Website creation
February 14, 2018 11:27 PM   Subscribe

I will want to be creating a website for a business that I am in the (slow, long) process of creating. The site will be simple, fairly static, no database, perhaps a form for submitting messages, possibly blogging. I am wondering what tools to use to create it.

I see there is the Visual Studio Community IDE.

A friend pointed out that Static Site Generators are the shizzle.
Reading that article there appears to be so many options that I don't know where to start.

Is there something like VS Community IDE but not Microsoft? I looked at JetBrains but didn't see anything.

What can you recommend with respect to Static Site Generators?

Or is there something else you can recommend?
posted by falsedmitri to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Since you mention static site generators and seem to be coming from a software developer orientation, here are a couple of notes from my experience a few years ago setting up a site with Jekyll:
  • Never having used Ruby before, setting up the environment on a Linux system and the necessary libraries (or gems, or whatever they're called) was a kind of traumatizing experience because I kept running into situations where the standard installation process involved downloading a script from a site and running it with root privileges, or where a script I'd gotten out of a .tar or other archive and had run with root privileges downloaded and ran another script automatically. (The need to run with root privileges apparently resulted from starting off via the OS's package manager, which resulted in subsequent pieces needing to write to system directories, whereas if I'd downloaded everything and manually installed it under a user account it would have been smoother I think?)
  • At that time, at least, the Sass style-sheet-generating language was extremely buggy and whenever I attempted to do anything sophisticated I stumbled over problems that boiled down to things simply not working as documented.
That said, those weren't really bigger issues than the quirks and frustrations I've run into using a variety of CMSes. But after that project I got fed up with installing and maintaining and updating software as part of the process of setting up a web site, and chose instead the set of frustrations that accompanies using a hosted CMS: more limitations and higher hosting fees, but someone else worries about the non-HTML and non-CSS software bits.
posted by XMLicious at 12:45 AM on February 15, 2018

I've used Jekyll to create a pretty large website in my professional life, and I'm a fan of it. I never ran into the installation problems that XMLicious mentioned, and I never bothered creating my own Ruby plugins; I just used a few open-source plugins and made do with Liquid where needed. However, it's true that the installation and setup process is fairly technical. And if you want really custom logic and don't know Ruby, then you'll need to learn how to write Liquid. Also, I'd consider doing something like running Jekyll on Heroku to make the process of setting up the webserver easier.

But really, for a small site, I'd just install Wordpress. There are tons of plugins that could help you with the form submission functionality, and the user community is bigger than that of any static site generator, so there are lots of people who can help when you have questions.
posted by neushoorn at 1:59 AM on February 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest WordPress or SquareSpace or similar - if you don't need a custom back end (i.e. database) then I think you're better off with one of the out of box solution - you can focus on content and presentation and not so much on plumbing. Just my $0.02 - good luck!
posted by parki at 4:07 AM on February 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

It’s really, really hard to recommend anything other than Wordpress these days.
posted by The Deej at 4:09 AM on February 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

I generally use Wordpress for these sorts of things, although given your requirements, I'd probably look at Squarespace or something similar.

It sounds like you enjoy coding and are looking for an excuse to make life difficult in an interesting way. Focus on the business - you can move your site to another platform later.
posted by pipeski at 5:09 AM on February 15, 2018

I've been building web sites in one form or another for 20+ years and these days I steer people towards services like SquareSpace/Wix if they can possibly afford it. The less screwing around and tinkering with code and config you have to do, the better your chances of focusing on your actual content and keeping your site up to date.

Running your own install of Wordpress can be pretty good if you can resist the temptation to go down the "Maybe I can just change [little annoying behavior] by installing a bunch of plugins and/or editing templates" rabbit hole.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 5:12 AM on February 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I’m not sure why you’re starting with static site generators. Just go to Squarespace and be done with it. For a regular site, your time is worth more than the $12 a month it takes to futz with anything, find hosting, etc. I’m a very experienced web dev with dev ops experience, can build website stacks in my sleep and i still use Squarespace because it just works and i value my time.

If/when you outgrow Squarespace or need features it doesn’t have, then Wordpress is the defacto next step.

