A static site generator takes the source files and generates an entire website — or a static site that is sourced from purely static HTML files. They enable you to create a static, HTML-based website that doesn’t rely on databases or external data sources, avoiding server-side processing when accessing your website. So you can create fast, visually appealing websites without suffering the restraints that plagued marketers and developers in the past.
Because they’re faster and more flexible, static site generators are becoming increasingly popular. The process is also simplified, removing the need to heavily depend on databases or other external data sources. They offer a great extent of simplicity and come with security benefits out of the box including. The other advantages of static site generators include speed, scalability, less complexity, reliability, and fast load times.
Although there are over 400 static site generators available, a selected number of them has reached maturity and dominated the field. Selecting the right static site generator depends on your project requirements, features of the static site generator, and the programming language of your choice.
You can find static site generators specially designed for React, Angular, and Vue.
In this post, we will take a closer look at a list of the most popular static site generators for React. This list will help you to make a more informed decision depending on what your circumstances are.
Although these are by no means the only static site generators for React out there, they are the most commonly used ones, backed by large communities and lots of useful resources. Furthermore, each of these static site generators for React can be customized and extended using plugins and extensions, allowing you to cover most or all of your needs.
It is always a useful tool to have when building apps, but much more so when building static sites. That’s because it’s much easier to build and reuse “connected components”, components that handle both data-fetching and UI, when a single data-source is used, securely, at build-time, by multiple sites.
React-based static site generators make it easy to build components as independent “min-apps” that handle a certain business concern, end-to-end. For that reason, static-site generators and Bit, go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Gatsby is one of the most popular static site generators for React. It is a free and open-source framework that helps developers build blazing-fast websites and apps.
So what makes Gatsby a great choice of static site generator for React?
Gatsby is based on React and GraphQL and leverages the power of GraphQL to pull data from different sources into your project. For example, if you use sources like Contentful, WordPress, or your file system, you can access all of the data which is made available from those sources using GraphQL. So you will have an easy and consistent way to access those data.
Because Gatsby supports the component-driven development model of React, it can re-use components across a site, adding consistency and speed.
So Gatsby is well known for its speed. By using Gatsby, you can build websites optimized for speed by taking advantage of pre-fetched resources for other pages and only loading the parts of a website that are needed at any given moment. So your site can load as fast as possible, even offline.
Gatsby also has a huge plugin ecosystem, which you can use for progressive single-page applications. This rich data plugin ecosystem lets a website pull data from a variety of sources, including headless CMSs, SaaS services, APIs, databases, file systems, and more. With the use of this plugin system, you can extend the static site generator with additional functionality. For example, when you need to pull data from another source you can find the right plugin, install and configure that plugin, then the desired data can be accessed using GraphQL in your pages.
Having a wide range of applications, Gatsby is a solid choice for sites that need to utilize data from many sources.
You can find the project here. Gatsby project has a vibrant, growing community, with a beautiful tagline: “You belong here.”
A very recent update of Next.js allows you optionally use server rendering for some routes in your site if necessary and also includes the ability to easily to Preview. It is something that only Gatsby was offering before. With this, server rendering React applications has never been easier, no matter where your data is coming from.
Other features of Next.js include automatic code-splitting, simple client-side routing, webpack-based dev environment, and any Node.js server implementation.
You can also use Next.js to create progressive web apps, server-rendered apps, and static websites among many other things. Furthermore, it gives you the ability to define serverless functions as API endpoints out of the box and gives developers a lot of control over how they build and deploy their applications. Overall, it is simplifying development with a smoother and less cluttered experience.
The latest version of Next.js includes features such as zero-config TypeScript support, file system-based dynamic routing, automatic static optimization, and more.
Docusaurus can also be used as a static site generator for React that makes it easy to maintain open-source documentation websites. It is a project for easily building, deploying, and maintaining open source project websites. It is built using React and powered by Markdown.
Documentation is an essential part of the software development lifecycle. A project can’t reach its maximum potential without documentation. However, maintaining and writing documentation can be a painstaking and tedious task. That’s where Docusaurus comes into our help.
