Static Site Generation

The Future of Web

Static Site Generation
Web

21/08/2020

Better Performance

Many different structures for sites have been used during the past decade, with each one having their benefits and setbacks.

The original structure of websites consisted of static pages, with html, CSS and JavaScript. These sites are fast to load, but could be time consuming to create and can be difficult to maintain. Users require a complete page refresh when clicking through the site and it was not really suited for dynamic content.

Next came the monolithic structure - giant server applications. Wordpress and Drupal for example. Unquestionably the biggest disadvantage of WordPress and this approach is security and speed. Developers use plugins and themes that can contain malicious code. And unless a developer is doing all of the page updates, then more likely than not, the pages won't be structured correctly to achieve good search engine optimisation. As it is a 'one size fits all' approach, then sites can be bloated and slow for a lot of users.

Single page applications (SPA) or client side rendering was a fantastic way of providing performant, dynamic sites with high functionality. It's drawbacks were that due to the very nature of a SPA, it wasn't possible to have good search engine optimisation as everything was loaded into the DOM after sending to the browser. Google has made huge improvements recently on improving the way it handles crawling these sites, but it is a complicated issue that will take time to perfect.

Isomorphic sites were the answer to this. Each page is created dynamically on the server in response to a page request, but were also partly rendered on the client. This meant that tags, such as meta tags, could be created and sent with the page - crawlers could get dynamic and relevant meta tags. The downside to this approach is that it was expensive and complicated to deploy. You could run up significant costs if the site/app had a lot of traffic.

Here enters static site generation and the Jamstack. Using modern tooling you can create dynamic sites with high functionality and great search engine optimisation. Why wait for pages to build on the fly when you can pre-generate during deployment. When it comes to page speed, nothing beats static files served over a CDN. Not only this, but there have been thousands of articles explaining how page loading times influence your standing in search engine responses. This is the route that I have chosen for most of my new projects as I feel it is usually the best option.

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