Your blog probably doesn’t need a static site generator

December 17, 2019

The website you’re on right now was made by editing raw HTML files like it's 1999. You’re probably thinking who is this caveman and why hasn’t he heard of static site generators or at least the plethora of blogging platforms? You might be surprised to learn that I have and in fact, I’ve tried nearly all of them. Jekyll, Hugo, Hexo, Gatsby, Pelican, Wordpress, Medium, Blogger, Ghost, Tumblr, and many others. I’ve even tried a Wordpress plugin that generated a static site in an attempt to combine both manageability and performance. Yet here we are: raw HTML files. And I honestly feel liberated.

Over the years, I’ve experimented so frequently with blogging solutions to the extent that I forgot to perform the most important step in the process: actually write. Editing raw HTML files leaves me no room for excuses and desiring nothing more. I see the rise in popularity of static site generators as a step forward in terms of having ownership over your content and better website performance, but at the same time, a step backwards because of the endless distractions it can lead to. The problem was that every static site generator was never enough — either the themes were lackluster, the generator simply lacked the flexibility and control I needed, or some other reason. Rest assured, I would find a reason.

The story always ended the same way — knee-deep in Jekyll/Hugo/Hexo/etc’s documentation, trying to grok the internals and what the hell was going on underneath the hood. I was editing themes, making my own themes, and doing everything unrelated to actually writing. Rather than treating the process as a means to an end, I was treating it as an end in itself. Eventually, I’d abandon the generator entirely, and the cycle would continue. I finally reached a point where I began to question the need for a static site generator in the first place: do I need to build my website every time I want post something? Do I really need any of this? I finally created a file named index.html and haven’t looked back since. I suggest that anyone (especially builder types) who has suffered from a similar experience take a serious look at editing raw HTML files as a viable option.

Today, my process is enjoyably unsophisticated. When I want to post something, I first write it in a text file, copy my last blog post’s HTML file, paste in my new article, make some slight adjustments, update my list of posts, add it to my RSS file, and that’s basically it. Any page on my website can be anything I want it to be, like how, for example, double clicking on this article leads to a small easter egg. There are no templates and no build process. You may find it unnecessarily manual, but I’ve come to realize that if I’m not willing to perform these few steps, then what I have to post may not be worthy in the first place. I might be weird, but this feels right.