How to make a blog in Rust

The brains of this blog is a static site generator that I wrote.

You can find the complete code on my GitHub, this post will just outline the main challenges and personal considerations I made along the way.

The original idea

I originally intended this blog to have dynamic server-side rendered features and run on WebAssembly with leptos.

Yes, all of this just for a blog.

Deep inside I knew it was going to be just another half-finished project, as all non-rationalized ideas of mine end up being. Thrown in a bin because trying to bite off more than I could chew (or that I should have ever had for a blog).

Scaling down

Browsing through other blog sources written by fellow rustaceans I noticed a recurring pattern: static site generators.

Even the Rust blog is structured as such. I actually drew inspiration from that for serving the content, although I used tokio and rocket whilst they do not.

But how could I ever scale down to such a rudimentary technology? The world isn't built upon static site generators.

But I'm not the world.

It might sound stupid at first, but once you realize how the weight of the "world" sliding down your shoulders as you settle down to a mediocre compromise comforts you, only then you can fathom the beauty of mediocrity1.

As you probably already figured out, this isn't just about blogs. It is a lesson about rationalizing ideas into achievable goals that fit the desired outcome.

Idea: Handlebars + Markdown!

Ok, let's get to the technical stuff.

Even though I settled for a static site generator I still did not want to let my original Markdown idea go. And in fact I didn't.

I still had to figure out how and where to index pages, but since I was already using Handlebars to template HTML I decided to use it to hydrate Markdown with it too:

# {{page.metadata.title}}

List of blog pages:
{{#each pages}}
- {{metadata.title}}: {{metadata.description}}

If you aren't familiar with Handlebars I suggest reading the official guide.

The code

Generating the final dist/ folder containing html pages can be subdivided into these steps:

  1. Indexing:
    1. Indexing through the pages/ directory with the help of walkdir
    2. Separating the frontmatter (yaml metadata) from the content
  2. Hydrating and rendering:
    1. Sorting pages by date into a Vec<&Page> of references
    2. Hydrating the Markdown with the help of handlebars
    3. Compiling Markdown into HTML with markdown
    4. Hydrating the HTML template with the compiled markdown

Walking through a directory is easy thanks to walkdir. I just had to filter out folders:

let directory = WalkDir::new(dir)
    .filter(|entry| entry.path().is_file());

for file in directory {

I read all pages into Strings, strip the base from their path and put them in a Vec<Page>.

I also separate and decode the frontmatter here. I decode it using serde_yaml into a Metadata struct defined like this:

#[derive(Deserialize, Serialize)]
struct Metadata {
    title: String,
    description: String,
    date: Date,
    tags: Vec<String>,

    hidden: bool,

The hidden attribute can be used by Handlebars code to determine if a given page should be listed (e.g. the Index page isn't).

serde_yaml supports borrowed deserialization, allowing for less allocations, but I couldn't make use of it as I need all Page's to be 'static and allocated inside a Vec<Page> for use in Handlebars templates.

Besides, the generator meant to be run one-shot, and as long as I can rationally justify these expenses it's fine.

I explicitly opted for a strongly-typed Date type from the time crate and enabled the serde-human-readable feature so that every date is formatted the same way.

Since Page weighs ~150 bytes, sorting that Vec directly is unecessarily wasteful. So I create a Vec<&Page> and sort them by date:

#[derive(Deserialize, Serialize, Debug)]
struct Page {
    figurative_path: PathBuf,
    absolute_path: PathBuf,

    metadata: Metadata,
    raw: String,

let pages: Vec<Page>; // defined somewhere

let mut sorted: Vec<&Page> = pages.iter().collect();
sorted.sort_by_key(|&a| std::cmp::Reverse(;

Vec<Page> is perfectly sized iterator so Vec<&Page> gets preallocated with a matching capacity, reducing wasteful allocations. Also, I make use of std::cmp::Reverse which inverts the output of the PartialOrd trait.

Templating and compiling is pretty straight forward. The HTML template looks something like this:


Notice the triple brackets on content and style, allowing unescaped HTML and CSS to be inserted.

Direct embedding of CSS allows for (mostly) self-contained pages, which I thought fit the minimalist conception of this project.

And in-code:

let mut templating = Handlebars::new();
    .register_template_string(TEMPLATE_NAME, TEMPLATE)

for page in pages { 
    let hydrated = templating.render_template(&page.raw, &data)?;
    // never unwraps without MDX enabled
    let compiled = markdown::to_html_with_options(&hydrated, &options).unwrap(); 

    let mut file = File::create(output_path)?;
    templating.render_to_write(TEMPLATE_NAME, &data, &mut file)?;


Since most of the times I commit a new post I won't change any SSG code I made sure to make full use of Docker's caching capabilities.

You can find the full Dockerfile in the repository, let's break down the main parts.

FROM rust:latest as serve

RUN rustup target add x86_64-unknown-linux-musl
RUN apt update && apt install -y musl-tools musl-dev

COPY serve/ /serve/
WORKDIR /serve
RUN cargo build --release --target x86_64-unknown-linux-musl

I create a "serve" stage from rust:latest and install the MUSL toolchain. I do this because I want the final image to be based off alpine, as the rust one is pretty heavy.

FROM rust:latest as builder

WORKDIR /build

# cache build if nothing changed but pages
COPY Cargo.toml Cargo.toml
COPY Cargo.toml Cargo.toml
COPY src/ src/
RUN cargo build --release

COPY pages/ pages/
RUN cargo run --release

I seperate building and running the SSG so that if I do not change any of the files before RUN cargo build --release it will cache the binary output and always re-use the same one. I then build the pages that will output in the dist/ folder.

FROM alpine

# copy binaries, dist/ and static/


CMD ["./serve"]

Last but not least, I build the final image from alpine.

The output image is very lightweight (~18MB in size) and ready to serve.


I'm very happy with the versatility and simplicity the union of Markdown and Handlebars offers.

I skipped how I implemented syntax highlighting because I'd rather server-side render it but am using highlight.js and I'll probably discard it in the future.


  1. mĕdĭŏcris is a Latin word for "middle, ordinary, common". It isn't to be thought as a derogatory term, although It can mean it in many contexts.