Twenty years ago, if you wanted a website then you needed a talented designer or developer to create a collection of HTML documents, store them in a folder and upload them to a server. I may be somewhat underestimating how long ago that was, but it certainly hasn't been the case for a very long time. Today, most websites are managed via a Content Management System (CMS), with by far the most popular of these being WordPress - you may have heard of it. This has, in part, changed the role of designers and developers; some who would not have needed to know programming those decades ago are now required to understand the basics of "the loop" and how to query a database. But for the end user, for the website owner, the net gain is a simplified interface for adding and updating content. No longer is it necessary to hand content over to a developer for transformation into a HTML document and transfer to a server. You can do all of that with the click of a button: 'Publish'!
Ten years ago, then, if you wanted a website then you needed a server. These Content Management Systems depended upon processing your input programmatically and storing it in a database for later retreival. The result is millions of servers running countless websites, constantly up and ready to serve content. With potentially thousands of visitors per page, that's thousands of dynamic renders of the same content and a big chunk of computational time devoted to a repeated task. The modern web is energy-hungry. This is in part solved by caching, but that doesn't get to the root of the problem. That is... the server just isn't needed.
Most websites aren't sophisticated web apps. They're simple, informational sites. Marketing pages and blogs. Practically every page can be cached to reduce server load, but the server is strictly redundant in any case. Wouldn't it be better to serve up cached content by default? To do away with the server as a dependency in displaying content to your visitors? To choose a more cost-effective, fault-tolerant web hosting solution?
This is why I, and many developers like myself, have chosen Static Site Generators like Jekyll, Hugo and Gatsby to serve our own websites. These generators take our content and programmatically create HTML files to be served to our sites' visitors. The key difference between this and a server-hosted dynamic site is that this process is only run once, rather than for every single visitor. It is a form of website that's built to be cached by default. And the serverless approach is secure by default; without a server, there's no backend program for a malicious visitor or virus to crack into. Our websites are faster, more secure and less power consuming. But... static sites don't benefit from a content management system. They haven't exactly been user-friendly for non-technical users. That is, not until recently.
I may be a programmer, happily adept at editing raw files and writing code of my own, but even I prefer a CMS when it comes to publishing content on the web. And I'm keen to offer the benefits of static site hosting to non-technical users too. Which is why I am so pleased to be able to introduce Helvellyn CMS.
thombruce.com is now managed from Helvellyn CMS. I asked on Facebook a while ago what killer features my CMS would need, and I'm happy to say I've ticked all of the boxes. Helvellyn features built-in support for Google Analytics and GDPR compliance, it features Open Graph tags and SEO management, page images are processed to reduce the size for quicker page loads. And adding new sections and post types is a cinch in Helvellyn compared with WordPress.
I'm still eager to make it even easier to use, and to improve on the offering. But it's ready for use not just by me, but by clients and customers.
If you're interested in the approach, if you're interested in a CMS made by a boy from Cumbria, get in touch and we can arrange to get you online. Your site can be up the same day.
Watch this space and Helvellyn CMS for more details.