs…

Enter Gatsby, a static-site generator built for the future. 

Gatsby utilizes the Jamstack architecture – a faster, more secure, and cost-effective alternative way to building websites. Jamstack is all about decoupling the website from the CMS. No longer does the slow speed of the CMS also bring down the speed of the website. 

Instead of rendering the page each time a user visits it, Gatsby pre-renders all the pages when they’re first initialised, allowing it to instantly serve them to the browser as static files. No need for a powerful (and not to mention costly) server to generate a file each time a user visits a page. 

In layman’s terms: the website speed is fast. Like, really fast.

What makes this even better is that it supports almost any CMS, and integrates seamlessly with our current workflow at ilk.

We’ve been experimenting with this on our own site, with some pretty incredible results. While using the same WordPress server for the CMS and Gatsby for the frontend, we saw speed increases of around 50%. We found that the Speed index decreased from 1.2 seconds to 0.6 seconds, and Time to Interactive decreased from 2.3 seconds to 0.6 seconds. These are some really significant results – and they brought our Google Lighthouse score from 78 to 100!

We’re not the only ones who are using this tech. Companies including Spotify, Airbnb, IBM, NatWest, Revolut, Costa, and Braun are all utilising Gatsby on their sites.

Is there a catch?

Well… not really! But like any development solution, it isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Instead of the server rendering the page when a user visits the site, it builds each page when the site is first set up. This means every page is pre-rendered and ready to be served to your browser, and it can take some time to initially generate. This setup is a one time thing, and previewing changes you make should be much quicker – just a few seconds for the page to generate.

With so many large companies already on board, it really seems that Gatsby could be the future of web development. It’s definitely something we want to utilise in our future builds at ilk. All in the aid of creating the best possible product for our clients.

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