The web has evolved tremendously over that last couple of years with new technologies that have enabled developers to build some pretty amazing sites. This shift has made construction of these sites easier, but also adds complications in other aspects such as hosting environments, performance and portability. Depending on the requirements of the project at hand, you can utilize new open source tools to build dynamically generated sites in static HTML files. Leaving you with a lean / mean barebones site that can do some interesting things. Below are some of the technologies and services you can utilize to start building some awesome sites.

Jekyll

All this magic beings with Jekyll, a static site generator that dynamically builds your project every time there is a change, and only when there is a change. All this is done on your local machine, so you don't need to have complex hosting environments, and because they're static html pages moving to alternate hosting environments is straight forward. This leaves you with a very simple site to maintain, that does not need any other dependencies (other than Jekyll) to run.

Hosting & Content Editing

One of the advantages to using static files is that any hosting service is able to serve the pages build from Jekyll. This includes simple hosting solutions to a more robust systems like Amazon S3 / Cloud Front. This gives you maximum flexibility, without needed complex setting and maintenance.

Using services like Github, which excels at hosting code, has the ability to build sites using Jekyll. You can sign up for a free account, create a new project and you're off to the races.

Editing your content once it's on Github is easy with Prose.io, an online tool developed primarily to fill the void of a content editor when using Jekyll. Just sign in using your Github credentials and you can edit and build your website from anywhere.

Images

Since there is no image uploading using static websites, you can take advantage of services like Flickr or Dropbox to serve your image files, just copy the image links into your pages, blog posts and articles. Flickr also provides different sized versions of image, so you have thumbnails versions to paste into your code.

Videos

Serving videos from your web host can slow down your website if you have many people visiting at once. By moving these off your website and onto services like Vimeo or YouTube you can save a couple (or hundreds) bucks off your monthly bill and speed up your end user experience. Embedding these is as easy as pasting in the embed code into your Jekyll files.

Conclusion

By simplifying your build, you can create much more engaging user experiences by using the time that would have been spent setting up complex content management systems or hosting environments. Also, by offloading your sites assets such as images and video to external services, it will help minimize the impact of downtime experienced by users as those services don't rely on each other to serve content. This strategy won't work for some projects since the criteria changes for each client, but it's definitely something to keep in mind and utilize if possible.

About

Mike Pezzi is a Senior Drupal Developer with almost 10 years of experience building sites and online promotions for clients ranging from top Canadian companies, magazines, trade shows and restaurants, to photographers and charities. When he’s not developing, you can find him dragon boat racing, backcountry camping and smoking some sweet, sweet barbecued ribs.