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Enjoy All the Benefits of a Modern Website Framework With Gatsby and Contentstack

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Jul 31, 2019 | Brent Heslop

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What do consumers want from the digital experiences they interact with every day? Speed and ease.

What do businesses want from the technology upon which they rely to deliver these experiences day after day? Scalability, flexibility, maintainability, security, and affordability.

Now, what if we told you there’s a duo of tools out there that empowers organizations to deliver the experience consumers crave without sacrificing any of these business-boosting benefits?

If your interest is piqued, keep reading to learn about the trifecta of speed, experience, and scalability that the right static site generator + headless CMS combo can provide.

What is a Static Site Generator (And How is it Different from My CMS)?

When a website user lands on a page whose assets are stored in a traditional content management system (CMS)—such as WordPress or Joomla—the site has to assemble data from its database dynamically, process the content through a template engine, and finally display the page to the visitor.

A static site generator grabs the content, applies it to the right templates, creates static HTML, and quickly delivers the formatted content to the user. There is no dealing with databases or any other external data sources—avoiding opportunities for security breaches and time-consuming server-side processing.

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A CMS makes an excellent solution for businesses where marketing users need a styled interface to input and edit content, where loading time isn’t a priority, and where there are no plans to distribute content across various channels and platforms.

Meanwhile, a static site generator is a perfect fit in an environment where lightning-fast content delivery is critical, where several departments need to work on the same campaigns autonomously and simultaneously, and where a content delivery mechanism is necessary for supplementing a headless CMS that prioritizes omnichannel distribution.

Should I Make the Switch to a Static Site Generator?

Static sites themselves predate most of today’s popular CMS platforms. However, static site generators modernized the concept and brought it back into the spotlight as a lightweight alternative to traditional, database-driven, dynamic websites—but that doesn’t mean it’s just some fad.

Data shows that interest in static site generators has increased pretty steadily since around 2010.

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It’s safe to say that static site generators are here to stay—but we don’t expect you to adopt new technology based on popularity alone. So, here are some of the awesome benefits you’ll be able to take advantage of when you make the switch.

Benefits of Static Site Generators

Don’t think you can afford to scale quickly? How about increasing your site speed 10x while still cutting down on technology costs?

These benefits and more are well within reach when you make the switch to a static site generator.

Scaling is Quick and Affordable

One of your articles just got shared in a massively-popular email roundup. Congrats, you’ve gone viral!

Now, are you going to be able to make the most of this spike in traffic or are you going to spend your time in the limelight apologizing for a slow or unresponsive website?

Unless you somehow saw this one coming or have been overpaying in hopes of scaling, chances are it’s the latter.

Even when you finally do get your servers firing on all cylinders, scaling is going to cost you. Because with dynamic content, at every page load you’re paying for servers to process complex code.

However, with static site generators, scalability is nearly effortless. Sure, increased traffic still means increased pages served—but it doesn’t take any extra time or effort to serve the same pages multiple times because they don’t have to be reassembled with every delivery.

Static Sites Load 10x Faster Than Dynamic

When an internet user pulls up a web page in their browser, the server sends the browser HTML, CSS, and JavaScript which it renders in a way that’s pleasant and readable for visitors. Moreover, it does this whether the website is static or dynamic.

So what makes many a static site as much as 10 times faster than its dynamic, CMS-based counterpart? Dynamic sites go back to the server to render each page every single time someone visits it while static site generators store a “pre-built” version that can be delivered nearly instantly.

When load time has been shown to impact bounce rate and consumer loyalty directly, static site generators are great for boosting user experience and happiness.

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Customizations Delight Developers

Traditional content management systems are limited. What we mean by that is that each one has a particular pool of plugins and add-ons from which you can pull to “customize” their look or functionality.

Truthfully, that makes them an excellent solution for organizations with minimal technical chops. However, any business that’s looking to scale will probably have access to a development team—and it’ll probably find itself quickly handcuffed by the limitations of a CMS.

Few Moving Parts to Maintain

CMS platforms require a surprising amount of interconnected software and hardware to keep them up and running.

For example, a self-hosted WordPress install may require you to keep up with all of the following:

  • a machine that runs Linux
  • a web server that runs Nginx or Apache
  • PHP (with associated extensions and web server configurations)
  • MySQL
  • WordPress
  • Various plugins and add-ons
  • The theme and template code

If you choose not to host your own CMS so that you don’t have to keep up with the updates, fixes, and security vulnerabilities that all these moving parts entail—you’ll need to pay extra for a trustworthy hosting solution that will.

