7 Reasons NOT to Use a Static Site Generator

Static Sites Generators (SSG) can have their pros but they also have their downsides. Before being stuck with one learn more about SSG and the seven main reasons why it might not be for you.

It is common to think that static site generators (SSGs) are a popular tool that offers many benefits. Hexo and Hugo are examples of this kind of website generators. However, there are several reasons why a static site generator might not be an adequate replacement for the content management system (CMS).

1. It is all up to you to have a static site

Person creating site with a Static Site Generator

Without some development experience, you will not be able to utilize a static site generator effectively. Using a content management system is more difficult, there are fewer resources, and you may find that there are no pre-built plugins and templates available.

Compare this to WordPress. Non-technical users may need assistance with the installation process; however, once the installation is complete, they can edit a site and install one of the thousands of themes and plugins available. Although their website may not be the most sophisticated on the internet, they have been able to operate without too much intervention.

2. Choice paralysis

There are several static site generators available, but despite their popularity, only a very small portion of the web community utilizes these tools. The process of researching, examining, and evaluating your options will take some time. In terms of SSGs, one of the first came from Ruby-based Jekyll, although you are not required to have previous Ruby experience, it will be beneficial if you have previous knowledge of this language.

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems on the market. More than 40% of the Internet is powered by this technology, so support is readily available. If you have experience with PHP, it will be beneficial, but even someone who does not have programming experience can create a useful website through the use of pre-built themes and plugins.

3. Time required for initial setup

Time lapse of creating site with a Static Site Generator

Developing a static site will take some time, so do not expect it to be completed in a day. A lot of the template code will need to be developed, and you will need to learn the build process. In addition, deployment scripts may also be required.

There can also be a challenge to developing a custom CMS theme, but there are pre-built templates available and assistance can be found wherever necessary. It is possible that the initial installation does not need to be further developed.

4. No administration interface

Clients may be hesitant in using a CMS interface that has a complex interface. Some people may be intimidated by the prospect of creating and editing Markdown files. You might like to consider the following as a way of simplifying the process:

  • Utilizing CMS can be used as an SSG source
  • To provide easier workflows, such as editing Git-based files using StackEdit or HackMD.

However, this will further affect the initial development time.

5. Consistency of the static website

Websites with static content are extremely flexible: any element contained within source content can be rendered on the web. Users can include scripts, widgets, and numerous unwanted items.

It is possible to configure a CMS in a way that restricts the user. It is common for content to be mapped to a database with specific fields, so the administration panel asks the user to provide a title, body content, excerpts, featured images, etc. Even though the user may enter data into an unexpected field, the entered data will not appear on the website unless it has been specifically included within the template.

6. Large-scale static site management

Think of a website with thousands of pages, daily content, breaking news in real-time, and dozens of writers from all over the world contributing to the website. A static site generator can be used to manage the content of a site, but:

  • It is sometimes difficult to edit and publish content. A Git repository or shared folder may be required by editors as opposed to a simple web interface or application.
  • Since the site must be rebuilt, tested, and deployed, there will be a delay in real-time updates.
  • Deployment could become difficult and build times could increase rapidly.

A static site generator may be most appropriate for sites with fewer than a few hundred pages and one to two new posts each week. Automating the build and any deployment of software will be necessary, and you may reach a point where a content management system becomes more practical.

7. Functionality on the server side of static sites

People working on server for Static Site Generator

While static sites are ideal for content pages, the situation becomes more challenging when other features are required, such as user logins, form filling, search facilities, discussion forums, etc. Among the options are:

  1. Integrating client-side components, such as Angolia search or Disqus comments.
  2. Creating your own server-side (or serverless) APIs that can be consumed by client-side JavaScript to add specific functionality.
  3. Creating pages that contain  <?php ... ?>  or other server-side code blocks.o.
  4. Preferring such a framework as Next.js, which renders static content when possible while also enabling server-side processing.

Despite this, development costs, the complexity of the building process, security implications, and costs will increase. Alternatively, a WordPress plugin may be used to implement client-side or server-side functionality within a few minutes.

So, is a Static Site Right for You?

Before making any decision, consider the following:

  • The requirements of your project, such as size, complexity, frequency of updates, etc.
  • The location and expectations of your users,
  • The development skills of your team, 
  • Any issues related to hosting and deployment.

Most websites contain fewer than a few dozen pages, are rarely updated, and are dependent on a developer to make the changes. The use of a content management system is often overkill, and implementing a static site generator could simplify development and reduce costs. You may have a harder time convincing your client to abandon their content administration panels.

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