Top 10 Static Site Generators
- Nusrat Sarmin
- March 21, 2022
Are you searching for the best static site generator to build your next project? Let's start digging to get the answer...
Static sites are back again! Howbeit, today's static websites are not straightway static; they incorporate dynamic elements and functionality with the latest JAMstack architecture and web technologies.
JAMStack provides a mechanism to have a more reliable, faster, and secure static website without sacrificing the functionality that usually lies within a dynamic website.
All these make JAMstack one of the most burning topics in the web development industry, and a big part of this architecture is the Static Site Generator. Static Site Generator is a must-have tool for building top-notch JAMStack websites.
Here is a guide to show you the basics of static site generators, why they are important, and a list of the top 10 static site generators in 2023 and beyond...
What Is a Static Site?
Static websites have lots of benefits over their dynamic counterparts. Hence, many are shifting to static from dynamic for faster loading times, better overall site performance, high-end security, better hosting solutions, and so forth.
To learn more, read this comprehensive blog post on Static Site.
What Is a Static Site Generator(SSG)?
A static site generator is a tool or software application to generate full static websites based on pre-built HTML templates, components, or raw data. These SSGs make it easy to build a website, design or style it, create any type of content, and publish web pages and updates as needed. Static site generators render websites to the end-user in the build time instead of waiting until a page is requested.
Why Should You Use a Static Site Generator?
Fundamentally to create a static website, developers don't need a website builder, generator, or content management system. Static websites consist of effortless coding of HTML and CSS. Anyone with proper coding knowledge can build a static site with hand-coded HTML and CSS files. However, It's not an efficient way to create a fully-functional and enterprise-level website.
As technology evolves, so does the way of building static websites. Static site generators are alternative ways to the traditional development process. Static site generators present state-of-the-art methodology and advantages for developing static websites.
Static site generators automate the task of coding and provide a competitive publishing platform to front-end developers. SSG templates save up the effort and time of coding every single element and help to avoid formatting the files over and over. The generated webpages are deployed to web servers; whenever the user makes a request, the server responds with rendered HTML.
How to Choose the Best Static Site Generator for You?
There are 300+ Static Site Generators available in the market. Each static site generator has its own set of characteristics, highlights, and challenges. When choosing a static site generator for your next project, you should consider the following aspects: your own technical ability, ease of use, simplicity, type of content it supports, base languages, tools availability, community support, resources, and so on and so forth.
For example, Hugo would be best for you if you're focusing on speed. If you are familiar with and knowledgeable in a specific programming language, choose an SSG built on your known language or platform so that you can get started fast and build your site more efficiently.
What are the Top 10 Static Site Generators?
With the increasing popularity of JAMstack, Static Site Generators are becoming increasingly popular. Here is a list of the top 5 Static Site Generators.
- Eleventy (11ty)
Introducing Next as a static site generator might be wrong or misleading because it allows building statically pre-rendered sites as well as server-side rendering.
Key Features & Advantages of Next.js:
- It is built in React and Backed by Vercel
- Next.js requires both the React.js framework and the Node.js environment to run on.
- Next.js supports server-side rendering by default.
- It allows you to create a static HTML website and deploy it on a static website hosting like a GitHub page or Netlify.
- Next.js facilitates developers with full control over front-end customization.
- Next.js comes with its own routers with zero configs. You don’t need any extra configuration of your routers.
- Next.js offers a variety of built-in tools for routing, state, code-splitting, and more that make it easier to build a React SPA.
Cons of Next.js
- Require longer build-time for larger websites.
- Next.js routing is challenging to change and needs the help of a Node.js server for dynamic routing.
- You need a dedicated developer to manage your project even after the development.
- Not non-tech users friendly, lack of graphical user interface.
- No built-in state manager is available.
To learn more visit the official website: Next.JS
Hugo is an open-source static site generator. It was created back in 2013 and designed with Go. Go is an open-source language developed by Google. Hugo is easy to install, set up and use.
It claims itself as the world's fastest framework for building websites. This claim is undoubtedly justifiable because it allows for generating a site at a super-fast speed with build times of less than 1 ms per page. And the average site builds in less than a second.
