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. A static site generator allows you to generate static HTML pages that can be easily served by any webserver without relying on a database connection or dynamic page generation. In this post, we take a look at some of the top static site generators we have available as an option.
Why choose Static Site Generators
Here are the main reasons to choose a static site generator over a CMS:
- Cut down infrastructure cost.
- Remove security worries.
- Increasing performance of your website.
- Open source and free to use.
- Active community and support.
- Easy integration with existing HTML templates.
Top Static Site Generators
The popularity of Jamstack has given rise to many static generators. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones which have great community support and offer good documentation.
11ty is a Node.js based static site generator which can compile simple markdown files into HTML or can help you setup a full website with templating languages such as Nunjucks, Liquid, Handlebars, Pug etc. 11ty has extensive support for many templating languages. It also offers using static or dynamic data in your static site during build time. Many starter projects are available for you to learn from. 11ty is our current choice of static site generator.
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.
Gatsby is an open source framework based on React that helps developers build websites as well as apps. You can pull data from CMS such as WordPress, Drupal or from markdown files or JSON files and use HTML, CSS and React to build your static site. Extensive documentation is also available on their site.
VuePress is a Vue powered static site generator which requires minimal setup and generates static site from markdown files. When using VuePress, you can easily use Vue components in your markdown, and develop custom themes with Vue. VuePress generates pre-rendered static HTML for each page, and runs as an SPA once a page is loaded.
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.
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.
Before you opt for Static Sites
Here are the main reasons why a Static Site generator may not work out for you:
- Lack of easy CMS editor.
- Lack of integration with visual page builders.
- Not very easy to extend functionality through plugins.
- You would need a developer (or need to know coding yourself) to make major site changes such as adding new sections, sidebar, sponsor ads etc.
- May not be easy if you have multiple editors on your site.
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 WordPress, you can check our tutorial on how to setup a WordPress blog.
Please feel free to ask questions or leave your feedback about these static site generators in the comments below.