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I’m Looking for a Web UI for a Static Site Generator

Olivier “Ölbaum” Scherler
・2 min read

TL;DR

I’m looking for a web interface to manage content for a static site generator for web sites (not blogs), and I’d love your help to find one.

Story

When I started blogging, WordPress didn’t exist. I used Movable Type, a blogging engine written in Perl, that had the interesting property that while the admin backend was dynamic (CGI), the public front end was all static files, generated or updated as necessary when you posted or someone commented, resulting in a fast web site that could handle a lot of traffic (that’s right, it was a static site generator, over five years before the term started trending.)

Today I would like the same type of software but for simple web sites, not only a blog. A backend that lets people edit the contents with a nice web interface, and and engine that generates static pages out of it, with templates, navigation, etc.

My wish list

  • The programming language doesn’t matter, I intend to run in in Docker;
  • The backend and the site generator don’t need to be the same product, as long as I can get the content from the former to the latter;
  • I want to host it on my own server;
  • I would like to make web sites, with hierarchical pages, not only a blog (hierarchical pages to control how the navigation is displayed);
  • A WYSIWYG editor is preferred;
  • Web-based, so different people can edit the site without sending each other the source files;
  • Since I’m going to use it to make small web sites for friends, I’d rather the solution to be free and/or open source. At least not a per-site license. Definitely not a SaaS. DEFINITELY not $499 per year.

What I tried

  • Ghost: Very nice interface, but only for blogging. Regular pages are too basic;
  • Jekyll Admin: Only works with the Jekyll debug web server, not really suited for production;
  • Grav: exactly the opposite of what I’m looking for: you have to edit static files and they are served dynamically;
  • Netlify CMS: seems to have a very convoluted ways of doing simple things.

If anyone has suggestions for me to try, I would be very grateful. Thanks in advance.

Discussion (8)

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casseylottman profile image
Cassey Lottman

Maybe Glitch? There's a way to connect your Glitch projects to deploy to a more production-type site with Firebase if you need it to have 100% uptime and no loading screen when it hasn't been used for a while.

Downsides with Glitch compared to your wish list: it's not self-hosted, and not really WYSIWYG, though your Glitch project is deployed and redeployed instantly so you can see it side-by-side. Collaboration between multiple people at once is very well supported, though.

As for the site generator, 11ty (aka eleventy) is my favorite one to use on Glitch. (My preferred starter project is a version of 11ty-base-blog modified to run as a production site on Glitch. Jekyll or Gatsby are possible to get running on Glitch, but you'll struggle more.

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jonmaim profile image
Jon Maim

Thanks, I'm giving 11ty a try!

Question about Glitch and the site generation: do you know which conventions should be followed to do pre-processing in general?

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th3n00bc0d3r profile image
Muhammad

Hello,

Please correct me, just trying to understand,

What I understand is you need an online piece of software, that runs on the browser and helps any user to generate static HTML/CSS files for a given template. Its a single page site generator, with a nice UI editor to put in content, Dead simple.

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oscherler profile image
Olivier “Ölbaum” Scherler Author

Hello,

Yes. Basically I’d like an online piece of software that makes generating content easier for non-technical people. Then I’d retrieve this content and feed it to a static site generator.

I’m not worried about choosing the static site generator, extracting the content, or adapting it so that the generator can understand it. The pain point for me is finding a nice UI for editing the content with a bit of flexibility.

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th3n00bc0d3r profile image
Muhammad

How about we give it a try, lets have a skype meeting, maybe if you can show me more references, i ll be able to picture things better and specifically the output that you want to generate

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joeberetta profile image
Joe Beretta • Edited

Hi, Olbaum. Have you heard about publii? Try it, think you would love it

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oscherler profile image
Olivier “Ölbaum” Scherler Author

Hi Joe. Thanks. I had a look at Publii, but it’s a desktop application, so I can’t work on the structure and theme while having someone else update the contents. And it seems very blog-oriented.

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jeanduplessis profile image
Jean du Plessis

Maybe have a look at TinaCMS