In the modern age, we are experienced in using blogging platforms like WordPress, Ghost, Blogger, Tumblr, and many other dynamic website generators. However, a new trend has been moving users as they are deciding to host their websites statically instead of using their dynamic counterparts. But why are people deciding to move forward with this new trend? Is it any better to use a static website as opposed to a dynamic one in web development? Why should I consider one of these over the other?
What is a Static Website?
A static website is defined as a website that does not rely on a web-server to build your website. All pages stored are displayed to the user "as-is", without any further modification by the host. There are no databases required to make them, as they simply do not use them. External components (such as an application that displays comments – ex. Disqus) can be rendered on their servers instead of having to use your own server to do so. While this idea technically existed for a century or two, there are differences between the classic version and the modern version of static websites.
Classic Static Webhosting
In the 90s and possibly early 2000s, GeoCities was a great example of static web-hosting. Users would write their website into files that are read by a web-browser to display content, known as HTML files. Then, they would simply upload that content to GeoCities for it to be displayed to their fans. GeoCities only displayed what they uploaded, and did not partake in any modification of the files to be presented to the public. GeoCities has since been shut down and is no longer in service, but the community has spun up a new reincarnation of it, known as NeoCities.
Modern Static Web-hosting
In the modern age, programmers don't want to have to type all that code manually in order to make a decent website. With the capabilities of HTML not having certain features needed for modern websites that use dynamic features, a new solution was born to handle this problem: static website generators! These generators take dynamic code that programmers use and turn them into static ones by rendering everything on the programmer's side, outputting HTML files. Examples of these include Jekyll, Hugo, Hexo, Nuxt.js, Next.js, Middleman, Gatsby, and Buster*.
*technically, Buster takes files from a dynamic website generator called Ghost and spits out static files to be put on a static website...
Further Reading: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2015/11/static-website-generators-jekyll-middleman-roots-hugo-review/
Managing Content For Static Websites
Static websites are cool, but those who are not web-developers take one look at the programming and either never look back or try to understand what's going on. It may be easy enough to read, but some people simply do not like the idea of editing text files in order to make their content, especially those who strive on visuals. There are options, however, for making the editing workflow feel more like what a dynamic website would offer, and these tools are called static content management systems. These are vital for those who work in teams to work together to make making blog posts fun again.
There are tons of options out there available for those who are looking for this solution. While there are free options available, each one has it's pros and it's cons. Some are very limiting when you only use the free version, and may require payment for a better outcome. Others may also require a good amount of programming experience to integrate into the website. It is important to discuss with your team which solution is right for everyone on your team. Below is an example of a static website CMS.
Examples of Static CMSs: Netlify CMS, Siteleaf (pictured), Publii, DatoCMS, Forestry
Further Reading: https://www.maketecheasier.com/best-static-website-cms/
Hosting Static Websites: Solutions
There are multiple solutions for hosting modern static websites. Some even embed features into the website to make them more dynamic. The static web-host that we use is Netlify. They allow us to deploy a website in seconds by pushing our website onto GitHub and taking over from there. With free SSL (which makes the website secure) and custom features such as Form handling, we decided to use Netlify even though we only use their static hosting and not the extra features.
Examples: Netlify, GitHub Pages, GitLab Pages, Static.land, Now.sh
For those who thought they were stuck with using WordPress, we hope we've opened you up to other solutions. It's time to stop thinking with databases and tables, and time to start thinking about content and design. With static web hosting, there are many options available to you to create the website of your dreams. With the benefits of static web hosting being so cheap and fun to share across the web, why not try it out and see how it works for you.