On the other hand, you can host a static site generator on pretty much any server that returns HTML files. With less moving parts to keep updated and secure, you can pretty much set it and forget it for a while.

Improved Security Over Traditional CMS

Speaking of security vulnerabilities, they’re one of the biggest threats of using a dynamic CMS to host your content.

The risk comes from their need for extensive server-side infrastructure—infrastructure that attracts and leaves pathways for intrusions.

On the flip side, static site generators turn code into secure HTML files. These are what the server displays each time a user loads a page. Because the server doesn’t have to build the page completely from various assets, there’s no opportunity for hackers to inject malicious code or exploit your database.

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Highly Affordable Website Solution

Ease of scalability, lack of a complex database, no need for constant maintenance and security checks, super lightweight hosting needs—running a static site is almost always less expensive than running a dynamic one.

This allows a business to pass the savings on to consumers and enables workers to spend valuable time and resources building and managing content and features that matter.

One Static Site Generator + Headless CMS Duo to Rule Them All: Gatsby and Contentstack

For businesses that need to deliver omnichannel content at lightning speed without sacrificing backend usability for neither marketing nor development, there’s just one worthwhile solution—a headless CMS with a static site generator for content delivery.

And to achieve the magic trifecta of speed, experience, and scalability; go straight to the best duo on the market—Gatsby and Contentstack.

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Gatsby is a modern website framework that can be used to generate static sites by using its unique front-end web building experience.

Using React, Gatsby turns static data sources into dynamic websites that function as single-page apps. The static site generator enables asset optimization, smart image loading, code splitting, and server-side rendering that result in hyper-fast load times.

In fact, because Gatsby is built on React, it can go well beyond generating static sites to do just about anything a traditional web application can do—including authentication, fetching changing data, and delivering dynamic interactions. To learn more about using Gatsby to create progressive, dynamic apps; check out their article on Building Dynamic Apps with Gatsby.

Gatsby has a rich and growing ecosystem; a delightful developer experience; and is highly secure, scalable, and effective for the businesses that use it.

Contentstack is an API-first, headless CMS that empowers marketing users to create and optimize omnichannel content experiences while development users simultaneously build out cutting-edge front-end systems to distribute these experiences across web, mobile, IoT devices, and more.

Together, Gatsby’s powerful UI tools and framework work seamlessly with Contentstack’s content management and delivery features to enable marketers and developers to create powerful websites, apps, and e-commerce portals that are secure, scalable, and flexible.

It’s easy to create a powerful website using Contentstack and Gatsby:

Step 1: Create an account with Contentstack.

Step 2: Create a stack, add content, and hit publish!

Step 3: Add and configure the Contentstack plugin for Gatsby.

Step 4: Access your content using Contentstack’s Content Delivery APIs.

To learn more about the greatest static site generator + headless CMS combo in the game, read this guide to getting started with Contentstack and Gatsby and check out an example website built with Contentstack and Gatsby. Also, check out our free PDF detailing how Contentstack and Gatsby can enable your business to create websites marketers and developers will love.

