Moving from GitHub Pages to Firebase

Let me preface this by saying GitHub Pages is awesome. Really. If you use it, great! If you don’t, that’s also great! Don’t switch to or from Pages just because it’s new or flashy. Assess the differences yourself, and decide which service works the best for you.

The beauty of Pages is its simplicity. Powered by Jekyll, Pages enables you to generate a static site using gorgeous templates, or your own content, right from your GitHub repository and onto the web, using either the default github.io domain, or a custom domain of your choosing.

So, why switch from GitHub Pages to Firebase? Well, it boils down to user control. There are some great Jekyll plugins out there that just can’t be used with Pages because of the tight restrictions. While my main sites will be gradually moving away from Pages, I don’t plan on ever making them closed source, or removing them from GitHub. Small projects like rko-site and width will continue to be hosted on GitHub Pages.

Here’s a super simple breakdown of the benefits and limits of both services:

GitHub Pages

Secure. Pages only lets you use certain plugins. This can be a great thing, since there’s no risk of external plugins running malicious code. However, it limits what you can do with your site. It would be great if you could at least use plugins available from RubyGems.

Friendly. When you’re using Pages, you don’t need need to create a Gemfile or run bundle install. Every gem you want can be specified through _config.yml. The Automatic Page Generator even lets you generate a site without writing a single line of code!

Firebase

Full control. Want to use the latest version of Jekyll, an external plugin, or a custom Jekyll theme? Go right ahead – nothing’s stopping you. However, if you come across an error in page building, or need some help with Jekyll, Firebase isn’t going to hold your hand. This is certainly intimidating if you’re new to web development.

HTTPS for custom domains. This is, without a doubt, awesome to have. It’s always been possible to use Cloudflare’s DNS with GitHub Pages, which I have no problem with, but it’s always nice to have official support for encryption.

Speed. Don’t get me wrong – GitHub Pages is fast. But since it has to generate your site every time you push a commit, it takes a while for the changes to go live. With Firebase, you only need to deploy the _site directory and you’re good to go. Even better, changes, big and small, don’t need to be pushed to Git. This is crucial if you make a typo and don’t want to have to wait for git push to finish and build your site.

Flexibility. You don’t have to use Jekyll if you don’t want to. The sky’s the limit. Here is a handy list of the top static site generators.

Conclusion

I’ve decided to move to Firebase. While the migration will not be painless, in the long run, it will make my life a whole lot easier.

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