Playing with the Sculpin static site generator

Sculpin generator

I can hear you asking: "What the hack is that?" Let me quote the Sculpin's authors:

Sculpin is a static site generator written in PHP. It converts Markdown files, Twig templates and standard HTML into a static HTML site that can be easily deployed.

Few days ago a need for a very simple website arose which was way too simple to use Drupal 8 for it. Even Wordpress would be way over the top. On the other hand I really wanted to try static HTML generators for a while and this seemed a perfect opportunity to do that.

There are many static HTML generators out there, Jekyll probably being the most popular (it is also supported by GitHub pages, which makes hosting trivial). I, however, decided to go with Sculpin because it is written in PHP and is using Symfony and Twig. I am already more or less familiar with all these technologies, which made the task a bit easier.

Result?

Few hours, very simple Bootstrap based theme, FlexSlider, some Markdown and violà! Site was done and running. It is performant, I can host it literary everywhere, no need to clear caches every time when something behaves strange, no updates, security out of the box, ...

I could totally use something similar for this blog too. Heresy against The religion of Drupalâ„¢ you say? Maybe.... But think about it. I am already using Markdown (not really a WYSIWYG fan) to write my posts. That wouldn't change at all. I use Disqus for comments, which would play perfectly fine with static HTML. I could use Liquid Forms or something similar to run the contact form or simply ask people to reach out via Twitter or IRC. That's it. It could probably be done in a day while it took me 3 or 4 days to migrate my Drupal 7 blog to Drupal 8. Not to mention the significantly easier maintenance.

I might even consider doing that when the migration to Drupal 9 comes around. We'll see what the hip thing at that time will be...

All this got me thinking...

Solutions like Jekyll and Sculpin are gaining popularity in the lowest end of the web market. By that they are eating into what used to be market of CMSes like Drupal and Wordpress just a few years ago. Benefits are clear (mainly performance and easy maintenance). The user experience and the ease of use is still on the CMS side, but for slightly tech savvy users it is completely doable. And this might very likely change in the next few years (every software tries to improve over time, right). That said, this kind of tools might (together with pure SaaS solutions) dominate the lower-end web market in the future.

"But Drupal 8 is enterprise-oriented. That's what we care about!" you'll say. OK. Probably true, but...

It is easier than ever to build custom web projects in PHP. In the times before Composer, Packagist and all other nice stuff that we have today existed it was total PITA to find and bring a bunch of 3rd party libraries together to help you build a custom app. In just a few short years this became much simpler and will become even easier as our tools and ecosystem evolve. And PHP is not alone in this world. There are many new and modern languages/platforms that are all doing similar things from this perspective. All of them have some kind of package manager, dependency resolver, repositories of 3rd party packages, etc. It is to be expected that this will only continue. Tools will become even easier to use, 3rd party libraries/packages will become more powerful and building custom projects based on them even faster.

Higher-end projects usually have some budget to invest into development. What would you choose if the cost of development using a CMS like Drupal would be similar to the cost of building a custom project? Specially if you don't need all the features and complexity that CMS offers?

"Are you saying that Drupal is going away?" you ask.

Of course not. Drupal is a great tool that can efficiently solve many problems. But there are definitely better tools for some others. It also seems that there is strong competition on all sides of the web market, which is eating into the pie that was reserved for traditional CMSes in the past. Drupal will need to think about this and position itself into that segment of the market where it is the strongest. The days of "Drupal for everything" are clearly over.

What is your opinion about this? What do you think future will bring us? Let's continue the discussion in the comments below!

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