These days, it is almost too easy to get up and running with your very own blog. Given the way certain social media sites (i.e. Twitter) have been functioning lately, this is a good thing. A blog in 2023 is still the best way to get your thoughts out there, while retaining control over the curation and presentation of the content.
Putting a bunch of static html pages on the internet is so 1990s… or is it? As it turns out, “static” websites are enjoying a renaissance as more webmasters, developers, writers, businesses and government organizations have realized their benefits. Today, modern static sites are powered by generators such as Hugo and Jekyll, which provide a great alternative to dynamic websites powered by the likes of Wordpress and Drupal.
Why use a static site generator?
A static site generator essentially takes in all the components of a website—content files, page templates, stylesheet, etc.—and spits out final published html files. These are the files that people see when they visit your website on a browser. There are not many things simpler than a html file, so static sites tend to load fast. A dynamic site will, in principle, have to keep generating these files whenever a user visits the website. Caching speeds things up, but dynamic sites have to deal with a central database that grows in size over time. For most websites, the pages are viewed more than they are updated, so a static site is often a smart choice (although it’s not always the answer, it depends on what kind of site you want).
For a nice experience in 2023 with a static site generator, I recommend Hugo very strongly.
It is easy to get started with, and can even be completely free from hosting costs thanks to GitLab Pages. The Hugo generator itself is totally free, and you can host a site made with Hugo anywhere. Bloggers who are not terribly tech-inclined will appreciate how well Hugo works out-of-the-box. In fact, Hugo is designed to! There are a tonne of great themes you can choose from for a variety of use cases, including blogs, business pages and even knowledge bases.
While someone who knows enough html, css and Go can certainly modify a theme (or build their own) to provide a number of nonstandard features, most people can simply pick a theme they like and start blogging in a very short amount of time (if you just use the GitLab Pages template project, you can be up and running in <2 minutes). Hugo has a quick start tutorial that walks you through every step. Hugo blog posts are written in either markdown or org, both plain text markup languages that allow writers to focus on their content without distraction. Graphical content management systems can also be enabled for a Hugo blog.
It costs less to operate a website powered by Hugo. A dynamic site has more server-side work to do, whereas a static site just serves up html pages. Therefore, generally speaking, you use fewer resources when operating a static site. This can translate into less money spent on hosting.
Finally, Hugo is very fast, with build times of under 1 millisecond per page—who doesn’t want to push their content out quickly?
Overall, Hugo has made it very simple to have a lightning-fast blog in 2023, so I would recommend considering this alternative over Wordpress if you are creating something new or looking to migrate.