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Sep 21, 2022

Why your company’s future depends on modernization

In the early stages of my career, I joined a “cutting-edge” software company as an architect in the IT department. I don’t want to spoil the story, but the company was not, in fact, cutting-edge. While the company purchased all sorts of tools it considered modern, its leaders didn’t stop to consider what successful implementation might look like, or how to educate and empower their people to use it well. Instead, we just accumulated new tech. I left the company less than a year after joining.I was reminded of this experience while listening to Chief Digital Officer of Dawn Foods Bob Howland share his story in a recent episode of the People Changing Enterprises podcast. He led the transformation of the 100-year-old bakery supplies company.I love his perspective: Don't modernize for the sake of modernization. Don't do it because there are shiny new tools. Do it because your organization’s future depends on it.If I could go back to that company and tell them why driving digital transformation is important, this is what I would say.You no longer have to compromise all three: speed, quality and costIn the podcast, Bob referred to speed, quality and cost as the triangle that all companies chase. I like to refer to that quest as the “Pursuit of Happiness.” Think of the elements as sliders on a mixing board. You are constantly adjusting the mix in response to your priorities at the moment and you can usually get a perfect sound with two of the three elements. The third hopefully is not far behind. A general rule of thumb is that all can improve, given the right circumstances.When we were a young startup, we bought certain functionalities of our technology rather than building them, for the sake of speed — for example, our rich-text editor. As we grew, we doubled down on enhancing every aspect of our product to our standards. That’s when we rebuilt our rich-text editor to be one of the most advanced available in any CMS today.But when you’re a legacy company with outdated processes and technology, speed, quality and cost tend to be:Unaligned with company prioritiesLagging far behind what they could beAs a result, the company suffers from unrealized potential and unnecessary complexity that limits them in some way. The quality of what you’re offering might be good, but the right technology could enhance it. While you might be able to operate with a level of speed that is good enough, there is a possibility to be quicker and more agile. Bob said it like this in the podcast: “Someone would say we're doing fine, and they would be right. And here comes this person that thinks about the world differently, and says, ‘We can still be that company, but we can be better.’ And when I say better, I mean better revenue, trajectory, lower costs and improved customer experience. That's how I define better.”Your employees will feel empoweredBefore their transformation, Dawn Foods’ sales team could better be referred to as order takers. The only way a customer could place an order was by writing it on a piece of paper and physically giving it to the rep when they were visiting their store. So when the company pitched the idea of an online ordering system to shift the team’s priorities to strategic growth opportunities for the customer, they were hungry for it. Modernizing your technology stack is not just to achieve speed, cost, and quality for the business — it’s for your people, too.One of my jobs as a CTO is not only to create the tech roadmap for the future, it’s to empower the people the vision is for. Whether that’s implementing a new tool, iterating on an old process or making space for innovation.For example, when my engineering team does “sprints” — meaning, working on development projects for two weeks at a time — we always allocate time for innovation. Twenty percent of an engineering sprint is dedicated to bug fixes and feature requests from customer success; eighty percent is given to their creative endeavors.One benefit of digital transformation is that your employees can shift their focus and skills to meaningful tasks that can have impact. Your customers will be happy, and your employees will be satisfied and motivated. You can deliver what customers need when they need itFor a customer, there’s nothing more frustrating than needing a feature to solve a problem and knowing that it might happen in the next year if it happens at all. One of the goals of digital transformation should be that you are able to respond to customers’ needs much faster. You become an agile organization, like Dawn Foods. In just 22 weeks, they delivered a world-class catalog to get their customers excited about their products and streamline their experience. They couldn’t do that without moving to composable architecture and upgrading their technology stack. At Contentstack, our head of global customer success and I sit down every two weeks and discuss what our customers have requested. We prioritize by making a “top 10 wish list” and we leverage our tech stack to deliver what they need. This is how we prioritize continuous transformation.And this is what I know: Transformation is a constant, iterative improvement. It doesn’t have a designated stop or start period. There is no before and after. You nurture the relationships, set up the systems and processes and onboard the right tools. When you do that, your business and its stakeholders will thrive.For 100 years, Dawn Foods was hugely successful. 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Sep 21, 2022

What is an API?

For all its power and opportunities, the digital economy demands continuous adaptation and flexibility to satisfy evolving customer demands for unforgettable, personalized experiences. How do you rise to this challenge? By adopting a headless approach to your content management system (CMS), which separates a website’s visuals (the front end) from its content library (the back end).In this composable architecture, the logic and functionality are assigned to a network of application programming interfaces (APIs) that relay messages between applications aimed at reusing content securely across multiple projects.  As more and more businesses move toward composable architecture, you’ve probably heard of APIs but may not know how they work. Read on to find out what an API is and how it works in a modern CMS. What is an API?An API is a medium that allows two software components to communicate with each other. 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In fact, the option to pay with PayPal is a staple of e-commerce sites that operate based on its REST APIs. This protects sensitive data from unauthorized entities after checkout. FacebookThe Graph API lets developers extract core functions directly from Facebook, using HTTP requests to share pages and posts from a user’s timeline. It has extensions to collect insights on marketing campaigns, video impressions, conversion rates and more. It’s likely that you’ve used APIs at some point when installing a website extension or downloading a phone app, but they exist in other spaces as well, such as when you add items to a cart while shopping online or when you have food delivered to your doorstep.  Advantages of using an APIThere are APIs on the market to enhance databases, operating systems and remote machines — classified into either private or public versions. 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Sep 14, 2022

