A Beginner’s Guide to Web Development

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Static Site Generator: A Beginner's Guide to Web Development

2020 is going to be written down as the year in which Jamstack made a big name in the market. This is the stack that makes use of multiple statics pages that are served over different CDN’s.

So, what do you need to have before you go ahead and decide which static site generator you are going to go for? When it comes to the options, there are almost 460 static site generators out there [1]. Therefore, it can get a little confusing as to which one is the best for you.

Remember, the one you choose depends upon several factors. First of all, it depends on which one you like, which type of site you want to develop, is it a simple site or a complicated one? So on and so forth.

When I was making my first website, I heard a lot about static site generators and how they were a promising tool when it came to making websites. Yes, they do require work upfront and having a helping hand is always preferable. So, here we are today.

This article will cover the basics and provide you with all the information there is on the static site generators to help you make an informed decision on which one is the best for you at a given point in time.  Before we talk about these tools, let’s see what static sites are all about.

What Is A Static Site?

When it comes to the types of websites, these are broadly defined in two types – dynamic and static. In the static website, the website is static. It is designed, delivered and stored as it is. The user can see the website exactly as the developer made it.

There is no change in it from the time the developer makes it and saves the changes till the time the user opens and uses it. It remains the same, static. The process is pretty straightforward too.

On the other hand, in dynamic websites, things are always changing. They are made by a server-side controller. This allows the developer or owner of the website to add content with the help of a third-party program. The simplest example of this is WordPress.

With the help of a browser interface, content is input and displayed on the webpage through the backend. To do this, PHP is used. This allows these websites to be fancier as compared to static ones. The static websites are cheaper, have faster loading speeds and are easier to store.

What Is A Static Site Generator?

To make the development process of static websites easier, one can use tools which are known as static site generators. It comes up with a full HTM website only with the help of some raw data the developer provides. Along with raw data, a site template is also required.

The biggest advantage of it is that it goes ahead and automated the entire coding process. Yes, let that just sink in! Because coding is the most difficult and time-consuming task, the development of websites becomes efficient and quick once the coding is done automatically.

For this reason, these HTML websites are developed way ahead of time. Because of HTML, the website loading time is also quicker when compared to dynamic websites.

Just like CMS (Content management tools), static site generators are also used to manage what content goes on the web.  It helps in establishing templates and generating web pages. As mentioned earlier, these generators are used in the JAMstack approach to web development.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Static Site Generators

Just like any other technology, static site generators have advantages as well as some disadvantages. These are discussed below.

Advantages

You will come across is the time-saving feature. Because the complete site generation process is automated. All you need to do is provide it with the website template and raw data and behold! Your website is ready in no time.

Unlike the CMS, the static site generators develop the pages in advance and not when they are required, they load quicker and faster in the browser.

They don’t have a heavy backend. The backend is relatively much lighter when compared to the websites build with CMS. The code is automatically run; hence there is no load on the backend server.

In dynamic websites, the demands are very specific. The user will tell the developer exactly what they want. For this, they will fill out multiple fields which leave little to no option of customization. In static websites, the developers can come up with multiple templates with high customization.

Disadvantages

One disadvantage is that most of the static site generators do not come with pre-defined templates. Therefore, the customization process can take a very long time to get started. For newbie’s, this can pose a big problem. There are zero to only a handful of templates available and it can take a lot of time to develop a template.

If you are not a polished developer, things can get difficult for you. Most of the people we have talked to are reluctant and even downright scared to work with unprocessed and raw data. With no user-friendly CMS interface, things can get complicated.

Now that you know what a static site and the static site generators are all about, we are going to share a few of our favorites with you. This might help you shortlist one for yourself.

1. Gatsby

It is a full package when it comes to building static websites. It is developed in REACT and makes use of GraphQL to manage data. The website is very comprehensive and there is a lot of information on where and how to start with developing static sites. There are a few prominent features of the site generator that need to be kept in mind.

  • It provides developers with top-line technologies like Webpack, CSS, Modern Webpack, React and so much more. These are just a click away and available at the disposal of the developer to start coding their website.
  • It has a lot of plugins and that allows you to use and import data from one or more than one source.
  • It provides excellent scalability. This is because it is used to build static websites and not dynamic ones. These websites are generally simpler to use and develop and don’t require any complicated and fancy setups.
  • It is a PWA (Progressive Web App)

Unlike most of the site generators, it has a lot of starter sites that are available for customization and are free of cost.

2. Eleventy

It has positioned itself in the industry as a “simpler static site generator” Moreover, it is also thought of as a JavaScript alternative when it comes to Jekyll. It has a few striking features like it has no frameworks to choose from and you can customize or use one that suits you, is build with native JavaScript, gives the user full flexibility on the template engine to use and follows the zero-configuration setup. Other important features are:

  • It is a community drive. This provides a lot of help to the new developers and even the more seasoned ones.
  • Another advantage is the simplicity it provides. With simplicity comes better performance.
  • With the option of using pre-set templates, there is higher customization involved.

3. Jekyll

If you want to transform the plain, simple text into static blogs and websites, Jakyll should be your choice as one of the best static site generators. It has a very thin learning curve and has been a market favorite since 2008. This shows that it is well-supported, developed and mature.

It is a very versatile site builder. The content creation is done in Markdown; the generator is built in Ruby and has a liquid template engine. This makes it a good choice when it comes to heavy-text websites and blogs that are text-rich.

The GitHub pages are all powered by Jekyll. This is why if you have a Jekyll website, you can host it for free on the GitHub pages free. This also includes the domain name and everything. The main features include:

  • Free website hosting on GitHub pages.
  • Simple to use interface

Just like Eleventy, it also supports the community environment. The creation of themes, tutorials, plugins and all the other resources are fully supported here.

Bonus Tip - How to choose a Site Generator

To close the case, we will tell you how to choose a site generator. Yes, today is surely your lucky day. The reason why different developers have different favorites when it comes to site generators is that they have different requirements. Let’s take a look at what parameters you need to consider before making a choice.

Keeping these points in mind will help you make an informed decision about which site generator to go for.

 [1]https://staticsitegenerators.net/

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