Hello World of Static Site Generators 2019: Jekyll, Hexo, Hugo

Do you wish your website loaded faster and more securely especially on mobile devices?

Do you dream of a true separation of your content from the design?

Do you want to future-proof your content, protect it from the whims of technological change and have it still easily readable 100 years from now?

Maybe you are frustrated by database maintenance, want to save money on server cost or you’re just tired of WordPress. ;)


This network of sites (code, ink, space) is built on top of some of the most popular Static Site Generators or SSGs right now. With today’s faster internet and file compressions, it’s amazing to see the shift of web content publishing back to static files. But here we are and for the sake of Web 3.0’s AI future, we probably need this return to simplicity and intuitiveness.

A Static Site Generator takes a different approach [from typical CMS] and generates all the pages of the website once when there’s actually changes to the site. This means there’s no moving parts in the deployed website. Caching gets much easier, performance goes up and static sites are far more secure. - https://www.staticgen.com

home portal made with Jekyll

These are the works of a computer and book lover
who's endlessly amazed by big wide open spaces
dotted with occasional bursts of that curious thing
called light.

Go to: home portal

</code> blog powered by Hexo

software, web dev & design, internet

You are now at: </code>

“ink” collection written with Hugo

ink is divine

Go to: “ink” or “tinta”

"peregrinatio est tacere"

Go to: *space*

What about comments, polls, e-commerce?

I went into the world of static sites with just simple sites in mind. But that doesn’t mean static sites have to be… well, all static. There are ways now to incorporate things like comment forms in pages without needing Disqus or such. The SSG ecosystem is steadily maturing and will eventually be as capable as any.

Personally though, I prefer to leave the interactions to social media and just rely on good ol’ emails for communication on-site. Keeps things clean and simple.

How do I get started?

A quick web search on static site generators should point you in the right direction. The most popular ones aim to get you up and running with plenty of themes already to choose from. I wanted to play with a few other generators but the lack of an easy theming system hindered me from quickly setting them up. So the choice to select one SSG over others would largely depend on the theme you liked and which would be easy to customize for your envisioned look of the site. (If you’re an advanced user, the language and templating system would probably be more important to you than just the theme.)

Knowing Git is a requirement if you don’t have the help of an admin to get the stuff up online. If you are migrating from say WordPress, there are guides for transferring your content too. Bear in mind that conversion of the content will not be perfect and would need lots of tweaking.

After everything’s setup, any decent text editor to write your content (likely in Markdown syntax) would be all you need to use 90% of the time. I would recommend WriteMonkey and Sublime Text.

The web host?

I use GitLab here not GitHub for the sole reason that it provides my specific need of subsites under one URL. Other than that, you can use either of the two and/or Netlify. I use Forestry.io and Netlify CMS to easily publish content without needing to go on Git.

And in keeping with being a digital nomad, I don’t use a domain name making this site easy to transfer to any web address anytime I have to. But that’s just me.

All of this means I did not spend a single cent to put these websites up! Well, apart from that bill you and I pay to connect to the Internet. Obviously. But the point is, gone are the days of paying monthly just to put up small ad-free personal sites. Static site generators are making this hobby incredibly easy and free.

This is all too complicated.

Sure, it does seem like that at first. But I have worked on several content management systems already and have only been frustrated about managing the content in the long run. It’s liberating to feel that my content would no longer be held hostage by some arbitrary tech that would go out of fashion in a decade. With all the talk these days of owning your data, this is an important point to consider when publishing on the web.

The initial overhead in getting things done this way is a small price to pay for peace of mind. The technology is still in its infancy but it will only get easier to setup sites using SSGs from here on.

Static Site Generators I currently use: