Tools for Building Websites

February 16 2017

It’s early 2017 and yet again, I’ve rebuilt my web­site. Here’s a run­down of the dif­fer­ent tools I’ve used over the years. 

Kirby

At the time of writ­ing, this web­site is built in Kirby. It com­bines the speed of a static-site gen­er­a­tor and has an option of a web-based GUI for edit­ing con­tent. I’m con­vert­ing all my per­sonal web­sites to using Kirby. High­est rec­om­men­da­tion on this list.

Pros

  • Incred­i­bly easy to get run­ning locally
  • Great doc­u­men­ta­tion
  • Wide array of plu­g­ins to extend func­tion­al­ity
  • You can build the entire site locally to try it out before buying your license and launch­ing it for the first time.
  • License cost is flat-fee, not sub­scrip­tion.
  • PHP-based and Word­pressy” in terms of it’s tem­plat­ing-engine.

Cons

  • Kirby isn’t free, and it costs $17 for a per­sonal license and $89 for a com­mer­cial license. Totally worth it.

Jekyll

I went bonkers over Jekyll for a while, since it was my gate­way into static-site gen­er­a­tors. #NoDB

Pros

  • Open source
  • Static-site gen­er­a­tor
  • Uses Liquid, an easy to learn tem­plat­ing lan­guage

Cons

  • Set­ting up locally is kind of a bear and requires an under­stand­ing of Ruby.
  • Intended to be used for blog­ging, so adding other types of con­tent, say a port­fo­lio sec­tion, was chal­leng­ing.
  • Since it uses Ruby to com­pile, there’s no web-based GUI. Forget about blog­ging on your phone or from another com­puter.

Mid­dle­man

Mid­dle­man is sim­i­lar to Jekyll in that it’s a static-site gen­er­a­tor. Unlike Jekyll, it’s nat­ural capa­bil­i­ties extend far beyond blog­ging. It’s meant to build full web­sites.

Pros

  • Open source
  • Build­ing full sites is a breeze
  • Great doc­u­men­ta­tion
  • The front-end views are built using .erb tem­plates. When you’re build­ing your Mid­dle­man site, you’re learn­ing and using the same code that’s in Ruby on Rails appli­ca­tions.

Cons

  • Set­ting up locally requires Ruby.
  • Again, no web-based GUI to add con­tent. In the 1.5 years my site was in Mid­dle­man, I wrote a single blog post. I never wanted to launch my entire local envi­ron­ment just to write a quick thing.

Word­press

We’ve all used Word­press, and it’s here to stay. Dep­site my love/​hate rela­tion­ship with it, Word­press is always my go-to when I need to build a site quickly and cheaply.

Pros

  • Word­press easily has the best doc­u­men­ta­tion of any­thing on this list.
  • It’s incred­i­bly pow­er­ful and ver­sa­tile.
  • There are an end­less amount of plu­g­ins and tools to make the site right for you.

Cons

Tumblr

Can you define love? is built on top of Tumblr, and I love the plat­form.

Pros

  • Pretty straight­for­ward devel­op­ment. Tumblr themes con­sist of a single HTML file with the CSS included into a <style> tag at the top of the file. 
  • The tem­plat­ing lan­guage is very easy to under­stand.

Cons

  • There is a vari­ety of ways to develop Tumblr locally. How­ever, I did have suc­cess with Thim­blr.
  • After cre­at­ing your theme locally, you have to lit­er­ally copy and paste your HTML and CSS into the web-based editor. No SSH, Git, or FTP func­tion­al­ity.

Hub­spot

My most recent learn­ing expe­ri­ence was build­ing the Broad­cat web­site on top of the Hub­spot plat­form.

Pros

  • Their tem­plat­ing lan­guage is pretty easy to under­stand. It’s very sim­i­lar to Liquid.
  • Hub­spot has a tool for run­ning a local server, and it’s very easy to set up.
  • Seri­ously, they have the best in-browser devel­op­ment expe­ri­ence I have ever seen. Take notes, every­one.
  • Even their drag-and-drop web­site build­ing tools are easy to use.

Cons

  • The local server doesn’t serve your site’s actual con­tent. It’s all dummy con­tent, and I can’t figure out how to change it.
  • No SSH or Git work­flow allowed here. Only FTP. I’m hoping they will expand this soon.

Rec­om­men­da­tions

For most web­sites, I rec­om­mend Kirby. You can build a vari­ety of web­sites, avoid data­base headache, work locally with no prob­lem, use a Git work­flow to commit and push your work, and add con­tent using their web-based GUI (what Kirby calls its Panel”).

If you really want to invest in your busi­ness, I rec­om­mend Hub­spot. In addi­tion to being a pow­er­ful web­site builder, their mar­ket­ing tools are top notch. Also, they use a sim­i­lar tech­nique to Brad Frost’s Atomic Design to create mod­ules, groups, and pages.

Have you used any tools from this list? Let me know your favorite!