I’ve been getting intimate with Hugo! There I’ve said it, and despite my usual skepticism, this is a technology worth knowing about. But first a lesson in the history of website engines.
In the beginning (well 1994 ish), the web was a simple thing. Basic text and images were served up as black text on a gray page. Any non-static information had to be generated by a side program called the common gateway interface (CGI) not to be confused with Computer Generated Images. So basically you made a document and saved it and people could download it and view it and link to other peoples documents (this is the basics of html).
Fast forward 20 years and websites gradually got more complicated, but for very good reasons. Designers had to be appeased with ways to make the pages and content look beautiful and inviting (as well as functional), always chasing the WOW factor. Styling was separated from content and layout using the css markup language. Websites became ‘data-driven’, meaning when you open a website on your device of choice, the website talks to a database and loads the content, formats it depending on your request and delivers a customised page just for you.
_But you know what? Databases are slow and complexed, and what if everyone that hits your homepage is getting the same content anyway? This is where we take a lesson from history. Static site generators are separating the database from the website, in fact it kind of removes it. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a place for database driven websites (wordpress, drupal, etc) but even they are changing.
So how does this help you?
Well let’s say you are a small business or tradie and your web requirements are simple; A nice looking page with your logo and contact details and some encouraging words for your would-be customers.
Hugo is a perfect solution for the following reasons:
- Far simpler than a database-driven website (CMS)
- The website will be leaner and faster
- Less maintenance and ongoing costs - hosting is cheaper or free
- Easy portability - it’s just a bunch of text files
In the old world, you’d buy some hosting and a domain name, and get some wordpress or other site setup. You’d then install a theme and start entering your content into the database. When that website gets a request from you for a page, it’s going to access the database to generate the page (yes there is caching or it would be shockingly slow), but it still means your site can’t exist without that database and the app serving the pages and the database are tightly married together. The content and the visual appearance is also married together to a large degree. It’s complicated but it’s great because you can enable visitors to logon and buy stuff, and because they are logged in, you can give them a personal experience, showing their name, their information etc (just like facebook does when you logon).
So getting back to the small business or tradie… you are paying for all this to be setup and managed/maintained/updated. It’s great ongoing work for you or your IT crew. But wait, you don’t really need all your customers to get a personalised website?!
Well, let’s get back to HUGO… Hugo and other systems like it use a combination of templates and text files to create your website. It’s simple and it’s easy to implement (less time). Best of all, because the site doesn’t need a database you can host it pretty much anywhere you like. Furthermore if you don’t like where it’s hosted you can take a copy of the files and put them on a new host. No database migrations, exports or imports. Some hosting is free (see NetLify, Git Pages, and others), and even if you pay for hosting, the requirements are minimal so cost is too.
Now getting back to speed. Hugo is fast, I mean real fast. If there is one sure way to lose new leads, its a slow website. How many times have you clicked a link to have chrome/safari/(insert browser of choice) sit there free-wheeling. Unless you really want that info, you just hit back and try another result. Google expects your site to load within 4 seconds or you’re going to be down ranked.
If you got this far, well done. If you have a website already, why not try the Pingdom website and see how it measures up.
It’s nice to have choices and sometimes this makes perfect sense.
If you want to know more, Let’s Talk