December 21, 2023
SSG's have become boring technology

Static site generators took off in the year 2008 with Jekyll and Tom Preston-Werner. He simplified website data, by storing it in flat files. These files could then be managed by Git, meaning full ownership and control over all changes.

You probably expect me to tell you that now, 15 years later, it is time to move on… but I will do exactly the opposite: NOW is the time to adopt static site generation. Because only now, 15 years later, static site generators have become boring technology. This means that all solutions are proven, widely spread, have a minimal amount of dependencies and all (related) software is mature and well-crafted. It is so far evolved that the evengalists of the first hour have decided to move on. All problems with static site generators have been solved many times and there is a widely spread agreement on how it all should work.

For those who missed the rise and the evolution of static site generators, I will summarize what the advantages of static site generators are. First of all, you own your data, which is stored in simple flat files in a Git repository. Secondly, you can choose ANY open-source static site generator to turn those files into a website. The static site generator you choose depends on which templating language you prefer and how many data files you have. Next (pun not intended), you need a very simple CMS that is not much more than a fancy markdown file editor. There are many options available, both paid and free. Finally, deploying your output to a hosting environment is a piece of cake. Although there are many options, a simple ‘rsync’ can do the trick as well. The fact that these things are all separated makes it very robust. You can switch your SSG without switching your CMS or changing your data structure. The same goes for switching your CMS or your deployment method: everything is interoperable.

One of the nicest things about static site generators is that Github is offering a fully integrated solution for free. They manage your files using Git, will build your website using ANY static site generator with Github Actions, and allow you to host the output on Github Pages. When you use in Visual Studio Code you will even get a fully featured (and free) CMS.

So… there is a very appealing all-in-one solution from the biggest code platform in the world, powered by Micro$oft. Fortunately, there are also hundreds of alternatives for every part of this solution and they are all interoperable. The SSG eco-system has matured and you will no longer feel trapped in any way. SSG’s have officially become ‘boring technology’. This means you can use SSG’s worry-free in production.

Happy coding!

()  Joost van der Schee

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