When it comes to developing faster and leaner websites, the best option you have is to use a static site generator over more complex Content Management Systems like WordPress. In this post, we take a look at some of the top static site generators we have available as an option.
Static Site Generators
Choosing static sites over dynamic ones is great for cutting down infrastructure cost, removing security worries and increasing performance. Our criteria for picking these static site builders were their popularity, presence of an active community around them as well as availability of good set of plug-ins, themes and templates for customization. All the tools listed below are Open Source and free to use.
Jekyll is a blog-aware static site generator and is the engine behind GitHub Pages, which you can use to host sites right from your GitHub repositories.
Jekyll is powered by Ruby, however knowledge of Ruby language is not necessarily required for using Jekyll. It uses files written in Markdown formats and converts them into static HTML pages. Additionally Liquid tags are used for templating. Jekyll provides good documentation on how to migrate from other environments.
Middleman is another popular static site generator built with Ruby. It is considered to be more flexible than Jekyll however, it can be slightly more complex than Jekyll to setup for beginners. Similar to Jekyll, Middleman has great community support and extensive documentation to get you started.
Hugo is a static website engine built with the Go programming language. It is known for its speed taken to generate static websites. Just like any other static site, sites built with Hugo can be deployed on S3, GitHub Pages, Dropbox or any other web host.
Pelican is a static site generator, written in Python, which supports content in reStructuredText, Markdown, or AsciiDoc formats. Pelican also supports import from WordPress, RSS feed or other services. Do take a look at Pelican if you are developing with Python.
Sculpin is a static site generator written in PHP. It converts Markdown files, Twig templates or standard HTML into a static HTML site that is easily deployable. If your language of choice is PHP, you’ll feel right at home with Sculpin. Sculpin embeds Composer to keep your source control focused and projects consistent.
Metalsmith is a pluggable static site generator. All of the logic in Metalsmith is handled by plugins and you can chain multiple plugins together to get the final output. Since the core library is actually just an abstraction for manipulating a directory of files, Metalsmith is capable of doing much more than just static site generation. It can be used to generate PDF, ePUB or MOBI e-books, generate documentation and much more.
Cactus is a static site generator available for the Mac platform and is capable of working with Sass, SCSS and CoffeeScript. The template engine is based on Django and they include starting templates such as a blog, portfolio or single page. Cactus is great when you want to deploy your sites on Amazon S3.
Before you opt for Static Sites
If you are building a website for your business or startup then there are many options that you may want to consider instead of a static site. These options include creating a website with a CMS like WordPress or using a website builder such as Wix. To get started with these options, you can check out these free WordPress themes or these free website builder reviews.
Please feel free to ask questions or leave your feedback about these static site generators in the comments below.