Justin Blanton wrote an extensive post about his site’s migration to a static Jekyll site hosted on Amazon S3. Dave Winer also did something similar earlier this month.
Reading over this reminds me of a mini-debate I had with someone on Twitter who posted this:
Of course, Brett is right. For many people WordPress IS overkill. This site, for instance, could be completely done in one of these static site generators, and I would probably like it. I’d save on hosting costs and wouldn’t maintain and monitor a WordPress database. I could lose the headaches of dealing with upgrades and and plugin compatibility.1
So if WordPress is overkill why is it so prevalent? Because it’s WAY easier to get started with.
My web host, like many others, has a ONE-CLICK WordPress installation. Compare that to using tools like Jekyll, which requires going into a terminal window and typing in some scary looking commands. This is not for mere mortals.
My sister wants to have a website for her business. She needs a main page and a few other pages – and MAYBE a blog. She’ll never go into things like custom taxonomies, tags, categories. But, because she’s already familiar with using a WordPress’s editing window, WordPress is the obvious solution for her. WordPress’s editing window, by the way, feels safe to her because it looks like Microsoft Word. I know we’re supposed to hate on Microsoft Word, but we’re living in a bubble.
Think about what it takes to use and install one of these static site generators. You should know how Github repositories work (I don’t, not really). You should know how the command line works (I don’t know how it works beyond ‘say’ commands). You should know how to set up an S3 bucket (I did this…once), or how to FTP into a site and upload all your images and other media (this I can do).
WordPress takes care of a lot of that stuff for regular people. Beyond earning nerd cred, what good, practical reasons exist for normal people to learn how a static site generator?2
For all the complexity of WordPress installations, they are there if you want them and out of the way if you don’t need them. Most WordPress users will never have to deal with its advanced features.