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Opinionated, full stack, serverless JAMstack web application framework
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Hammer 🔨

by Tom Preston-Werner and Peter Pistorius.

WARNING: This document is aspirational (see Readme Driven Development) and not everything contained within it is true yet.

EXAMPLE: If you'd like to see an example of what a Hammer application will look like, we are working on an example app called Billable.

Hammer is an opinionated, full stack, serverless web application framework that will allow you to build JAMstack applications with ease. By making a lot of decisions for you, Hammer lets you get to work on what makes your application special, instead of wasting cycles choosing and re-choosing various technology components.

Here's a quick taste of the technologies a standard Hammer application will use:

  • React
  • JSX
  • Styled Components
  • Reach Router
  • GraphQL
  • Apollo
  • Prisma Photon
  • Docz

The Hammer philosophy

Hammer believes that JAMstack is a huge leap forward in how we can write web applications that are easy to write, deploy, scale, and maintain.

Hammer believes that there is power in standards, and makes decisions for you about what technologies to use, how to organize your code into files, and how to name things. With a shared understanding of the Hammer conventions, a developer should be able to jump into any Hammer application and get up to speed very quickly.

Hammer believes that traditional, relational databases like PostgresQL and MySQL are still workhorses of today's web applications and should be first-class citizens. However, that does not mean that Hammer doesn't shine with NoSQL or other types of "web scale" databases.

Hammer believes that, as much as possible, you should be able to operate in a serverless mindset and deploy to a generic computational grid. This helps unlock the next point...

Hammer believes that deployment and scaling should be super easy. To deploy your application, you should only need to commit and push to your Git repository. To scale from zero to thousands of users should not require your intervention. The principles of JAMstack make this possible.

Hammer believes that it should be equally useful for writing both simple, toy applications, and complex, mission critical applications. In addition, it should require very little operational work to grow your app from the former to the latter.

Hammer believes that you can use JavaScript as your primary language on both the frontend and backend. Only needing a single language simplifies everything from code reuse to hiring developers.

How it works

A Hammer application is split into two parts: a frontend and a backend. This is represented as two node projects within a single monorepo. We use Yarn to make it easy to operate across both projects, while still keeping them in a single Git repository.

The frontend project is called web and the backend project is called api. For clarity, we will refer to these in prose as "sides", i.e. the "web side" and the "api side". They are separate projects because code on the web side will end up running in the user's browser while code on the api side will run on a server somewhere. It is important that you keep this distinction clear in your mind as you develop your application. The two separate projects are intended to make this obvious. In addition, separate projects allow for different dependencies and build processes for each project.

The api side is an implementation of a GraphQL API. Hammer makes it easy to interact with a database via Prisma's Photon ORM. Code can be organized into Photon's model classes, which keeps things clean. Photon also provides first-class migrations that take the pain out of evolving your database schema.

The web side is coded with React. Hammer provides a variety of utility components designed to make it easy to run queries and mutations against your GraphQL API. These components also help separate data fetching from rendering so you can easily test your components and develop them in isolation (enhanced by using Docz).

You'll notice that the web side is called "web" and not "frontend". This is because Hammer conceives of a world where you may have other sides like "mobile" or perhaps another type of client, all of which consume the same GraphQL backend.

How can it be serverless if it involves a GraphQL API and database?

I'm glad you asked! Currently, Hammer can deploy your GraphQL API to a Lambda function. This is not appropriate for all use-cases, but on hosting providers like Netlify, it makes deployment a breeze. As time goes on, "functions" will continue to enjoy performance improvements which will further increase the number of use-cases that can take advantage of this technology.

Databases are a little trickier, especially for the traditional relational ones like PostgresQL and MySQL. Right now, you still need to set these up manually, but we are working hard with Netlify and other providers to fulfil the serverless dream here too.

Hammer is intentionally pushing the boundaries of what's possible with JAMstack. In fact, the whole reason I (Tom) started working on Hammer is because of a tweet I posted some time ago:

Prediction: within 5 years, you’ll build your next large scale, fully featured web app with #JAMstack and deploy on @Netlify. —@mojombo • 9 July 2018

I kept waiting for a high quality full-stack framework to arrive, but it didn't, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. And that's why Hammer exists.

If you are like minded, then I hope you'll join me in helping build Hammer and hasten the arrival of the future I predicted!

Why is it called Hammer?

(A history, by Tom Preson-Werner)

When I first started working on Hammer, I was listening to Neil Gaimain's Norse Mythology audiobook. With Neil himself providing the voice, it is truly one of the most wonderful listening experiences I have had, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

One of the Norse myths involves the origin story of Thor's hammer. In short, Loki decides it would be funny to shave off the beautiful golden hair of Thor's wife, Sif. Thor finds out it was Loki, and demands he fix it or he will break every one of his bones. Loki knows some dwarves that can forge a replacement for Seph's hair and tricks them into a competition with another set of dwarves to each create better gifts for the gods. Among the gifts, the sons of Yvaldi deliver the ever-growing perfect golden hair for Seph and the team of Brock and Atri produce their masterwork: a hammer for Thor.

Thor's hammer is called Mjollnir and has properties that I thought would be aspirational for my nascent web app framework. Namely:

  • Mjollnir is unbreakable. Wouldn't it be nice if your web app had this property?

  • When thrown, it will never miss its target. Again, you'd be in good shape if your web application always hit the mark!

  • No matter how far it's thrown, it will always return. Quite appropriate for a client/server model, don't you think? Robust enough for every request to generate a response.

  • You can grow or shrink Mjollnir as needed. As mentioned in the philosophy section, I wanted my framework to be a pleasure for both large and small projects alike. Just like Thor's hammer! This also works when talking about the auto-scaling features that serverless JAMstack enables. Double whammy!

At the same time, I'd been learning German. The German word Hammer means, well, hammer. German is funny that way. Or should I say, English is funny that way. But Germans also use Hammer as slang for "awesome". Therefore, I thought it would be amusing to be able to say...Hammer ist Hammer. To say this properly, pronounce Hammer in the proper German way, which is more like "HAH-muh". Coincidentally, this is also exactly how Neil Gaiman pronounces it with his British accent. =)

And there you have it.

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