Key Features & Advantages of Hugo:
- Build speed is amazingly fast
- Provides full i18n support for multi-language sites
- It offers a large number of pre-built themes so that you can choose the perfect one that will be a good fit for your website and get started in no time.
- Hugo comes with built-in templates. These pre-made patterns help implement common site-building tasks easily and quickly, such as SEO tags, commenting, analytics, and other functions.
- Hugo provides a flexible content management system. It supports unlimited content types, and you can have taxonomies, menus, dynamic API-driven content, and more on your site without plugins.
- Hugo's Data-Driven Content” feature allows you to output your content in multiple formats. You can provide your data in CSV or JSON formats. It allows you to import existing CSV or JSON format data while building your site.
- Hugo's reusable shortcodes make them flexible and more convenient.
Cons of Hugo:
- It uses the Go programming language; hence you need to have knowledge of this language.
- It offers no plugin support.
To learn more, visit the official website: https://gohugo.io/
It offers a great user interface, blazing performance, community-driven plugin architecture, top-notch SEO, security integrations, accessibility, scalability, and so on. You can build your website in hours with Gatsby Starter templates, plugins, and themes.
Key Features and Advantages of Gatsby:
- Reactjs framework makes it simple to create progressive single-page applications and interactive user interfaces with reusable UI components
- Use GraphQL to manage site data and combine data from multiple sources
- Gatsby has a rich plugin ecosystem; for almost every functionality, you will find a plugin to help
- Gatsby is top of the game for its speed; it offers faster build time, faster page loading speed, and faster content creation ability. It presents a better performance by loading only the parts of a website that are required to render at a given time, and it pre-fetches resources for the next pages.
- Gatsby Cloud service makes it easier to build and host your static sites. It also works with Netlify.
- Excellent community support and detailed documentation, pre-built solutions, and huge resources make it developer-friendly; it is considered an entry point into the Jamstack for new developers. And the most suitable SSG for new developers and Jamstack beginners.
- Gatsby allows you to work with the latest web technologies and gives you access to many APIs.
Cons of Gatsby
- All features aren't available on the free version
- Requires longer build times
- Not much suitable for non-technical users
- Gatsby Plugins use isn't easy to use like WordPress plugins.
Websites Powered By Gatsby: A large developer community, tech companies, and agencies utilizing Gatsby actively. 470 companies reportedly use Gatsby. To name a few of these are: Snapchat, Tinder, ReactJS, National Geography, Figma, etc.
To learn more, visit the official website: https://www.gatsbyjs.com/
Jekyll is probably the oldest static site generator. It is completely free and open source. This static site generator is built on Ruby. It was released in 2008 and designed by GitHub's co-founder Tom Preston-Werner. This tool is also beginners friendly and it is a good choice for Ruby on Rails developers. It allows developers to build a website quickly and easily. Its popularity accelerates the growth of JAMstack and the concept of producing SSGs.
You can use Jekyll to build a broad range of websites however it is mostly used for static websites and blogs. It is known as a simple, blog-centric straightforward SSG. One of its notable features is Jekyll static site can be hosted on GitHub for free and Github Pages are powered by Jekyll.
Key Features and Advantages of Jekyll:
- Jekyll is written in the Ruby programming language.
- Jekyll is a Blog-aware site generator.
- Free hosting with GitHub Pages
- Migrating to Jekyll from another platform is very easy. There is a wide range of importers, and You can easily import your old blog or site from other platforms to Jekyll.
- Jekyll supports Markdown languages and multiple Markdown rendering engines. You can specify which engine to use in the site's configuration.
- Jekyll uses the Liquid templating language to process the template. Jekyll templates and liquid templating make static site building so easy that static sites are ready for deployment at your fingertips.
- It is simple, lightweight, easy-to-use.
Cons of Jekyll
- Long compilation time
- Only a few themes & plugins are available
- Small community
- Lack of post-scheduling feature
- Jekyll provides no default theme
Websites Powered By Jekyll: Jekyll powers so many big companies' websites. A few of them are Ruby on Rails, Sketch, Spotify for Developer, Ionic Framework, UN World Statistics, GitHub On-Demand Training, IBM MobileFirst Foundation, etc.
