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How To Recognize When Gatsby is a Good Fit for Your Client

Justin Emond
June 10th, 2019

As a bleeding-edge technology, Gatsby can sometimes be a complex concept to explain to clients. Particularly as budgets shift from IT to marketing, and you have to adapt the conversations for an audience with less technical understanding. But the problem isn’t actually Gatsby’s complexity— it’s that you need to start the conversation by addressing clients’ problems first.

Start with the Use Case

A colleague decided to leave their current job and start his own business. His boss wasn’t pleased to lose him, which is why when he told him that he was quitting the boss said, “To succeed at your own business, you need to be able to sell wool blankets to people at a baseball game on a 90 degree day.” My colleague replied, “I would rather just sell them beer.”

Unlike many technologies, Gatsby is great. But like most technologies, it’s sometimes a great fit, and sometimes not. Before you can sell Gatsby to a client, you need to ask yourself if Gatsby really is the best approach. When the use case resonates, the solution resonates, and it’s much easier to sell.

In November, I began a conversation with a mid-sized retail and digital commerce consumer business in the fashion and beauty space. They were starting to plan the replacement of their aging, over-engineered five year old tech stack and were struggling with two primary challenges.

  • First, the content editorial experience for staff was so poor that multiple team members had actually quit because of it (saying as much in their exit interview).
  • Second, development velocity was painfully slow because of the complex implementation.

Once I talked about the value of a microservices approach, the unbeatable fast speed of a React powered frontend, preview, and the partial builds feature on the roadmap Gatsby (and was honest about the trade offs), the client enthusiastically wanted to know more, and they are likely proceeding with a Gatsby stack for their replatform.

Here are three smart points of entry to get the conversation focused on use cases. (To learn more about explaining the technicalities of Gatsby, check out Linda’s extensive article on how to break down Gatsby in a way that will resonate.

#1 Developers are the bottleneck

One of the primary drawbacks of a monolithic CMS like WordPress or Drupal is that the frontend theming layer is tightly coupled with the backend data layer. That means that a developer working only in the theme layer must still be comfortable with PHP, a backend programming language. In a headless approach, using JavaScript at the render layer, a themer only needs to know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, the languages already in their toolkit.

If the client is suffering from slow developer velocity, this benefit will resonate and provide value to their organization.

#2 The client wants to be on the bleeding edge

There are two things you need to remember about predicting the future. First, don’t do it—it rarely works well. Second, if you absolutely must, then a handy trick is to look at what teenagers and college kids are using obsessively today, and then wait five years. Ask yourself, when was the last time you met a new engineer excited about the WordPress or Drupal theming system? Yeah, I thought so.

Gatsby is a bleeding-edge approach to solving problems, and it’s pretty different than anything else out there. But being ahead of the curve offers first-mover advantages to organizations that are comfortable dealing with some the inherent uncertainties in exploring new territory. If this is something that your prospect is looking to take advantage of, Gatsby is a good sell.

#3 They understand site speed is more than page load times

Mobile websites that take more than 3 seconds to load have a 53% bounce rate, meaning that you lose more than half of your visitors because they would rather try to restart their search than continue waiting for your site. In the e-commerce domain, some estimates say you lose up to 1% of revenue for every 100ms delay in page load time. When performant technologies like Gatsby become more common, those numbers are going to become more severe.

There is fast (which every site should be) and then there is Gatsby-fast.

Every site needs to be performant. There isn’t a site out there where slow response times won’t negatively impact user engagement, conversion, and often, the bottom line. But remember, there is fast (which every site should be) and then there is Gatsby-fast. Companies that migrate to Gatsby will find their site is between three and 10 times faster. Indeed, the speed of a Gatsby-powered frontend resembles more of the instantaneous feel of native mobile apps.

Selling Gatsby is just like selling anything else. Focus the conversation on how using Gatsby will support their organizational and personal goals, not on its cool technical features or its fascinating architecture. Be honest about Gatsby in conversations. If your client points out a challenge with your proposed approach, don’t try to minimize it. Acknowledge it, be honest, explore the concern more deeply, and explain it in the greater context of the overall strategy you are advocating.

Do this and Gatsby will resonate.

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Drupal engineer to CEO @ ThirdAndGrove. A good day is solving client problems and trying new craft beer

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