Static First Development Approach

King's Digital Lab, King's College London


  • Traditional web development often relies on complex, resource-intensive stacks (e.g., Django)
  • Moving towards a more sustainable, low-resource approach using static site generators (SSGs)
  • Benefits: improved performance, security, scalability, and reduced hosting costs

The Static First Development Approach

  • A modular, flexible approach for building websites and web applications
  • Follows a technical stack with at most 3 components:
    1. Static Site Generator (SSG) as the base
    2. Flat File CMS (optional)
    3. Headless CMS (optional, for more complex projects)

The Static First Development Approach

Static first components

Component 1: Static Site Generator

  • Generates static HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files from templates and data sources
  • Examples: 11ty, Jekyll, Next.js, SvelteKit (static export)
  • Benefits: fast performance, secure, scalable, and easy to host

Component 1: Static Site Generator

Static first project structure

Component 2: Flat File CMS (optional)

  • Provides a user-friendly interface for managing content in flat files (e.g., Markdown)
  • Examples: Front Matter, Decap CMS
  • Suitable for smaller, content-driven projects

Component 2: Flat File CMS (optional)

Front matter CMS

Component 3: Headless CMS (optional)

  • Decoupled content management system, serving content via APIs/data exports
  • Examples: Directus, Pocketbase
  • Suitable for projects that require advanced content modeling and dynamic content delivery

Component 3: Headless CMS (optional)

Directus CMS

Using Standard Data Models

  • Adopt standard data models based on
  • Enables content portability and interoperability
  • Aligns with semantic web principles
  • Examples: Article, Event, Person, etc.

The Stack Migration Process

  • Previously used a Django-based stack (monolithic)
  • Recently introduced Docker for improved containerization and scalability
  • Now moving towards a static first approach for sustainability reasons

Benefits of the Static First Approach

  • Improved performance and scalability
  • Enhanced security (reduced attack surface)
  • Lower hosting and maintenance costs
  • Better developer experience (simpler tooling, faster build times)
  • Easier deployment and content updates

Challenges and Considerations

  • Limited real-time interactivity (can be mitigated with JS frameworks)
  • Potential content modeling limitations (depends on CMS choice)
  • Learning curve for new tooling and workflows


  • The static first approach offers a sustainable, low-resource solution
  • Modular stack allows flexibility and scalability
  • Suitable for a wide range of projects, from simple websites to complex web applications
  • Based on the JAMstack (JavaScript, APIs, and Markup) architecture