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Sneaky Peek: Static Site Previews

I love static sites and the JAMstack and believe the benefits they provide make them an easy choice for modern sites, especially from a technical point of view.

Selling the JAMstack

Despite this, selling the JAMstack to clients isn't always easy. Clients tend to want the familiar and it can be a really hard sell to get them to move away from traditional solutions such as Wordpress.

Clients usually appreciate the main benefits of the JAMstack such as better performance, better security, and cheaper hosting, but there is one area that some clients in particular hold very high up their lists of must-haves where the JAMstack really lets itself down.

"How can I see my changes while editing content in the CMS?"

Static site content previews

When using a traditional CMS powered sites like Wordpress content editors can make their changes, and hit a preview button to instantly see what they look like in the context of the real site.

Clients are usually a bit let down when they find out this experience is currently very clunky when using the JAMstack. Currently, the best we can achieve previews are Netlify deploy previews that take a couple of minutes or more to deploy after each content change. This isn't the high tech experience clients expect after hearing the other JAMStack benefits.

This annoying limitation makes it very hard to sell the JAMstack to some clients so myself and Gemma decided we needed to do something about it!

Sneaky Peek

Over the past month, we have been working on a solution to this problem called Sneaky Peek. Sneaky Peek will provide content editors with (almost) instant dynamic previews of their content changes.

Our goal is to make Sneaky Peek work with any static site generator and any headless CMS. Currently we have demos working for Contentful with Gatsby or Gridsome and it works great! Here's a little demo of Contentful and Gatsby:

For the purpose of the video I hit publish to trigger the Contentful webhook instantly but thats not necessary as Contentful autosaves your work triggering an update periodically.

We are almost at the point where we are ready to accept beta testers, so if this is something that sounds useful to you, please get in touch and we would love for you to test the app.

What about Gatsby Preview?

When we first thought about starting this project Gatsby Preview didn't exist and even now is only in beta. We believe we have a lot of unique selling points over Gatsby Preview that make Sneaky Peek a pretty attractive alternative. These are Sneaky Peek main advantages:

  • We will (eventually) work with any static site generator not just Gatsby.
  • More instant previews - we have taken a different technical approach to Gatsby which we think will make our live previews quicker to re-render when there are content changes.
  • Much cheaper! - Gatsby Preview starts at $50 a month per site. That's alienating for independent developers such as ourselves. We will be aiming for a target price of between $10 - $20 dollars a month per site initially.

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