Most developers already understand how content management systems work. The popularity of WordPress has permeated the globe and become a staple for creating any blog.
However a growing trend is the use of static website generators for blogs or small websites. These are dynamic compilers that turn preprocessed code into static HTML/CSS/JS files that can be maintained on a server without a database. And while this may not be the best workflow for every site, there are many reasons why developers have been flocking to static site generators.
In this post I’d like to explore the depths of static website generators: what they do, how they do it and why you might want to use one. If you simply don’t understand static site generators then hopefully this post will shed light on the subject.
The web actually started as purely static HTML files in the 90s. Yes, there were larger applications that ran on Perl or Java, but HTML was the quickest way for anyone to publish content online.
Static sites were meant to deliver content fast. HTML pages are parsed directly by a web browser, so HTTP latency is the largest factor for load time.
Over many years, the web grew to include databases and powerful engines like WordPress. These engines quickly became the go-to solution because they could run powerful applications without much need to write backend code.
With the growth of CMS engines, managing load time became a worthwhile issue. Developers needed to worry about database query time and bulky templates. Caching helps but it rarely delivers the same performance as a static webpage.
This fixation on static sites has come at a time when content management systems seem too bloated for smaller projects. It’s almost like the web industry has come full-circle, realizing the benefits of static HTML pages – but this time we have much more powerful tools at our disposal.