“It depends...” This is the very first honest answer to your “Hugo or Jekyll?” dilemma. Since your own use case scenario is (obviously) different from all the rest:

 

  • Which feature do you value most: extensibility or page build speed?
     
  • Do you prefer high performance over the simplicity of use?
     
  • A massive community to rely on or out-of-the-box experience and simple workflow?
     
  • Is it a small-sized website or a content-heavy, large-scale generated site that you have in plan?
     
  • How frequently will you (or your team) be updating content on your site?

     

Once you've answered this “questionnaire” and you've identified your website's profile, delve into the Hugo vs Jekyll 2017 comparison that our team of Toronto developers has prepared for you:

Here it goes:
 

But First: When and Why Should You Go for a Statically Generated Site?

“...instead of a dynamically generated one?” 

Remember how the web used to be, back in the old days? “Databases-less” and static! Meaning: ideally simple and fast!

Well, that's precisely what you get when opting for a static site generator:
 

  • a static website made of “pure” HTML and CSS with “a touch” of JavaScript, too, if you prefer 
  • one with no dynamically generated content on the server side, with no moving parts (which, when not closely “monitored” and kept up to date turn into some major security risks)
  • just speedy old static and secure HTML pages guaranteeing you a workflow comparably convenient to that of a dynamic site.
     

“But is a static site generator the best fit for my own website?”

Now, this is just the right type of question to be asking yourself right now. Our answer is: 
 

  • go for a statically generated site if its content gets viewed more often than edited and you don't need dynamic content to be constantly pulled from a database
  • use a static site generator if it's a blog that you want to set up 
     

What do you gain from using it? 
 

  • boosted security
  • you're cutting off unnecessary complexities that a dynamically generated content might lead to
  • higher page load time (practically a static site generator builds a requested page beforehand, not “right after” the user has requested it, like Wordpress, for instance)
     

When not to use Hugo or Jekyll or any other site generator:
 

  • the most relevant example is that of an e-commerce site, since products get added to the customer's shopping cart dynamically; a statically generated site can't cope with this kind of requests...
     

Introducing Hugo 

The powerful “younger” rival of Jekyll with an ever-growing community of followers ”seduced” by all those features that it's been equipped with and which Jekyll lacks:
 

  • it's way faster (thanks to its Go-based templating)
  • it delivers you an “out-of-the-box experience”, a particularly valuable feature if build time is a major issue for you
     

Key limitations:
 

  • it doesn't excel when it comes to extensibility: practically it's distributed in one compiled file and it's close to impossible for you to upgrade it with plugins or additional functionalities
  • it comes with no admin function like Jekyll does
     

Introducing Jekyll 

The most widely used static site generator! Favored for its:
 

  • extended features and collection of plugins 
  • recently added admin function 
  • massive supportive community 
  • Github support: get your site/blog up and running in no time, right after you've hosted it using the Github Pages
     

Hugo or Jekyll? 6 Criteria to Evaluate The 2 Static Site Generators

1. Installation 

We need to admit that both Hugo and Jekyll provide you with very good documentation and great quick-start guides. So, you can launch your site with just one simple command:
 

  • hugo new site <your_site>, in Hugo
  • jekyll new site <your_site>, in Jekyll 
     

Still, if we are to compare the two based on this criterion only, we need to add that Jekyll does have a slight advantage: you get a default theme and some example content to start with.

It depends on your own site's needs if you take it as an advantage or not quite (for you might not even use the default theme and content when you start up a new site anyway). 
 

2. Speed

There's no debate here: Hugo is way faster than Jekyll!

It's built on Go (compared to Jekyll, that runs on Ruby) and that explains a lot.

So, if:
 

  • page build speed is a critical factor for you
  • your site carries a heavy ecosystem of pages, content-packed pages that need constant, frequent editing, then Hugo might just be the right choice for you
     

3. Extensibility

“Extensibility” is, no doubt, Jekyll's trump card! 

Thanks to its plugin architecture it enables you to easily add extra functionality, to extend your Jekyll-powered website's features once you've set it up.

So, the “Hugo or Jekyll?” question is primarily a “speed vs extensibility” debate.
 

4. Workflow

The provided workflow for building your website is another aspect where the 2 static site generators seem to be neck-and-neck.

Both the Jekyll server and Hugo server are configured to automatically catch up with any updates that you make to your theme, images, content or configuration while working on your website.

Also, they both enable you to add new content to your website's backbone structure just by creating new files in the right place.

Note: it's here that we can still “detect” an advantage of Hugo over Jekyll (so they're not THAT even after all); it provides you with certain functions which automatically check that your new files get created precisely in the right parts of your site's frame.
 

5. Themes

In a “Hugo or Jekyll” dilemma the theming aspect does weight a lot, doesn't it?

Well, we have 2 types of news for you: a good and a “so and so” one:
 

  1. each one of them comes with its own surprisingly diversified collection of themes, suitable for all types of websites
  2. some might argue that, as you dig through these impressive collections, identifying the one that best fits your own site, narrowing down your searches isn't really a breeze since you're not provided with sufficiently detailed information on each one of them
     

6. Community

And here we have a clear winner: Jekyll!

Since it was the very first modern site generator ever built no wonder that it gathered such a large community around it!

In short: if support is crucial for you, you'll be thrilled by Jekyll's wide community of peers generating content, backing you up and being there to answer your questions. 

So, which one of them has won you over so far, now that you've defined your site's specific profile and you've scanned through these 2 major static site generators' strengths and weaknesses: Hugo or Jekyll? 

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