Static sites: everything you need to know

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    Static sites are making a comeback. When the internet was first launched, the assortment of languages developers can use today to build different digital experiences wasn’t available. Instead, most sites were built using HTML, CSS, and simple content assets.

    Eventually, dynamic sites came onto the scene and offered greater options for personalization and delivering different content experiences for each person. However, with the growth of Jamstack, static sites have made a resurgence in popularity. In this article, we’ll tell you why and explain everything you need to know about static sites.

    What is a static site?

    Static sites are pre-built websites created using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The website gets delivered to a browser exactly as the files are stored on a server. These cached files are typically delivered via a content delivery network (CDN). This happens almost instantly too, which is why static sites are known for their speed and performance. The one or more HTML pages that make up static sites load the same way each time. Because of this, content on a static site is consistent, no matter who the user viewing it is.

    The growth of static sites in the modern era is due to access to better developer tools, the need for businesses to optimize for performance, and the popularity of building websites using Jamstack. A survey from Jamstack.org revealed that 35% of Jamstack sites were built for B2B software and 25% for enterprise software.

    Developers are turning to static sites and Jamstack to help them improve performance and the user experience, particularly in light of Google’s focus on Core Web Vitals and other details that impact SEO rankings.

    What is a static site generator?

    A static site generator (SSG) is a tool that generates a complete static HTML site using HTML pages from templates and raw data. An SSG removes the burden of building more complex static sites, where each page needs to be edited separately by automatically coding individual pages and then pre-rendering all of the pages of the site.

    With the reusable components provided by SSGs, developers can add personalization and other dynamic features to their websites. SSGs are even more powerful when used alongside a headless CMS. Developers and businesses can receive all of the benefits of static sites and still maintain access to modern workflows and tools that are critical for the digital experience.

    Benefits of static sites

    There are a few reasons why developers continue to opt for static sites. Here are the benefits:

    1. Security

    Static sites offer more security since cached pre-built files are already available for website visitors. There is no need to respond to user requests with new content each time, meaning there are fewer interactions with backend systems. Fewer interactions mean a lower surface area that can be targeted and a more secure system.

    2. Performance

    With static sites, there is less time spent fetching content. Pre-built files help to improve site speed and performance by providing faster loading times for content.

    3. Flexibility

    Static websites provide more flexibility as developers can freely make changes to the layout and content on individual pages. This also removes many limitations on design and allows different content types to be displayed on different pages as necessary.

    4. Scalability

    Static sites, especially those built using Jamstack, offer greater scalability since they rely on a CDN. Without having to manage server loads, this offers more scalability than other types of websites.

    Disadvantages of static sites

    There are some instances where static sites aren’t always the best. Here are some disadvantages:

    1. Developer expertise required

    Static sites provide several advantages for the user experience and performance, but you need a developer familiar with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create and edit them. Additionally, these developers might need to have experience with SSGs.

    2. Difficult to add dynamic content later on

    While you can add dynamic content to a static site, it becomes increasingly difficult to do after the site has already been built. If you want to add a comments section, a new product to an existing product page, or a form for gathering data from customers, it will require some additional effort from your development team.

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    A screenshot of an example of a website created with Jamstack

    An example of a static site

    How to build a static site

    Building a static site doesn’t need to be as challenging as it was in the past. Whether you want to take advantage of Jamstack or simply launch a simple website, these steps will help you get a static site up and running in no time.

    1. Pick a frontend framework/SSG

    If you want to code a static site from scratch using just HTML and CSS, then that is certainly a possibility. If you’re just building a personal website or a portfolio page, that’s a great option. However, if you’re an enterprise developer or working on a major project at your company, you’ll need something a bit faster — that’s where an SSG comes into play.

    The first thing to do when building a static site using an SSG is to select a JavaScript framework. React, Vue and Next are some good options. After that, you can select a static site generator such as Hugo, Gatsby, or Jekyll to quickly launch your static site.

    2. Pick a headless CMS

    Despite their benefits, static sites are fairly limited on their own. By adding a headless CMS you can add more dynamic features such as personalization. Also, if you want to turn your static site into a Jamstack site, launching a Jamstack site requires a headless CMS that decouples the frontend presentation layer and backend content repository. Connecting your static website to a headless CMS using APIs, enables you to add those additional details to further enhance content experiences.

    3. Pick a hosting platform/CDN

    A static site needs to be deployed somewhere, and that’s where a hosting platform or CDN comes into play. Platforms like Netlify and Vercel offer good options for hosting static content.

    Need more help?

    Contact our specialists if you want to learn more about static sites and Jamstack

    Storyblok: Headless CMS for building static sites

    Static sites provide a number of advantages for modern enterprises, and the use cases continue to rise. With approaches like Jamstack being more widely adopted, businesses need to be able to benefit from them.

    Storyblok is a headless CMS that is ideal for building static sites and taking advantage of Jamstack. Not only can you build Jamstack sites, but you can also do so much more through any frontend framework your developers choose to use.

    And while marketers may need developer assistance to launch static sites, creating and editing content for those websites is much easier with a headless CMS like Storyblok. Marketers can preview changes before publishing and increase brand visibility to generate more leads.

    Jamstack and static sites can be crucial difference-makers for businesses that want to provide a better user experience for their customers. To learn more about how much user experience and fast-loading times matter, take a look at our analysis of the top-performing Fortune 500 websites: The State of the Enterprise Web.