Your mention of IDEs in the same sentence as static site generators indicates you starting very green, in which i absolutely do not recommend static site generators. They’re great if you know what your doing and have a very well definined used case, but that might a little ways off for you still.
posted by cgg at 7:30 AM on February 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

Yeah just use wordpress.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:58 AM on February 15, 2018

I should have said that I already have the domain name, call it Does this enter into these deliberations at all?
posted by falsedmitri at 10:00 AM on February 15, 2018

If you're comfortable with getting/managing your own hosting, and with programming tools in general, I highly recommend using a static site generator if you are the only person working on it, and/or the other people working on your website are either going to go through you, or are likely to have similar capabilities. I use python-based Pelican to generate a personal website, and I've found it quite capable and relatively easy to use, plus it has fairly good plugin ecosystem (and an architecture for writing your own if you have more complex needs). You would use whatever text editor/IDE suits you to work on it; if MS is out of the picture, Sublime Text and Atom are editors/IDEs I hear about frequently in discussions. (I personally use Visual Studio Code for this sort of thing.)

If the above doesn't describe you, I'd side with those saying to use SquareSpace. You'll end up paying more per month, but they take care of pretty much everything you need. Hosted WordPress would also be fine, but unless you're comfortable managing and updating your own WordPress install, I wouldn't host it yourself.
posted by Aleyn at 1:11 PM on February 15, 2018

You can use your own domain name on Squarespace, that's what I do for my site.
posted by divabat at 2:19 PM on February 15, 2018

I nth the hosted WordPress or Squarespace recommendations. But if you do want to go the static site generator route, Github Pages might be what you need. You can bring your own domain, and there are tonnes of tutorials on how to use it with generators. Jekyl is preferred.

If you opt for Squarespace, they sponsor many tech podcasts. Go check out some of the stuff on or 5by5, and see if you can get a discount code.
posted by sincarne at 6:54 PM on February 15, 2018

Some caveats with Squarespace: 1) if you transfer your domain to them (as the registrar, rather than just pointing the DNS at their servers) as far as I could get out of their tech support, they don't provide the basic forwarding-only email service which is included for free by registrars like Google Domains or Namecheap: so it appears that you would have to sign up for at least one $5/month Google G Suite (paid GMail, which they're a reseller of) account before you could receive email at addresses for your domain.

2) There is no way to fully back up and restore a web site and no undo/rollback functionality accessible to the user: if you edit content through the interface and save it, it's like overwriting a file on a hard drive—there's no going back. Tech support has intimated that there's some sort of behind-the-scenes rollback capability that they have access to and might deign to use in extraneous circumstances, but the official policy is that you would be totally screwed, you should have cut and pasted things out of their interface and saved them manually as text files, and oh by the way have you tried looking in the Google Cache and the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine? (Literally: the above documentation link actually recommends checking the Google Cache et al. and cut & paste as a prophylactic measure.)

3) They've somehow managed to create a developer toolchain entirely out of FOSS components like git and node.js which is only compatible with Windows and OS X, and this is undocumented. (Undocumented in the text of and in marketing materials about "developer mode" capabilities, at least; perhaps it is mentioned in the admittedly copious tutorial videos and podcasts and webinars.) Really sucked to find that out after I'd set up a Linux development system expressly for learning Squarespace. The tech support guy I'd been escalated to after asking about the suspiciously OS-specific-sounding error messages I was receiving while trying to follow the developer "Getting Started" tutorial simply stopped responding after I asked for details on the configurations of Linux they'd done testing on. But the web-based non-developer user interface appears to work as designed in all the browsers I've tried on Linux.

But all in all, for what you're getting as a hosted CMS I'd still agree with everyone above and say it's worth the money.
posted by XMLicious at 11:41 PM on February 15, 2018

>> 1) if you transfer your domain to them (as the registrar, rather than just pointing the DNS at their servers)

I'm not sure which I should do. Could be list the advantages and disadvantages of each?
posted by falsedmitri at 6:21 PM on February 17, 2018

« Older How do I uninstall Spotify?   |   Trauma and therapy and triggers Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.