Our new website
Even though we probably should have, we didn’t really pay a lot of attention to our website for a long time. As an opening post for this blog though, it’s a great opportunity to talk about the recent changes and to have a look behind the scenes of our new website.
Re-designing a website from scratch is always a big decision, so there had to be some key features to justify this. In our case, we were looking for improvements in the following areas:
- Maintenance/updates of existing content
- Effort needed to create new content
- Performance and safety in operation and maintenance
- Compliance with the GDPR, no unnecessary storage/processing of user data
- Accessibility and responsiveness
The search for a framework
In terms of state of the art content management, we didn’t want our new website to get too technical. All content should therefore come with the possibility of being created/updated without any programming skills.
Based on our existing situation and a simple cost/benefit calculation, the choice quickly fell on self-hosted Wordpress. Adaptable, modular, and customizable with countless extension modules, Wordpress is a solid platform of course.
A first prototype was created rather quickly. It turned out though, that in order to achieve the result we were aiming for, Wordpress would have required serious customization. This may have been due to the wrong theme, but we honestly tried more than just a few of them. Anyway, the complexity wouldn’t have been too far from the old TYPO3 it was supposed to replace, so we left that right there.
Other factors that finally led to our decision against Wordpress were:
- Extensive back-end incl. database
- Constant administrative efforts
- Update and security issues related to unverified extensions
Once you go static
At this point, the “no” to Wordpress was equivalent to a “no” regarding the classic CMS technology. Further research finally led to so-called “Static Site Generators” (SSGs, see wikipedia) though, which produce fast and secure static websites (= website without backend / server side).
In terms of the features we were looking for, this technology looked very promising:
Performance and safety in operation and maintenance
A static website works file-based and without a database or server-side code. Performance, security and low maintenance are in there “by design”.
Compliance with the GDPR
Basically, no user data is collected by a static website. There’s a possibility to include Google Analytics or similar, but that’s completely optional.
Accessibility and responsiveness
The decision making process also included the important aspect of content creation and content management.
Considering the SSGs we looked at, content was mostly structured based on folder structures and maintained in Markdown files (details). These files were then consumed by the respective site templates, rendering as HTML. The advantage of this approach is, that all content of the website comes from text files and can be created and maintained there without barriers (e.g. user accounts). No specific code knowledge or programming skills are required.
These files are then stored in a central repository, subject to version control and change management. Depending on the SSG used, it is also possible to equip the markdown files with parameters which can then be used for things like individual cover images used in the generic site templates of the respective website sections.
Compared to a classic CMS, this is clearly a more “technical” approach. But, it’s also very flexible and easy to outsource when needed (i.e. translations).
Overall, we ended up being convinced by this flexibility, considering all of our requirements mentioned above a good fit for the SSG technology.
After some further research, we decided for Hugo (gohugo.io) to run our future website.
It is a modular SSG with extensive customization options, theme support and built-in multilanguage support written in Go. In addition, its performance was also exceptional and both the development and the deployment process could be implemented very reliably. The high-quality documentation of this SSG must not go unmentioned either.
In the end, our website was created based on the following technologies and services:
- Font Awesome
Together with the features and functions that Hugo provides in its templates, this became the website that is currently displayed on the screen.
Thanks for reading, you’re welcome to contact us for questions and feedback.