Why You Should Pick Jekyll Over Flask for Blog Creation

7 January 2019

Shiri Avni

Flask is a wonderful framework for quickly making non-static websites which require a non-trivial backend. In the past, I used it to create websites such as this one, which, given a YouTube url, creates a document with the video’s text interlaced with missing words that the viewer needs to fill in himself. The website was inspired by my need to use fill-in-the-blank worksheets to practice my Italian language comprehension skills.

Flask was perfect for this task because the website is simple, but requires processing on the backend: given a url, it must download the text from the video, remove random words, and create a PDF of the exercise sheet along with a solution manual.

When I decided to write this blog, I initially tried going with Flask since I already knew the framework. However, these are the top 5 reasons why I ended up going with Jekyll instead:

1. Post pagination

To paginate posts with Flask, I have to set up the pagination items, the next page link, and the previous page link in the backend and pass them as parameters to the HTML document1. With Jekyll, I can do this entirely in the HTML document2.

2. Code syntax highlighting

Code syntax highlighting in Flask is a breeze, although to make it work I admittedly needed to refer to a stackoverflow answer3. In constrast, there is an entire section in the 2015 book “Learning Flask Framework” dedicated to explaining how to integrate code highlighting in Flask. While there are free websites for converting code to HTML syntax highlighted versions4, they render the HTML a lot less human friendly to read, which makes it more difficult to look over the code you inserted into the post.


rendered html

The HTML rendered by hiliteme.com. While the preview of the code snippet looks nice, the HTML itself is difficult to read.

3. Static files

By default, Flask returns rendered files, which means that a specific HTML file is constructed based on a template each time a user requests a url. This is useful in cases that you want the user to see custom HTML files depending on the context, for instance, providing custom welcome messages to each user along with their last login date.

However, for a blog serving static content, the time to render to an HTML file simply adds unnecessary lag time. So one option is to put all your files in a special static folder in your project directory, and Flask will know to serve them statically5. However, that still means you need your backend to have Python, Flask, and a WGSI server.

Another option is to use Frozen-Flask, which will freeze all the pages in your Flask application and generate static HTML files that you can put directly on the server. However, as of this writing, the github repository hasn’t been updated in over 2 years, which increases the likelihood that it is no longer completely compatible with newer versions of Flask (although I haven’t tried it myself). The existence of this library also shows just how much overkill Flask is for a simple, static blog.

Conclusion

Jekyll is by far easier if you want to create a simple static site. However, the good news is that knowing either platform will help you learn the other one. The platforms overlap in the required knowledge of HTML, CSS, and Javascript. They differ in templating languages - Jekyll uses Liquid (written in Ruby), Flask uses Jinja (written in Python) - but the languages are almost identical in terms of syntax. For instance, the following code snippet will work for either language:

<ul>
{% for user in users %}
   <li><a href="{{ user.url }}">{{ user.username }}</a></li>
{% endfor %}
</ul>

Good luck blogging!


Relevant Posts:

Visualization of Plots for Your Website