My first foray on the Internet was an Angelfire website. It was an unholy mess that made the TimeCube manifesto look like an aesthetic masterpiece sculpted by none other than Jony Ive and Michelangelo themselves. Without going into much detail, I shall just say that I used an excessive amount of <blink> and <marquee> tags, and leave it at that.
Like most sites back then, it was static. That’s to say that there was no interactivity. Since then, there has been an explosion in web technologies that make it possible to create dynamic, engaging websites. But is there still a need for flat websites that lack a back-end?
While Geocites and Angelfire cost naught back in the day, Forge has adopted a freemium pricing model. Spendthrifts can expect a single website, as well as five gigabytes of traffic each month. Free users have to make use of a subdomain, while paid users can use their own domain names.
Costs aren’t too unreasonable either. For ten dollars per month, you get five websites and a slightly paltry ten gigabytes of traffic. Doubling that gets you ten websites and forty gigs of bandwidth. Paid plans comes with custom domains.
If you go over that, you can expect to pay 20¢ per gigabyte. Whilst not entirely unreasonable, I was dismayed to see that there wasn’t a plan that accommodates for super heavy users. Anyone who has a photo rich website and finds themselves on the frontpage of Reddit could soon see traffic costs spiral out of control.
Forge comes with a version control system baked in, with each change displayed on a ‘tree’ that will be incredibly familiar to anyone who has ever used Git or SVN.
Each version of your website you upload is preserved, and should you make any mistake or wish to revert to an earlier stage of your website, you simply roll back to an earlier version. This is makes it easy to rectify any errors made. You are also informed as to which files have been changed in each version, including showing which files have been removed.
While the version control system in Forge is nowhere near as powerful (and by extension complex) as Git, it is a reassuring addition to the product. It’s almost impossible to damage your site beyond repair.
As someone who dislikes the hassle of firing up an FTP client whenever I want to upload a file to a website, I really appreciated how simple the whole process was. With that said, given the emphasis on version control found within Forge, I would have liked to have been able to deploy my website via Github. One hopes that this feature will show up in a later iteration of the product.
I visited some websites that were hosted on the Forge, and I noticed that they were quick to load, even with my slow residential ISP. Whether that was a result of the CND, Turbo.js or static webpages being fast by their very nature remains to be seen.
Do You Need A Back End?
Okay, so Forge is fast, phenomenally simple to use and has versioning features that prevent you from accidentally corrupting your content. However, one rather large elephant in the room remains. Can you make do with a static web page?
For many people, the answer is going to be a resounding ‘yes’. Are you a small business, who just wants to show off some marketing information? Do you want to start a blog, but not bother with using WordPress and managing comments? Are you an artist who just wants to show off what you’re working on, and not much else? In that case, perhaps a static site might just be what you’re looking for.
Riot have made a product that is fast, easy to use and beautiful. A product that holds the hand of the user through each step of the web publishing process, without being intrusive. For that, they ought to be commended. They have made simple web pages exciting again. Whilst Forge only being in the formative stages of existence, people are already moving to it to host their personal web pages, as well as product pages for their startups. Examples of which include a Chinese technology firm, an American computer programmer and a web designer from Tennessee.
Have you got a static website? Have you replaced your web application with something altogether simpler? Let me know in the comments below!
Image Credit: James Saunders