How to have difficult conversations with your CFO

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Aug 19, 2022

How Your Business Can Market With AR

Augmented reality (AR) is a set of technologies that superimpose digital data and images on the physical world. AR technology is used by businesses in many different industries and has a wide range of applications.  One of the most popular applications for this technology is in marketing. Businesses today can use AR to increase awareness of their brand by creating a variety of immersive and memorable digital experiences for their customers. As technology advances and powerful mobile devices become more ubiquitous, more businesses are beginning to incorporate AR into their marketing efforts, and the benefits of AR marketing are gaining greater recognition.  If you’re looking to grow your business in new ways, AR can be a highly effective and accessible tool, but it’s important to understand exactly what AR marketing is and how AR technology can fit into your branding.  What is AR Marketing?  AR marketing is defined as the strategic integration of AR experiences. 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It’s critical to consider your brand goals and target audience when determining the optimal AR marketing tactics for your business.AR vs AI: What’s the Difference?  While augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are commonly mistaken for one another, these two terms refer to different concepts and are far from interchangeable. AR deals with integrating digital content into real-world settings and AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines.AR technology is typically geared at fostering interactions between people and computers, while AI is meant to help machines make decisions and solve problems without human assistance. Understanding the different applications of AR and AI can help you determine the best way to incorporate these technologies into your marketing. Which Should Your Business Use?  While AR and AI are very different technologies, there’s no need for your business to choose between them. Both technologies can be used as part of an effective content management system (CMS), but it’s important to understand their distinct functions.  AI is also useful for devising and planning effective marketing campaigns. Implementing AI into your marketing can help you more accurately analyze consumer behavior and predict which types of content will resonate with your target audience. AR technology is generally used to engage consumers directly and provide them with more exciting and immersive experiences.  These technologies can often work together in marketing, as AI can be used to improve the functionality of augmented reality applications. For example, integrating AI-driven data analytics into a virtual shopping assistant tool can help the program generate more personalized product suggestions for individual consumers.  AR and AI are both highly versatile and can benefit both traditional and headless content management systems, but the best way to apply these technologies in your marketing depends on your business's unique goals and brand identity. Where Can Businesses Use AR to Market?  When deciding on a medium for your marketing strategy, it’s always essential to consider the type of content you’ll be creating. Certain platforms are far more suitable than others for augmented reality marketing: The Metaverse  The Metaverse is defined as an integrated network of 3D virtual worlds that can be accessed through a virtual reality headset. It’s commonly associated with interactive multiplayer gaming but is also used to host virtual events like concerts and viewing parties for sporting competitions.  Because it’s accessed through virtual reality, the metaverse is ideal for supporting AR marketing. In this virtual environment, it’s far easier for brands to create fully immersive experiences for consumers. Some common AR marketing tactics for the metaverse include creating virtual venues where customers can gather and offering digital goods or collectibles that relate to your brand. AR Portals  AR portals allow you to create detailed virtual environments that consumers can access by scanning a code with their mobile devices. These portals are represented by physical doorways and can be placed in retail stores or other public spaces. Once they’ve “entered” the virtual portal on their phone, users can freely look around the environment as if they were physically standing there.  In marketing, these portals can be used to create virtual showrooms where consumers can preview your products in detail before they buy. They also provide people with a fun and interactive experience that helps familiarize them with your brand. VR Platforms   Several other virtual reality platforms can be effective mediums for AR marketing. Similar to the metaverse, these platforms provide immersive virtual environments where players can interact with each other using 3D character models. Using these platforms, businesses can create virtual locations where they can engage in real interactions with consumers. Some of the most popular standalone VR platforms include Oculus Mobile SDK, Tethered, SteamVR, PlayStation VR,  Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) and Windows Mixed Reality. These platforms can all be effective mediums for AR marketing, but not every platform works for every business. Choosing the right platform for your brand can help ensure that your content reaches your target audience and conveys your intended message.Is AR the Future of Marketing? Augmented Reality has quickly become popular in marketing because of its ability to combine traditional advertising methods with immersive experiences powered by new technology. This rapid growth has led many people to wonder about the role of AR in the future of marketing.  While there is some concern to be had about technologies like AR and AI replacing traditional jobs in marketing, these technologies also have the potential to make a positive impact on the industry. By providing businesses with a new way to engage people, AR can help marketers obtain key insights into consumer behavior and enable them to create a wider variety of exciting content for their brand.

