This week, I was lucky enough to moderate a panel at SXSW Interactive on static website design. Great discussion was had from a variety of points of view — coder, designer, project manager. What really stood out from our conversation, and from the great questions from the audience, was that was this isn’t really about tools - it is about workflow. How going from a larger CMS, or software driven process to something more nimble can effect positive change in every part of the website production process.
What’s interesting in reverting to static files is just that - the files. By representing website content in a file, and not somewhere in a database, how you interact with that file can change.
To be clear, I think it’s important to not conflate git and GitHub when it comes to static site generation. If you’re using GitHub pages and Jekyll, then git is indeed baked in. But, a static site does not by definition mean you’re using git. What it does mean, is you now have a physical file, that lives somewhere, rather than a database. That makes things interesting, and generally speaking, much more flexible. A simple markdown file can be edited offline, in text editor, online is a SAAS product, or managed directly in a version controlled flow of your choice — git, or otherwise.
As Jessica Teal mentioned on our panel, putting content in Markdown essentially takes the WYSIWYG editor out of the content creation process. This is a good thing, usually resulting in much cleaner, well structured content.
Segregating well-structured content from design assets makes for a much better workflow, and ultimately, more consistent design. It’s much harder to muddy the waters between the two, when all a well-structured markdown file can do each time, is load the same exact template file. No more bold, italic red text - a nightmare any designer who has worked with a CMS knows all too well.
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