Marco De Nadai bio photo

Marco De Nadai

Data Scientist and Ph.D. student at University of Trento, Italy.

Wordpress? The future is static

Sat 09 August 2014

I was a PHP developer and I lived the blog fashion bubble when everyone made blogs, even talking about non-sense. Since that "era", Wordpress established the "standard de-facto" among the blogging platforms. Wordpress has been highly customizable (it has more than 15'000 of plugins), it is still used by high profile websites like The New York Observer and someone is even using it as CMS. Being a developer doesn't mean that you have time to make your own projects. In fact, we usually have time for the others but not for ourselves. Personally, I also get easily tired by upgrades, bugs, exploits that I could encounter building a simple personal portfolio website; I really can't handle all these things anymore, especially because I usually don't develop Wordpress websites, so I'm not continuosly updated.

I also saw the evolution of Wordpress: from a small and not well written script, it became a fancy not well written OOP script.

Here are some cons about Wordpress:

  • exploits! Do you have time to keep it updated? Do you really trust the auto-update feature? Be prepared to backup and restore everything.
  • WYSIWYG? I never even liked to write within the administration panel: every time I needed to change the blog template (font), the WYSIWYG was displaying the horrible Times new roman font, misleading me about the real appareances of the post.
  • slow: do you really think that in the age when Google incorporates site speed in search rankings you are safe? Are you thinking about having a high-traffic website? You don't have money to waste?

For all these reasons I came out with static site generators. After half a decade when people were obsessed by dynamicity, we are finally going back to site generators like Jenkill, officially supported and used by Github and Pelican, the script used to generate this website. Even thought Jenkill is almost complete, I must admit that I don't know Ruby and that I prefer the Pelican documentation. Pelican is written in Python.

These are some pro of Pelican (but they are applicable to all the static website generators):

  • fast! As it will be explained later, all the speed problems will be solved.
  • no database required.
  • Users will use a simple text editor and Markdown syntax to write.
  • cheap and easy to host practically anywhere. Amazon S3 and Github pages (free) are the most used choices.
  • websites are easy to secure, maintain and scale.

How to start

The best way to start is understanding how easy is to make a blog. The quickstart is very comprensive. First of all some Python packages are necessary.

pip install pelican markdown

The second step is generating the basic structure of the blog.

mkdir -p ~/projects/yoursite
cd ~/projects/yoursite

Now it is time to write the first article in Markdown:

Title: My First Review
Date: 2010-12-03 10:20
Category: Review

Following is a review of my favorite mechanical keyboard.

And save it to "~/projects/yoursite/content/". The "content" directory is made for all the posts and pages and it will not change even if the blog will be revolutionized. From the "~/projects/yoursite/" directory, you can launch

pelican content

The static HTML files will be generated in the output directory. To visit your new website, just launch

cd ~/projects/yoursite/output
python -m SimpleHTTPServer

And navigate http://localhost:8000/ in your browser.


I am a nerd, I like performances benchmarks. In this plot it is possible to find the performance of Wordpress and Pelican in a simple hosting of, but also Pelican (stati HTMLs) in Amazon S3.


Notes: the tests are made with Apache ab via Internet, so the performance is also affected by the speed of the connection and the congestion on the moment of the test. The peak in the end is probably caused by this. I am sorry but I could not set up a local server in my PC.

Host your website for free

If you want to host a website for free, use Github pages. Here you find a nice tutorial.

Sources of this website

The sources of this website are available here.


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