Migrating to Hugo from Jekyll

Stefan Imhoff

After running over 2 years with Jekyll I recently replaced it with Hugo, a static site generator written in Go.

I did this mainly because of two reasons: Firstly, Jekyll ist just too slow (because Ruby is slow). The site generation takes forever, with tags and category generation it gets even worse. I had to limit the amount of generated pages to 5 during development, to have a nearly instant update of the stuff I write. And my blog has just around 80 articles. I’ve read stories of large sites, where the generation takes hours. Secondly I wanted to stop updating Node packages and Gems (one ecosystem is enough).

Hugo Logo

Researching the options

Before I decided for Hugo, I did a quite long research of the possible static site generators.

Hexo

Hexo was quite interesting, because it’s written in JavaScript. It’s very, very similar to Jekyll (it even supports the plugins of Jekyll). But after some tests I found out it’s not faster in generating sites as Jekyll. Additionally it comes as an out-of-the-box thing, where everything is a plugin. And I try to separate my build and development workflows (written in Gulp) from the generation of my site. This helps me avoiding to lock too much into a tool.

Roots

Another tool, which looked quite nice was Roots. But after some research I found out it’s already discontinued.

Gatsby

I really like the idea of Gatsby, because it uses React templates to build static sites. But currently it’s unusable, because it bundles all articles into one JavaScript file. Sure, this allows to browse the website offline and with instant page changes. But having a 500-800 KB JavaScript file is just not a thing I’ll ever allow. If Gatsby would allow to decide on smaller Webpack bundle packages (e. g. a bundle for a tag or a year) it would be an option.

Choosing Hugo

In the end the features of Hugo were just too good and after testing it for some days I decided to use it, despite having no clue of Go.

The first thing which is surprising: Hugo is a binary, which is cross platform and after installing it, that’s it. It’s as easy on a Mac as this:

$ brew install hugo

The main reason for switching was for me speed. And fast it is. Generating my whole site, with 86 articles, 125 tags, 21 categories and 2 series takes ~700 ms. This means everything included, even moving all the assets. If I wouldn’t use my Related Articles section, I could cut the time in half. Since I use Gulp and minimize, optimize and do a lot to my files, my production Gulp task needs now ~30 seconds (including syncing the files to the server), compared to 2-3 minutes before.

How fast Hugo really is can be best seen in this video:

Templates

Hugo comes without a plugin system, but I didn’t miss any and could find a solution for everything I had on my Jekyll site before. The templates are written in Go html/template, Ace or Amber. The latter look very familiar to people, who know Jade/Pug. But I choose the Go html/template. The syntax needs some time to get used to, as it’s so different from all template engines I’ve used before. But if I got stuck with a problem the Hugo Discussion Board could help out in all cases. Hugo comes with specific rules for templates, how to name them and rules in which order templates get rendered.

Themes

It also has really nice Theme system, which allows to create very modular Themes. And because creating a theme is so easy there are a lot very good of them available.

Shortcodes

Instead of plugins Hugo uses Shortcodes, which is very refreshing. Writing plugins in Jekyll was not fun. With Shortcodes it’s possible to create the same functionality without needing to know Ruby and the Liquid for Programmers guidelines and still getting the same result with less lines and writing mostly Markup.

Content

Another really nice thing is the organization of the content. You can create multiple sections and or types of content, serving them at your chosen URL. And you can create pages or content just out of data (Jekyll has this, too).

Content is written in Markdown (or Asciidoc, reStructuredText) and can be extended with Frontmatter (in TOML, YAML or JSON).

Hugo comes with Menu generation and a Taxonomy system, which lets you create as many Taxonomies (tags, categories, etc.) as you like.

Source Code

If you’re interested, how I built it, you can have a look, I published my source code on GitHub:

Conclusion

Converting my site from Jekyll to Hugo just took three days. My tendency of over-engineering and perfection allocated a lot of the time. And because of that, I started simplifying my CSS and Gulp tasks and will further simplify the site. But it was fun and if you need a static site you should have a look into Hugo.

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