With Netlify’s recent acquisition of Gatsby Inc, and their sponsorship last year of full-time open-source development on Eleventy (11ty), it’s an exciting time to be choosing a new static site generator (SSG) — particularly if and when Netlify makes Gatsby’s composable architecture primitives available across the web. While GatsbyJS has certainly carved out a name for itself in the Jamstack community, for certain use cases its single-page application (SPA) approach is being challenged by lighter-weight static site generators such as Eleventy.
Eleventy’s recent adoption of interactive island architecture means that this previously purely static site generator can more effectively compete with heavyweight frameworks like Gatsby. 11ty’s use of progressive enhancement and multi-page application (MPA) approach to web development makes it easier than ever to achieve top Lighthouse scores, which is often a challenging feat using Gatsby. What’s more, Eleventy is well known for easy site migrations owing to its framework-agnostic approach and its focus on flexibility. So let’s compare 11ty vs. Gatsby to find out whether its worth making the switch from one to the other or, if you’re just starting out, which technology you should choose.
Whichever SSG you choose, with CloudCannon’s Eleventy and Gatsby support, you and your team can benefit from flexible development tooling, accessible content management, and visual page building and content editing. Now that CloudCannon’s Eleventy support and Gatsby support have both been released out of beta, there’s no better time to get started on a new project.
Eleventy’s simplicity and customizability flattens the learning curve for getting started; this static site generator effectively adapts to you and your preferences. With Eleventy you can build static sites your way, with full control over the performance of your website and the option to extend complexity as needed. Learning to use 11ty is made easier with helpful documentation and an active community of passionate developers answering questions, and sharing starters (11ty’s term for structured themes) and plugins. Eleventy is ideal for use cases such as marketing websites with progressive enhancement, blogs, portfolios, documentation sites, and mostly static ecommerce websites.
Gatsby is a React-based open source framework for building ‘blazing fast’ websites with a SPA approach. It uses React (JSX) for templating and GraphQL for queries. This static site generator was a trail-blazer in the Jamstack world, being the first to incorporate dynamic React components into static sites.
Gatsby has since focused on expanding the composable architecture ecosystem by building Gatsby Cloud as a deploy and hosting platform, and incorporating automatic dependency tracking, scalable data layers, and superior image processing. In early 2023, Gatsby officially joined Netlify, meaning that while Gatsby will continue to evolve, its composable architecture primitives will be integrated into Netlify and made available across other frameworks.
Gatsby is a highly opinionated static site generator with many built-in features including code splitting, prefetching, routing and caching. Although, Gatsby’s approach to data-fetching is arguably the most opinionated; Gatsby creates an internal GraphQL API as a middleware between the frontend template and content sources. This means that you can mesh sources into one big graph in a single GraphQL query, making it easier to use many data sources.
Gatsby’s well-established position in the world of web development makes for a large user base and plugin ecosystem. This active community along with Gatsby’s breadth of built-in features create an excellent developer experience. Gatsby is ideal for use cases such as ecommerce and marketing websites that use React-based interactive components and multiple data sources with APIs, or for building pre-rendered static sites as single page applications (SPAs).
|Supported UI frameworks||Petite Vue, Vue, Svelte, Preact, Lit, Alpine.js||JSX|
|Installation requirements||Node.js must be installed||Node.js, Git & Gatsby CLI must be installed|
|Plugins||Yes||Yes — many|
|Themes / Templates / Starters||Yes (starters)||Yes (themes)|
|Easy WordPress / legacy converter||No; you’ll need to convert to Markdown and then clean up your content||No; you’ll need to convert to Markdown and then clean up your content|
|Disable runtime JS||No runtime JS required by default||Yes, via plugin|
|Internationalization (i18n)||Yes, via plugin||Yes, via plugin|
|Image optimization||Yes, via separate dependency||Yes, via plugin|
|Content security policy||Custom HTTP headers rules||Via gatsby-plugin-csp|
|Support communities||Eleventy Discord||Gatsby Discord|
|Twitter accounts||Eleventy Twitter||Gatsby Twitter|
|CloudCannon support||Yes — you can get Eleventy sites editable in minutes with CloudCannon.||Yes — you can get Gatsby sites editable in minutes with CloudCannon.|
The choice between Eleventy and Gatsby will depend on your web development experience to date, as well as the type of static sites you want to build. These two static site generators have significantly different learning curves and are generally intended for different use cases. When choosing between 11ty and Gatsby you must consider what you already know, what you are willing to learn, and what type of site you need.
It is also worth nothing that while Gatsby’s composable architecture primitives such as image processing, scalable Valhalla data layers, and automatic dependency tracking for real-time preview and deployment services, may have previously been unique to Gatsby, these features will soon be available across all static site generators (where it makes sense) thanks to Netlify. This means you will be able to take advantage of these features for building more complex website in lighter-weight static site generators that can better optimize your site for speed.
Whether you choose Eleventy or Gatsby for your next static site, CloudCannon is here to help make static site generation even easier, with instant (and free) testing domains and a robust Visual Editor. Our focus is, and always has been, making content editing and production more accessible to everyone, no matter the use case. With CloudCannon’s Git-based CMS, your content team can build and edit site pages in our intuitive Visual Editor, while developers enjoy our flexible approach to configuration and content management.
We have published both an Eleventy starter guide and a Gatsby starter guide to help you get your project set up in CloudCannon with ease. Or if you’re just getting started with 11ty for the first time, we have a comprehensive Eleventy beginner tutorial series to lend you a helping hand while you learn.
Give your content team full autonomy on your developer-approved tech stack with CloudCannon.
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