Static sites were previously composed of hard-coded files comprising HTML templates, and maintaining them was a grievous task. So static site generators came along to remove those challenges, making it easier to generate and run static sites while maintaining them.
While there are many static site generators on the market, there are some exceptional ones. I compiled the top ten popular static site generators to analyze their features and benefits.
But first, you need to know the use cases of static site generators. There are times when a dynamic site is required and vice versa.
Uses of static site generators
Static site generators are required when creating simple sites. Sites that do not require any communication with the backend.
Sites that require user registration, product reviews, and so on do not need to be static.
But websites like portfolios, documentation and even landing pages should be static sites.
Benefits of using static site generators
Here are some benefits of using static site generators:
Static sites are fast at rendering pages. This is because they do not rely on servers to process their content. All static sites do is render content, and they are usually pre-generated.
Static sites do not use servers. This makes them safer than CMs. Although all sites on the internet always have the possibility of experiencing cyber attacks.
Static sites are safer because there is no server. This makes it more difficult for attackers to find possible loopholes to launch an attack.
Reliability and performance
Static sites can usually handle traffic and render content to users. They are reliable too because they have little dependencies. When you wish to access a static site, the chances of seeing the content are high compared to dynamic sites. Their mode of operation is simple and has a lower performance overhead.
Because of the low cost of hosting, static sites are inexpensive to use. Normally, using dynamic sites would require paying a specific amount of money to cover performance costs. But with SSGs, hosting platforms allow free hosting. e.g., GitHub pages and Amazon S3.
Flexibility and customization
Static sites come with a set of pre-built templates. You could customize these templates and the user interface to suit your taste. A network of distributed servers serves content; this makes the site flexible enough to be rendered on any platform — web, mobile, or desktop — and in any geographic location too.
Top ten static site generators
The top ten popular static site generators are:
Jekyll — the most popular SSG
Jekyll is a static site generator built by Tom Preston Werner in 2008. GitHub uses it to make static sites and host them on GitHub pages. It offers multiple themes using its Liquid template language. With Jekyll, you can present the necessary metadata for your page for SEO and other benefits. Also, Jekyll supports Markdown, and it compiles your Markdown into a blog form. Jekyll and GitHub pages are both GitHub products, so they are usually compatible with each other. You could combine it with other hosting platforms, and it supports third-party plugins. Jekyll is written in Ruby. You would need to install Ruby and other programs to use it.
It is blog-friendly.
It is free to use.
It requires Ruby to be installed.
Eleventy — the simplest static site generator
It is simple to use.
It is free.
It has lots of configuration options, which could be confusing for a beginner.
Hugo — fastest static site builder
Hugo is a static site generator built by Google using the Golang programming language. It is termed the fastest because of its lightweight site build, which happens in a second. It consists of many beautiful themes that you can choose from. It provides templates that enable SEO optimization, site analysis, and much more. Hugo is open-source and free.
It supports a wide range of hosting platforms like Netlify, GitHub pages, and so on.
It is easy to set up and use.
It has well-detailed documentation support.
It requires technical knowledge to use.
Gatsby — best for building progressive web apps
Gatsby is the best static site generator for building progressive web apps because it provides the features needed to build them. This SSG was built with React, and it is loved by React developers and the Jamstack community. Gatsby is used primarily by technical users. It uses GraphQL to import data. You can easily bring in content from content management systems, apps, and other platforms, and Gatsby turns it around to generate content for you.
You can use multiple plugins with it.
When constructing a site, it follows accessibility guidelines.
It requires technical knowledge to access it.
Nextjs — best app SSG
Nextjs is a powerful React.js framework for building static applications. Nextjs does static site generation, but there are more. It also supports server-side rendering, image optimization, typescript configuration, and so on. It is written for developers and is one of the best static site generators for building apps.
It provides features like CSS support, automatic routing, and so on.
It has great documentation and a developer community.
It is not for non-technical folks.
Pelican — best for Python developers
Pelican is a Python-based static site generator that publishes markdown or reStructuredText on a website. It uses Jinja to create templates and themes. It supports the use of Atom and RSS feeds. You can import content from other sources, and Pelican will render it on your site. It is one of the best SSGs for Python users; hence, it requires Python installation and knowledge.
It is a great tool for developing static sites.
Many developers in the Python community love using Pelican.
It requires Python knowledge to use it.
Hexo — best lightweight SSG
Hexo is a Node.js static site generator that deploys static sites with a single command. It is easy to use. It supports the use of markdown, multiple plugins, and templates.
It is flexible because of the various templates and themes it supports.
Rapid development and deployment
It requires technical knowledge.
Nuxtjs — the best for Vue developers
Nuxtjs is a Vue.js framework that is modelled after Nextjs. Like Nextjs, it supports server-side rendering, typescript configuration, automatic routing, and so on. Nuxtjs is used as an SSG when creating Vuejs applications.
It offers significant features to get your site up and running.
It is a great tool for Vue.js developers.
It is for Vuejs developers only.
Gridsome — Jamstack SSG tool for Vue developers
Gridsome is an SSG tool that uses Vuejs to build templates. It is like Gatsby in that it creates progressive web apps too, and they have a similar design.
Gridsome uses GraphQL too, like Gatsby, and supports the use of markdown. renders content quickly and provides CMS integrations. It is open-source and free to use.
It is free and has community support.
It builds large sites faster.
It has a small community, and sometimes it is better to get help from the Jamstack community instead.
Metalsmith — the best customizable SSG
Metalsmith is an open-source SSG that is easily customizable. It is also free to use. Metalsmith has plugins available that carry out the static site generation process. These plugins use a somewhat distributed approach to make it possible for users to customise the tool to their taste.
You could also use Metalsmith to generate PDF, ePUB, and other digital content.
It can convert various formats.
It is flexible.
It does not have strong community support.
That sums up the top ten popular SSGs. These tools are great to use, and these reviews are based on their popularity. There are other new SSGs that may be less popular but have outstanding features. If you know of any, please share them in the comments. Thanks!
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