Static site updates with Gridsome

Published 8. September 2020.

Wow, it's been about five years since I first made the switch to static sites and made the switch to having all of mine built with Hugo. The upsides were so good, the lack of need to keep on top of them updates wise for them to continue to live (worry free) on the internet that once I wasn't regularly writing new articles to them I was able to forget about them until the next time I needed to make changes. With significant shifts in my career since that time I'd spent much less time updating the sites, just keeping in mind a long-term idea to maybe add some nice front-end functionality via Vue.js—mostly an excuse to keep my skills sharp.

Fast forward to last year and I had found a nice Vue framework, Gridsome that I had begun to use for a more complex internal project and was gradually tinkering with it. Around that time it finally reached the point where I needed to make some changes to the live Hugo sites, and as part of that process also update Hugo to the latest version. Unfortunately the updates had made some changes to template language and other areas that were silently failing in the build, and after a few days of frustration there I decided that I may as well try Gridsome with at least one and see how it goes. I was particularly drawn to the GraphQL based queries that it used to make the Vue templates work, which I thought would make creating a nice, non-Google based, site search work beautifully. Plus, keeping my learning-orientation going I saw that Gridsome gave you more control over the site, because in creating Vue templates you also had the ability to write the front-end logic and share data between components as you would with any front-end application, and of course I would be working in Javascript (and Vue) instead of just a template-only use of Go.

The downside? It taking more work. I still strongly recommend Hugo as it works well without significant setup, and is probably still able to build large sites faster. Hugo just had a lot of developer effort, even in the early stages, for creating internal tools like pagination, various media embeds (Youtube, Instagram, etc.), and metadata handling that you didn't need to do as much work up front, sure, if you were like me it still required writing the HTML templates, configure the toolchain for postCSS to handle styling, and then write the necessary CSS code, but beyond that you put markdown files in directories with some basic metadata and it generally just worked. Which isn't to say Gridsome doesn't mind you, it does just require initial configuration, unless you pick a starter project you like and just use that without modification, in which case it also just works.

In my case I started from scratch. Getting a basic blog setup with a list of posts and individual entries to view is simple on its own. The combination of being able to use GraphQL to handle the specific queries, and much of the metadata, and still use markdown files as the source means structurally it's similar: make a markdown folder for the specific content type, add things there, and have a corresponding template for it to work with. I do really really like Vue's use of single-file components however, I love having the template's layout, scripts, style, and in this specific case GraphQL query visible in one place as it's wonderful for understanding what each component is doing at a glance.

The upside of more configuration required up front is overall more flexibilty, especially as there is already a solid Gridsome plugin ecosystem, which itself can rely on the larger library of Vue plugins for additional functionality. Plus in having to handle the configuration plus writing the code for template logic and behavior I'm more aware of and in control of what the site can do. The practical example here is the per article navigation. There is already a built in paginator component for handling the list, which I'm using, but for individual pages there wasn't a built-in way to do it. To make it work I wrote (with liberal borrowing of another site's working implementation) a few computed functions that used the GraphQL query to determine the next and previous blog post paths. That same method could be used to create more situation specific setups like post series links, related content based on tags, or for more commercially oriented sites having calls-to-action for specific products. For a server-side app this wouldn't be that special, but keep in mind this is a 100% static site, which has the ability to display dynamic data (see the search comment above).

Okay, I'll leave it there for now, I don't want to write-up anything exceptionally technical about it for the moment. I have two of my three main sites done to a basic level with this build now, and made a starter project from it which sped the second design up significantly. The third will likely take a similar amount of time, though I'll get to test a non-blog style page layout for handling a content portfolio which I haven't done for either of these (here or

And most importantly, now that these are done and I don't feel that I need to fix fundamental build issues with old sites I have the one big roadblock to writing and publishing new posts out of the way, not to mention other major projects I've been thinking about. This has been a very important first step.