Playing with static web sites. Redux.

Motivated mostly by some of the schockwellenreiter.de articles that seemed logical to me, I recently took a nose dive into working with static site generators, considering an alternative world that works without environments such as wordpress for my (rather rudimentary) blogging needs.

Today, I more or less same as officially am about to put an end to this approach. Tried it, at least temporary. Worked in some ways, but I considered it’s not really “for me”. I had an enjoyable time playing with hugo, pelican and jekyll. Probably I’ll keep these tools in my box for some situations where they seem appropriate. And I’m grateful for the experience of, once again doing web without too much server-sided magic that needs to happen for something as simple as writing a shorter article.¬† In the end, I’ve seen a few drawbacks that effectively pushed me back to my wordpress installation:

  • Why do I need markdown? Actually, this still bugs me in some ways. Most of the static site generators rely upon some markdown variant in order to generate static HTML pages. If wanting to build a static web site with as little effort as possible, why not rather make an effective off-site environment for directly editing HTML that gets uploaded to a server without much ado? After all, all the infrastructure (including browsers) is optimized for exactly this format.
  • The idea of “just using markdown” and some generator building static pages from that for the sake of having your data stored in an “open” format (well, markdown files) is good but not as portable as it seems, given especially metadata used inside the files pretty much depends upon which generator you actually are using. This way, again of course the choice of your tool matters.
  • Indeed wordpress requires a load of server-sided magic to work. Advantage, however, is that in such an environment publishing is possible without too much magic required on the client side, which also allows for, in example, writing blog posts from some laptop or public shared computer if you don’t have your working machine around. Publishing articles with hugo while on the road makes this a bit more difficult as you always need to have your tool chain for site generation available somehow. Yes working with static site generators becomes more of a software development workflow – at the price of always having sort of a “development workstation” or at least development setup at hand for working.
  • Though this is recently slowing down pretty much, I do have a load of “old” posts lurking around on this blog, some linked to from elsewhere in the web. If I wanted to move all-hugo or all-jekyll, I’d be required to completely rework all my existing page links to work with the “new” site too. I’ve been half-heartedly trying this with jekyll and hugo and didn’t really enjoy this as much as I hoped. Seems a load of effort for not much outcome.
  • Overally, I’m torn between being interested in approaches I haven’t played with so far and always being in a cycle of evaluating and eventually choosing new tools. I’m not blogging that much right now at all, also because I spend a load of time hanging around on various (closed, open) social networks trying to find one that would work for me as an exclusive solution. It’s not working. About blogging, and working with static site generators, I saw myself ending up writing even less and evaluating tools even more while I actually wanted to do just the opposite – less choosing tools and more working with those I chose.

So maybe it’s just a funny coincidence that, after logging into my wordpress instance today, I was suggested to install the all-new Gutenberg editor and see a “whole new writing experience” – which is what I am trying so far. And honestly it doesn’t feel all too bad. Let’s see where this is heading…