Static site generators (SSGs) have grown in popularity among developers for certain types of websites. Tools like Jekyll, Hugo, Hexo, and others have made it easy to set up a website without worrying about server-side dependencies. Having the right static website CMS makes managing your site’s content easy, too.
With a static site, you edit the content and build the site on your local machine and then deploy to a live web server. Any web server that can serve HTML files can be used to host a static website, and there are even some tools that will host your static website for free, such as GitHub Pages and Gitlab Pages.
What Is a Static Website
Most, if not all, web pages on the Internet are coded using HTML. The difference between a static website and a server-dependent dynamic website is how the site pushes the content to the browser. A static website is made up of HTML files (yes, they are physical files), and each web page corresponds to a single file.
On the other hand, WordPress and other server-dependent dynamic CMS make use of a database to store the content and use a server-side scripting language, like PHP or Java, to process the content and generate the HTML code for the browser to render. The HTML code is generated on demand, whereas a static website requires hard disk space to store the HTML files, whether they are being viewed or not.
The benefit of a static website is that it doesn’t require a server (you can even host your site from Google Drive or Dropbox), and the web pages load fast. On the other hand, maintenance can become an issue if there are many pages on your site. Just imagine making a small change to the footer of the site for 1000 files.
Static Website CMS
Typically, updates to a static website are tedious, which is why some people are put off from using these solutions. This is where a static website CMS can come in.
They provide an easy way for non-technical users to edit and publish content within a friendly user interface in the same manner they’re used to, using something like WordPress.
If you are considering using a static site generator for your next project, pick a great static website CMS to use with it.
1. Netlify CMS
Netlify CMS is an open-source tool that allows non-technical users to easily manage and update content generated by a static site generator. It’s a web-based app that offers a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, real-time preview and drag-and-drop media uploads. If you prefer to author content in markdown, you can do that too!
It works with the most common SSGs, such as Jekyll, Hugo or Gatsby, and most other generators. Netlify CMS provides templates to help you get started quickly if you’re creating a new site, but you can also add it to an existing website pretty easily.
Siteleaf provides a clean admin interface for your static website, making it a popular static website CMS. Just like Netlify CMS, you can choose to author your content in a visual editor or just plain markdown. One unique feature is its API, which allows you to access your content and integrate it into other websites and applications.
Importantly, the content generated using this tool is not tied to one platform but can be published on any web server of your choosing. In fact, you can easily export content out of Siteleaf if it doesn’t meet your needs at any point in time.
Publii is a desktop app for building beautiful static websites quickly and efficiently. It is available for both Windows and macOS and packs all the tools necessary to get up and running.
You can create multiple websites within the app and manage them all without having to juggle between different admin dashboards. It also has a ton of SEO and social media-related settings that will make your website more search-engine friendly and maximize social media shares.
The app works offline, so you can easily author or update content without an Internet connection, and everything will sync to your preferred hosting service once you get back online.
If you want to get started really quickly without having to worry about the design of your website, Publii provides some themes you can use. It’s also really easy to switch up the layout, fonts or color of your website using its extensive customization tools.
DatoCMS provides an API-based admin area for your static websites. It is targeted at developers or web agencies who want to provide an intuitive way for their clients to publish or update content independently without having to rely on developers to do it for them.
It integrates with all the popular static site generators and also allows you to keep your existing deployment solutions. On top of that, you retain the freedom to host the generated website wherever you like. It’s a great static website CMS for large-scale projects, though you’ll need a premium plan for those.
Forestry is another CMS option for static websites, built using Jekyll or Hugo. It offers a front-end for editing the content generated by the SSG in a way that’s both familiar and intuitive.
To get started, you only need to connect an existing git repository or upload a zip file of your Jekyll or Hugo project. Forestry will then parse your project and automatically build a custom CMS for it. The changes you make in the CMS can be published to any hosting service you prefer.
It’s free for up to three sites and has premium plans starting at just $29, which is great for small teams or freelancers.
If simplicity is what you want, jocms is the perfect static website CMS. It’s free and open source. You don’t need any technical knowledge to get started, either. Use the simple WYSIWYG editor to edit content in-line. Upload images and even backup files quickly.
Currently, jocms is still in beta, so you might encounter the occasional bug. However, it’s a simple, free, lightweight CMS that’s well worth trying out.
WordPress is not the only CMS available when it comes to publishing content online. If you are looking to build a static site, there are tons of other CMS that you can use for free. The above list should give you a head start if you are looking for a CMS for your static website.