The Gearhead Toolbox, first opening, and look! Static web sites!

In this, the first installment of the Gearhead Toolbox, we focus on static web site generators and hosting

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Welcome to the first opening of The Gearhead Toolbox. There are so many really amazing tools and services appearing these days I’m going to start regularly posting a selection from the Toolbox to make sure you know what’s hot. In this, the first installment, we focus on static web site generators and hosting.

StaticGen, choosing a static web site generator

There are lots of web publishing frameworks and a design that’s become extremely popular is static web sites. The rationale for sites built this way is that they are simple to host (there’s little or no server side configuration required) and compared to products like WordPress they present no attack surface making it trivially easy to secure your content from hackers. On top of that, without the overhead of running databases and tons of supporting backend code, static web sites are really fast so you’ll get better SEO ratings!

If a static web site sounds like a good solution for your online content you have a problem: Which one to choose because there are, literally, hundreds available. StaticGen, run by the static web site hosting company, Netlify, tracks open source static web site generators. If it’s a static web site generator with a GitHub repo, you’ll find it on StaticGen and you can filter the projects by language then sort by star ratings, forks, issues, or titles. This is a really good place to start selecting your next web content platform.

Punch, a static web site generator  

Written in JavaScript and running under Node.js, Punch is a static web site framework that uses the Mustache templating engine and stores your content in JSON. You can create content using Markdown, CoffeeScript, and Less . Punch provides boilerplates, inheritable layouts, and partials and supports minification, asset bundling, and on-the-fly previewing. Punch is open source software available under the MIT License.

Netlify, hosting a static web site

Whether you’re using Punch, Jekyl, or some other static site generator, you’re going to want to host your web site somewhere to make it publicly visible. While there are endless traditional hosting choices available, Netlify is one of the big players in the specialist world of static web hosting. With Netlify you can deploy a folder of static content by just dragging it onto the browser window, set up continuous deployment with Github and netlify will run your build command installing dependencies from any Gemfile, package.json, bower.json or requirements.txt in the root of your repository, and deploy the result whenever you push to Github. 

Pricing starts in the best way: Free for prototypes and experiments with a free custom domain secured with a Let’s Encrypt TLS certificate and supports continuous deployment. The lowest paid plan, Basic, costs $9 per site per month and includes pre-rendering, API proxying, and built-in form submissions. CDN services are available with their top-end Global plan that costs $349 per site per month.

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