You can use Docusaurus to create and maintain static documentation websites. It can generate a static React.js website using MDX which is a markdown variant that enables you to use JSX inside markdown. It has support for blogs, versioning, and custom pages. Docsaurus also has support for both dark and light themes by default.
Docusaurus is built to be easy to get up and running in as little time as possible. It also ships with localization support and key pages and sections you need to get started. Docusaurus is highly customizable as well it supports a wide range of integrations. Also, Docusaurus supports myriad themes, search features, and image optimization tools. So it ensures you have a site that is uniquely yours.
Find the documentation of Docusaurus here.
React-static is a progressive static site generator based on React and its ecosystem. Because it is powerful, lightweight, and fast, it will be a great option for your next React app.
React-static has been carefully designed for user/developer experience, flexibility, and performance. React-static ensures that creating static sites doesn’t get tedious or overly complex. It resembles the developer experience and simplicity you’re used to in tools like Create React App. It was created to avoid the pitfalls in other static-site generators for React like Next.js and Gatsby. So react-static provides better separation for React templating and more straight-forward streaming of data from source to the route.
React-static has features including querying and prop mapping in one place, without dynamic data, and data colocation issues and simpler pipelining by managing all your data ingestion. It also provides server-side rendering) code-splitting, automatic prefetching, and more out-of-the-box. As React-static provides a functional data flow, there is no rigid dependency on data shape or sources. These architecture decisions give a developer experience and codebase that is flexible and scalable.
With react-static you can simply build a very performant, SEO optimized, fast, and a PWA-like website. So you can consider using it as a static site generator for React.
You can find more information about React-static here.
UmiJS is a scalable enterprise-class React framework that provides out-of-the-box tools and plugins to aid the rapid development of scalable applications. Umi makes an attractive tool for frontend development by coupling it with its server-side implementation of routing and content delivery.
As a routing-based framework, UmiJS supports Next.js-like conventional routing and various advanced routing functions, such as routing-level on-demand loading. It supports both configuration and conventional routing while maintaining functional completeness, such as dynamic routing, nested routing, and permission routing.
UmiJS’s plugin system supports various function extensions and business requirements from source code to build products. UmiJS supports various functional extensions and business needs with a complete plugin system that covers every life cycle from source code to build the product. So UmiJS has become a highly extensible solution for enterprise-class applications.
UmiJS is definitely a good option to consider for your next React project. You can visit the documentation for more information.
When compared to other static site generators mentioned, Cuttlebelle is a less known static site generator for React which gives separate editing and code concerns. That means with Cuttlebelle you can use one layout per page-partial and separate content from code.
You can also extend Cuttlebelle with React components by adding React components for layouts or just code components that are reused throughout your layouts. You also can use all modules offered by the npm ecosystem.
Cuttlebelle is super easy to set up. To create a static page with Cuttlebelle, all you have to do is create a layout for every part of the page, and then composing them together.
Because Cuttlebelle provides the separation between code and content, it is a good option you can use to enable non-technical people to change the content. So even non-technical people gain the ability to build new pages with Cuttlebelle.
You can find more information about Cuttlebelle here.
Jekyll is another great static site generator for React which is built on top of Ruby.
Jekyll was created by GitHub co-founder Tom Preston-Werner. Because it is the engine behind GitHub Pages which are public web pages for users, organizations, and repositories, that are freely hosted on GitHub’s github.io domain or on a custom domain name of your choice. Because Jekyll is powering GitHub Pages, it has become one of the most popular static site generators right now.
Simplicity is the biggest advantage of Jekyll over other static site generators. So you don’t have to put in a lot of effort to set up a simple React with Jekyll.
Because Jekyll has a huge community, there are a plethora of tutorials that’ll show you how to get started. Because it hosts a large user base, it will be easy to find support when you face difficulties.
Although Jekyll is not built for React, you can consider using it as the static site generator for your React app as its theme is simple, and SEO is baked. Furthermore, the Jekyll community offers many plugins for customization. So if you want to extend the standard functionality of Jekyll you can do that using the long list of available plugins.
You can find more information about Jekyll here.
All in all, static site generators are a fast and reliable way to build a React website. They are gaining more and more popularity. Using them, you can even build non-trivial and highly customized websites nowadays.