To learn more, visit the official website: Jekyll
Nuxt.js is a framework for creating Vue. js applications. This minimalistic framework is inspired by Next.js. Nuxt.js supports both server rendering and statically generated content. Same as Next.js, we can't address it a as pure static site generator because it can function as either an SSR framework for building SPAs or as an SSG.
Nuxt.js is designed as a multifunctional front-end framework and is referred to as a “meta-framework” for universal applications. It offers lots of advantages to developers o create powerful applications. And the most notable advantage is improved meta tags management and SEO improvement with its server-side rendering feature.
Nuxt.js also integrates with other development tools named Webpack, Babel.js, and Node.js to make it competent for a great development experience and robust applications. It facilitates developers to create three distinctive types of apps Static generated pages (or pre-rendering), Single page applications, and Server-side rendered apps or SSRs.
Key Features and Advantages of Nuxt.js:
- Nuxt.js has a powerful modular architecture that allows you to choose from more than 160 modules to make your development straightforward and swift.
- It permits you to customize the webpack configuration to build your application as per your expectation. Nuxt.js uses a webpack-bundle-analyzer to let you visualize your bundles and how to optimize them.
- It has an automatic routing feature that makes it easier and faster to create one. Nuxt.js automatically generates the Vue-router configuration, and you never have to write a router config.
- Nuxt.js also gives automatic code-splitting for all your routes; no extra configuration is needed.
- Nuxt.js bundles the following: Vue 2, Vue Router, Vuex, Vue Server Renderer, and vue-meta.
- It is free to use and backed by open-source community support
- It comes with integrated state management (Vuex)
- By default, Nuxt is configured to cover most use cases which encourages a quick and easy start for new projects.
Cons of Nuxt.js
- Lack of useful plugins and components
- High traffic on the site can cause server stress
- Low-quality debugging function
- Small community & Fewer Resouces
Websites Powered By Nuxt.js: Here are a few top-rated websites that are using Nuxt.js: Upwork, CDNJS, Ecosia, Asus, and Alibaba.ir, Stackoverflow.co, Unilever, JPL NASA, Monopo London, Zernonia, Global Maintainer Summit etc.
To learn more, visit the official website: Nuxt.js
Eleventy, generally known as 11ty, is a simpler but more powerful static site generator. 11ty built on top of Node.js. It is increasingly popular because of its robust toolset and user-friendliness.
Key Features & Advantages of Eleventy (11ty):
- Eleventy allows you to mix and match templating engines to enable easy migration of existing content. Your content templates can use a different templating engine than your layout files!
- Eleventy can work with your project’s existing directory structure, allowing incremental adoption. You can define where your files are, and Eleventy will work with the files.
- Eleventy works great with data—use front matter and/or load from an API using data files to inject into your templates.
- You can customize input/output-dir and add plugins, filters, and shortcodes.
- Allows flexible content modeling.
Cons of Eleventy (11ty)
There are very few drawbacks to 11ty. However, these are manageable and easy to solve.
- Mixed casing and conventions can make your templates stylistically inconsistent.
- Eleventy is highly configurable and extensible, with enormous options for customizing. Hence, beginners have to go through a steep learning curve.
- Namespacing is inconsistent
- Doesn't support ES Modules
To Learn More, Visit the Official Website: 11ty.dev
Hexo is a great innovation in the blogging platform. It's a fast & powerful static site generator powered by NodeJS.
You can write posts in Markdown or other markup languages, and Hexo will generate high-quality, attractive static websites within seconds.
Key Features & Advantages of Hexo:
- Written in Go language
- Offers blazing-fast speed.
- Supports multi-thread generating. Because of the Node.js platform, Hexo allows you to generate hundreds of static files in a matter of seconds.
- It supports all Octopress plugins and is highly Jekyll/Octopress compatible.
- Supports GitHub Flavored Markdown, easy to write, and super portable. You can redeploy or convert into other formats such as pdf.
- Features powerful APIs for limitless extensibility. Various plugins are available to support most template engines (EJS, Pug, Nunjucks, and many others). Easily integrate with existing NPM packages (Babel, PostCSS, Less/Sass, etc.).
- Available free and open-source themes
- Deployment is easy and quick. You can deploy your site to GitHub Pages, Heroku, or other platforms with one command.
