Static Site Generators 101

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Static site generators are having a bit of a moment, which is interesting, as they didn’t pop in any of the ‘trends to watch in 2015’ lists that came out at the end of last year, though their popularity has steadily been growing over the last few years. As their popularity shows no signs of slowing down or being a quick flash in the pan trend, we thought it would be helpful to put together a little guide to static site generators to tell you what they are, why they’re so popular and how they might be able to help you.

Static site1

A great example of a simple, effective static site.

What are static websites?

To describe it as simply as possible, a static website is a website with fixed content, so the same content will be displayed to every visitor. They’re known as a basic type of website that’s simple to create but that’s not a reflection on their quality or effectiveness. Sometimes simple really is best!

Can we see one in action?

You certainly can! The first ever website, Tim Berners-Lee’s ‘The World Wide Web Project’ was actually a static site. It’s still up and running so you can hop over to have a look at the world’s very first website.

Other, more modern, examples are dotted throughout this post, so you can see that static sites don’t have to look old-fashioned or dated.

What are the pros?

There are plenty of pros to running a static website, the first of which is that you need very little experience of programming or database design to create one. All you need to do is create your chosen amount of HTML pages and, well, you’re pretty much there.

The simplicity of creating static sites means they’re extremely cost-effective, making them a great choice for small organisations or brands who don’t have a large budget to put into web design. They’re particularly good for those who run a service or are putting on an event and are looking for a site that works almost like a placeholder, just providing a few important details, such as location and opening hours.

Plus, speed is more and more important in today’s instant gratification culture, and it’s tough to beat a static site when it comes to speed!

What are the cons?

Static websites aren’t a good choice for somebody who wants to react to real time news, upload new content regularly or have built-in social sharing (the latter is possible, but is fiddly to set up).

Each time you want to add something new you’ll need to manually update the HTML content, so this isn’t the best choice for a blogger or news site.

If you’re looking for advanced functionality then a static site probably isn’t the best choice for you.

Polytronix

Static sites can work just as well for corporate sites as they do personal sites.

How do I get one?

There’s been a real boom in static site generators over the last year or so, so you have plenty to choose from. Some of our favourites include Jekyll (written by GitHub’s Tom Preston), Hugo (which promises to ‘make the web fun again’) and Wintersmith (which puts the emphasis on flexibility).

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So, there you have it, an introduction to static sites and static site generators. If you create a site with any of our suggestions make sure you leave a link in the comments so we can check it out!

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