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How to Deploy Your Jamstack Site to Cloudflare Pages

By Craig Buckler

JavaScript

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This article describes how deploy your Jamstack site to Cloudflare Pages — a new service with a simple-to-use and generous free hosting plan.

The web world may be using WordPress, but developers are moving toward Jamstack technologies (also referred to as static sites). The name Jamstack (once written as JAMStack) stands for JavaScript, APIs, and Markup, and was devised by Netlify. Like Ajax, the scope of the term has widened, but a Jamstack site typically uses pre-rendered static content with client-side logic connecting to a set of loosely coupled back-end APIs. The benefits are compelling:

  • Performance: Where possible, Jamstack sites generate pages once during a build process rather than on view. They’re fast and are often deployed to content delivery networks (CDNs) physically closer to the user.

  • Scalability: Jamstack sites are a collection of generated files which do not require server-side processing or database connectivity. Pages are effectively pre-cached and deployed globally.

  • Portability: Once generated, it’s possible to host a Jamstack site anywhere. There’s no vendor lock-in.

  • Development: Developers can use whatever tools they prefer to generate a site. If necessary, article editors can continue to use WordPress or any other CMS to write content.

  • Deployment: Jamstack sites can be automatically deployed to test and production sites by committing Git branches. There’s no need for complex continuous integration or deployment processes.

The following tutorials explain how to create a Jamstack site from scratch:

Jamstack Hosting Services

You can host a site anywhere including GitHub Pages and Amazon S3, but Netlify and Vercel dominate the Jamstack space. They offer generous plans and simple Git-based deployments.

The latest entrant to the market is Cloudflare — a company best known for their global CDN, edge security, and caching services. The new Cloudflare Pages service offers Jamstack hosting across their colossal global infrastructure. The free plan is now available to everyone and includes:

  • unlimited sites, requests, and bandwidth
  • SSL and security
  • robust content caching and expiry
  • web analytics
  • production and test deployments from GitHub branches
  • one build at a time with up to 500 builds per month, and
  • thorough documentation with getting started tutorials, deployment examples migration guides

The build platform supports languages including Node.js, Python, PHP, Ruby, Go, Java, Elixir, and Erlang. Most site builder software should work, but the following tools have verified compatibility:

  • Angular (Angular CLI)
  • Brunch
  • Docusaurus
  • Eleventy
  • Ember.js
  • Gatsby
  • GitBook
  • Gridsome
  • Hugo
  • Jekyll
  • Mkdocs
  • Next.js (static HTML export)
  • Nuxt.js
  • Pelican
  • React (create-react-app)
  • React Static
  • Slate
  • Svelte
  • Umi
  • Vue
  • VuePress

Your First Cloudflare Pages Deployment

You can deploy any Jamstack site, presuming that it:

  1. is available in a Github repository, and
  2. uses a single build command to create all static HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and media files in a specific directory.

In Node.js projects, a build command will typically be npm run build, which runs the associated npm script in package.json. You could clone the example Eleventy project which uses the build command npm run production to output files to a build directory.

The following optional updates may be practical:

  • If your site is a collection of pages rather than a single page application (SPA), you should ensure a “not found” page renders to a root file named 404.html.

  • You can render a _redirects file containing one or more redirect lines in the format:

    <old-URL> <new-URL> <301|302 HTTP status code>

    For example, /blog /tutorials 301.

    Support for more advanced options such as wildcards is coming soon.

  • The required language version. For example, if you require Node.js version 14.8 or above, create a .nvmrc file in your project root containing v14.8. (You can also specify it as a NODE_VERSION environment variable in Cloudflare’s build configuration.)

To start configuration, open pages.cloudflare.com and register or log in using your Cloudflare ID and password. Then click Create a project.

Cloudflare Pages start screen

You’ll need to connect to a GitHub account to set up your first site, and you can choose to share all or a specific set of repositories. Click your Jamstack project, followed by Begin setup to proceed to the configuration screen.

Cloudflare Pages configuration

Enter the following information:

  1. Project name. This will become a sub-domain of pages.dev so it permits lowercase letters and numeric characters. The repository name is the default.

  2. Production branch. This is typically main or master.

  3. Build command. Selecting a framework preset will use known default, but you would enter npm run production for the example Eleventy project.

  4. Output directory. Selecting a framework preset will use known default, but you would enter build for the example Eleventy project.

  5. Path. This is where the build command runs (if not from the project root).

  6. Environment variables. Enter any required for the build.

Hit Save and Deploy. The build screen will show the current status:

Cloudflare Pages build and deploy status

Smaller projects will take around two minutes to install dependencies, run the build process, and deploy the site to Cloudflare’s CDN. Once it’s finished, click Continue to project to view the Cloudflare Pages summary screen.

Cloudflare Pages summary screen

Your site will now be available at the domain <project-name>.pages.dev as well as a custom sub-domain for the branch — such as 1234567.<project-name>.pages.dev. Click Visit site to open it in a new tab.

To configure a custom domain, click the Custom domains tab followed by Set up a custom domain.

Cloudflare Pages custom domain

Then enter the domain name you want to use.

If the domain is already using the Cloudflare nameservers, the page will ask you to approve the DNS configuration changes. For other registrars, instructions will appear showing the DNS changes you need to make. In most cases, you’ll need to add a new CNAME record and possibly remove an old A record.

Your site will then be live on the custom domain. Note that <project-name>.pages.dev is still available, so be wary when opening and sharing URLs.

Automated Deployments

Cloudflare Pages automatically builds and deploys a new site for every commit to your GitHub repository.

  • Branch commits are available on a specific subdomain, such as abcdef0.<project-name>.pages.dev, so others can assess potential updates.

  • Commits or merges into the production branch (main or master) also create a specific subdomain that is available at <project-name>.pages.dev and your custom domain.

The dashboard for your project shows all deployments with links to the site, build log, and a delete option.

Further Settings

The Settings tab for your project provides further options to:

  • edit the configuration, pause deployments, or delete the project
  • invite other collaborators
  • define an access policy so preview (branch) deployments prompt for an access PIN
  • enable Cloudflare Web Analytics

Enabling Analytics adds a small script to the end of your pages when you next deploy the production branch. The Web Analytics link then becomes active.

Cloudflare Pages Web Analytics

It’s not as comprehensive as Google Analytics, but data is available within an hour and it offers a fast interface showing the most important metrics. Most people will find it considerably easier to use.

Jamstack Joy

Cloudflare Pages is new and further updates will arrive throughout the coming months:

  • GitLab and Bitbucket repository support
  • further _redirects URL forwarding options
  • webhooks to trigger deployments
  • A/B testing — an update is shown to a percentage of traffic so you can test real user activity before committing to a change
  • full stack applications with Cloudflare Workers and storage APIs.

The exciting choices for Jamstack developers are increasing.

Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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