How to choose a static site generator

Max Ikäheimo

As Jamstack is becoming increasingly more popular so are the technologies used for developing it. New static site generators, headless CMSs and other services used in Jamstack development are published on a monthly basis.

While this is great, it might raise uncertainty about which static site generator should be used for Jamstack development. There are no simple answers to this question and without proper understanding of the technologies used to develop Jamstack it can be very confusing to choose the right tools.

Luckily we've done the heavy lifting for you and in this post we'll tell you how to choose a static site generator for your next Jamstack project.

Choosing the right Static site generator for Jamstack development

When choosing a static site generator for Jamstack we should ask ourselves these questions:

  • Is it easy to develop with?

  • Is it supported by other Jamstack technologies such as headless CMSs?

  • Does it provide an ecosystem for plugins, builds and previews?

  • What programming language or framework is it built on?

  • Is it purely non-profit open source or is it backed by a business?

It's very important to have answers for these questions before choosing a static site generator for your next Jamstack project.

At Ikius we use Gatsby JS as our go to static site generator because it has all the answers to the questions above.

  • It has been around a long time

  • It's easy to develop with since it's built on React

  • It's supported by almost every Jamstack technology out there with a few exceptions

  • There are tons of plugins available

  • Gatsby has its own ecosystem for near real time builds and previews (Gatsby Cloud)

  • Gatsby is open source but its also backed up by a business (Gatsby Inc.)

Of course, Gatsby is not the only static site generator available. There are also other options such as Next.js, which offers server-rendered applications as well as statically exported React apps which might be better for certain situations.

Both are great for static site generation and both have their use cases. However, Gatsby and Next.js have one thing in common; they're both backed by companies with real life business goals. Next.js backed by Vercel and Gatsby is backed by Gatsby Inc. both having millions of dollars venture capital behind them.

The importance of business behind open source

Open source is great! We love it and almost every technology we use is open source. However, we also think that open source is better when it's backed by a business.

Being open source allows everyone to contribute to a project but sometimes pushing the envelope requires a business behind the open source project to drive it forward. Great things often happen for business oriented reasons.

Purely non-profit open source has its risks, developers involved in the project might quit for various reasons and cause the project to be unmaintained.

By choosing technologies which are backed by venture capitalists we can ensure we choose technologies that are guaranteed to be driven by real life business goals which ultimately lead to better products, services and technologies.

What is the right programming language or framework for static site generators?

This depends on many factors as do all things in life. There are no simple answers to this this question either but we can all agree on one thing: you should choose a static site generator you're most comfortable developing with.

Of course at Ikius we're very comfortable working with Javascript and React, which is why we love working with Gatsby. Some static site generators like Hugo are built on Golang which offers better build performance for websites which have tens of thousands of pages. Yet again, different frameworks work for different situations.

You should choose a static site generator which is built on a programming language you're most comfortable with.

Best static site generator for Jamstack development

If you ask us the best static site generator for Jamstack development is Gatsby because it offers the best support for Jamstack and other supporting technologies. Gatsby offers everything from community plugins to enterprise cloud services for blazing fast cloud builds and they're planning on expanding their ecosystem even more!

Of course, we emphasize that some static site generators might better than others for certain situations and use cases. Regardless, as Jamstack is becoming increasingly more popular you should choose a well supported static site generator with a good ecosystem for supporting Jamstack services like Headless CMS source plugins and other plugin-based integration solutions.

If you have to pick one purely for static site generation, pick Gatsby. It's really hard to go wrong with it since you can do almost anything with it! It's also free and you don't have to use any of the enterprise or cloud services offered by Gatsby Inc. if you prefer to do things yourself.

Conclusion: choose an open source static site generator supported by a company

Our go to choice is Gatsby, yours might be Next.js, Hugo or something completely different. It's advised to research and think about the specific requirements for your project since choosing the right static site generator is essential for future-proofing your next Jamstack project.

In any case, you should choose an open source static site generator supported by some company which is actually selling some service related to their technology! This ensures that your technology of choice is not abandoned anytime soon.

If you wan't to learn more about static site generators or you're unsure which technology would be the right choice for you, please don't hesitate contacting us! We'd love to discuss more about your next Jamstack project!