Cons of Hexo
The main drawback of Hexo is the language barrier. It has a large community and growing rapidly. However, the majority is non-English speaker comes from China.
To Learn More, Visit the Official Website: Hexo.io
Gridsome is a JAMStack framework written in Vue.js. It eases the task of developers to build serverless websites & apps. Gridsome generates static HTML that hydrates into a Vue SPA once loaded in the browser. This means you can make both static websites & dynamic apps with Gridsome. Gridsome is highly inspired by Gatsby.js (React.js based), which collects data sources and generates a static site. Gridsome is an alternative to Gatsby.js.
It provides a modern development stack, and developers can work with modern tools like Vue.js, webpack, and Node.js.
Key Features & Advantages of GridSome:
- Use PRPL pattern, and Gridsome sites are fast by default.
- Robust plugin ecosystem
- Local development with hot-reloading
- It provides a GraphQL layer that allows simpler data management with a centralized data layer.
- Allows to use any headless CMSs, APIs, or Markdown files for data sourcing
- Open source and free under the MIT license.
Cons of GridSome
In some cases, Gridsome fails to assist developers in building complex applications. It also lacks features as compared to the other SSG like Gatsby and Nuxt. Support isn't much available because of the small community.
Websites Powered By GridSome:
To Learn More, Visit the Official Website: GridSome
Pelican is a static site generator powered by Python. It requires no database or server-side logic. It's easy to get started with Pelican and build super-fast websites quickly. Moreover, the absolute static output is simple to host anywhere.
It would be a perfect choice for Python users to create a self-host website or personal blog. It is also a great platform for data scientists; they can integrate Pelican with Jupyter Notebooks.
Key Features & Advantages of Pelican:
- Allows you to write content with your editor of choice in reStructuredText or Markdown markup.
- All the tasks are performed via command-line interface (CLI) tools.
- Pelican uses Jinja2 as the template language
- Easy to interface with DVCSes and webhooks
- Extensible via a rich plugin ecosystem: Pelican Plugin
- Allows to publish articles in multiple languages
- You can import existing content from WordPress, Dotclear, or RSS feeds
- Code syntax highlighting via Pygments
Cons of Pelican
- The community is relatively small and inactive compared to other popular SSGs.
- Pelican is not a PWA-ready (Progressive Web App). If you need a PWA, you need to look for other products.
- Not very concerned about SEO.
To Learn More, Visit the Official Website: Pelican
Astro uses the idea of next-gen Island architecture. The Power of Astro Islands pattern helps to create interactive UI components and Lazy-Loading features.
In Astro, you can use any supported UI framework (React, Svelte, Vue, etc.) to render islands in the browser. You can mix and match different frameworks on the same page or just pick your favorite.
Astro has a rich ecosystem of 100+ integrations & themes to explore. Community packages make it easy to add new features to your project to improve performance, SEO, analytics, accessibility, and more.
Key Features & Advantages of Astro:
- Powered by Vite.js
- Astro defines itself as a “Multi Page Application.”
- It supports both static outputs (SSG) and live server output (SSR) that can render your content on-demand.
- Supports Markdown and MDX. This means users can author content in a “copywriter-friendly” format.
- Offers first-class support for front-end tools like React, Vue, Svelte, and Tailwind CSS.
- You can source content from anywhere, you can fetch from the filesystem or remotely from any CMS, database, or API.
- Growing and Active Community
Cons of Astro
This very young framework is still in beta; therefore, there are many factors to improve.
To Learn More, Visit the Official Website: Astro
Not to mention, JAMstack static sites are becoming more and more popular. And here static site generator is the major part of the JAMstack development. Each static site generator has its own set of characteristics, highlights, and challenges.
You should consider the following aspects while choosing a static site generator for your next project. your own technical ability, ease of use, simplicity, type of content it supports, base languages, tools availability, community support, resources, and so on and so forth.
For example: If you're focusing on speed then Hugo would be best for you. If you are familiar and knowledgeable in a specific programming language then choose an SSG that is built on your known language or platform so that you can get started fast and build your site more efficiently.
SSGs mentioned above all are free and open-source, loved by the developers as the best of the best static website generators so start exploring right now and pick the most suitable one for your next undertaking.