Webby – Client-side, static content management system

This afternoon I rebuilt OasisDigital.com using Webby, stripping out hand-coded HTML and replacing it with much more maintainable Markdown. The site looks about the same as before (which is to say, mediocre), but under the hood it is much easier to update. We intend to use this new ease, to move forward in improving it. There is a general principle here, which applies broading in software development also:

If you need to make a change, but that change is difficult / tedious / risky to make, first improve the underlying system that makes it so.
(OasisDigital.com is a static web site; we have dynamic contact (issue trackers, etc.) to automate our work together and with our customer, but that content is on another domain.)

Webby is a client-side, simple CMS for generating static web sites, written in Ruby. Why serve a static site (plain old files on a web server) in 2008?

  • It minimizes the moving parts, there is almost nothing to break or maintain.
  • It is very unlikely that any hosting issue will break a static site.
  • It is easy to serve a static site fast (though our current host, TextDrive, sometimes is not all that fast).
  • Security vulnerabilities are very unlikely, in the absence of any executable content.
  • The canonical content (in this case, mostly Markdown) is stored in plain text files, which we track, diff, and merge in git.

In an earlier foray in to Drupal, we found that Drupal has extensive and useful capabilities, as well as a vibrant community, but it also has many moving parts; too many, in my judgment, to make it a good solution for building an essentially static web site.