Categories
STATIC WEBSITES TUTORIALS

Getting started with Pelican: One click installer to install Pelican

Pelican is a Python based static website generator written in Python. Using Pelican, one can start creating static websites that can later be deployed to a simple file web server on the cloud. Some of the cloud web service providers include Amazon Web Services, Digital Ocean, Vultr etc. One can also host these static websites on a static host providers such as Netlify, Contentful etc. But first, lets understand more about static websites and how to use Python’s Pelican to create your static website.

What is a static website and why should you use one?

The internet today is made up of both dynamic websites as well as static websites. A dynamic website is one which usually consists of a database and the server creates dynamic html web pages on the fly, usually specific to the user who requested it. On the contrary, a static website is made up of contents that are just that – static and is served as the same to all its requesting users.

So which one should you be using for your usecase? A static website or a dynamic website? To answer this question, you should first look into this article that discusses the advantages and disadvantages of a static vs dynamic website.

So with the above introduction, its time to move into the technical aspects of Pelican. First let us discuss about the installation aspect of Pelican.

How To Install Pelican

Jump to the end of this article if you just want a one click installer to install and try Pelican

In order to install Pelican, you need to have both pip and Python installed on your system. If you dont have them installed, you can do so using the following commands:

For Ubuntu

sudo apt-get install python3 python3-pip

For Fedora Linux

sudo yum install python3 python3-pip

In this installation process, we are using Python 3 version. However note that Pelican works on both Python 2.7 as well as latest version of Python 3, so which one to use is solely left to your discretion.

Once Python and Pip are installed, we can proceed with installing Pelican onto our computers. To do so, we issue the following command:

pip3 install pelican markdown

We can note here that we are installing two Python packages from pip, one is the Pelican static site generator and the other is a markdown package. If you are unfamiliar with markdown, it is a set of standard markup language used to write contents in a way that can later be processed to format the content it surrounds. You can read more about Markdown on Wikipedia.

Once they are installed, we can create a new directory using command line to store our project files. In this case, we are creating a directory called Pelican_Demo and then moving to it.

mkdir Pelican_Demo
cd Pelican_Demo

Once inside the newly created directory, we start creating our Pelican website. To do so, we call a Python executable script called pelican-quickstart that was installed to us in our /usr/local/bin directory. So we can run this script simply by calling it as follows:

pelican-quickstart

This would kick start our Pelican static website generator which then proceeds with a series of questions that you need to answer to finally create your static website.

What these set of questions actually does to your Python based Pelican static website will be a topic for another post. But for now, you should be good to go using your website.

If you want to just get your hands dirty and try to get Pelican up and running without wanting to dig deeper into investigating how it works, then you can use the following script to get going.

https://github.com/digitallyamar/Python3-Pelican-Installer

This script will install all the required packages and answer all the questions of pelican-quickstart automatically for you so that you can simply run it and jump to view the newly created Pelican static website. Follow the instructions given in that Python3-Pelican-Installer github project to get it up and running in no time to get a taste of what Pelican static website looks and feels like.

Good luck!

Categories
STATIC WEBSITES TUTORIALS

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Static Vs Dynamic Websites

Static websites are gaining popularity these days. A static website can be built using static website generators such as Jekyll (Ruby), Next (Javascript), Hugo (GO), Pelican (Python) etc. But very few people understand the benefits and disadvantages of using a static website. This article will try to explain this in a way that should hopefully make it easy for someone looking to decide between static website vs dynamic website for their purposes.

What is a static website?

Most of the websites we use these days are often dynamic websites. These dynamic websites have databases through which the content of a webpage is generated on the server dynamically and then sent to the user’s browser. Advantage of this is that each of the users get customized contents specific to them that are different from what would be delivered to other users. An example of this can be Facebook homepage of a user who get to see the posts from his friends and network. Google search result page is another example of a dynamic page that varies from person to person for the same query based on his browsing history.

Contrary to this, a static website is usually made up of static content (mostly using only HTML & CSS) that are already stored as complete files on the server. Thus, each of the users who request a particular webpage from this server will always receive the same content. Usually, these webpages are pre-built and stored on a file server and this file as a whole is then just sent back to the user’s browser when requested.

Advantages Of A Static Website

  • Fast: As these websites serve prebuilt HTML webpages, they are extremely fast.
  • Secure: As these websites do not possess a database but just a set of files served from a simple web based file server, there are no security threats seen that comes with using a database.
  • Cheap: The cost of hosting a static website is in pennies compared to a dynamic website as it just needs a simple web enabled file server.

Disadvantages Of A Static Website

  • As the contents are static and created in advance, no dynamic contents can be added to the web page.
  • User interactivity is limited due to the static nature of the website.
  • Usually static websites lack components such as comments, user login, recommendation engine, real time notifications etc. However, these can still be added through some 3rd party external services.
  • Programming knowledge is required to work with static websites. As we need to use static website generator tools that are quite technical in nature, users who wish to use static websites should be technically capable.
  • Content Management Systems (CMS) are usually missing in static websites. However there does exist some 3rd party CMS services such as Contentful that can overcome this issue.
  • Each time a new article is to be added, the static website generator builds the entire website and redeploy to the web server. This can be time consuming and can also be prone to unforeseen technical errors.
  • Not suitable for a large website with thousands of articles as updating such static website can be extremely slow.

Conclusion

Each of these static vs dynamic websites brings about their own set of advantages and challenges. So a decision as to which one is better for you completely boils down to how familiar you are with programming to work with static website generators, your website content types and its requirements.

If you are just looking for simple blog type of website to operate at a cheap cost, you can definitely opt for a static website. On the other hand, if you are looking to create a website having thousands of web pages or contents that are to be customized specific to each user, then dynamic website is the way to go!