Should You Be Using Static Site Generators?

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Back in 2015 we shared a post titled Static Site Generators 101 where we delved into the world of static site generators and documented the resurgence they’d been seeing. In today’s post we’re going to be dipping into the pros and cons of static site generators and recommending a few different generators you can try out yourself.

If you aren’t too familiar with what a static site generator is or what the pros and cons are then see below for an extract from our previous post to help you get up to speed.

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.

Of course, modern static sites are a little more aesthetically pleasing!

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.

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Now we’ve got to grips with which projects are suited to static websites and which aren’t, we want to share three of our static site generator recommendations. Each has their own set of pros, cons and features, and we’re sure you’ll find at least one generator that’s the perfect choice for your next web project.

Jekyll

‘Transform your plain text into static websites and blogs’ is Jekyll’s tagline and their service does exactly what is says on the tin. Simply input Markdown, Liquid, HTML or CSS and you’ll find yourself up and running with a static site in mere moments.

As the Jekyll team say themselves, ‘no more databases, comment moderation, or pesky updates to install – just your content.’

In terms of ease of use, Jekyll is tough to beat and that’s exactly why it’s considered the web’s go to static site generator. You can also enjoy free hosting with GitHub Pages, as well as a custom domain name, making it possible to have your website up and running for peanuts.

Hugo

One of the web’s most popular open source static site generators, Hugo promises to put the fun back into building websites and boasts speed and flexibility as its two biggest benefits.

Ideal for more complex projects, Hugo can handle unlimited content types, menus and dynamic API-driven content. Additionally, pre-made templates can give your site commenting capabilities and analytic functionality, as well as i18n support for multi-language sites.

Gatsby

The final entry on our list, Gatsby is a simple solution for those looking to create a static site. It removes complicated deployment or steep setup costs, instead building your site elegantly and quickly, then allowing it to be deployed on numerous services.

Billing themselves as the ‘universal JavaScript framework you’ve been waiting for’, Gatsby allows you to future-proof your website from the moment it’s created.

Have you used a static site generator in your web projects? If so, don’t hesitate to comment below and let us know more about your experience. Which generator did you use and would you recommend them? What do you think are the biggest benefits to static websites? Let us know your thoughts, don’t be shy!

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