Saying stuff about stuff.

Introducing Parklife

Parklife turns any Rack app (Rails, Sinatra, Hanami, Roda, Camping) into a static HTML build ready to be hosted on GitHub Pages, Netlify, Now, S3, or any other web server.

The great thing is that your development flow remains completely unchanged – keep working with the frameworks you already know and love and all those other gems you favour, keep running the usual development server, and keep writing unit and browser tests. Then when it comes to production, instead of deploying and managing a server-side Ruby app you generate a static build that can live indefinitely with no maintenance cost.

While Parklife works great with Rails – this site is a 15+ year old Rails app using SQLite/Paperclip/Sprockets+Sass/Parklife and hosted on Netlify – where I’ve really felt its impact is with Sinatra. Now you can use Sinatra’s renowned rapid and minimal server-side development flow to build a static production site – I feel like it’s fully unlocked Sinatra’s microbenefits and installed it in its rightful place as monarch of the microframeworks. So now there’s no reason not to use Ruby for those little ad hoc microsites that might otherwise have ended up using some other complicated technology – or maybe even not be created at all.

Parklife doesn’t start an actual web server and instead interfaces directly with your app via Rack by sending mock HTTP requests and writing the response body to disk – this is what allows it to work with any Rack-compatible framework. It can also detect and follow links to crawl an entire site so you can often get away with only configuring a starting root route.

It’s easy to add Parklife to your app, start by installing the gem and then run parklife init --sinatra --github-pages to generate a starter Parkfile configuration file (tailored for a Sinatra app), a build script, and a full GitHub Actions workflow to generate and deploy your site to GitHub Pages whenever you push to the main branch. It’s also not a one-way trip because at any point in the future you can choose to set sail and return to a life on the server-side seas – you can’t lose.

For me Parklife has somehow managed to roll back the decades to bring simplicity back to making websites. I’ve once again felt that je ne sais quoi immediacy of writing HTML in Dreamweaver and syncing it over FTP… Only this time I get to use today’s Ruby, today’s frameworks, and today’s CI and hosting providers.