Creating an static site in 2019.

I’ve (side) worked as a full-stack developer since 2008. It was the easiest way to give some use to the coding skills I acquired thanks to my uncle Pierre and made me economically sustainable during my uni years.

Being Javascript the first language I self-taught (the first language I learned was Logo) it will always have a special place on my heart, but the rapid evolution of the frontend tooling during the last 7-8 years made me develop a love-hate relationship with it.

One of the features that I loved from JS was the ease to write a script and run it on any browsers. It was a simple, effective and easy way to learn and share with others. Then Node came out along with ES5 and the ecosystem started to change. To run some JS it was not enough to import a script, you needed to compile it.

This didn’t bother me much at the beginning, but I do remember perfectly the day we stopped using bower and adopted npm to manage third-party libraries and setup compiling pipelines. Something started to feel wrong. I didn’t realize at the moment but it was the beginning of a huge complexity increase.

Filling the readme files with instructions on how to npm install, npm run dev, grunt watch then gulp, webpack, etc… and having to educate collaborators and content editors alike on the command line and nodejs install, raised a lot of frustration on both sides. Then single page applications raised with Angular, Amber, React … and made everything feel even messier.

The thing is that I’m still in love with static sites. In fact, this site is a static Jekyll site, but the lack of i18n and l10n in Jekyll made it sometimes painful.

Some fresh air

After a notoriously failed outsourcing of our companies corporate site, a couple of weeks ago we agreed to rebuild the site ourselves. The previous site was a static site generated with Jekyll, but this time I wanted something better suited for the job. I also wanted to avoid taking care of a backend or database, so I ended up checking the Jamstack site somehow.

I discovered Netlify and Hugo there. Netlify is file-based git aware front-end only CMS. No backend is needed! Amazing. Any modification becomes a git commit, perfect for CI/CD integration. Any modification to the site opens a merge request that if accepted, deploys directly to production. Hugo is almost a rewrite of Jekyll using Golang templates. Being familiar with Golang templates made it a pleasure to transition from Jekyll to Hugo.

Handling the multilingual problem.

I really liked Hugo’s approach to localization and internationalization. It differs content translation to your site localization from the beginning. I created a whole Hugo theme for the site, so I took care of the i18n of the theme, in the theme itself.

Configuring themes localization

When undertaking a multilingual project the first step is deciding the languages you want to support. Hugo’s language management reminded me to the .po files. In this case, you can store all the string translation in the theme itself using the translation identifier as the file name:

├── cat.yaml
├── de.yaml
├── en.yaml
├── es.yaml
├── eus.yaml
└── fr.yaml

Then it’s as easy giving a unique id to the string translation and define the default translation for that string in the other key. If the translation has a singular form that differs from the plural form, you can add the one key to the dictionary. Simple, fast, clean.

  other: Preferencias sobre las Cookies

  one: Una página
  other: Varias páginas

To use the string, it’s as simple as invoking the i18n function in the template with the key to the translation string.

    <label>{{ i18n "cookieHeader" . }}</label>

It will render:

    <label>Preferencias sobre las Cookies</label>
Configuring content localization

Configuring the supported content languages is as easy as specifying it in the config.yml:

    weight: 1
    languageName: Español
    weight: 2
    languageName: English

And creating a content file with the language key reference in the filename, just before the file extension:

gabi@book[~/repos/iomed_site] (dev)ls content/
total 16
-rw-r--r--   1 gabi  staff   1.2K Mar 21 12:40
-rw-r--r--   1 gabi  staff   1.3K Apr  2 11:37

The joy and speed of Hugo development

Thanks to this ease to support multilingual content with Hugo we were able to ship the complete site under two weeks of side development. Definitely, the familiarity with Golang templates helped a lot, making the whole experience very joyful again, as in the old times.

Please go and check the site, we are still changing some parts of it, but we are happy with the end result.