The most expensive parts of hosting are usually tied to the computing power of servers. No server can beat the increasingly cheap option of not having a server at all. If your website can work with static resources, you can store everything you need on a storage service, configure your domain, spend a few cents a month, and never have to break a sweat about how your website is running. But how much can you accomplish with a static website?
- Core: The core of your service, running users’ code, can be delegated to their browsers. For this, web workers are a great feature that cleanly isolate potentially harmful code, and are supported in modern browsers.
- Assets: All assets on landing pages, blog posts, and other informational pages are static.
- Personalization: Local Storage can be used to store the history of their problem-solving. This doesn’t survive a browser data deletion or moving to another device, but oh well!
- Community and Engagement: I haven’t added any feature of such nature yet, but there are free or cheap services like Disqus or SumoMe that can add comments or email collection widgets to your static page. I’m not aware of any service for a leaderboard, but I’m sure if the site becomes popular enough, I can roll my own AWS Lambda script to take care of that.
In order to create the site, I’m using a Node.js script. Jade templating engine, Markdown language, Uglify-js, and Express.js for a local test server have come in very handy. I’ve written an automated build script, where I only need to add a single JSON file for every problem, and it creates the whole page, adds it to the index and sitemap, and deploys new or updated files to Google Cloud Storage. Google Cloud Storage makes it easy to host a static website, but it doesn’t support HTTPS yet. I’m using Cloudflare’s free plan to add HTTPS, server-side analytics, a caching layer, denial-of-service protection, and even a widget to show warnings if a browser is not supported.