Aug 19, 2022

How Augmented Reality Is Changing Our Lives

Augmented reality (AR) is a digital experience that combines real-world surroundings with computer-generated sensory input, like sound, graphics or video. AR differs from other digital experiences, like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), in that it doesn't create a completely separate digital world. Instead, AR enhances real-world surroundings by adding digital elements like computer graphics, interactive experiences and information.AR became popular in the 2010s with the release of devices like Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens and even smartphones with sensors that could track the user’s position and orientation, allowing them to view digital content layered on top of their real-world surroundings. This could be anything from a map overlay to an animated character that interacts with the individual.Since its inception, AR has found several applications in fields like marketing, entertainment and even education. Let's take a look at some of the ways AR is already changing our everyday lives.How AR Is Changing Our Personal LivesAugmented reality is affecting our personal lives by giving us digital experiences in the real world and changing the way we interact with technology.In the past, if you wanted to use a digital device, you had to sit in front of a computer or hold a smartphone in your hand. But with an AR headset, digital content can be overlaid onto the real world around you, so you can interact with it naturally. For example, you can use AR to see turn-by-turn directions while you're driving, or get information about the products you're looking at in a store.These experiences are not only more convenient but also more immersive and engaging. And as AR technology continues to evolve, you can expect to see even more ways that it will change your life.Social InteractionsActivities such as conducting meetings, attending classes or playing games with friends are all now possible through AR, giving people new ways to bond and make friends from all over the globe.AR technology can also be used to create more immersive experiences at events like concerts, sporting events and even theme parks by giving attendees the ability to see interactive digital content that enhances their surroundings.How We Consume MediaAR is also changing the way we watch television and movies. For instance, the popular show “Stranger Things” has used AR to let viewers explore the show's setting, and the movie “Ready Player One” features a number of scenes that take place in an immersive virtual world.As AR technology continues to develop, you can expect to see even more movies and TV shows that make use of it. How We Purchase ProductsConsumers are also using AR to get more information about the products they're interested in. For example, IKEA Place is an app that lets users see how furniture would look in their homes before they buy it.This type of AR experience is not only convenient but it can also help people make better purchasing decisions by allowing them to see how a product will look and fit in their space.Other retailers are also starting to experiment with AR shopping experiences. For example, Sephora has an app called Sephora Virtual Artist that lets users try on makeup by using facial recognition technology.Augmented reality can be used to track consumer behavior, which can help businesses better understand how buyers interact with their products and services. This allows businesses to customize and maintain content through content management systems based on the information they collect from AR.These new shopping experiences made possible by AR are likely to change the way you shop in the future by making it easier to purchase products.How AR Is Changing Our Professional LivesAugmented reality is not only changing businesses and consumers but also the way we work. AR will affect many professions and create new opportunities for fields related to marketing, data analysis and technical support.AR MarketingAs businesses try to engage with consumers in new and innovative ways, AR provides a unique opportunity for marketers.One way is by changing the strategies marketers use for content marketing and traditional advertising. For instance, rather than using TV or radio commercials, businesses can now use AR to create interactive experiences that allow customers to try out products before they buy them. This gives customers a more realistic idea of what they're buying and can help increase sales.AR also changes the way marketers view their job. Traditionally, marketers have been responsible for creating ads and other promotional materials. With AR they can also create interactive experiences that help customers learn about products and services. This means that marketers need to be more creative and have a better understanding of how technology works.Understandably, some people may worry that with artificial intelligence, jobs will be replaced by computer software or machines. However, with AR, this is not the case. There will be more opportunities for marketers since businesses will need individuals who can create unique AR experiences for their customers.Data and Product VisualizationsAs AR technology develops, it will become increasingly important for data analysts and product managers to be able to visualize data in new and innovative ways.AR provides the ability to view data in a three-dimensional space, which can help people better understand complex concepts. AR can also be used to create simulations that allow people to test products before they are released. This can help businesses save time and money by identifying potential problems early on.Increased Tech Literacy Demands From EmployersThe advancement of technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) is increasing demand for workers who have strong skills in using technology to do their jobs.With the rise of AR, it is more important than ever for workers to be able to use technology to its full potential to keep up with the demands of the workplace.