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Today, there are over a billion websites on the internet. That isn’t so surprising when you think about how accessible and easy it is to create your website today. However, only 400 million of those websites are active. Creating and running a website is not always as easy as it sounds, but we are here to help. If you’re reading this, we bet you’d prefer your website to be among the 400 million active ones. Let’s figure out the best way to do that!
There are quite a few ways to create a website, some more popular than others. However, the popular ones are not always the right choice. That is why we want to introduce you to a hidden gem in the website-making world.
Now, you’ve probably heard about static site generators before. But most guides on it are probably far too complicated. So let’s put it simply. For the point of this guide, we’ll say that there are two kinds of websites: static and dynamic.
The first website created by Tim Berner-Lee was static. Although at the beginning he had some restrictions and the documents were not stylized and organized, it later grew into a carefully organized design with complex navigation. It was difficult to separate the content of the website from the design because HTML and CSS were not doing the job.
Later on, SQL-based relational databases started going mainstream and many applications began to create sites whose pages would be separated into reusable parts (e.g. headers and footers) where the content could be put into the database to some extent. Although they had flaws, these were the first original static website generators, used to build websites from templates and parts.
Simply, a static site means what you see is all that you get. Therefore, you write out your static HTML files and upload them onto your web server. Then, when somebody wants to access those files the webserver loads them in a few seconds. And just like that, people can use your website.
A dynamic site works differently. It contains information that is constantly changing, depending on the visitor, location, time zone, language, and other factors. It requires much more than using HTML code. To show visitors different content every day, it is necessary to combine client-side and server-side scripting. However, dynamic websites, like WordPress, are easy to set up, but they require a lot of maintenance and they are generally more complicated.
Why are static generators so popular today?
Static websites are most definitely older than dynamic ones, but they are far from outdated. Ever since the emergence of JAMSTACK , static websites have made a comeback.
Born as part of the static web movement, Jamstack became revolutionary in web development. Everyone in the web development world knows that it is not easy to build a site and maintain it, with as few problems as possible. Jamstack and its philosophy aim to make the web faster with new and modern tools. Relying on static’s websites advantages, developers can create sites with better performance and security. To avoid inconvenient development impediments and excess maintenance, Jamstack websites have files already compiled and served to the browser.
Let’s get back to our comparison of static and dynamic websites. We’ve already said that static sites have had a breakthrough. But now, they’re better than dynamic websites in many areas.
Why? The answer is simple - browsers are growing. When the first search engine was created, it couldn’t display anything more than a link and hypertext. Today’s browsers can do it all! They are capable of running full-fledged web applications, handling peer-to-peer connections to other browsers, storing data locally, and more.
Also, technology is changing and improving. The development of mobile phones meant visiting sites from the same. This is why performance is A MUST because users no longer have the patience to wait more than a few seconds for the site to load. No matter how much you optimize a dynamic site, it will never give the same results as static ones.
Static websites eliminate performance issues. If you are building a dynamic page, an efficient database query is crucial because it must be fast to run for each HTTP request. Even if you did it perfectly, some requests can still lead to cache destruction, the shutdown of the entire system, and other problems. With static sites, there are fewer performance errors for end users.
Developer tools (languages and libraries) are more advanced. Businesses want to optimize website performance beyond the limits of the database-driven website. They want to combine languages and features, make their sites faster and their users satisfied.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about static site generators and how they work.
A static site generator is a tool that is just as complicated as dynamic sites and pours all the content into templates in the same way. However, it saves the result to a file with a .html suffix, converting the data into static web pages that can be hosted on the same type of static web server. You just copy some files and let the basic web server do the work!
Why you should use a static site generator?
Compared to traditional dynamic websites (WordPress), websites built with static site generators have greatly improved performance and speed. Moreover, it is so easy to use and host static sites.
On top of that, you won’t have security issues, because there is no area for harmful attacks. It runs on your personal computer and isn’t accessible to anyone else.
Apart from being fast, site generators will lower your hosting bills significantly.
Sites that are HTML-based don’t use up a great number of server resources, since they don’t need scripts to retrieve information. Due to this, static websites scale easily without overloading the server.
You can trace any change made to the website. All changes go through the code and are visible in your control system.
Best static site generators of 2021
There are too many options when it comes to static site generators and going through them is not an enjoyable job. We have taken care of it. This is our roundup of the best static site generators:
This is a popular site generator with amazing speed and flexibility. It is easy to use and install and contains more than hundreds of themes and templates. You won’t get a headache installing extra plugins for redirection or pagination, because there is no need for that. Everybody knows that making a change to your website requires time, and Hugo does its best to be the fastest at this, especially for larger websites. In some cases, it takes only a millisecond for a site to be built up.
Gatsby is more than a static site generator. It is a progressive web app that can work offline and even be added to your mobile home screen. Gatsby is extensible and has a rich plugin ecosystem that allows you to use data from more than one source. It offers many starter sites that you can customize easily. Don’t worry about handling images, routing, and linking, Gatsby is equipped with elements that make these things simpler.
If you want a simple generator and a perfect solution for personal websites, then Jekyll is the pick of the bunch! It is one of the oldest generators but is still popular and supported software that is under active development. It contains a wide range of plugins that allow you to add features to your site. Another feature Jekyll has to offer is free hosting on GitHub pages. You can save your content in the GitHub repository, a code cloud drive. GitHub will run code for you and make your life way easier.
Eleventy comes with the same simplicity as Jekyll. Even if you’re not a professional and have basic knowledge, you can create amazing websites using 11ty. It has templates that are not limited to a specific language. Moreover, Eleventy adapts to you and supports more than ten different template languages. It takes 30 minutes to build your site with 11ty, altogether with a great performance, elegance, and speed.
So let’s wrap everything up. We have learned that static sites have pre-coded nature, which makes them faster than dynamic. However, with Static Site Generators, you don’t have to type a single line of code. The generators do everything for you. Static sites can have dynamic components such as comments, feedback, and search, so you’re not losing any key components of your website. And you will be gaining a lot. Take our advice and see for yourself!