Issues with Static Website generators

By Philippe Bodart | Created on May 2, 2016

The missing link in building, managing and updating a Static website using the JAM Stack

There has been a lot of talk recently on the rebirth of Static websites, for lack of a better word. Static websites have been around for quite a while, but have been gradually replaced by database driven websites and content management systems. The likes of Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal and a ton of others come to mind. Five to six years ago that seemed the way to - you store all your data in a relational database and you serve all the content from a web server. The dot's are connected via a user interface to administer and manage all the content and users from of your web assets. Tablets and smartphones were not around in large quantities, browser capabilities were minimal and security and speed were not high on the agenda. Open source projects like Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP were the drivers of a solid development community around those technologies.

But the success of database driven websites has created real issues that are hard to overcome. The model was not really scaleable - with a couple of simultaneous users, no worries. With hundreds of users, the server would go down eventually. With numerous plugins and patches, the model became highly vulnerable to Service attacks and denial of service. Webservers and databases need to be maintained and updated, a costly and complex exercise. The need of ever better and speedier user experience on now smartphones and tablets further stretches the model to where it becomes questionable if a database driven website is really the answer for websites in 2016 and beyond.

Over the last years we have seen the rise of Static Website generators

There are plenty of them around, like Jekyll, Roots, Hugo, Middleman just to name a few. They are great tools to use, as the use HTML, CSS and Javascript as main language. So no need for PHP knowledge, database and web server knowledge and no need to use plugins to put your site up. Without the need of a database, web server and a multitude of plugins, the websites build with these frameworks are fast, reliable and scaleable. Add an open source SSL certificate to it, put it on a CDN (Content Delivery Network) and you are done. Cost of building and maintenance is substantially lower then with a database driven website. It scales without additional resources, it is as fast for one visitor as it is for thousands of visitors.

There’s a rumor going around that dynamic sites are better for SEO. They’ve got plugins! They’ve got updated content! Spiders! If you’ve built a single page app with static technology, most of your site will be a bunch of javascript tags, something that doesn’t do you much good when the web crawlers come looking for content. That’s why there are services that offer prerendering. Pre rendering allows you to show the crawlers the content that users will actually see by rendering it in a browser, saving that static HTML, and then returning it to the crawler as HTML. Now your content will get indexed like a normal page. Check out prerendering services like Prerender.io, Brombone, SEO.js or SEO4Ajax to start. Wordpress fanboys will often run in screaming at the top of their lungs “Updated Content! Updated Content!”. Don’t be fooled, they haven’t cornered the market. Updated content can be added really easily on static websites: write your content, push it to your gitrepository, and boom: your content is updated. It’s the power of continuous integration. Now all you have to do is actually create the content. Beyond that, quality SEO is really all about structure, structure that isplatform agnostic. The head matter on your posts (that’s what willbe updated most often, right?) determines your metadata and URL structure. Build processes can specify Pretty URLs. Writing in an HTML friendly language like Markdown makes it easy to add links, images and alt text. Sites like GoogleKeyword Planner and KeywordTool can guide your keyword usage. Best practices for SEO are about the work and planning that you do, not a plugin.

What is the missing link - a simple browser based User Interface to update the content of a website. At WebriQ we have solved this by automating content updates through a Github workflow that automatically creates a new build for your website each time the Github repository is changed. It allows you to dynamically change the content from a website on a desktop, tablet and even on a smartphone in case of urgency. You can view a DEMO and you can manage the site on ADMIN - login with user demo@webriq.com and password demo!@#1234. Enjoy the ride.



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