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Static Site Generators: Everything You Need to Know 

Static Site Generators: Everything You Need to Know
28 Aug 2018

 

We’ve come a long way from the days of Geocities when it comes to generating static websites. Today’s web designers and designers now have access to a ton of different tools and frameworks for this task. You may have already tried out a few Static Site Generators (SSGs) on your own, or this might be the first time you were even aware they existed. Either way, this article should give you a good idea of their purpose, what types of tools are available, and the benefits of employing them over a CMS. 

Understanding Static Site Generators 

SSGs take the content you’ve created and generates a format to output your front-end website. Unlike a database, there are no backend structures to build out or maintain. Your only concern is the visual content in front of you. 

Other Static Site Generator Advantages 

  • They make it easy to scale up websites 
  • Everything is stored in files 
  • They can be deployed from anywhere 
  • An internet connection is not required 
  • Incorporating into GIT is easy 

Using Content APIs 

Most SSG’s can seem difficult to use for those who aren’t developers or are used to working in a traditional CMS. That’s where Content API’s like WordPress API or Contentful can be helpful. They can be used to call and work with your SSG content from anywhere. You keep the benefits of a CMS without sacrificing the freedom and flexibility of your SSG. 

Hosting A Static Site 

It’s easy to find hosting solutions for static sites due to their simple set-up. Hosting services like Netlify can connect to popular repositories like GIT and allow you to build and release your site in seconds and at a minimal cost. You can also look into using something like Amazon AWS on S3 along with CloudFront to keep your hosting costs low. 

Improved SEO Statistics 

Using an SSG can speed up the loading of your SEO-optimized websites. That means lower bounce back rates, less people leaving your site, and no longer getting impatient with slow loading pages. Resulting in more visitors that may potentially lead to more responses to your content. In addition, normal flat file sites would have the .html or .php extensions. But with SSG they are configured for ‘pretty URLs’ ultimately improving permalink SEO.  

Popular Static Site Generator Frameworks 

While there are hundreds of SSGs on the market to choose from, we’re going to highlight a few of the more popular versions in use. 

Jekyll 

Jekyll’s built on top of the Ruby framework has been around since 2009. It’s by far the most popular SSG on the market. It uses the Ruby programming language and generates layouts using Liquid templates and Markdown. This can be a good SSG jumping-off point if you’re coming from the worlds of WordPress or Drupal. 

GatsbyJS 

React adoptees will find GatsbyJS to be a good SSG option since it’s built using that framework. GatsbyJS uses powerful preconfiguration features to build out websites at an incredible rate of speed. Everything goes into a directory containing a single HTML file for your front-end code along with your other assets. Its use of GraphQL means it can pull data from anywhere including Markdown files, JSON files, or third-party APIs. 

Nuxt.js 

Nuxt can be used by Vue developers to create universal apps within that framework. It generates your folder structures for you and contains markdowns, allowing pages to load faster and helping search engine bots crawl through your site. 

Reasons to Use A Static Site Generator vs. A CMS 

Creating websites with SSG’s provides you with many advantages over a traditional CMS. Some of those benefits include: 

  • Decoupling development from deployment 
  • Allowing you to use version control right out of the box 
  • Providing fewer openings for hackers into your content 
  • Making it much easier to split code and work with components 
  • Easily customize based on the needs of a project 
  • No upgrade requirements
     

The majority of CMS’s require you to adhere to certain specifications in order to get a project to function properly. The plug-ins often used with them create lots of security risks for cyber attackers to exploit. Page generation within a CMS means lots of caching and extra overhead when it’s time to load your page. 

Zero Gravity can provide you with insights on static site generators if you’re unsure about which one would be best for your project needs. Call us today at (203)433-0653 to set up a consultation.