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Publii: a Static Site Generator with a GUI

I switched from WordPress to Publii and never looked back. It allows me to host my website for free and is just as simple and easy to use.

Coming Full Circle Back to Static Sites

I fondly remember making my first website in Macromedia DreamWeaver at school. Much like other personal websites on the early internet, it was static - simply a collection of HTML and CSS (and, of course, a few cool animated GIFs).

Eventually technologies like PHP and MySQL came along, and blogging platforms based on them - most notably WordPress - became dominant on the web. It's easy to see why: they're chock-full of features and allow one to blog from anywhere with an internet connection.

Yet, coming almost full-circle, static websites are in vogue again. People are now calling it JAMstack (JavaScript, API, and Markup) because it sounds better, but it still involves serving HTML from a static host similarly to my DreamWeaver-made website from 1998.

The question is, why go back to static?

Advantages of Static Websites

  • They're more secure. We're talking about a collection of static HTML pages and stylesheets - no server-side scripting whatsoever. All dynamic content is provided client-side by JavaScript.
  • They're faster. Barring any caching plugins, a CMS like WordPress has to generate each page dynamically. In case of a static website, all HTML is pre-rendered and only needs to be served to the visitor.
  • They're cheaper, both to build and to host. In fact, with services like Cloudflare Pages, GitHub Pages, or Netlify you can host a basic website for free and only pay for the domain.

Building a Static Website

There are countless ways to build a static website, from writing HTML directly in your favorite text editor to using WordPress as a headless (or decoupled) CMS, whereby you use it purely for creating content and host the site elsewhere. But if you're going static, you might as well use something built specifically for the purpose.

There are too many Static Site Generators (SSGs) to count, some of the most popular being Gatsby, Jekyll, and Hugo. One aspect these have in common is that they lack a GUI: you simply write your content in your preferred text editor and use the command line to push updates to your site. This is obviously daunting to many users, especially those coming from WordPress.

Enter Publii: a free and open source Static Site Generator with a GUI.

How to Build a Website with Publii

Publii combines the speed and security inherent to static websites with the ease of use of something like WordPress. Simply install the Publii app, download one of the free premade themes, and it will generate your blog, portfolio, or company website without any coding.

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Adding new content is easy - you can write posts, add images, and tag them right there in the app. Then preview the update in your browser - since it's just static HTML, you don't need to run a server on your computer - and sync it with your website with one click.

Writing a new post in Publii should be a familiar process to users migrating from WordPress.

Writing a new post in Publii should be a familiar process to users migrating from WordPress.

Hosting Your Publii Website

A great way to host your static website is the service I mentioned earlier in the article: GitHub Pages. It's free to use save for the cost of a custom domain. To get started, follow this official guide. Publii supports GitHub Pages natively, so after you save your authentication credentials, you'll be able to update your website from the Publii app at the click of a button.

Of course, you may want to choose a different service - such as Netlify or Google Cloud - or perhaps even traditional web hosting, in which case you would select the FTP or SFTP option in the Publii server settings.

Publii integrates with many different servers, allowing you to sync your website with a single click.

Publii integrates with many different servers, allowing you to sync your website with a single click.

What are the Downsides?

At the time of writing, Publii's latest release version was 0.38.3. Like all products still in development, it can be somewhat rough around the edges. Despite that, I can vouch for it being at least in a usable state.

It also doesn't have many ready-to-use themes. Although you can find free themes for a blog, portfolio, or even a documentation website, the overall selection is admittedly limited compared to more popular static site generators like Gatsby.

"Editorial 2" theme for Publii. Although the selection is limited, you can still find a free theme for most use cases.

"Editorial 2" theme for Publii. Although the selection is limited, you can still find a free theme for most use cases.

Other disadvantages stem purely from the nature of static websites. You can't have comments unless you integrate a third-party service like Disqus. You can't have on-site search unless you create a custom search engine through Google. (Incidentally, Publii supports both of these services out of the box).

To me, the drawbacks weren't significant at all. I imported my WordPress posts, signed up for GitHub Pages, and never looked back.

Disclaimer

Everything here is merely an opinion of someone dabbling in websites. I'm not affiliated to Publii in any way aside from being a happy user.

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